Sometimes when you see a cookbook you know you have to have it. That was the case on a recent trip to Galway to stay with the Schoolfriend. The Husband, Little Missy and I stopped off for a Very Nice Lunch at Claire’s Tearooms in Clarinbridge, which is also beloved by Gillian at Chocolate Here for its proper china teacups and saucers, great quiches and indulgent baking. I have a weakness for tea rooms at any time and Claire’s has always been the perfect stop off after a long trip.
Unfortunately for the Husband who wanted to get moving again, I discovered that the legendary Charlie Byrne’s have now opened a small bookshop upstairs, with cookbooks both old and new on offer. I was restrained (both by the Husband’s hovering and my own purse) so I just grabbed or, rather, hefted – this is not a small book – this copy of James Beard’s American Cookery which was published in 1974.
I only knew of James Beard as the name behind the annual food awards but one glance at the opinionated, erudite and entertaining text and I was hooked. And have remained so since. This is not for reading from cover to cover – with almost 900 pages that could take a while – but it’s the perfect take-a-dip-into-while-having-breakfast book. Whether it’s a recipe for Head Cheese or Sugar Pie you’re looking for, the definitive Boston Baked Beans or a formula for Club Sandwich, what Beard calls “the supreme example of the sandwich art”, it’s all here. But what stands out most is his celebration of the best of American cookery and he documents this. As Beard says himself, this book is “simply a record of good eating in this country with some of its lore.”
What with all the reading in the car on the way home I had already figured out that American Cookery was a very worthy addition to the kitchen bookshelves. I laughed then to discover it featured in my most recently arrived copy of Saveur as part of The Saveur 100. Sometimes it’s good to grab cookbooks on impulse.