Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Food: Recipes, cookbook reviews, food notes, and restaurant reviews with a heavy emphasis on San Diego. Unless otherwise noted, I have personally tried each recipe that gets its own page, but not necessarily recipes listed as part of a cookbook review.

Mimsy Review: James Beard’s Fireside Cook Book

Reviewed by Jerry Stratton, January 25, 1997

Review of James Beard’s Fireside Cook Book Way, with a recipe for creole fried chicken.

AuthorJames Beard
PublisherSimon & Schuster
Length322 pages
Book Rating5

The jacket touts it as “The original basic cook book by America’s foremost culinary authority.”

The idea, as explained in the preface, is a good one: present basic recipes and variations on those recipes. What it mostly amounts to, however, is standard recipes presented as any other cookbook, with a few of them having variations. The jacket pretty much gives it away: 800 recipes, 400 variations. Most recipes don’t have variations. They’re complete on their own.

It tends towards heavier items: borscht makes an appearance, and every time I open it up at random it seems to have tongues somewhere on the page. Still, given that, it covers a lot of ground, from hors d’ouvres to game meats to outdoor cooking. Just make sure you like meat and eggs…

The pressure cooker seems to have only recently come into vogue when this was written, in the forties. The pressure cooker is accorded the same novelty in this book as the microwave was by books written in the eighties.

The most interesting part is the tiny section in the back, “Menus for Warm and Cold Weather”, which is actually “typical menus from various countries”: far Eastern, Swedish, English, American, Italian, French. The “typical” American menu consists of Fruit Cup, Celery, Radishes, Olives, Roast Turkey, Chestnut Dressing, Mashed Potatoes, Giblet Gravy, Baked Sweet Potatoes, Creamed Onions, Cranberry and Almond Relish, Pumpkin Pie, Coffee. In the accompanying illustration the American is overweight. Big bloody surprise?

If you don’t already have a good general-purpose cookbook, this would make a good one. There is, however, nothing to set it apart from any of the other general purpose “joy of cooking/creative cooking” type books on the bookshelf.

Creole Fried Chicken

  • Two 2½ pound fryers,
  • 2 eggs,
  • ½ cup milk,
  • 1½ cups dry bread crumbs,
  • ¾ cup flour,
  • salt,
  • pepper,
  • fat.
  1. Cut frying chickens into serving pieces.
  2. Beat eggs slightly, mix with milk.
  3. Place chicken in shallow bowl and pour egg and milk over the pieces.
  4. Stand 2 hours.
  5. Mix crumbs and flour together, season well with salt and pepper.
  6. Heat fat in a large skillet to depth of 1½ inches.
  7. When the fat is hot, dip chicken pieces into crumb-and-flour mix, place in hot fat.
  8. Brown quickly on both sides, then cook, covered, 10 minutes.
  9. Then uncover and cook until tender.
  10. Remove to absorbent paper for a minute or two.
  11. Variations include using corn meal instead of flour and bread crumbs.

James Beard’s Fireside Cook Book

James Beard

My cost: $3.33

Recommendation: Nothing special

If you enjoyed James Beard’s Fireside Cook Book…

If you enjoy Simon & Schuster, you might also be interested in The Natural Foods Cookbook.