Monday, October 5, 2009

RIP Gourmet!!

Dear Mouse,

It's the end of an era.

Oh, Ruth. Whither thou goest, I will go.

Remember this cake?
From the September 2007 issue. Coconut Rum Cake. You baked it for my birthday upon request.

Conde Nast, how could you? No More Gourmet Magazine????? Sure, to be truthful, I stopped subscribing a while ago. But I was a loyalist for YEARS and I still always read the issues lying around at the Mouse House. And while our food-obsessed family may have paved the way for my culinary enthusiasm, I have to say it was Gourmet that really started the ball rolling for me personally. Cast your mind back to a time (college and just after) when I did not cook. At. All. When I had roommates, I was always the one doing dishes or accidentally making butter when someone asked me to whip a bowl of cream (true story). In Los Angeles, in the late 90s, I was at the end of my tether. I was living alone in an awful apartment, my first band (and the rest of my personal life) had fallen apart, I hadn't been involved in theatre in 3 years!! and I was completely disillusioned with music and with Hollyweird. Somehow, an issue of Gourmet fell into my lap. In between bouts of angst and flip-flopping about leaving LALA behind, I somehow decided that cooking something might keep me calm and provide some reminder of my creative abilities.

The first thing I made on my own from Gourmet: Harira, a Moroccan soup:

It was a step forward. Flavorful, interesting, and risky, yet simple and inviting to the home cook just starting to get her hands dirty. While stirring, I entertained myself reading the more complex and tricky recipes I would never try, the articles about faraway hotels, and the moving, close-to-home cooking/life epiphanies. I still remember this great article about a woman traveling through Appalachia with her husband's clothes after his death, on her way to have them made into a quilt. Along the way, she ate tomato soup in a diner which the waitress freely admitted was Campbell's with some butter and cream, and fruit cobbler with ice cream for breakfast (apparently common in that part of the country). Her quip, "The cuisine of grief: High in fat, low in pretension", has stayed with me. It wasn't "about" the food, but the food painted a picture of her life at that moment. It was the first time I realized that writing about food was a way to write about life, a shortcut to the heart of experience. I went on from that to Peter Mayle's novel "A Year in Provence". I also went on from interesting soup to interesting cakes and breads, and the rest is history.

Well, thanks to you Mouse, I'll always have the big yellow cookbook with so many of the great recipes. I JUST made the turkey meatloaf YESTERDAY. And Ruth Reichl's autobiographical books
, which are truly precious. And I have my Bon Appetit subscription. But I couldn't let this bit of news go by without raising a metaphorical glass.

I'll leave you with this, which was really my very first tiny tentative food experiment in that same California kitchen, also from Gourmet: Vanilla Sugar. I remember the sense of wonder and fun at this simple trick. Try it - it involves NO effort and it's magic. Just last week, in an Indian grocery on the lower east side, I impulsively picked up one long fragrant vanilla bean, in a small plastic bag. I must, somehow, have known.


The Boo


Anonymous said...

omigoodness, really? why? economy? really? so sad - always felt like the real cooks use Gourmet - such a beautiful post (mortem?) for a much admired and beloved institution....

Brandon Lacy Campos said...

Very very sad. They had a whole show on NPR this week about the death of Gourmet Magazine. Sigh.

Brandon Lacy Campos said...

PS I listed your blog on my Fairy Chef blog (