James Beard's Autograph Mystery Solved
Jul 10, 2010 | From the kitchen of Rose
Back in November I wrote the following posting:
42 years ago, I worked as a secretary in the public relations department of Reynolds Metals Company. I held the key to the storage closet that contained a huge quantity of aluminum foil and plastic wrap, and it was part of my job to send them out to the press. As a special bonus, my boss gave me the present of a series of cooking classes at James Beard. Of course I was ecstatic and made sure to add Jim to the list of recipients of the foil and plastic wrap.
About a decade later I became one of the founders of the New York Association of Cooking School Teachers. Jim had just written another book, so we decided to hold a meeting and book signing at his home. Some of us sat in chairs; I remember sitting on the floor at his feet. We were encouraged to ask questions -- I remember mine was pertaining to my dislike of ultra-pasteurized cream. Then we formed a line to have him sign our books that we had just purchased. I was very anxious to see what he would write in mine since we had a more personal relationship than most (all that foil and plastic wrap).
There were so many of us, I had to wait about 20 minutes but was rewarded with a very lengthy scrawl. I went to the side of the room to enjoy it in private. To my amazement, I couldn't make out a single word of the scribble! I brought it over to Richard Nemo, who was his assistant. (I used to be able to read my boss's handwriting better than he could read his own.) But Richard said: You'll have to ask Mr. Beard; I can't read it either.! So I stood back in line for another 15 minutes, opened the book to the inscription, and said to Jim: "What did you write here?" He studied it for a few seconds, looked up, and with a half smile said: Damned if I know!
After something like 32 years I finally found the book and the autograph in question! (I have well over 1000 books so it wasn't easy but I was determined.) It turns out it was just one-word--the last word--that was indecipherable. Here's a photograph of the autograph in question. See if you can figure it out. I sent it to Woody and unbelievably he solved the mystery! I'll give you a few days first to see if you can guess.