NEW YORK — Christina Whited was in her kitchen in Lower Manhattan the first time James Beard contacted her with a recipe.
"I don't remember (what it was) exactly," Whited said. "It could have been the rice noodle lasagna."
After dinner, when Whited was back in the kitchen, Beard formally introduced himself, just to make sure she knew who he was.
The fact that it was April, 1987, at the time, two years and four months after America's leading gastronome died at age 81, was of little consequence to Whited. Earlier the same year, said this 38-year-old psychic consultant, Adelle Davis had taken to visiting her from the hereafter, encouraging Whited with recipes to help refine clairvoyant abilities. Davis was downright dogmatic, Whited said, telling her, "Get up at 6 in the morning and start making breakfast!" or, "I want you in the kitchen at 3 p.m. to start making dinner!"
Whited was certain that Davis was Davis, and that Beard, though slimmed down somewhat since his days on Earth, was Beard. Her spiritual guides told her so.
But when they heard, via Whited, that Beard was supplying her with \o7 health food\f7 recipes, things like tofu and rice flour, Beard's own earthly entourage was less than convinced.
"Tofu and carob?" said Chuck Williams, the owner of Williams Sonoma in San Francisco. "I don't think that was ever part of Jim's food stock."
"There simply is no possibility that he could have had this kind of turnaround," said Marian Cunningham, a longtime Beard associate in Walnut Creek, Calif., who is the author of many cookbooks. Beard, said Cunningham, "loved shortbread filled with butter and wonderful crystallized ginger. It would sadden me to think he was even considering something like tofu."
"He was not a health food person," another old friend, cookbook author and restaurant consultant Barbara Kafka, said in New York. "James was not your basic healthy eater. He was certainly chubby." In fact, Kafka said, "if you look at the cover of the old James Beard Cookbook, the original edition, he was a real porker."
But Whited has a refutation for every objection.
When she approached James Beard Foundation president Peter Kump, head of Peter Kump's New York Cooking School, to try out some of the recipes she said came from Beard, the results were neither savory nor impressive. "The proportions were just really, really off," Kump said. "Who can tell where they're coming from?"
Whited countered that "some of those first recipes were a disaster because James was unfamiliar with the ingredients." For example, Whited said, "making bread with rice flour is very, very dubious."
Kump, calling Whited "an interesting woman who obviously believes in what she's doing," said he offered Whited a little psychic test when she first came to visit him. Kump asked her the name of Beard's last dog (a little pug named Percy), as well as the name of a longtime mutual friend of Kump and Beard.
"Her answers were Blinky, which of course was wrong, and Hannah, which was also wrong," Kump said. "The woman's name was Beth."
In an office in Lower Manhattan that she said was decorated with psychic advice from Vincent Van Gogh, Whited conceded that Beard's culinary conversion was something of a surprise.
"I heartily agree with those who say that these recipes were nothing like what he gave in life," she said. "James Beard is quite surprised that he is doing it as well."
In the beginning, according to Whited's celestial scenario, Beard "started out thinking that health food recipes had to be extremely simple. Recently, through Mrs. Davis, he has seen they do not have to be as simple."
As for the complaints of Beard's loyal friends on Earth, "Well," said Whited, "they are not psychics."
By contrast, Whited's business cards and \o7 curriculum vitae \f7 declare her to be a psychic consultant. She breaks hexes, she said, and by laying her hands on a photograph and silently intoning a prayer, she said she can dehaunt houses as far away as Europe. Whited also clears auras, warning that "85% of the population is under some kind of attack" on their auras. Further, she cautions that "35% to 45% of the population is also affected by one form of curse or another."
A former hat designer who claims credit for the leopard skin pillbox craze that recently swept trendy New York, Whited said she first discerned her psychic abilities as a young girl in Upstate New York. By her early 20s she was studying, and later teaching, at a school for occult sciences in New York City. Her clairaudience, or ability to hear psychic and spiritual messages, did not fully present itself until January, 1987.
Whited insists her "transformation diet" is what truly honed her psychic abilities. Key to the diet, through which Whited maintains that "anyone will be able to see the spirit," is a concoction made of garlic, parsley, ginger and boiling water called Transformation Tea. Whited said the tea becomes a weight-loss enhancement when the juice of one-half fresh grapefruit is thrown in.