Cookbook author Barbara Kafka unspools some tasty anecdotes in an interview with the Hungry Beast, including the story of how she launched a venerable working relationship with James Beard:

“Burt Wolf took me down to 12th Street to meet Mr. Beard. I came in, I sat down. He was huge! He made Julia look like a pygmy! Not really, but they got along well because they were both oversized people. He was oversized in that his feet were tugboats, his hands were huge. We were getting along swimmingly. He said, ‘What did you cook last night?’ and I said I’d made a pâté. And he said, ‘How did you line the pan?’ and I said I’d lined it with kidney fat. And he said, ‘You can’t line the pan with kidney fat!’ And I said, ‘Mr. Beard, I cut it very thin, I put it between layers of waxed paper, I roll it out very thin, and then I lined the pan with it.’ He stormed to his feet in a very loud voice and looked at Burt and said, ‘I can’t work with this woman, she’s impossible! I can’t work with her!’ And he pounds out of the hall, halfway up the steps. I’m trembling, frightened to death, putting on my coat. Then the footsteps stop and he comes down the stairs and he says, ‘You’ll have to forgive me, I’ve been in a foul mood all day.’ It was the only time I ever heard Jim apologize to anybody.”

And how she decided to write her groundbreaking (and enormous) 1987 classic, The Microwave Gourmet:

“Somebody had sent Jim a microwave oven. And he said—and he was getting old—’If you send me one, you have to send one to her [me], because she’s the one who’s going to do the recipe book.’ Neither Jim nor I could make heads or tails of this thing. Mine was sitting on the floor and he did nothing with his. And I’m in the kitchen one day getting ready to make artichokes with this big pot and all of this. My daughter comes in and says, ‘I make one of those in six minutes in the microwave oven.’ The only reason she had a microwave oven was because I’d given it to her because I thought I’d never use it! So I thought, ‘I cannot be so old and so stupid that I can’t do this.’ So the next day I went out and I bought a microwave oven and I made an artichoke in the microwave. And it was the best artichoke I ever had! So, after playing around a little I called my editor Ann Bramson and I said, “‘Ann, I think there might be a little book’—notice the word little and look at the size of that book—’on the microwave oven.'”

See more articles