James Beard and masculine barbecue

Thanks to booksinc for the image.

I’m almost done with Robert Clark’s biography of James Beard.  Beard was a crucial figure in american cookery — celebrating local ingredients and providing American cuisine with a serious shot of epicurean style.  Beard was also one of the first celebrity chefs and he took the corporate money for endorsements. It is an interesting read — at times it bogs, but the rewards from digging into the history of the people like this are the visibility of ideology in the text.

At one point in 1953, Beard is working out the rough ideas for a paperback on outdoor cooking.  He writes the following to a collaborator:

Here is the idea: 1. Definition of culinary terms and barbecue terms and certain dishes . . . some of the mouthwatering terms men like.  2. Cold and hot weather menus and recipes featuring masculine dishes and fish and meat.  3.  Recipes for sizzling platters and rotisserie junk.  4.  A glossary of drinking terms–also how to use whiskey with recipes and man-sized portions (most men drink less than women but I supposed we must say man-sized–and be male). No fancy schmancy drinks but drinks which are good and full and really wonderful (152).

I’m fascinated by the clear articulation of what he expects to be successful.  Again, Beard actually is the American chef who wrote the book on barbecue.   But the articulation of masculine desire maps a series of assumptions and ideas about masculinity and men in the fifties.

Lets note James Beard’s obvious appreciation for communication and rhetoric.  His idea of “mouthwatering terms,” points suggestively about a language keyed and cued to shared desire between men.  It would be a worthwhile excavation to cruise through Beard’s half dozen barbecue editions and track the changes in language.

The connection between male entitlement and food has been mapped by Carol J. Adams.  There is still work to be done about making these ideas visible.  If you haven’t read The Sexual Politics of Meat yet, go get it out of the library.

It’s a worthwhile quote if only for the drinking commentary and the notion of “rotisserie junk.”



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Filed under Animals, communication, food

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