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Book Cover: OP: The Fireside Cook Book

OP: The Fireside Cook Book

James Beard
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James Beard (1903–1985) was one of the major figures in the American culinary movement toward a “gourmet” sensibility, which began in the post-war years and exploded in the 1960s. He, along with influential and brilliant editors and authors such as Judith Jones, Craig Claiborne, and Julia Child, changed the way Americans ate and the expectations they had about what they could eat. While many of his contemporaries were turning to international traditions for cultural and creative inspiration, Beard remained an ardent champion for establishing a distinctly American cuisine. 

The Fireside Cook Book (1949) was Beard’s fourth book but the one that firmly established him as an authority. Just about every category of dishes that we’ve come to expect from a comprehensive cookbook—soups, fish and meat, eggs, vegetables, sauces, desserts—makes an appearance here, along with outdoor cookery and a chapter highlighting the economy and versatility of frozen foods, a burgeoning commodity in those years.

Beard’s asides, recipe variations, and technical instructions, however, are what really make the text invaluable. It is not hard to imagine presenting this attractively designed book to newlyweds, encouraging a journey of domestic bliss. Indeed, almost every copy that comes through our doors shows evidence of heavy use, proof of the book’s lasting utility. Collectible copies, like the one we offer here, are scarce.

Ours is a first printing in Very Good Plus condition with minimal shelfwear to the case. The interior, decorated handsomely with Alice and Martin Provensen’s color illustrations, is crisp and clean. The jacket shows chipping about the edges, and one small tear to the front was previously repaired with tape. We have placed it in a mylar sleeve to prevent further damage This copy is signed by Beard and inscribed to a Mrs. Thomas E. Dewey, presumed to refer to the wife of the former governor of New York and presidential candidate. A very exceptional example.

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