Gourmet

It was a lazyish Saturday afternoon, I was having a Sculpin IPA and preparing smoked ribeye sliders, Maui onion rings and a peach tart for my son’s intimate birthday celebration, when an email came in from my mother with the subject line, “gourmet”.

Gourmet July 1945

Finding no afternoon reading  inspiration in this book or that, she had dug up an old issue of Gourmet magazine. “By old,” she said, “I mean 1973.” She went on:

“I got the magazine for several years at that time and loved it. I saved a few, I wish so much I had saved them all. I spent an hour and a half reading about classic French sauces, one of which took 50 pounds of sole, white wine and aromatics to make 1 pound of sauce which was then served with fresh sole. I proceeded to a poetic essay on the closing of the the Fulton Fish Market in New York. You could smell the fish and the men working and feel the wet, slippery, brassy lit atmosphere. It made me want a cognac and a cigarette.”

It is worthwhile for me to remember, in my infatuation with Saveur magazine, that Gourmet came first and had more influence on me.

gourmetjan1947

Gourmet came first not just in my food magazine world, but in the food magazine world. Dedicated to “good living,” the magazine was founded by Earle R. MacAusland and first published in 1941 — two decades before Julia Child would publish her first book.

I began reading the magazine as a child, around the time my parents divorced — nearly four decades into its publication. And it was a welcome respite from the difficulties of those years — I could escape to places I’d never been, and imagine foods I’d never tasted. It also corresponded with my first trip to Europe, when I discovered camembert and fruits de mer and Italian food the way it tasted in Italy.

Each month, when Gourmet arrived in the mail, I would settle on the couch. My favorite features were the restaurant reviews, where they would profile new eateries in New York and on the West Coast and I could imagine myself dining in grand style on foods crafted by the finest chefs, and the letters from readers asking for recipes of dishes they’d tasted in favorite restaurants, which the editors would dutifully track down.

BLOG_Entertaining_SpotlightOn_Gourmet_Cover_480

In its pages, I could attend a luau or a Scandinavian smorgasbord. There were articles on entertaining and etiquette that would give me an advantage over my rivals a few years later when I began dating. It launched a career that almost was, and a passion and lifestyle that is with me nearly every minute of every day. In a way, I could say that this very blog is indebted to the magazine.

Gourmet ceased publication in 2009, a victim to a crowded cooking magazine market and declining advertising dollars. Publisher Condé Nast decided to focus its efforts on its younger, more contemporary brand, Bon Appétit. At least Gourmet was not alone — they also axed Cookie magazine and both Modern Bride and Elegant Bride.

“No food magazine has ever come close in my world,” my mom said. “I wish I had saved them all. You would love them.”

Even to this day, I could recognize Gourmet‘s influence in not only my mom’s own cooking, but in the way she lived and entertained. The “good living” it had taught her.

I guess she didn’t remember. I had loved them. And maybe no food magazine had ever come close not just in her world. It was nice to be reminded.

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19 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. blowinghate
    Dec 05, 2014 @ 02:48:30

    Good article, but really where did you get these pics from? I honestly want to hang them in my apt!

    Reply

  2. Michelle
    Dec 05, 2014 @ 04:45:50

    Same here. We always had them at home and then my mom started sending them to me (along with The New Yorker and The New Republic) when I went to college. I took over the subscription when I graduated. And they stacked up. And stacked up. And eventually I just had to get rid of them. But weren’t they lovely? I remember looking forward every month to Laurie Colwin. We’d flip through our stack to figure out where to go in every city (New Orleans, New York, etc.) when we were planning a visit. And I’d read Caroline Bates every month, thinking just how far away those California restaurants were! I’ve still got the December issues, which I can’t bear to throw out.

    Reply

    • scolgin
      Dec 05, 2014 @ 17:37:33

      I’m running into the same problem with my Saveurs now. I began subscribing at issue #5, and I think that was 1996?? I guess I have to plan to sit down with a glass of wine some rainy afternoon and make the hard decisions.

      Reply

  3. Jessamine in PDX
    Dec 05, 2014 @ 07:11:47

    Sadly, though my parents love to cook and eat good food, the only magazines at our house were the Ladies Home Journal and Reader Digest (which I actually really loved). I never read Gourmet until I was long out of culinary school and inherited a huge stack from an old chef of mine. I loved leafing through them and was really sad when we lost them all a few years later due to a leak. Fascinating to see food trends and tastes evolve through time. And those covers! Love.

    Reply

  4. pal-O
    Dec 05, 2014 @ 11:50:23

    I still have about 150+ issues of Gourmet in a storage box in the closet. One half of us (I won’t say which half) wanted to toss them out but the other half of us (I won’t say which half) refused to toss them away. They are a great source of entertainment and a still giving resource. I just love the feel of the pages on my fingers and browsing through past issues for recipes and ideas. Nowadays the only magazine I receive is Saveur which is published a mere short bicycle ride away from my front door. I do miss digging into the mailbox and pulling out my next issue of Gourmet however.

    Reply

    • scolgin
      Dec 05, 2014 @ 17:32:13

      Bet there’s some good scents coming out of that Saveur test kitchen! (Thought they were in NYC for some reason…)

      Reply

      • pal-O
        Dec 06, 2014 @ 01:46:56

        Bonnier Publications in Winter Park. The magazine offices could be out of New York also. Drove by the offices the other day and the sign was still up. No telling anymore. New issue doesn’t have the Winter Park address in the masthead. Used to push a lot of mags out of this area including a ton of fishing, boating, scuba, flying, etc. mags. Just looked it up online and appears they are in NYC, Winter Park and Irvine. Big world and getting bigger while it shrinks! Never smelled anything coming out of their kitchens but I usually have the AC on around here.

  5. Mom
    Dec 05, 2014 @ 23:41:29

    I enjoyed that a lot. It’s interesting to watch tastes show up in offspring as reliably as genes. I wonder if you’d had a twin somewhere else whether the foodie gene would be there.

    Reply

  6. andreathompson2
    Dec 07, 2014 @ 00:41:42

    What the hell is a Sculpin IPA? Something totally cool, I’m sure, of which I know nothing!!

    Reply

  7. sabine
    Dec 07, 2014 @ 15:59:17

    What a beautiful obituary on what must have been an iconic magazine. I never held one in my hands (German girl, grew up with the German magazines my mum used to buy) , but from your warm, nostalgic description I wish I had!

    Reply

  8. patricia anderson
    Dec 07, 2014 @ 17:04:42

    You certainly do a wonderful job. Everything looks so good I can’t wait to try them.

    Reply

  9. rachelocal
    Dec 08, 2014 @ 00:34:15

    Hi there. 🙂 I was lucky enough to find a treasure trove of Gourmet magazines in the shed of an old house I rented in Massachusetts. I saved them all and read them often. I do love my Saveur though–it’s like a food, travel, history magazine in one.

    Reply

    • scolgin
      Dec 08, 2014 @ 00:37:16

      Oh, hi Rach. 😉 Saveur took a hit in quality, I thought, when Colman Andrews left. But I still consult my old issues all the time — #27 being my all time fave, I think.

      Reply

  10. Glennis
    Dec 12, 2014 @ 05:34:33

    In my family, we kept years and years and years of them! They all went away when we sold the contents of the house in East Texas, but I sure do remember them.

    Reply

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