Monday, October 5, 2009

I’ll Never Stop Going Back for Seconds to Gourmet

Hearing about the end of Gourmet Magazine is not a good way to start the week. It feels a little bit like being kicked in the stomach; I was surprised to feel the tears welling (though, I have to admit, it shouldn't be a surprise…I'm a big crier).

There's the obvious: Gourmet magazine has been, in my life, a constant. I used to sit in front of the shelves of old copies my mother owned (I think they went back to before she was married), in the back room of our house. They were housed in those cardboard magazine holders, each one holding a year of issues—or more (from those days with fewer advertisements—ironic, no?).

The old ones connected me to another time and place—it was in Gourmet I first read any Joseph Wechsberg stories, with their romantic visions of Central Europe—who knows how much that had to do with my marrying Pavel, my Czech-born husband?

It seems to me that Gourmet followed a perfect arc, and did things right. They started out showing Americans a world of elegance and possibility. As it—and we—aged, it moved on to introduce us to maybe less glamorous, but still exotic places. And it asked us to grow up, and to take some serious looks at things—in their 2004 story about trans fats, for example.

I suppose I feel like a favorite great-aunt died. You know the type--she had been a WAC during WWII, and lived in New York City after, working for magazines. Her letters arrived monthly, and every few years she'd show up for a visit, full of stories from her life full of travels and people completely separate from my life. But she also knew all the stories about my family. And she kept up until the end--curious about where the world was going, and never wanting to stop taking part, always wanting to stay in the conversation.

Today I'm looking at my October issue with a new eye. I am curious about people's complaints that the magazine had recipes that were too complicated; with too many hard-to-find ingredients. Take the recipe for Turkish doughnuts with Rose Hip Syrup in 'Sweet Life'. Sure, it calls for cardamom pods, dried rose hips, and rose water—possibly items not as easily available in some parts of the country as in mine. But how can you not want to try them—and if you can't manage to actually make them, aren't they the kind of doughnut you'd enjoy having in your dreams?

But in the same issue, you'll also find recipes for Brown Butter Pound Cake (made with ingredients you likely have on-hand), which sounds simple enough but also inspired. Or the quick (15 minutes active, 30 start to finish) Peppery Pasta Carbonara with Poached Egg.

And then there are the selfish reasons I'm brokenhearted. I will always remember the day I innocently opened an email with the subject line: Cookies. I'd long since forgotten I'd sent a story in, and there it was. An email from John Willoughby, saying they wanted to buy the story, and (if that wasn't already enough), that both he and Ruth had loved the story. I'm sure you can imagine what sort of a dream come true that was for a writer. I was lucky enough to publish two stories in their magazine, and corny though it may be, I have to say I feel truly honored to have made it into their pages.

I'll never stop going back for seconds to Gourmet.


Alejandra Ramos said...

What a truly beautiful post. You're so lucky to have made it onto their pages. I wish I could have too.

lshere said...

What a lovely tribute to Gourmet. There is a large hole to be filled.

Giovanna said...

Thanks, Alejandra and lshere--there's been so many lovely tributes (I especially liked Diana Abu-Jaber's piece on NPR) and thought provoking ones as well (see Christopher Kimball's NY Times Op-Ed piece and Alex Van Buren's article on Salon).

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