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A Cuisine of Our Own

OPB | July 14, 2010 9 p.m. | Updated: July 25, 2013 11:22 a.m.

James Beard

James Beard

Dan Wynn, courtesy of the James Beard Foundation

From Razor clam souffle’ to her famous currant teacakes — Mary Beard loved to cook, and always with the freshest seasonal ingredients.  Her son James embraced his mother’s passion for food.   And even as the proclaimed “dean of American cookery” later moved away and traveled the world,  James Beard would forever champion Oregon as a food-lover’s paradise.

Today, good food has become a movement. “Fresh and local” is the mantra of cooks throughout the Pacific Northwest. Yet many have forgotten the name of the man, the native Oregonian, who may have started it all:  James Beard.
From an early age, he had a passion for good food. During his life, Beard authored 22 cookbooks, wrote a long-running newspaper column and hosted the first-ever television cooking show. He preached a message of quality ingredients, simply prepared. And he would change the way Americans think about food.

Beard was born in Portland in 1903 and lived his first twenty-plus years in Oregon, spending summers on the coast in Gearhart. Throughout his life, Beard had a gift: an extremely good sense of taste. He could remember flavors much like a person with a photographic memory recalls images. Fortunately for him, he grew up in a world of excellent food.

His mother was an accomplished cook and used only the finest, freshest ingredients, bought from the farmers who grew it. Good local seafood was plentiful in Portland, as well.  And between her and the family’s Chinese cook, the Beard home served some of the best meals in town.

Beard lived most of his adult life in New York City where people in the food world proclaimed him “the dean of American cookery.”  Yet Beard forever championed Oregon as a food-lover’s paradise.

James Beard passed away in 1985 and his ashes were scattered in the ocean off Gearhart.    Looking back, his friend Julia Child summed up his contributions to the food world:  “In the beginning, was Beard.” 

Resources

 

Web sites

James Beard Foundation

Oregon Blue Book Biography

Wikipedia Biography

Gourmet Magazine: What Ever Happened to James Beard?

Culinate.com: Happy Birthday, Mr. Beard

Culinate.com: Missing: James Beard - Is he a forgotten character

Food & Wine: Tribute: James Beard Uncensored

Watch a series of lectures about James Beard

Audio interview with John Ferrone (1973)

Oregon Farmer’s Market Association

James Beard Public Market

Broadcast Date: July 14, 2010

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