"Cooking with Jim" is a poem that, in great part, is true. Ruth was fortunate to actually cook in James Beard's kitchen, on several occasions, working side by side with one of Jim's disciples, Felipe Rojas Lombardi.
actually, with him in spirit, in the kitchen
of his quaint brownstone on West 12th Street
in Manhattan, decades after his death.
And quite at home with him, I chop and slice;
bake, twice-baked potatoes—their skins crisping
to perfection; roast, the prime tenderloin of beef
he'd earlier instructed me to hand-rub with
coarsely ground black pepper and kosher salt.
(I used sea salt and that was ok with him.)
Right now, he's reminding me to stir my roux,
then I should add the crisp bacon bits, made earlier,
to the finely chopped spinach I just finished sautéing.
He says I should wait till the last minute
to toss the mélange of local field greens with
the lemongrette he had me make in lieu of
vinaigrette, because, it seems that vinegar
often spoils the taste of wine. As for the wines
with dinner: for the salad, I'm chilling
a 2011 Seyval Blanc from New York State;
with the beef dish, a 10-year-old California
Zinfandel; this followed by a 2010 Pinot Noir
from Oregon, paired with artisanal cheeses
from Vermont and Connecticut, plus
crisp sourdough rolls and flatbread;
and, in the frig, chilling, a late-harvest, Long Island
Riesling to complement the secret confection hidden
away on a silver tray till dessert-time.
According to Jim, red wine should be served at
room temperature, and since older reds have a layer
of sediment in the bottle, he said the Zin will need
to be decanted, and that, right before serving;
he wants the Pinot to breathe 15 minutes, or so,
in the glass before being drunk.
(The aeration of younger reds will rid those wines of
their chalky tasting tannins.) All this for my guests
who'll soon be sitting round my dining table akin to
Jim's 60 inch round green marble slab of a tabletop,
where, before the first bite of the Jim-inspired,
5-star meal, I'll raise my glass to the big bald guy—
James Beard, "The Father of American Cuisine."
© 2014 by Ruth Sabath Rosenthal. All Rights Reserved.