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For my Christmas gift this year, my in-laws, Uncle Hobs and Aunt Joyce, found this priceless used copy of Evan JonesEpicurean Delight: The Life and Times of James Beard at a bookstore in Charlottesville. Hobs bought the biography for essentially one reason: the marginalia.

The nasty little notes in the margins of Jones’ book apparently come from the pen of a local Charlottesville writer who, according to Hobs, was/is a “big name in the national realm of food criticism.” That’s what the bookstore owner told Hobs anyway. I’m still trying to find out who this mysterious crank is, but in the meantime, here are a few of the armchair screeds found in the margins:

  • On the second page of the book (which looks to be signed by the person who gave this biography to the cranky Charlottesville writer), the angry reader wrote: “What a travesty!!”
  • On page 205, the angry reader wrote, “No! No! No!” underneath one section about Helen Worth’s teaching kitchen in midtown Manhattan.
  • On page 208, the angry reader corrects the spelling of Mexican cookbook author Elena Zelayeta’s name. Jones spelled it “Zulayeta.” The angry reader spelled it “Zeleyeta.” The actual spelling is “Zelayeta.”
  • On page 234, the angry reader writes, “TSK! Low! Low! Low! Low!!!!” It’s apparently in response to Jones’ description of Beard’s kitchen in his new townhouse: “Upstairs, there may have been one of the first examples of the trend toward modern home kitchens conceived as rooms to be decorative, as well as efficient.”
  • On page 239 (pictured above), the angry reader writes, “Lies lies lies! Incorrect facts” as well as “Oh, shit! idiocy” in response to any number of statements found on the page.
  • On page 240, the angry readers writes, “Oh, let’s cry for him” in response to this simple declaration: “Free-lancing was precarious.”

There are many others, but you get the point by now. Someone didn’t really care much for Jones’ work.