Cook the Book: 'Beard on Food'

James Beard, he was a food writer, cooking teacher, and television food personality who in many ways legitimized American food. He wrote many wonderful books, including this week's Cook the Book, Beard on Food. Who was James Beard and why should everyone passionate about food know about him? Here's Mark Bittman from the book's introduction:

Other people gave your recipes, sometimes detailed (Julia Child), sometimes spare and functional (Craig Claiborne). James Beard gave you logic, emotion, history, and consideration. He gave you confidence, and he let you relax. In a time when serious cooking meant French cooking. Beard was quintessentially American, a westerner whose mother ran a boarding house, a man who grew up with hotcakes and salmon and meatloaf in his blood.

And this:

Beard's most valuable legacy is his recipe writing. His recipes worked, but he also had a way of letting you move within them that inspired creativity and learning....Beard didn't make a big deal out of anything, it seemed. He encouraged the use of good, often simple ingredients. He taught that a recipe could be tweaked an infinite number of ways, and that for the home cook, confidence, experience, and relaxation in the kitchen were far more important than training or detialed instructions. His passion, his knowledge, his easgoing erudition were instrumental in bringing good cuisine back to America.

We have ten copies of Beard on Food to give away. Just tell us who your greatest cooking inspiration is.

Winners will be chosen at random from among the comments, which will close on Saturday, October 6, at noon ET. The usual Serious Eats contest rules apply.