Gourmet is dead! Long live Gourmet! The end of Gourmet magazine has arrived. Was the magazine sacred and wonderful? Or was the magazine elitist and blowsy? To me it was neither. What it was could be summed up in the word ‘useful’.
I’ve been trying to figure out recently how I learned to cook – and aside from some very specific instances in the professional kitchen or in my Italian-born mother-in-law’s kitchen, I just don’t know. This can happen when a person is self-taught . . . there are so very many places one picks from and corners one searches into that after the immersion it all becomes a blur. I remember reading Larousse Gastronomique from cover to cover – and it somehow took a firm place in my mind as being the thing that taught me how to cook. But in thinking it over, how could it have? It is not that sort of book. Now, of course, having figured this out, I’ve got to worry about how having Larousse lodged in my mind may leave me at risk for being a secret Francophile, unaware of this possibly deep underlying affect upon my cooking psyche.
Gourmet was definitely a real and useful part of my very first introductions to ‘real food’ and how to cook it though, so perhaps I am yet to be saved from incipient Francophilia. The tiny thrift store in Darien I haunted one utterly otherwise-boring year had dusty piles of old Gourmets stacked in the back room, hidden under the sprigged-print rayon dresses from the 1940’s tightly jammed onto the rack, right next to the muddled cardboard box messily filled with antiqued peachy pink soft silk spaghetti-strapped full-length slips from the 1930’s. The slips were ten cents each. The Gourmets were five cents. Obviously in both cases the permed little old ladies who ran the store didn’t have a clue of the treasures they were pricing to be given away for pennies.
There wasn’t a lot of space to store all these old magazines where I lived, so after reading from cover to cover (I can see the longest restaurant reviews in the history of man swimming before my eyes even now) I snipped. Some of those snipped recipes are still here in my files. Looking at them is like looking at a simple, basic cooking course – one that slightly progresses the student through a set of core ideas – though certainly not an extensive or a technically complicated course.
A sampling of saved recipes:
Part One: Make Simple Grilled Meats Taste Exciting
Apricot Basting Sauce; Orange Lemon Glaze; Yogurt Mint Marinade
Part Two: Easy Finger Foods to Build Yourself
Cucumber Stuffed with Whiting Salad; Tuna-Red Pepper Rolls; Shrimp Remoulade Tartlets
Part Three: Let’s Eat Peasant Food
Autumn Bisque The Red Lion Inn; Polenta with Meat Sauce
Part Four: Dare to Eat Offal
Calves’ Liver in Mustard Sauce; Pigs’ Feet in Spicy Tomato Sauce
Part Five: Simple Desserts
Chomeur Chez Helene; Carrot Cake The Picnic Basket; Apple Mousse
Part Six: Defining the Times
Smoked Salmon Mousse on Black Bread with Salmon Caviar and Dill; Almond Tart Chez Panisse
Part Seven: It’s Filo Dough – Deal with It
Reading each of these recipes has a sense of song remembered – I can see the different stoves, the various pots and pans, spoons and bowls. They were made and eaten in houses, apartments, restaurant kitchens, and even on a sailboat.
I’m glad I had those scissors.
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(With thanks to Elissa Altman who somewhere somehow in her writings made me think of recipe-clipping and Gourmet together in the same thought.)