Years ago, Gourmet led the pack with a November issue that was one mouth-watering page after another. The lush centerfold made many a cook's dreams come true. Bon Appetit held its own in those sweepstakes. But, with the demise of the elegant taste-maker, Gourmet, Bon Appetit has suffered from an identity crisis, and it really doesn't do much of a job keeping up. It's turned to trendy, rather than tasty. Ingredients that no one west, north or south of New Jersey can find...that kind of thing.
Fine Cooking's fall issue that combines October and November is never a disappointment, unless you count the fact that everyone I know wishes it was a 12 month magazine, instead of 6 month. It loses a lot of the timeliness by being bi-monthly.
And then there is the Food Network magazine. Holy moly! Fat, full of seasonal stuff, easily found ingredients and accessible recipes.
Those of us who like to cook are already thinking ahead to the holidays. We're already making lists of who will be in town, who will be traveling and who might be alone. I'm doing my fall cleaning so that I'll be ready with polished silver, clean kitchen cabinets stocked with fresh ingredients, and a purged fridge. It's essential if there is going to be a lot of kitchen activity.
The other day, while looking for something else (as is often the case), I ran across something I've saved. It's the November 1986 issue of Gourmet. Why, pray tell? We were married in November of 1986 on Thanksgiving weekend. I had gone through 20 years worth of Gourmets because they were taking up shelf space I needed for other things, but I could not tear up that issue.
This is the season when we plan our baking marathons, the table settings, the things that must be ordered ahead of time and so on. The fat cooking magazines used to inspire this kind of homekeeping creativity. You think Martha Stewart is that innately talented? Gimme a break. She studied those old Gourmet centerfolds with the zeal of a social climber. Here in the South, there are still a few generations who rely on Southern Living. Indeed, newly transplanted to the Star City, I subscribed for a while, until I realized it was the same old same old made with a can of cream of mushroom soup. And seriously, the decorating? There was only so much 18th Century Light, Revisited that I could stomach.
So, these days, I take comfort from those fine people at the Food Network who focus on ingredients we can find easily, fresh foods and accessibility. They know we are busy, they know we want to have a really tasty feast, but they also know that we don't all live in McMansions with Great Halls worthy of Henry VIII. The vibe is more casual than you will find at our house on a holiday, but that's okay. If it gets people into the kitchen, that's fine by me. If it gets some of them to understand that the glass electric cooktop is for lightweights, and that the microwave isn't their most important appliance, I'm all for it.
Stay tuned for what's up on the menus. Right now I have a big collection of squash, so I'm thinking squash lasagne, squash soup, squash mash... Stuffed eggplant, spezzatino with greens, beans and root vegetables... Fall is in the air. Aaaa-choo!