Humor and Satire– Shmatire!

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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.

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.

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