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Published April 20, 2011, 12:00 AM

Halgrimson: My 15 minutes of fame

In early April, I read with sadness that journalist and cookbook author Bernard Clayton had died. He was the man who gave me my 15 minutes of fame.

By: Andrea Hunter Halgrimson, INFORUM

In early April, I read with sadness that journalist and cookbook author Bernard Clayton had died. He was the man who gave me my 15 minutes of fame.

Clayton wrote to me in 1989 saying he was coming to “Dakota” and wanted to talk to someone about food and cooking. He told me that food snobs in the East said, “There is no good food in Dakota.”

By return mail, I told him that Dakota was two states and – at that time – had been for 99 years, that we grew a hell of a lot of the food that those Eastern snobs ate and that a guy as well-educated as he was supposed to be should know better. So there.

At that time, Clayton had written “The Complete Book of Breads” in 1973, “The Breads of France” in 1978, “The Complete Book of Pastry” in 1981 and “The Complete Book of Soups and Stews” in 1984, all of which were on my bookshelves.

Well, he came along with his lovely wife, Marj, and Timothy, a friendly cairn terrier, to see me. They arrived in a van equipped with everything a writer could possibly need. He was proposing to travel throughout the United States, talking with people in each state and gathering recipes for a book to be called “Cooking Across America.”

It was August when he visited Fargo, and we went to the farmers market for supplies that I used to prepare dinner for him and Marj.

I had a Weber kettle on the balcony of my apartment and the farm-raised chickens I prepared caught fire. I never saw the photos Clayton took of me as I leapt about on my little balcony trying to put out the fire.

But his book has a photo of me holding the blackened birds as I stand in front of my dining room shelves on which I kept my batterie de cuisine.

Clayton was born on Dec. 25, 1916, at Rochester, Ind., and died March 28 at Bloomington, Ind. After two years at Indiana University, he worked as a reporter and was then hired by Life magazine as a photo editor and later as bureau chief in Chicago and San Francisco. During World War II, he was a military correspondent for Time-Life.

After the war, he worked in public relations, and in 1966, he went to Indiana University at Bloomington to take charge of a special media project. He retired in 1980 to write about food. In 1997 Indiana University awarded Clayton the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters.

“Cooking Across America” was not published until 1994. When I got my copy, I immediately turned to my chapter. The heading is, Fargo, South Dakota – North Dakota Woman – Andrea Halgrimson. Apparently someone at Simon & Schuster was also confused about our two states. Probably an editor. So much for my 15 minutes of fame.

Clayton was a warm and wonderful man, and I shall miss knowing that he is no longer of this world.

Sources: Forum files, New York Times, Allen Funeral Home


Readers can reach Forum columnist Andrea Hunter Halgrimson at ahalgrimson@forumcomm.com

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