Saturday, July 1, 2017

A Vermont Breakfast Party

New York City,

The Limited Editions Club awarded its fifth gold metal at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in November 1949. According to the rules, the award was given to an American author of a book published during the last five years that the judges believed “most likely to attain the stature of a classic.” The previous two winners were Ernest Hemingway for “For Whom the Bell Tolls” in 1941 and E. B. White for “One Man’s Meat” in 1944. While the eight-page booklet from the presentation ceremony in 1949 does not reveal who won that year, it does contain an interesting menu from a talented writer in his own right. 

The literary event was called “A Vermont Breakfast Party.” The themed menu seems to be in step with today’s culinary sensibilities, featuring such regional foods as fried Green Mountain brook trout with crisp Ticonderoga pork and Johnny cakes with sugar bush syrup and wild Glastonbury (sic) grape jelly.1 

The menu was composed by James Beard who was then an associate editor at “Gourmet” magazine. For this special occasion, Beard also contributed an essay titled “A Note on the Menu,” explaining, for example, that the delicate trout required “no sauce; no seasoning: save the saltiness from the pork (so that one could) savor the honest, unembellished flavor.” Beard also provided recipes for the cider champagne and huckleberry flummery.

Since the name of the winner was made public at the breakfast, it could not be printed on the program in advance. In 1949, the gold metal was given to Robert Frost—the Vermont theme provided a major clue. In appreciation, the seventy-four-year-old poet recited “The Road Not Taken,” “Departmental,” and “The Gift Outright,” a poem about the establishment of an American identity, an idea much in keeping with the philosophy behind James Beard’s menu.2 

1. Glastenbury Mountain is located in southwest Vermont near Frost’s stone house in South Shaftsbury where he lived from 1920 to 1929. 
2. As it happens, I heard Robert Frost recite “The Gift Outright” firsthand, sitting only a few feet away at John F. Kennedy’s inauguration in 1961.


Jean | said...

Henry, I so enjoy the way you add to my education with your posts and tweets. You have a way of putting your reader in the picture, at an event even before my time.

Anonymous said...

Enjoyed your Vermont Breakfast party comments. I now realize where Emily came by some of her writing talents.