Remembrance of Things Past
As I've worked my way through piles of reading material during the quarantine, I found Save Me the Plums by Ruth Reichl, the former editor-in-chief of Gourmet magazine, especially enjoyable. It encompasses her ten years of ups and downs at the magazine and includes several favorite recipes.
Andy and I have always loved everything about cooking and entertaining, so the magazine was a special favorite. The articles about food, travel, wine and other topics were fun and stimulating to read. I kept every issue and stored them in cardboard magazine holders in our basement office, even pulling out Christmas, Thanksgiving and Easter issues in a separate box for easy access - obviously well before the advent of the internet. When we moved into a small condo years ago, I had to pitch them all, which broke my heart.
Gourmet used to feature one or two complete meals, including wine selections and all the recipes. On many occasions, we would duplicate the entire thing for dinner party guests. Shopping for ingredients, planning for the preparation of each dish, cooking, serving and even cleaning up were all part of the fun. (I confess we usually cleaned up the next morning, which would have horrified my neat-as-a-pin mother.) The magazine was a source of recipes for our annual blow-out Christmas party, to which a combination of neighbors, work colleagues, families of our children's school friends, etc. came, often about 80 people. We cooked and froze for weeks ahead of time. The menu always included lots of appetizers, a roast turkey guests could slice with tiny rolls and mustards, a big wheel of baked brie and a sumptuous dessert table. The party was always held the first Sunday in December, so the house would be clean and decorated for the holiday.
We were headed back to Pennsylvania after a family visit when the sad news came on the radio that Gourmet, published since 1941, would be no more. Their parent company, Conde Nast, had eliminated several of their magazines to cut costs after the 2008 recession. Both of us were devastated. Something we loved had died. It was the end of an era of elegance, sometimes extravagance, and fine dining you could duplicate at home.
Although we don't entertain like that anymore and the monster Christmas party is a thing of the past, I still retrieve Gourmet recipes from Epicurious.com and remember the fun we had producing exceptional meals for our family and friends.
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I'm Chris Barabasz, retired from a 35-year career managing communications for health care development (that's fundraising for you civilians). I'm a wife, mother, grandmother and freelance writer. My husband Andy and I moved from Delaware to Texas to be closer to our daughters and three adorable grandchildren.