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What's new about it? Almost everything. The emphasis is on options, not prescriptions. There are many reflections of cuisine minceur and Far Eastern cookery (like Salmon Tartare). Numerous dishes--Brioches with Ham, Crabmeat and Prosciutto--can serve as appetizers, accompaniments, or a light entrÉe. (In the old James Beard, brioche meant Bread, and prosciutto came with melon on a toothpick.) Chilled summer soups and hearty soup-stews almost edge out the traditional meal-starters. Salads and vegetables--in infinite, adaptable variety--precede the once-supreme meat-and-fish dishes. The fish section acknowledges the triumph of fish fillets and smiles on inexpensive sardines and smelts. (Lobster a l'Americaine is now a mixed Seafood a l'Americaine--in company with succulent stews.) Eggs and cheese come in combinations too (as with onion and zucchini, in the Italian frittata); pasta, rice, grains, and dried beans (especially pasta) get the tender-loving care once lavished on the meat-and-poultry classics. And those recipes are completely revamped: leaning somewhat on his Theory and Practice of Good Cooking, Beard skips many of the basic methods of preparation and expands the instructions in the variant recipes. He also goes much lighter on sauces (""My Favorite Southern-Fried Chicken"" is served with a watercress garnish--only) and on seasonings. And, in line with the embrace of unexalted cuts (notable among the pork dishes), there's a section calmly called ""Offal."" Compared with this new volume, Beard's 1970 compendium looks like the redoubtable Joy of Cooking. That revolution in American cookery has of course been reflected in other cookbooks ere this (including some of Beard's specialized entries); but the shift from eating-out-of-habit to eating-from-choice hasn't come into such startling focus before.

Pub Date: Sept. 10th, 1981
Publisher: Knopf