Essay

Snack on This: James Beard’s First Food Memory

The legendary cookbook author said it was an event that marked him for life.

Snack on This: James Beard’s First Food Memory

What you make best for dinner are reservations, right? Well, stop it.

James Beard, champion of American cuisine and the man who taught generations of professional chefs, food enthusiasts, and home cooks alike how to stand the heat in the kitchen, wrote a cookbook that covers everything from the basics (hard-boiling an egg) to the impressive (perfecting Parisian omelets). And it’s finally made the jump to the 21st century by launching a digital edition.

Published more than 50 years ago and revised over the years, The James Beard Cookbook remains a staple for kitchens ranging from professional to amateur. But we can’t help but be fascinated by the man behind the book – the chef who is heralded as the godfather of the kitchen.

Since he’s also the excellence behind the coveted titular award – and knows what a fricassee is – we were surprised by what he claims is his earliest foodie memory. It’s not bananas flambe this or foie gras mousse that — it’s a humble snack and frequents cupboards nationwide. It’s Triscuits.

“The thing that remained in my mind above all others — I think it marked my life — was watching Triscuits and shredded wheat biscuits being made. Isn’t that crazy? At 2 years old, that memory was made. It intrigued the hell out of me.”

Us, too. Curious as to just how the trivial cracker was made, we did some digging and found out its invention comes from, of all things, a dude with digestion issues. And electricity.

In the early 1890s,  Henry Drushel Perky saw a fellow diner eating a bowl of boiled whole wheat that had been broken up with a spoon. When Henry asked the diner why he ate it that way, the diner replied it was easier to digest. Seed planted.

Vintage-Triscuit-Advertisement-1903

Together with a machinist friend, Perky developed a machine that drew the cooked wheat into shreds, formed them into loaves, and then baked the loaves in coal ovens, which spat them out in little biscuit shapes. Boom: Shredded wheat was born. In 1893, the two were jointly awarded a U.S. patent for the “Machine for the Preparation of Cereals for Food.”

Perky then set up The Shredded Wheat Company, moved production to Niagara Falls, and set up The National Food Conservatory. In 1901, he named his invention the Triscuit.

Today, Triscuits are still made with electricity and are a popular snack for those with or without digestive issues. We’ve rounded up some tasty Triscuit recipes for you to try for any occasion. They may not be James Beard lauded, but they do include dessert. Get cooking.

The 60-Second Cookie from Daily Crave
Three ingredients: Triscuits, peanut butter, chocolate. Drool. 

Strawberry Ricotta Bites from Home Cooking Memories
Don’t know if you want something sweet or savory? How about both?

Triscuit Parmesan Crusted Chicken Tenders from A Healthy Life for Me
Triscuits aren’t just snacks; they can actually be used in a main course.

Triscuit Garden Herb Falafel from Snackworks
Triscuits can be flat and square or falafel ball.

The James Beard Cookbook is available at Amazon, iTunes, or Barnes & Noble.


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