With a world of food blogs just a click away, I still turn to an out-of-print magazine for my greatest cooking inspiration.
We grew up with our mother’s Gourmet magazines stacked around the house, never recognizing the treasure trove that surrounded us. It was only around the same time I started cooking that I really discovered Gourmet, and for me, the two have since been intertwined. With hundreds of issues at my disposal spanning from the late Seventies to the early Noughties, I’ve never been so grateful for my mother’s hoarding.
Gourmet is more than a magazine; it’s a ticket to a glamorous world where food is only part of a greater fantasy. Correspondents from New York, California and Paris reported on the delicacies within the most of-the-moment restaurants, while lengthy travel articles used food as a lens to the essence of a particular place. Whether it was smoked salmon risotto while skiing in Cortina d’Ampezzo, or the Golden Lemon Hotel house porridge on the island of St. Kitt’s, the recipes epitomized la dolce vita and spoke to a multitude of imagined pleasures.
Each issue’s featured “Gourmet Menus” spun a narrative through multiple courses, accompanied by a beautifully orchestrated photoshoot. From executive lunches to post-theatre suppers, the spreads were a harmony of location, food and tablewares. A sunset dinner of red snapper and passion fruit-raspberry mousse on Palm Beach? A lunch of Viennese fried chicken and pastry in an Art Nouveau Austrian apartment? An Italian-style Feast of the Seven Fishes for Christmas dinner? Gourmet begged you to ask, pourquoi pas? After all, the most memorable meals we have are due to more than the food itself; they are intrinsically linked to a certain time and place.
It would be too easy to write off the magazine as elitist just by virtue of its name, and I feel that Gourmet aimed to make fine dining accessible to the everyday household. The recipes were surprisingly uncomplicated, relying on ingredients that could be found in the average grocery store. The “Gastronomie Sans Argent” section took humble items such as apples, carrots and chives and transformed them into covetable courses; “You Asked For It” gave readers the chance to procure the recipe for a special dish they had enjoyed while dining out. Meanwhile the magazine never ceased to remind us of the virtues of no-frills favorites such as country breakfasts, clambakes and pot roasts.
Published by Conde Nast, Gourmet was discontinued in 2009, and nothing seems to have replaced it since. Our “Monthly Gourmet” series hopes to revive Gourmet in a small way, featuring one recipe from the magazine each month that I have made myself. I harbor no illusions of being a cooking authority, but what I lack in technical skills I make up for in enthusiasm. Gourmet keeps my aspirations high while I continue to explore the miracle of food (as does Ina Garten, but we’ll have to save that for later).
First up: Rhubarb Bread Pudding