Archive for November 3, 2009

Good life

I’m a little out of practice. My laptop died in early October — just like that: Poof! — and in the wake of its demise I lost a good year’s worth of my computer-code-encrypted self.

I went through a kind of amnesia. Who am I? And what am I supposed to do now that I can’t tote my little computer companion (computanion, anyone?) around all my waking hours? I’ve had to resort to this dusty old desktop, which groans its way out of hibernation each morning and is rather mean-spirited toward any kind uploading, downloading, or plugins. That has meant that blogging, and especially blogging with pictures, is a little less feasible, i.e., not as fun.

But I’ve found that in lieu of tap-tap-tapping away superfluously on a keyboard half the day, there are many other really wonderful things to do with my time. For instance, I’ve discovered that my girls are pretty dang cute. And I’ve been reading books, those bound materials in which words are printed on paper pages.

And I quote: “Paper (noun): a substance made from wood pulp, rags, straw, or other fibrous material, usually in thin sheets, used to bear writing or printing, for wrapping things, etc.”

One bit of paper I’m going to miss along with many of you is Gourmet magazine. When I heard all the way back in early October that Conde Nast would be ceasing publication, I immediately regretted not picking up, for a mere 25 cents an issue, all the back issues I’d seen at the library recently. My little library, and likely yours too, sells back issues of all kinds of magazines, and when I’d walked past the stack of Gourmets, I’d eyed them with curiosity but not exactly longing.

The next time I stopped at the library, I immediately went to the 25 cent racks, but by that time the rack was selling issues of Bon Appetit. I did a little digging and turned up a single leftover Gourmet, from January 1986. The cover features a stack of straw gondolier hats in Venice, and a quick flip through the issue reveals tiny type and an awful lot of black and white.

The photography was less than stellar back then, and each dish was so tightly and symmetrically arranged, posed in spotless silver serving ware, graced with garnishes that themselves were like little works of art. It makes me glad that my Gourmet-reading years were the Ruth Reichl ones, the ones when the teams of photographers and food stylists and editors realized how much more appetizing a pudding could seem when a spoon had already lifted a bite from it, when tableside crumbs from crusty bread were left to be photographed (indeed, positioned to be in the picture) and dribbles of soy sauce could be seen on parchment.

I know the magazine celebrated high living, but its last several years were hardly out of reach. The travel and some of the ingredients, maybe. But it nevertheless gave me a simple awareness of the world of food that is out there, and that, combined with issues full of accessible recipes, elevated my cooking.

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