Eons ago when I was first setting up my home and kitchen, I ordered a cookbook by James Beard. And I read it cover to cover. Many times.
What a brilliant, crotchety, grouchy, my-way-or-the-highway kind of guy he was. I instantly fell in love with his attitude. That poor old book is quite tattered these days and I really haven’t visited in awhile.
What I know is that his attitude about cooking is what sold me even more than his recipes or fame.
It was just always about this is the right way to do it. Not, this is A way to do it. The way.
You must use freshly ground pepper. Don’t even try to buy preground pepper, you Cretan, you. I went out and bought peppercorns and a pepper mill and have never looked back.
You must use butter, not margarine. You must use cream, don’t you dare buy a frozen tub of some god-knows-what concoction. You must not use canned soup. You must not use canned mushrooms. You must not use a packet of spaghetti sauce seasoning. Get a real chef’s knife and learn to use it and take care of it.
If you are going to go to the trouble to cook something yourself, respect yourself. Use real ingredients, use the best you can afford, and just do it right.
I am sure I would not be able to stand to live with the man. His standards were very high and I’m sure extended to every realm of his life driving everybody else stark raving mad. However, I fell in love with his attitude and found that when I used fresh mushrooms or whipped my cream instead of dumping in a tub of dreamy whip, my product was better and I felt like I was “winning.” So I stand with him in his attitude that cooking is an effort, it is important, and better dishes result from better products and tools.