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Since I last wrote in this blog, a lot has happened.  My husband and I moved to the city and renovated a very old craftsman bungalow.  It is a beautiful old home with lots of character, complete with a big yard in the back.  I used to live on a hill and longed for a garden.  I wanted so much to run outside and pluck some plump and delicious produce from my well tended garden, but the hill prevented these dreams.  This was no minor, politely rolling hill, but a steep grade that hosted daring children in ice and snow storms.  Jon rolled down the hill and lost his phone one year while trying to move the sprinkler.  This hill was not going to be the home of a garden. 

Now I have a wonderfully large and somewhat flat yard, and I have many dreams for my future garden.  There were some time constraints surrounding the development of a summer garden, so for this season Jon and I dug up some grass in the sunniest part of our yard, mixed in some decent soil, and stuck some vegetable plants in the ground.  Finally, FINALLY, we were working on our garden!  Now, my idealistic visions were slightly interrupted by the fact that our soil was peppered with things like giant stones, bricks, axe heads, railroad ties, bullets, glass, and other similar items.  There’s nothing like digging your hands into God’s green earth and pulling out a six inch long nail.  Furthermore, giant wisteria vines, some over six inches in diameter, are snaking their way through our entire yard, creating an underground subway system of inexplicable vine growth.  These had to be hacked through mercilessly.  Did I mention that the previous owner of our home was a hoarder and that our yard was filled with multiple cars and other piles of mystery items?  Couple this with the fact that my neighborhood is affectionately dubbed “the hood” for all of the reasons that you may imagine, and perhaps you can now understand the interesting components of my native backyard soil.

Nonetheless, Jon and I planted, and we have been carefully tending and watching our little garden.  I have been imagining all of the things that I will make with the tomatoes from my ten or so plants – roasted tomatoes, tomato pies, tomato sauces, salsas and salads.  I have been envisioning future appetizers of squash blossoms stuffed with ricotta and herbs and fried lightly, eaten as soon as they’re cool enough while standing at the stove, and pizzas delicately adorned with the bright golden blossoms spread out against the backdrop of my freshly made tomato sauce.  Alas, this dream is still out of my reach.  There is a tree at the edge of my property that is determined to shade my entire yard with its low hanging, intrusive branches.  At the pace my garden is growing, I will have tomatoes in 2015.  Meanwhile, my friend Becky experimented with a new, mutant soil formulation that is growing mutant vegetables.  Her plants are freakishly large and robust; the fruit of these vines astoundingly large and healthy.  You could fan someone with her squash blossoms.  The vegetables that they planted in the regular soil and manure mixture remain relatively normal, growing at a polite but steady pace.  The mutant soil is producing wild plants with giant fruit.  It is with these superplant squash blossoms that I made the delicious pizza below. 

This is a wonderful early summer pizza, redolent with floral notes and a brightness that is punctuated with oregano, marjoram and lemon zest.  This is not my usual flavor profile; you won’t get punched in the face with garlic or lemon.  There is no meat on this pizza.  Instead, it is a beautiful little work of art, with creamy ricotta and flavors that are light enough to make up for the fact that when you eat this pizza, a lot of it will end up on your hands and cheeks.  It is as messy as it is beautiful and delicious.  When I made it, I imagined that I was using my own tomato sauce and squash blossoms.  No matter – I look forward to my fall garden when I use the x-man soil that Becky has been using, complete with butter nut squashes the size of guitars and onions the size of boulders…

Squash Blossom Pizza

  • Pizza dough (I used good quality store bought; I have not mastered the elusive art of dough making)
  • One small can of unsalted tomato sauce (future recipes for homemade tomato sauce to appear when I have my tomatoes in 2015)
  • One clove of garlic, gently smashed
  • One splash of red wine, if you have it
  • A handful of squash blossoms, at least six to eight depending on size
  • About one tbsp each of fresh, chopped oregano and marjoram (don’t skip this!)
  • About ¾ cup of part skim ricotta cheese (or use full fat but definitely NOT non-fat)
  • About 1 tsp lemon zest
  • Olive oil, kosher salt, black pepper, red pepper flakes

 

    1. Preheat your oven, and a pizza stone if you have it, to at least 450 (or even 500) degrees.
    2. While the oven is heating and when your dough is almost done rising, pour a small can of tomato sauce into a small sauce pan, add a generous pinch of kosher salt, one smashed garlic clove and a splash of red wine to the pan.  Bring to a simmer and stir a few times, and remove from heat when nicely warmed through.
    3. Let the dough rise for at least an hour, flour your work surface, and do your best to stretch it out to pizza size, taking care to fill any holes that develop in the middle of the dough.  I try to stretch the dough gently with my hands instead of rolling out with a rolling pin, since the Italians will disdain you for using a rolling pin and they are the ones who invented pizza.  Don’t worry about the shape of your pizza; perfectly round is perfectly boring.  Putting the dough on parchment paper will assist you with transferring it to the stone or pan for the oven.  The parchment paper can survive the heat of the oven and still allow the bottom of the pizza to crisp nicely.
    4. Lightly dress the pizza dough with the tomato sauce, spreading gently with the back of a ladle.  It is not necessary to drown the dough with the sauce.
    5. Spread the squash blossoms gently onto the pizza dough in a sunburst or sunflower shape.  Brush them as well as the edges of the crust with a little olive oil. Scatter the pizza lightly with some red pepper flakes for a punctuation of heat.
    6. Place the pizza in the oven and bake for about eight minutes, or until the sides of the crust are nicely browned and puffy.
    7. While the pizza is in the oven, mix the ricotta cheese with some salt, pepper and the lemon zest.  Form the ricotta into little caneles and set aside.  I’m sure you can find a Youtube showing how to do this; if you’re not into the caneles, be prepared to schmear the cheese on the pizza in generous dollops.
    8. When the pizza is done, place the caneles between the squash blossoms, evenly in a circle around the pizza.   Scatter the pizza with the chopped herbs and drizzle with good quality olive oil. 
    9. Eat this pizza and dream about the ways in which digging in the soil and eating from our own “land” connects us with something good and true and ancient.

Kerri and Alyssa; thank you for inspiring me to start my blog again.  I hope you enjoy.

Don’t skip ANY of the ingredients; in a recipe this light and simple, they all add a necessary component to the overall taste and flavor.  Omitting any of them would take away from the harmonious tastes. 

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I’ve been away from this blog for a while, which is pretty sad since some of you were hanging out regularly.  To be honest, I originally fell away from it because I was tired and uninspired.  But lately, it’s because I’ve been so busy searching for new inspiration in life!  (Taking eighteen hours of university courses has also been keeping me a tad busy.)  If I’m being honest, I’ve also thought, “is anyone even reading this?? who cares?!”  I mean, the entire reason I set this space up was in hopes of sharing a love for food and life and beautiful things with a group of people that share a love for these things, as well.  Thanks to you few lovely folks who have prodded me to continue; I’ve decided to return! 

Even though I have not been blogging, I’ve definitely been eating.  Lots and lots of roasted chickens and pork butts and other bizarre things like lamb tongue pate.  I’ve also picked up some new knife skills and cooked a dinner with Ron Eyester and Hector Santiago.  I’ve made some new friends, thought seriously about starting an “underground” supper club, dreamed of wood-fired ovens and summer nights filled with good food and fresh air and twinkly lights.  I’ve cooked a few Tuscan porchetta roasts and spent a few weeks cooking for precious and wonderful kids that don’t care so much for lemon or garlic or vegetables or anything that is good and flavorful in my book (you want whhatt??  toast with ketchup??!!).  I’m in the middle of a Lenten fast, and I have spent a lot of time on my knees in prayer, wondering what the heck I am doing with my life.  (I think I may want to do lots of food stuff, like start a farmer’s market with community garden sourced veggies in a poorer side of town, and maybe I want to do some market tours and very informal cooking classes.  I’d also like to be a pastor/theologian/counselor that lives incarnationally half the year and spends the other half traveling the world learning about people and loving them in their brokenness, trying to be an ambassador of God’s great redemptive work.  I do really want to travel the world.  The entire world.  Lots.  I’d like to study art and culture and food and anthropology and how it all works together – how we are at once so wonderfully different but beautifully similar.  All of this travel will help me with my new role as curator or something or other at some museum, where I will study old and beautiful things and hope to educate a community about centuries of artistic expression.   While I’m doing some work on myself, I want to meet others who are feeling overwhelemed or outcast or forgotten, and I want to encourage them that they are absolutely cherished and adored.  I’d like to work with a few refugees and people that are trying to make it here, I want to help them transition to this country, cook for them and learn a few things for myself!  And of course, I want to write about it all.  In the midst of all this, I want to eat.  Everything.  See?  Very busy.)

But I have come back around to this little space in hopes that you friends of mine will join back in and share with me – what you’re cooking and eating and dreaming of and being inspired by.  I’m so happy if you can come to my blog and receive something – but please do speak up!  Let’s share with one another.  As for me, no more empty plates!

I’ve just returned from a week of travel, and the refrigerator is a tad bare.  But I’m hungry.  And we need to eat lunch.  There’s half a shallot from last night, some feta cheese that is still good, a jar of roasted red peppers, and four eggs.  A rummage through the fruit drawer leads me to two lone grapefruits.  Ladies and gentlemen – we have a lunch!

It is very interesting how some of the most delicious things that I’ve eaten for lunch have been discovered through the use of odds and ends ingredients and the benefit of a well stocked pantry and spice cabinet.  I will never forget the day the kitchen sink eggwich changed my life… 

Anyway, as I was sauteeing the red peppers, shallots and garlic, I added a little pinch of dried basil and a little pinch of dried oregano.  Everything was smelling fragrant and delicious.  I started feeling sassy and added a splash of dry sherry to deglaze the pan and WOW.  Sherry and eggs and shallot and garlic and feta and basil and oregano and roasted red peppers equate to very, very tasty and wonderful scrambled eggs.  The salty feta is such a wonderful counterpoint to the other flavors.  I think my humble little eggs felt very fancy with the addition of that dry sherry.

Now if we ever have any fancy people show up for brunch, I’ll serve them these scrambled eggs; they’re the best I’ve ever had.  In the meantime, I plan to add this to the regular rotation, finished with two juicy little grapefruits drizzled with honey or any other fruits hanging out lonely in the fruit drawer.  A handful of lettuce tossed in vinaigrette will also make a very tasty addition. 

scrambled eggs – fancy pants style

serves two

  • two cloves of garlic, minced
  • one small shallot or half of one large shallot, chopped
  • one roasted red pepper, chopped
  • four eggs, cracked into a bowl and whisked with a splash of milk, salt and pepper
  • a pinch of dried basil
  • a pinch of dried oregano
  • about two tbsp of dry sherry
  • about 1/3 cup of crumbled feta
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • a splash of extra virgin olive oil
  1. heat a non-stick pan over medium heat and add enough olive oil to thinly coat; add the garlic, shallots and roasted red peppers, and cook until just beginning to brown – stir regularly to prevent the garlic from burning
  2. slowly pour in the sherry, stirring to coat the vegetables (you should hear the sherry sizzle in the pan)
  3. reduce the heat to low and add the eggs, stirring constantly around the edge of the pan to gently “scramble” the eggs
  4. when the eggs have reached their desired consistency, gently stir in the feta
  5. garnish with some chopped chives or parsley if you have fancy people dining with you

A few years ago I met the most extraordinary Lebanese woman named Diana.  She was living with my in-laws while completing her Master’s Degree in Counseling.  I think she may have secretly been an angel sent straight from heaven; she taught me about Lebanese food and fed it to us in copious amounts, and she consoled our family as we helplessly waited day after day at the hospital, my father-in-law dealing with a devastating illness that nearly claimed his life.   

I relished the time we spent chatting on the sofa for so many reasons, but I found it especially interesting to discuss our different worldviews and the cultural nuances that shaped us both as young, independent, determined women.  For instance, when I hear a rumble of thunder, I think of the spectacular storms that I grew up with in Texas.  Diana wonders where the bombs are falling.  

Apparently Diana cast a spell on us with those meals, because I have been intensely passionate about Lebanese food ever since (and when I say “intensely passionate,” I really mean crazed).  She sent me home with precious little baggies of za’atar, sumac, seven spice and white pepper, but I had high hopes of discovering the exact components of seven spice to simply mix the spices myself.  No such luck.  Between my English and Diana’s mom’s Arabic, we couldn’t get it completely figured out.  Internet research will lead you down varying paths, but the mixture can vary from family to family.  I definitely know that clove, cinnamon, allspice, pepper and nutmeg are the heavy hitters; it gets tricky with the remaining two spices.  Some say ginger and fenugreek, some say caraway and cumin…  I can’t stand to waste a meal not getting it exactly right, so I buy my seven spice from the patient and diligent owner of Leon’s International Bakery and allow it to remain exotic and mysterious. 

The first time I visited Leon’s I arrived armed with my tiny ziploc baggies of Diana’s spices.  I believe I made a memorable impression that day, and not just because I was caught dancing in the aisle to the Arabic music that was playing.  I called the gracious owner of Leon’s over to his spice rack and I held open each little baggie, focusing especially on the seven spice.  “Please smell this,” I said.  He raised an eyebrow and sniffed.  “Please tell me if you are selling exactly this mixture here at your store,” I said.  He assured me that it was likely to be very close.  “This is from Lebanon,” I said.  He nodded.  “I’m very intent on getting this exact mixture because I want to replicate certain dishes – please do sniff again – my bag first and then your spice mixture.”  That blessed man sniffed again, offering his sincere assurance that I would be satisfied.  As I said, “passionately intense.” 

I made my purchases that day, and needless to say, his mixture is the best I’ve tried yet.   During my last visit I was explaining this to him – that I have tried blends from other reputable providers in many U.S. cities, and that his is the absolute best.  “Because it is the original,” he says.  I continued on in my monologue, assuring him that his offerings are unmatched in taste and aroma.  This must qualify me as an expert, because he turned and asked me if I was originally from Lebanon. 

There are so many Lebanese dishes that we eat with great frequency in our home, and I want to share all of them with you.  My favorite dishes call for generous amounts of lemon and garlic and olive oil, astringent sumac for a tangy zip and lots of seven spice for depth and deliciousness.  However, they deserve to be discussed one at a time, so I’m starting with the first dish that Diana served to us – chicken and potatoes.  I haven’t found this exact recipe in the one hundred or so Lebanese cookbooks that I’ve looked through, so I assume that the combo of chicken and potatoes is one that Diana’s mom prefers.  I like that. 

Diana’s way is good enough to have Jon and I pine after it like forlorn lovers, but I recently applied that high heat, miraculous roast chicken method to the recipe, and our lives changed forever.  This post is already exceedingly long, so I’ll spare the finer points of why cooking chicken this way in the oven is really the only way to do it.  You can check the details out in chapter one and chapter two of the fabulous roast chicken saga. 

Let me instead tell you about how the potatoes and will soak up this heady blend of spices, and will cook to perfection doused in lemon and garlic.  The chicken will be succulent and juicy and flavorful and silky and fabulous.  The olive oil and spices and lemon and garlic will meld together in the baking dish to form the most glorious sauce that has ever graced a silly little potato or a humble piece of chicken.  Your house will smell glorious.  Your life will change.  You may cry tears of joy.  And while you belly dance your way through the kitchen to drink the remaining olive oil directly from the baking dish, you too can be transformed into an honorary Phoenician, changed forever by Diana’s chicken and potatoes. 

chicken and potatoes – serves four or two really hungry and over indulgent people

  • one bone in skin on chicken cut into pieces, or two bone in skin on breasts, or several bone in skin on thighs – decide based on the number of people that you are serving
  • three to six russet potatoes, peeled and cut into half inch medallions
  • four or five cloves of garlic, grated with a microplane zester or smashed to a paste in a mortar and pestle
  • two or more lemons, juiced
  • two heaping tbsps of Lebanese seven spice
  • one heaping tbsp of allspice
  • one heaping tbsp of cinnamon
  • 1/2 heaping tsp of ground white pepper
  • kosher salt to taste, about one tsp
  • a generous amount of olive oil
  1. mix all of the spices and salt together in a small bowl, and add enough olive oil so that the spices and oil together form a thick, soupy mix – you don’t really want a paste, but you also don’t want a soup – you want a well stirred homogenous mixture
  2. grate the peeled garlic into another small bowl, and juice the lemons into the same bowl – whisk together
  3. put your chicken in a large glass baking dish, cover the chicken with the spice and oil mixture – be sure and generously coat the chicken, making sure to put plenty of the mix under the skin – then, carefully spoon a small amount of the lemon and garlic mixture UNDER the chicken skin, taking care to keep any of the lemon and garlic mixture from getting on the top of the chicken skin
  4. place the chicken on the very top shelf of a five hundred degree oven, and bake for fifteen minutes
  5. meanwhile, peel the potatoes and cut them into half inch medallions
  6. cover the potatoes with cold water in a saucepan and bring to a boil – simmer for ten minutes and then drain
  7. when the chicken has baked for fifteen minutes, pull the pan out of the oven and add the potatoes, covering them generously with the remaining oil and spice mixture – give the entire pan a few extra glugs of olive oil – be generous
  8. bake the chicken and potatoes for an additional fifteen minutes
  9. pull the chicken and potatoes out and pour over the lemon and garlic mixture, and bake for five more minutes
  10. remove from the oven and serve, with the olive oil sauce poured over the chicken and potatoes

I was recently reading an article in Saveur’s December issue.  The article is entitled, “Personal Space: an editor’s kitchen reflects a lifetime.”  The writing is about Judith Jones (an accomplished cookbook editor who published Julia Child’s first cookbook), her kitchen and recent publications, and about how one’s kitchen can be a telling reflection of the style and personality of the cook who spends time there.  This was a thoughtful article, but what struck me the most were the pictures of Judith in her little kitchen and apartment, as well as the mention of her latest cookbook, The Pleasures of Cooking for One.

Judith talks lovingly about the design of her kitchen and living space, thoughtfully created and conceived by her and her beloved husband.  Every detail held special meaning to them, even down to the accidental garde-manger they created during renovation, reminding them nostalgically of the years they lived in Paris.  The pictures in the magazine spread show a tiny and elegant woman.  She stands in her kitchen, carefully cutting chicken; she sits alone in her cherished dining space, her beautifully lined face illuminated by candle light, gourmet meal before her (silver platter included) and a glass of red wine in hand.  Her smile conveys the anticipation of sharing her personal space with such an audience and a youthful giddiness radiates through her expression.  So much like me, she is surrounded by books in every room.  As I continue to read, I think, “Where is this husband of hers?”  My eyes read ahead to the title of her cookbook and I realized with sadness that he, of course, had passed away in 1996. 

I know that the author probably intended for me to be impressed with Judith’s quaint and thoughtful kitchen, to consider what message that my own kitchen may send to its guests, but instead I was instantly struck with the sadness of Judith’s solitude at her dinner table.   My mind wandered through a multitude of memories that are filled with laughter, love, memorable meals and even more memorable people.  I have shared countless days and evenings eating the best meals of my life with people that I love indescribably.  I pictured Judith’s life similar to my own, filled with these same common experiences.  Just like she and her husband lovingly created their perfect environment, so have Jon and I spent time sharing our dreams and hopes with one another.  Perhaps her kitchen and her home itself remain unchanged and are host to many lively dinners with friends, but some things in her life have definitely changed.  The realization that everyone will not always sit at the table and stand in my kitchen hit me with immediate force; it literally brought me to tears.  I cannot imagine not sharing my kitchen, my cooking, the experience of eating, the joy of a lazy evening, with the people that are dear to me.  Not one single person could go missing without drastically altering the fabric of my life; especially my husband – my one true love.  To me, the table is such a sacramental place.  How enormously blessed am I that I don’t have to sit at it alone? 

One of the most memorable (albeit simple) moments of my life was a time when Jon and I had just finished a delightful, weeknight meal; our home smelled delicious, candles were lit, music drifted through the house, my belly was full, and I was sitting next to the man I feel honored to share life with.  I specifically remember that my feet were stretched out and resting on the empty chair that sits across from me at our table, glass in hand, mind at rest.    I was struck, at that moment, with the sheer joy of being exactly where I was.  (A very rare moment for me and my chaotic mind!)

Since reading about Judith, I have considered in depth that these meals and experiences are even more of a treasure than I realized.  Of course they are some of the best times of my life, but also ones that are not always guaranteed.  I’ve experienced the truth of this in the painful knowledge that I will never eat another meal at 421 South Euclid Street, surrounded by my Grandma and Grandpa in what was one of my favorite kitchens.  I will never be able to pick another avocado or lemon out of their backyard.  Reading about Judith and her kitchen has caused me to realize the fleeting nature of our lives with a more poignant immediacy. 

That being said, I would like to thank everyone who shares these times with me, everyone who allows me to cook for them, everyone who has fed me well, everyone that sits around the table with me and hangs out in my kitchen, everyone that has shed a tear with me across the table, everyone that has squealed with delight over the perfect bite, everyone that has poured me a drink and danced with me while we cooked, everyone that has allowed me to gracefully unbutton my pants due to an overstuffed belly, everyone that has shared their dreams and listened to mine as we rested from our dining.  These are the best times and you all are a gift and a blessing to me, a beautiful part of my life that I cherish and appreciate.  And even though I am nearly one hundred percent certain that she will never see this, I would also like to thank Judith.  She’s helped me to think about how blessed we are to share these times with one another.  I hope she really has found pleasure in cooking for one, and that her kitchen is still crowded at times with friends and loved ones that fill her heart with joy.  And most of all, I am so thankful for Jon, who shares the table with me night after night and graciously receives my successes and failures in the kitchen.  While my love of food has been with me since childhood, he was part and parcel to the beginning of my culinary exploration in the kitchen.  I hope I never have to sit at the table without him. 

P.S.  And thanks to Becky  – who conspires with me about a full life and continues to encourage me to blog!

I went to an incredible market this weekend in New York.  It was beautiful.  The Union Square Green Market is notoriously popular with local NYC chefs (especially those that are following the farm to table movement) and the offerings are extravagantly abundant.  Spectacular fall produce was everywhere, ogled by about ten thousand hungry shoppers.  The market provides an outlet for local New York farmers and artisans; cheese, meat, wool, honey, wine, cider, vegetables, seafood, plants, pies, cakes… I’ll take one of everything, please.  You can tell that the vegetables are grown on someone’s personal farm because they are giant and funky, not tiny and perfect.  Oh man, everything was so gorgeous.  We would have had a bizarre but delicious meal of market menagerie had we been home that night. 

Later that night we had dinner at backforty, a little restaurant that touts a very seasonal market menu.  We ordered a small plate that included the most sinful little chunk of pork belly browned in maple syrup, with a little salad on the side of caramelized radish, apple and peppers.  WOW.  Maybe I embarrassed myself by slurping the last drops of pork fat and maple syrup off the plate, but do you think I cared? 

The pork belly came from Flying Pig Farms, which I saw at the market that morning.  I also saw the plump little French radishes and the Hungarian peppers.  I love that.

Be sure to click on the pictures to enlarge them; they are best enjoyed giant sized.

Dear Mr. Townsend,

I have written a letter to you over and over again in my head ever since hearing the devastating news that the revered and beautiful Gourmet magazine was cancelled.  I believe that it has taken this long for me to write the letter because I’ve simply not been able to come to terms with this news.  I am astounded.  Grieved.  Disturbed.  Angry.  Disgusted.  Every time I look at my teetering stack of precious Gourmet’s, I feel the wind knocked out of me again. 

You see, the cancellation of Gourmet is tragic not only because this magazine was singularly unique amongst food publications, but also because I believe it represents a greater loss and a disturbing downward direction in our culture. 

Gourmet magazine stood to me as the darling of food publications.  Saturated with gorgeous photos, riveting food journalism and delectable recipes, Gourmet was the embodiment of all that is beautiful and sacramental about eating.  Gourmet took us to new places, introduced us to new foods, challenged us to understand the meaning behind what we eat and where it comes from, inspired us to cook and to serve, to cook and eat with imagination.  How incredible that a seventy year old publication could still stand as a smart and sexy educator and authority to a multi-generational audience.  I believe this is because Gourmet elevated and honored the things that are important: food, beauty, truth, meaning. 

Gourmet was the anthem and banner for food being more than just nourishment for our bodies, but also nourishment for our souls. Even more amazing is that this publication embodied these principles not in some irrelevant and dowdy manner, but with elegance, glamour and sophistication.  Gourmet holistically supported and propagated the ideals of artful living and eating.  Cancelling a publication this revered and established, a publication that has educated and inspired some of the greatest chefs of the last century, all due to a year of bad ad sales in a poor economy is egregious – outrageous!  You have closed the Lourve.  Sold Monet’s paintings at a garage sale.  Bulldozed central park for an office park development.  Cancelled your Roman holiday in favor of a weekend in Branson.  Replaced Grace Kelly with Brittney Spears.  Graffitied Michaelangelo’s DavidYou’ve taken your family to McDonald’s for Thanksgiving.   Do I sound dramatic?  I feel VERY DRAMATIC.  Absolutely furious.

I subscribe to multiple food publications because I am an avid cook and have passionate interest in food and eating, but Gourmet is by far my favorite.  The blend of inventive recipes, captivating essays and cultural savvy is unmatched in culinary publication.  I’ve been left with Bon Appetit, which I subscribe to because I can’t help myself.  Sure, Bon Appetit has its merits and strong points, but I believe its audience subscribes for different reasons.  Instead of discovering new little items and delectable treats and nibbles in a section labeled, “Obsessions,” I’ll have to look in Bon Appetit under “What to Buy Now.”  I believe this succinctly summarizes the vast difference between these sister publications.   I do not want to be told what to buy now; I want to be wooed and seduced, enticed because I trust so much the passion and credibility of the source. 

I find it utterly disturbing that one (or even a few) bad years can ruin a publication that is as old or older than our beloved grandmothers.  What is this short-sightedness that continues to surface in a country that is founded on perseverance, dedication, resourcefulness?  It seems that panic has swept the American business community, and I find myself bewildered time and time again as a consumer.  Certainly a giant such as Conde Nast would see that nearly one million customers, disgruntled (at best) and outraged (at worst) costs much more than a year of slow ad sales.  In terms of the transition from print to web, the Gourmet website is a recent award winner; a representation that the Gourmet brand is not only relevant, but strong.  This is especially impressive seeing as how the audience that reads this magazine is most likely one that honors and values a sensory experience, which is much more difficult to have by clicking through a website. 

For me, the website is an interesting supplement to the magazine that I anxiously await each month.  The experience of holding and turning pages in my hands, the smell of a brand new magazine, the glossiness of an undisturbed cover, the knowledge of new things to be discovered with the simple turn of a page, the portability of a tangible publication- these things cannot be replaced by the internet.  The pages of my magazines are crinkled from water and olive oil, my cherished issues having been present next to a hot sauté pan or with me in my nightly bath, delightfully enjoyed alongside a little glass of red wine.  Gourmet magazine has been with me as I have learned to cook, has transported me when I needed to dream and discover new things in the hardest of times, has inspired me to stretch and grow myself as a home cook and food lover.  How many times have I run to the mailbox the moment I hear the postman drive away, anticipating this monthly pleasure that will act as my muse in the kitchen?

There is a reason that history is upheld and protected.  There is a reason that in the midst of exploding social media and an overworked A-D-D society, there are movements to return to simplicity, quality of life, community, and appreciation of the traditions that worked for our grandmothers and grandfathers.  I realize that I’m delving into some wider issues, but for some reason the cut of this senior publication in the midst of a great food revolution just reeks of the brokenness that I observe in crumbling systems and lifestyles that the enlightened seek to overcome.  What are we becoming culturally when we are okay with slashing these beautiful and treasured things in favor of a few more dollars?  Where is the reverence for that which transcends the whim of trends, for the things that are worth preserving because they unite us generationally?  What else should I expect to disappear and fall apart?  I find myself more and more disillusioned in this culture that surrounds me.  I liked knowing that I was connected to and a part of a community that had existed for decades.  There is beauty in the old and the established.  Have you missed this entire revolution and return to quality, even at a greater cost?  I’m convinced that the future sees us returning to this mindset.  This counterculture will become the mainstream.  We have no choice.  The Europeans understand this best (which is why we love their wines, cheeses, foods, museums so much).  Americans, sadly, still continue to lack this vision and sophistication.  I expected more from Conde Nast.  I expected more from a company that published these ideals.   

I will continue to mourn the loss of this lovely and beautiful magazine.  I am truly heart broken.  I still just can’t believe it.  I can’t believe it.

Most sincerely,

Amanda Hindson