David Strauss‘ talk at last week’s CHoW meeting, drawn from his new book, Setting the Table for Julia Child, made me realize just how much I’ve relied on and enjoyed Gourmet magazine over the years, even though I was never a subscriber.
As a graduate student with no television, but surrounded by libraries, I would treat myself to an article after I’d made some headway on a paper or research assignment. I remember sitting in the library and laughing out loud at a writer who moved seamlessly from from meal to meal with intricate descriptions of snowy breakfast napery, sapid lunchtime sauces, a mid-afternoon pastry pick-me-up, a brief nap and then on to dinner with a close examination of the wine list.
I was, at the time, living on tea, peanut butter, and ramen. A trip through Alpine villages, to German Christmas markets, or a Viennese New Year was absurdly out-of-reach, which is exactly why I was reading the magazine. (Is it my memory, or was Gourmet more interested in mit schlag locations in Northern Europe? This was pre-Mediterranean diet after all.)
When I moved to Georgetown, the neighbor in the townhouse across the alley put out a slew of magazines to be taken away. I beat the garbage truck, hauled the pile into our apartment, and spent hours turning the pages looking for both retro and cookable.
I still have clippings piled in various notebooks and in those piles are lovely memories that I sometimes unearth and cook again, including Cornish Splits, a buttery yeast roll; haunting and labor-intensive brown butter spoon-molded sandwich cookie, worthy of your best jam; fideos infused with seafood and served with a garlicky mayonnaise.
But in the notebook I keep in the kitchen drawer are some of my favorite Gourmet recipes. Focaccia di Recco, which is infinietly variable and gets hot bread on the table in 20 minutes. Coffee Cake Eschmann, more crumb than cake, a perfect recipe that won me a blue ribbon at the county fair. A Boston Cream Pie that I have used to make many men happy. Harira, a Moroccan Chickpea Soup that adapts authentic flavors to American kitchens. They are all what Gourmet did best–find the flavors and make them do-able in your kitchen–and without a lot of macho posturing or contest tomfoolery.
I miss Gourmet, and I have to admit that a trip to a German Christmas market is on my bucket list.