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by Fred McMillin
James Beard's and Another Mother
With Mother's Day approaching, here's a tale of two mothers.
America's great gastronome, James Beard, credits his mother, Elizabeth, with developing his first interest in food and how to prepare it, "served with good wine." She ran the Gladstone Hotel in Portland, and emphasized the kitchen. He wrote, "My mother had an uncanny sense of food and the talent to show others how to prepare it... with a revolutionary international approach. She was ahead of her time socially as well. Instead of being subordinate [this was about 1900], she swept through a room or down the street with an air of determination and authority."
I know someone who experienced Elizabeth Beard's dynamic personality first hand. It was my mother! (who was the first woman to graduate in chemistry from Willamette University.) Here's what happened. "It was 1915 in Salem, Oregon, south of Portland. I was a sophomore at the University. Mrs. Beard attended the all-city reception at "Lousanne," our dormitory. Much to my suprise, she requested that one of my chums and I come to a tea she was giving. We received a framed invitation the next day through the mail. When the time came, we put on our best, our party dresses, and walked over... two curious but scared girls. We presented our calling cards at the door as our preceptor instructed. All I remember [40 years later] is that it was a musical; all of Salem's society was there. We drank our tea and were very relieved to get back to the dorm in time for dinner."
My mother wrote that after she learned my wife was taking cooking lessons from James Beard at his Greenich Village apartment. Occasionally, I took her place at a lesson, which leads us to our Wine of the Day. We would prepare a dish, and then devour it with a suitable wine. One marvelous dish was "Filet of Beef in the Admiral's Style." The fillet was not sliced quite through and stuffed with a filling of onion, anchovies, olives and ham. It was then tied, roasted rare and served with a sauce that included a cup of Madeira. The wine was a Pinot Noir. Here's the most attractive $10 Pinot my panel has tasted in many months.
1997 Pinot Noir, McLaren Vale & Mudgee Vineyards
The opening statements by James Beard are from his book, Delights and Prejudices. By sheer coincidence (I had forgotten), the inscription on the flysheet shows I gave it to my wife on Mother's Day.
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