James Beard's Favorite Holiday Party Dish Is Surprisingly Familiar

Images of charcuterie platters were everywhere at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, and even though many of us have left homes to return to work, the charcuterie trend barely shows signs of slowing down. The University of the Pacific food history professor, Ken Albala, credits this trend with charcuterie's naturally pleasant appearance, along with a renewed interest in crafting. "For hundreds of years people have been doing cheese boards and charcuterie, but I think it has been part of the rise of the interest in do-it-yourself artisanal craft food," Albala says, per Insider.

The visual appeal of charcuterie boards also lends itself well to the demands of social media. As Albala points out, charcuterie boards are photogenic in a way many dishes are not, "but if you can arrange things in fun patterns it looks nice and that's why it's very Instagrammable."

It might surprise those who are new to crafting their cold cut plate that the idea of building a visually appealing platter of cold cuts and cheese actually dates back to ancient Rome and, per Cork, to the idea that no part of any animal should be left unconsumed. The board was then crafted to present offal in a manner that would appeal.

Legendary foodie, James Beard, served charcuterie platters at his holiday parties

Insider links today's interest in charcuterie boards with social media influencer Marissa Mullen, who is named as a "charcuterie influencer" for sharing images recording her obsession with charcuterie since 2013. However, James Beard-award winning author, James Birdsall, credits another for being the OG of America's rediscovered love affair with the photogenic meat and cheese board.

Whenever legendary foodie, James Beard, is said to have entertained, he did so by serving up a menu item which has found a place in the American culinary scene. Per The New York Times, Beard himself describes a holiday platter which he called a "favorite," and which once held a place of honor at his parties. 

Beard says: "I put out a big board of various slicing sausages — salami, Polish sausage, whatever I find in the market that looks good — and an assortment of mustards. I also like to have another board of cheeses: Swiss Gruyère, a fine Cheddar and maybe a Brie. And with the cheeses, I serve thinly sliced rye bread and crackers of some kind and a bowl of fruit."

So, no matter how imaginative today's charcuterie platters might be, the American culinary scene has Beard to thank yet again for reviving a centuries old idea of taking locally produced cold meats and cheeses and serving them up, at a time when canned, preserved, and other convenience foods were all the rage.