James Beard's Menus For Entertaining: Second Edition Paperback – Sep 1 1996
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The work was published in 1965, so issues such as "healthy foods" are not really a focal point -- and some would say that Beard was a bit dated himself even at that late stage of his career; however, James Beard was a renowned and brilliant chef, clearly a master at the art of putting on a dinner party for any number of people.
The work is all-inclusive, covering: breakfasts, luncheons, dinners, buffets, cocktail parties, and celebrations. There's also a very useful section on entertaining outdoors which was a particular specialty of Beard's. The wine and liqueur guide is probably the most out-of-date facet of the work since paradigms and recipes concerning this topic have changed radically since the 60s.
Included in this how-to guide are 600 superb recipes. Beard was a strong believer in scratch cooking so if you're thinking "canned" or "frozen" for your get-together, the recipes herein will be of little use to you.
As an example, for an "after-theater" buffet for 12, Beard suggests, (and yields up the recipes for), raw vegetables, dipping sauce, Lamb Marrakech, rice with pinenuts, cheese board, french bread, and fresh fruit. The book itself is a hardcover volume and almost 400 pages in length.
The book can be stuck away on a shelf for reference but one would also find that it's enjoyable reading on a rainy Saturday. Beard's clear writing style will certainly hold your attention.
Any home entertainer would find the information in this fine book valuable.
I say this book is for people who already know how to cook in that virtually all the recipes give the essentials, with none of the copious sidebars or headnotes so familiar in books today. This is the Joe Friday of cookbooks. We want 'just the facts, Mame'. While Beard avoids no subject, from classic French sauces to Pennsylvania Dutch specialities such as Shoo fly pie and pickled eggs, he gives everything straight up, with few frills. That is not to say he takes shortcuts. The brioche recipe is shorter than most, but it does not abbreviate the need to let brioche dough raise overnight. On the other hand, the recipe for 'beurre blanc' is much shorter than the recipe in James Patterson's classic 'Sauces', leaving out several of the niceities, such as straining the shallots out of the sauce to give us a velvety smooth result.
The very best thing about Beard's work is that it covers so many different practical situations, including over a dozen different kinds of breakfasts and 'mid-day' meals (he distains the term 'brunch'). There is also rich information on both wines and cordials.
One nice thing about the book is that it almost seems to be an MS from a bygone day, where people commonly entertained with breakfast, lunch, and dinner parties, at least in the fantasy world of Noel Coward plays.
Beard's advice on general planning is excellent. Like Stewart, Beard also started out as a caterer, although he moved on to writing after only a year or so, but he was also an inveterate entertainer himself, and he did it with practically no help in the kitchen.
This book may be worth any three 'Gourmet' annual 'Best of' books, at a sixth of the price.