Mahogany Duck, Gourmet January 1991

Mahogany Duck, Gourmet January 1991

Many in the food and wine world are mourning the closing of  Gourmet magazine after more nearly 70 years of publication.  What does that mean for the cerebral epicurean?  How does that reflect on the populist palate?  What does it bode for the future of print media?  How could they do that to Ruth Reichl?!  For me, it is more sentimental…

By chance, Gourmet magazine changed my life.

I found my reluctant self in Clemson, SC in January1989.  I had taken a couple of years off from school while playing around in Nantucket, and now it was time to return, finish courses and graduate.

I was in a somewhat ideal living situation.  The apartment at 8 Lakewood Terrace was nothing to brag about, but the location was great and I shared the space with two absentee roommates.  The $88 each/month was such that my girlfriends didn’t mind paying just to have a place for the two weekends a year their parents came to visit.   So there I was, alone in my capacious cinder block 3 bedroom apartment, wondering how I was going to abide a year in this small college town.

My friends and I were a few years older than the average student and having ‘been there, done that’ with the party scene, we were searching for entrée into a new social context.  We liked to go to restaurants but, other than Los Hermanos (the local favorite Mexican place where I worked in a peach tiered ruffle Mexican dress), there were few options beyond boiled peanuts and beer.  An invitation came to me in the form of a subscription renewal card to Gourmet, intended for the previous tenants.  I had never heard of Gourmet magazine, but as the proud owner of the Silver Palate cookbooks and having dined at 21 Federal, et al on Nantucket, I was certain that the “Magazine of Good Living” was for me, ie, I had a lot to learn.

Without hesitation, I checked the box, wrote my check for $10 and mailed it in.  In retrospect, I’m surprised I did not overnight it, so electrified as I was at the thought of possibilities the magazine would bring…(probably because there was no overnight delivery back then.  Think about it—in 1989 there were no cell phones, pc’s–or even affordable cashmere sweaters.)

Gourmet, July 1991

Gourmet, July 1991

I cannot remember the first issue exactly, but I know I read it cover to cover.  The Paris Journal, The London Journal. Salzburg, Bangkok, Sydney and Maui.  Guides to all of these places I had not yet been. I struggled through Gerald Asher’s Wine Journal and memorized reviews of Gotham Bar & Grill. This was not always enjoyable, given my lack of worldly experience with fine wine and New York dining, but I must have had a sense of foreshadowing, given what a big part both play in my life today!

“Gastronomie sans Argent”—that was more my style—and I always looked for the little clock symbol, indicating a quick preparation, since the reality was that even those recipes would take me hours to complete.  From fondue parties to New Years Eve feasts, Gourmet represented the lifestyle I wanted to lead.

50th Anniversary Issue, January 1991

50th Anniversary Issue, January 1991

Although I had no knife skills—or even knives–I had a party to test my kitchen prowess, and my new friends loved it.  We made it a regular event;  I spent all of my tips on cooking ingredients and my guests brought bottles of Taylor and, if they were feeling spendy, Gundlach Bundschu, to drink.

I subscribed to Gourmet all through the 90s and continued my self-taught education as a home cook.  Thus, it is not surprising that Gourmet recipes were a big part of  my portfolio when I was hired to open a ‘gourmet’ sandwich & coffee shop on Nantucket in 1994.  I continued to mine the Gourmet files when I joined another restaurant, Provisions, and, less than a decade after the first subscription, began my Provisions Catering business.

From the beautiful photography to the exotic destinations to the lofty musings to the black & white restaurant ads for La Cote Basque and Le Perigord in the back, I relished it all.  Eventually, I got to many of the restaurants and destinations that Gourmet had first introduced me to, but more importantly, I came to understand the essential Gourmet message:  the appreciation of ‘good living” as a way of life.  At Provisions, good living included our homemade cookies, soups and fresh bread, as well as the most esoteric hors d’oeuvre I could dream up.  It includes organic produce, fresh sushi and abstaining from jug wine.  It has resulted in a greater appreciation for Bartlett corn, South Carolina peaches and Juice Bar ice cream.  It has led to pleasures of the table I may have never known.

These days, I own currentVintage,  a wine & vintage boutique, and spend several months a year traveling to interesting destinations all over the US and beyond, particularly New York.

Yes, Gourmet magazine changed my life.

Well-tested recipe for Mushroom Croustades, Gourmet 1990

Well-tested recipe for Mushroom Croustades, Gourmet 1990

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