The Making of James Beard, An American Legend

Presented by John Birdsall, Author,
The Man Who Ate Too Much

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Food of the past that comes to us through recipes and cookbooks can appear to be fixed evidence of what generations before us ate, their tastes and preferences. John Birdsall says that his research for The Man Who Ate Too Much: The Life of James Beard (Norton, 2020) challenged all his assumptions about that. The author found that letters between Beard and his agent and publishers revealed that the backstories about how some of the most influential cookbooks published last century included prejudice, messy personal feuds, persuasion, underhandedness, and compromise.

In his talk, Mr. Birdsall will describe the making of three of James Beard’s iconic cookbooks: The Fireside Cook Book of 1949, Delights and Prejudices of 1964, and James Beard’s American Cookery of 1972. He’ll talk about the original pitches for the books, how those changed during the writing; he’ll look at how Beard’s editors shaped his words and his persona; how Beard himself struggled to find his voice and identity; his work with ghost writers and collaborators; and how the books were received by the press and the public.

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John Birdsall is a Tucson-based food and culture writer, author of The Man Who Ate Too Much: The Life of James Beard (Norton, 2020), and the recipient of two James Beard Awards for writing. He is the co-author, with chef James Syhabout, of Hawker Fare (Ecco Press, 2018). His articles have appeared in Food & Wine, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Los Angeles Times, and San Francisco Chronicle, @John_Birdsall

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Wednesday, April 14, 2021
7 p.m. Central Time
Via ZOOM

Please e-mail Culinary.Historians@gmail.com for the zoom link.