One of the talents of late American food personage James Beard was a strong ""taste memory."" And he had much to remember. He looked back on the seaside summers of his Oregon childhood as one continuous picnic. Christmas was a week-long feast; his mother's afternoon teas were ""monumental""; and he remembers train rides, ""sitting on the observation platform, having a little box of marmalade sandwiches, and a hard-boiled egg, and some fruit and cookies to while away the hours till lunch."" Though Beard put in some years trying to be an actor (""I knew I had a lot of talent, but I was so definitely typed. . .because I was large""--over 300 pounds), the rest of his life--as well as this biography--is also stuffed with food. The book is also full of names of other food people with whom Beard traveled around on eating sprees. Many of them were well-known (Marion Cunningham, Barbara Kafka) and many of them strong women like his mother. (""Beard was not a heterosexual, but he was a ladies' man,"" says food-writer Jones, author of The World of Cheese, 1976, etc.). In later life, Beard would lament that ""I never loved anyone,"" and that might be part of the reason Jones' book seems to skim through the life. With recipes at the end of each chapter, it's more a celebration of the foodie than a study of the person.