A Taste of My Home at the James Beard House

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james beard house the berkshires
The dinner’s theme was “The Berkshire Pilgrimage.”

Have you ever been to Western Massachusetts? No? That’s weird. I would have thought, as an Edible reader, you’d be interested in stunning natural beauty, good food, friendly farms. Guess that’s not your scene.

I kid, I kid. I’m afflicted with the type of regional bias you’ll find in natives of coastal Maine, or the mountains of North Carolina. Certain regions of our country inspire fierce loyalty, places you don’t want to leave forever as soon as you’re 18. I’m proud to say Western Massachusetts is one of these zones.

I got a chance to commune with my roots last week, at my very first trip to the James Beard House. At a dinner titled “The Berkshire Pilgrimage,” a mishmash of top-flight Massachusetts chefs descended on lower Manhattan. They brought with them some New England flavors, autumnal ingredients from my homeland. Hubbard squash and Baldwin apples and duck confit. Oh my.

Probably my favorite part of the night was when the chefs stood in front of the formally dressed diners and introduced themselves. Like many chefs, they didn’t seem too psyched to be out of the kitchen, making nice with civilians. But also, there was just something of-a-place about these pros, almost a human terroir. What I mean is — they seemed like people I would know back home. This was a comfort.

I also got a chance to meet Mary Reilly, editor of Edible Pioneer Valley (published in my hometown!) She was found in the kitchen, hanging with cooks; I liked her straight-talking, no-nonsense approach. Mary seemed surprised — but pleased — to meet in person. As she noted, it’s exceedingly rare for Edible editors to socialize. Too busy, and too hyper-local, I suppose.

It also occurs to me, why have I been locked into NYC all fall? These months are peak Massachusetts, and I’ve been frittering it away in Brooklyn! If you need me I’ll be picking apples in the Berkshires.

Jesse Hirsch

Formerly the print editor of Edible Brooklyn and Edible Manhattan, Jesse Hirsch now works as the New York editor for GOOD magazine.

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