…And so am I.
There are those among you who may think the title of this blog has something to do with good will and charity and I suppose that, insofar as cooking is generally a benevolent act, it does. But the opposite is true: The name is a rip-off.
I consider it more of an homage, really, a point of departure from which to announce that I, like the woman who wrote the book of the same name, believe “that it is futile to consider hunger as a thing separate from the people who are hungry.”
Originally, though, it was published serially in Gourmet magazine. By now you have probably heard that yesterday, after 68 years, Condé Nast announced that Gourmet is being shut down. The November issue will be the last.
For a while now, people have been griping that Gourmet is not what it once was. This might be true, and lord knows I can do without any more photos of dinner parties manufactured in the middle of a cornfield (think of the bugs!). Long-loyal readers complain that the magazine has been dumbed down, though this is a little ironic, since we’re also hearing that more people prefer the realistic, recipe-heavy content of Bon Appétit to Gourmet’s more (though less and less with the years) literary, aspirational approach.
This preference is reflected in the sales figures of the magazines, and anecdotally: This morning I led a market walk through the marché Aligre. I told the clients the bad news about Gourmet, and how Bon Appétit had been spared, and the general reaction of the small group would seem to indicate that Condé Nast has made the right choice.
“Bon Appétit has more recipes, the recipes are easier. Gourmet calls for too many expensive and strange ingredients, and doesn’t have enough recipes.” said one woman.
I have a copy of Gourmet with me here in Paris that I picked up in transit back in August. It contains no fewer than 60 recipes. It also contains a gorgeously photographed story about Ragusa, addresses where you can find Vietnamese food in Des Moines and kouign amann in Salt Lake City, and a profile of a Rhode Island restaurant that turns out more than a ton of roast chicken every night. In her letter, editor-in-chief Ruth Reichl justifiably brags about the magazine having just won 4 James Beard Awards for journalism.
The world feels a little more stupid to me today.
None of this should be surprising, I suppose, considering the popularity of certain food television shows (thank goodness for Bourdain). Who wants to read about food when you can just watch it being made by a rotating cast of bubbly women? Who wants to be inspired to try a challenging new recipe when dinner could be ready in 30 minutes? Who wants to know about winemakers on Vancouver island even if a trip north will never happen? Who wants to seek out a specialty shop when the supermarket is around the corner?
And after having spent the morning talking about raw milk cheeses, lardo, and fresh cèpes with a group of curious travelers I’m sure I’m not the only one. Further into our walk, the woman who had professed her preference for Bon Appétit spied a small barquet of plump blackberries. Her eyes lit up. “These are like the ones we had last summer,” she said to her husband, practically beaming. “We were in Italy last year, and had these blackberries that were so fat and juicy, even fatter than these…” Her voice drifted off and I thought she might actually start crying.
The moment she was having, of remembering having been transported by eating something special: There is no recipe for that.