Q: I really did enjoy everyone celebrating
—Joanne Thompson Pease,
A: James Beard was quite imposing visually, standing at 6-foot-3 and over 300 pounds at his peak. People thought of him in terms of "giant."
Betty Fussell, in her 1983 book, "Masters of American Cookery: The American Food Revolution & the Chefs Who Shaped It," quoted M.F.K. Fisher on Beard. "He's the giant of the food world —physically, mentally, spiritually —in every way," Fisher said.
Craig Claiborne, the one-time
But, no, Beard was not the Jolly Green Giant. The Green Giant brand was introduced in 1925, according to its now-parent company,
The Jolly Green Giant — one of the most recognizable figures in advertising history —first appeared in 1928. His famous "Ho, ho, ho" was recorded for a TV jingle in 1959 by a Chicago singer named Elmer "Len" Dresslar Jr., according to Dresslar's 2005 obituary in the Los Angeles Times.
You are right about Beard being on television before Julia Child.
Yet, Beard was and remains one of the most recognizable figures in American cooking history. He was known —rather infamously in some circles —for plugging food products over his long career. The James Beard Foundation, rather cleverly I think, plays on that in offering a cold minted pea soup on its website (jamesbeard.org).
"Many people are surprised that this recipe calls for frozen peas, a convenience during the months when fresh peas are not available,'' the website reads. "It's not unusual, though, when you recall that James Beard was a spokesperson for the Jolly Green Giant brand."
Cold minted pea soup
Adapted from 1974's "Beard on Food" and posted on the James Beard Foundation Web site.
Makes: 8 servings
6 cups chicken stock
3 pounds freshly shelled peas or 3 packages frozen peas
1 small onion stuck with 2 cloves
1 clove garlic
1 teaspoon tarragon
Salt and pepper
3 cups heavy cream or plain yogurt
Finely chopped fresh mint
Put the chicken stock, peas, onion, garlic, tarragon in a saucepan. Cook until the peas are just tender. Remove and discard onion. Add salt and pepper to taste. Puree in a food mill, blender or food processor. Combine with cream or yogurt. Serve well-chilled with a generous sprinkling of mint.