The 1949 Fireside Cookbook: Illustrated Culinary Advice from James Beard

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

In 1949 culinary icon James Beard published the first edition of The Fireside Cook Book. This not-so-little book had 1,217 recipes in it (“simple enough for the novice, delicious enough for the most meticulous master chef”) but undoubtedly its most charming feature are the drawings by renowned children’s book illustrators Alice and Martin Provensen. This is a true gem!

The cookbook’s “A Word of Advice” section, devoted to Beard’s thoughts on the spirit of good cooking and the importance of simple but high-quality ingredients, rings as true today as it did when he wrote it. Here’s an excerpt:

There is absolutely no substitute for good food. Good food cannot be made of inferior ingredients masked with high flavor. It is true thrift to use the best ingredients available and to waste nothing. If you use the best butter, eggs, cream, meat, and other ingredients, and use them carefully and wisely, you will have less waste than if you search for bargains and end up with a full garbage pail…

Give as much care to simple dishes and the humbler foods as you do to elaborate dishes and ambitious menus. At the same time, do not neglect to take advantage of new developments in the growing, shipping, preserving, and cooking of food. Take time to cherish the old and to investigate the new.

The Fireside Cookbook has been reprinted many times since 1949, and you can buy the latest version — with a forward from Mark Bittman — on Amazon. Thankfully, all 400 whimsical illustrations are still included!

(Illustrations: Alice and Martin Provensen)

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