It feels pretty weird to be this sad about a magazine folding. I mean, I feel like I want to cry, like I’ve lost a loved one…except it’s a magazine.
But I love Gourmet. I’ve had a subscription for the last few years, and every month I fall in love with its incredibly rich, gorgeous photographs of food. I dive into scenes of sumptuous feasts and tables laden with exotic delicacies. I may not have made very many recipes that came from the pages of Gourmet, but the magazine was more than a cookbook to me, it was an inspiration. It showed me what it’s possible to create in the kitchen, and taught me to dream big.
Cooking light is my everyday workhorse recipe magazine, Cooks Illustrated is my scientific, anal-retentive how-to guide, and Gourmet was my fantasy escape cooking magazine. Maybe I will never buy a $35 box of imported organic sea-salt chocolates, but I sure as hell enjoyed reading about them. I’ll probably never make goat tacos, but a girl can dream.
I made fun of Gourmet magazine, yes, but it was out of love. Just one or two issues ago they did an alphabet themed magazine, with meals that all started with one letter. It was incredibly daring, and seemed all at once goofy and whimsical and yet serious. It was great fun.
I never would have thought this could happen to Gourmet. Tonight I poured some hollandaise sauce on the floor for my homey Ruth Reichel. I will miss your delicious magazine.
I’ve recently begun a stint as the Raleigh Fresh Foods Examiner on Examiner.com. I’ll be sharing delicious recipes there several times a week. Check it out! (Yes, that picture may look familiar. Truth is I don’t have many pictures of myself where I’m not either eating or drinking).
Spurred on by this delightful post from Leanne, I’ve been thinking a lot about cooking and eating habits, specifically my curiosity about the food that other people buy and the meals they make.
It seems like a particularly personal, intimate topic; only when you have gotten to know someone very well do you begin to learn much about their eating habits and the groceries they stock their kitchens with. When I am in line at the supermarket, I find myself checking out the items other people are buying and wondering how often they buy them. There are some things Brian and I run out of constantly, like milk, bread, cheese, eggs, and creamer. There are other things we purchase less often, but still like to have on hand because we use them a lot in recipes; onions, garlic, fresh spinach, pasta and olive oil, to name a very few.
It’s made me look back at my eating habits and the things I used to cook often in various stages of my life. In college I used to steal greens and sliced vegetables from the cafeteria and add them to my hot-pot ramen back at the dorm. I made a lot of chicken quesadillas and drank gallons of frozen, canned juice when I lived in Honolulu. When I first moved to Boston I made a lot of those Goya boxes of beans & rice, to which I would add more canned beans, fresh vegetables, and meat when I had it on hand. Now, Brian and I take turns cooking each other large breakfasts on the weekends; scrambled eggs, bacon and egg sandwiches; eggs Benedict and breakfast burritos. For dinner we like to bake frozen pizzas and top them with chicken or vegetables and more cheese to make them more filling.
I sometimes wonder what my friends and coworkers eat at home. Do they dine out at restaurants often? Where are their favorite take-out places? Do they have standard meals they prepare together if they live with significant others; if they live alone, do they cook smaller portions more frequently, or do they make bigger meals for the leftovers? If they have roommates, do they share meals with them, or is everyone on their own in the kitchen? I wonder what their pantries and fridges contain. Do they go through a lot of orange juice? Are their freezers filled with ice, or frozen meals, or frozen vegetables? Do they buy oreos?
I suppose a lot of one’s eating habits as an adult were learned in childhood. At least half of the meals on my rotating list are on there because I ate them all the time growing up. We had sit-down dinners every night; sometimes I wonder how my mother managed to have dinner on the table every evening after working all day. Only now do I realize how impressive that is, and how much preparation and tactical planning-ahead that must have taken.
Cooking and eating is a big part of life, and yet it is a part of life which to me seems shrouded in mystery, even for many of those I am closest to. There are a plethora of cooking-based blogs on the internet, but I’m not interested in the cooking habits of strangers. I feel somehow that knowing what my friends and loved ones do in the kitchen, will help me to know them better.
Dear reader, what are your favorite weekday meals to make? What do you like to cook when you have the leisure time and the money? What are the groceries you buy most often? I’m listening!
President Bush held a brief press conference at the White House this afternoon to introduce what he called “a bold new proposal” that he believes “will greatly simplify and improve the lives of the American people.”
The President prefaced his announcement with a call for understanding.
“We are living in troubled times,” he began. “I have found myself looking to the past to find the strength and inspiration to lead this great country. The modern world has much to learn from the wisdom of olden times. There are many great men of history, in many nations, whose ideas and values remain relevant and useful. ”
The President cleared his throat. “One of these men in particular, an eighteenth-century novelist, wrote an essay whose clear and brilliant message resonates just as strongly today as it did when it was first published in 1729. To his credit, this obscure Irish author has helped lay the framework for what my administration believes is a groundbreaking, yet simple and effective solution to one of the leading evils facing the American people today: the problem of hunger.”
“Listen to me,” President Bush continued. “Due to the failure of our schools to properly teach abstinence, teenage pregnancy rates are soaring, with no end in sight. The threat of overpopulation in this country grows more imminent every day.
“America’s dependence on foreign oil and labor has left us scrambling to meet our basic needs for food and shelter. It’s time we utilized an abundant resource that can be found right here, in most of our very own homes.”
“Children are wonderful,” the President declared. “But we have more than enough of them right now. Let us acknowledge that they are also wholesome and nutritious. Difficult times call for difficult measures, and I think the American people understand what I’m talking about.”
The President went on to describe the tax breaks that would be granted to couples who chose to view their offspring as what he called ‘deliciously non-renewable resources’.
“It is true that these progressive, ‘energy-efficient’ families will be missing out on the economic incentives that are available through our current program, which rewards parents with a $5,000.00 tax credit for each child they raise,” Bush admitted. “However, once the incentives of our new program are in place, parents will be rewarded with a hefty tax cut for making the kinds of practical and intelligent choices that are crucial for survival in the difficult and dog-eat-dog — or man-eat-baby– world of today.”
“Not only that,” he added, “but by offering the American people this choice, I am not only encouraging family togetherness, but also promoting an increase in home-cooked meals.”
“Think about it, my fellow citizens,” he concluded. “I believe that this is going to be a turning point in this history of our country. By looking to the past for inspiration, we are moving forward into a new era of succulence.”
Gourmet magazine, your standards of living are so utterly unattainable for me. I envy you your Olde Worlde charm and sophistication and your goat tacos. GOAT TACOS. For that article the author actually went to some neighborhood in Long Island City that has a goatery (I assume that’s what a place is called where they raise goats) and handpicked the goats for the goat tacos.
No really, I love to hate you, Gourmet. Your enchanting glossy photographs leave me breathless, not to mention painfully aware of my own shortcomings as both a cook and a decorator. But they give me hope for the future. I may not have mosaics of vintage Italian tile in my kitchen, or antique plates hand-painted with stylized birds of paradise, but I do have an iron skillet from Target and a snazzy red enamel paper-towel holder, from Target. And a girl can dream.
Lately, though, I’ve noticed that the people in your delicious event-themed photo spreads are rather close to my age, which seems strange. Would a bunch of bronzed twenty-somethings spending a lazy summer day lounging on a dock really be serving up oil-poached red snapper with a chipotle-scallion glaze? Or am I just getting invited to the wrong parties? The last time I lounged on a dock with a bunch of attractive twenty-somethings, we put away two thirty-racks of Bud Light. We also grilled up some burgers. And those burgers were great, but to my knowledge they had not been rubbed with cumin and paprika and spiked with garlic-infused peppercorns. We were on that dock for most of the day, and nobody complained about the lack of homemade cucumber-mint granita. At least, not out loud.
Part of the problem is that I know the way twenty-somethings eat, especially at parties when the drinks are flowing. You can bring out a tray of pretty much anything and it will be devoured before you can say, “Please enjoy these Cajun-rubbed beef-tip skewers with garlic mole—” BAM. Gone. Why did you waste your time in the kitchen Cajun-rubbing those beef tips? You may as well have spent ten minutes in there with a box of brownie mix and saved the fancy stuff for your boyfriend’s parents.
Not only that, it is unlikely that people of my generation have the skills, patience, or budgets for these kinds of kitchen accomplishments. We leave those fancy and delicious efforts to our elders—whose stately kitchens and houses are more evoked by the glossy spreads of Gourmet anyway. They’re the ones who actually own massive, artfully distressed wooden dining tables, antique silver bowls and art-deco flatware. They have stately china plates with crackle finishes; they are aware that less is more when it comes to décor, that cloth napkins exist, and that a beer bottle with an ostrich feather stuck in it is not a table centerpiece. But apparently nobody wants to see pictures of worldly, tasteful fifty-somethings cavorting on a dock, even if they probably built that dock, and own the house it goes with. So instead we have the unlikely image of a tanned, muscular young man in swim trunks, standing waist-deep in water and leaning casually on a dock…with a glass of wine in his hand. This is an image found nowhere in Nature.
Gourmet! I may mock the images you show me, but I also cherish them, because they are a window into a different world; I daresay a more elegant and beautiful world. You make me feel as though if I only believed, I could journey through the back of a wardrobe and find myself in a mystical land where even the most outrageously expensive, frivolous kitchen gadget is a household necessity. A land of endless farmer’s markets where the idea of spending $40 for a pound of imported cheese doesn’t make you want to punch yourself in the crotch. I thank you for these dreams. You make me want to reach for the stars, and to encrust them with apricot-glazed pine nuts.
Half pack of peanut butter crackers
Chocolate Peanut Butter Clif Bar
Remaining peanut butter crackers
Half a pack of cream cheese & chive crackers
Last 3 slices of leftover Dominoes chicken bacon ranch pizza
2 Tums (is it sad that I got those out of the medicine cabinet as I heated up the 3rd slice of pizza? An ounce of prevention…is worth a pound of heartburn)
Tumbler of watered-down Dollar Store juice (yes, I water my juice down like an old man. I like a ratio of about 1/3 juice, 2/3 water, give or take)
Glass of wine (mmm, riesling!)
Handful of chocolate chips
Pinch of shame
Brian and I have a lot of differences, but fortunately we have similar feelings about food—particularly when it comes to buying it.
We both looooove grocery shopping. Wandering through the aisles together trying to remember if we already have that kind of mustard or not; campaigning for and against certain salad dressings, and debating whether we can really continue eating chicken twice a week, or whether I might go crazy if I have to eat another chicken taco. We’ve grown respectful of each other’s strange food proclivities. I look the other way when he grabs a box of soluble protein powder; he shrugs when I add a box of SpongeBob and Friends macaroni and cheese to the cart. But it’s shaped like SpongeBob! And his friends!
If there’s something we eat regularly, we tend to stock up on it. I think we like knowing that if there is a hurricane, we will have the ability to reinforce the windows with bacon. We like knowing that behind that jar of pasta sauce in the pantry is an army of other jars of pasta sauce. There is something comforting about a well-stocked kitchen.
Indeed, Brian’s Costco membership has brought new meaning to the phrase ‘stock up’. Costco does not kid around when it comes to economy sized offerings. It’s a little intimidating, even now. I ventured into my first Costco a couple of years ago when we started dating, and it was a disorienting experience. It was like that Super Mario 3 World where everything is giant. At every turn there were cracker boxes that shared my sweater size. Huge bags of almonds stared me down; I picked up a bottle of juice and realized, too late, that I should have lifted with my knees. I felt like a hungry garden gnome. I know that buying in bulk is more cost effective and saves on packaging, but it’s also not for the faint of heart or the uncommitted. “I like pickles,” I found myself saying, “but do I like ten pounds of pickles?” Fortunately, Brian eats in bulk. The idea of buying block of cheese that I could hide behind became less frightening once I discovered that it was usually gone in a week or two.
I particularly like to stock up on random foods. I tend to see meal preparation as food roulette, and the more filled your pantry is with strange odds and ends, the higher the chances are that you can piece together a meal without having to send out for grocery reinforcements. The last time I went shopping, I picked up a bag of dried split peas, so that one day when I am struck with the urge to make split-pea soup, I will recall with a thrill that I already have the main ingredient. I know that’s probably not normal.
When I was growing up, Mom would make huge shopping trips once a month or so, and have the groceries delivered to our apartment. We walked to the grocery stores in our NYC neighborhood, so what you couldn’t carry home yourself had to be delivered. To this day, grocery shopping with a car that you can put all of your groceries in instead of carrying them home fills me with delight. Anyway, as a kid, when those dozen or so shopping bags arrived, it always felt like Food Christmas. My younger sister and I would prance around digging through the shopping bags, ostensibly to help put things away, but really, we were looking for Keebler Elf cookies.
My problem right now is that I need to cut back on those two-faced little ‘one-stop’ trips to the supermarket by myself. You may know the ones I’m talking about. Where you think, ‘Oh, I need milk, and eggs. I’ll just run in.’ and you come out twenty minutes later with milk, and chocolate chips, and a giant bottle of wine, and a breath-freshening bone for the dog. You just spent twenty dollars more than you had planned, and you forgot eggs.
Those are the trips I need to avoid, and yet, they are often the most fun trips. It feels like I’m just dropping by the supermarket to check in; just seeing what’s new and kicky in the world of food I like to eat. What could be the harm in that? In this economy, with my state of employment (or lack thereof), they’re probably not the best trips to make.
I am working on making a list before I go shopping, and just sticking to that list once I’m in the store. Ideally I will be too embarrassed (or will forget) to add things like, ‘day-old bakery donuts’ and ‘scrubbing-bubbles-shaped nightlight’ (what? It made me happy) to the list, and then I’ll be tricked out of picking those items up along the way. I’ll let you know how this goes. In the meantime, I need to go pick up some day-old bakery donuts.
I have begun a small side-blog.
It’s about sandwiches, because who doesn’t love sandwiches?
A few weeks ago a group of friends and I emailed back and forth for several hours about different sandwiches we had loved and eaten, and I got to thinking. I decided to start collecting a list of these different sandwiches, in order to inspire the creation and digestion of yet more new and wonderful sandwiches.
Please, email me your favorite sandwiches, to firstname.lastname@example.org, and I will list them here:
May it serve as a sanctuary for lovers of bread, cheese, and everything in between.
I baked a chocolate cake last night, and it’s Jordan’s Furniture’s fault. I had neither the time nor the energy to bake that chocolate cake. I needed to pack for a weekend wedding trip, and before I packed, I needed to figure out what dress I was going to wear to the wedding, and what outfit I was going to wear to the Friday night dance party before the wedding, and before I picked out my outfits and packed them, I needed to shower.
But before I knew what was happening, right in the middle of Two and a Half Men (come on, it’s a pretty funny show, don’t judge me), a Jordan’s Furniture commercial came on, and that white-bearded and bespeckled Jordan’s Furniture guy was standing in front of a bunch of beds, holding a giant piece of chocolate cake. I didn’t hear a word he said. “I want chocolate cake!” I blurted. Brian looked at me. “So do I,” he said, in wonder. Brian doesn’t really care for dessert. Chocolate usually leaves him cold. But damned if we didn’t both burn for chocolate cake with a passion that could not be ignored.
I cracked open ‘Joy of Cooking’, flipped to page 645 (Chocolate Cake Cockaigne– Joy of Cooking delightfully adds the word ‘Cockaigne’ to the title of every recipe they think is especially delicious) and got to work. I melted down 3 oz of bittersweet chocolate, creamed butter and sugar, separated eggs. I picked out an icing and measured out butter and cream for it. The house filled with the scent of Jordan’s Furniture-inspired cakelust.
Two hours later, while watching the dubious “My Super Ex-Girlfriend” (did they write that movie in one sitting and shoot it without a single re-read? What a waste of Uma Thurman) we sat down to piping-hot slices of Chocolate Cake Cockaigne. I hadn’t packed, showered, decided on outfits. But I guess sometimes you have to prioritize. Sometimes the siren-call of chocolate cake must be heeded.