I have issues – of food magazines
Food magazines are funny things.
On the cover is a picture of a beautiful dish that draws you in. You want to make it…you NEED to make it. You plunk down the $5.99CDN and go home inspired. And then next month there is another issue. Another dish you NEED to make. Maybe instead of just paying for that issue, you subscribe. Every month, delivered to your home are mouth-watering pictures and corresponding recipes. You leaf through the pages. Maybe you make the recipe…maybe you don’t. But you keep it, because one day, you might. You might NEED to make that recipe. And then years pass. And your house is filled with food magazines. And not just Bon Appétit, but Saveur, Cook’s Illustrated, Food and Wine, and the awesome free one you get at the LCBO – Food and Drink. So many magazines!!!!!
Years ago I decided to try to organize my stacks of magazines – because I couldn’t dare part with them.
I had, what I believed to be, a brilliant strategy. I bought those cardboard magazine holders. I tore pages and pages of ads out of the issues, and in a black notebook I organized the recipes I wanted to cook. For Example:
Moroccan Chicken with Eggplant, Tomatoes and Almonds, pg. 76 Bon Appétit February 2004
Chicken with Tarragon and quick-roasted Garlic pg. 58 Bon Appétit May 2010
And on, and on, and on….
Page after page I wrote. And I tried to be judicious, only writing down recipes I would actually make.
A year later I realized I had never looked in my notebook and I had 20 new issues to deal with. Sigh.
My next strategy was to remove the recipes I liked from the magazines, and put them in a binder with plastic page protectors. I made three large volumes. Starters, Brunch & Drinks, Entrees & Sides, and Sweets. I spent weeks cutting and pasting (literally, with glue sticks) and would become enraged when two different recipes were on the same page (one on the front and one on the back). I photocopied and printed. This strategy was more successful than the first. To this day I still have the books and reference them occasionally. I have divided each book into sections and can find what I am looking for quickly. But, I don’t usually browse for recipes in these binders. I just go to recipes I know. And I store them in the basement because I don’t have room for them in the kitchen.
I realized that keeping all the food magazines was not an option for me.
So, if I didn’t make a recipe within a month or two, I brought that issue into work and let someone else try. Overall this strategy has worked to thin my magazine stack, but at this moment I still have about 25 magazines I haven’t dealt with. (ok, that’s probably more than 25)
But there is one issue I have dealt with. And by dealt with, I mean that I know I will never cut it up, or give it away. And I’m confident I have read it cover to cover a hundred times.
It’s a very special issue.
Bon Appétit May 2001, Special Collector’s Edition: Paris
Maybe it was because I had fallen in love in Paris and with Paris only 2 years earlier, but I don’t think it was just that. For some reason, this issue got under my skin. I knew that if I could master some of these recipes that life would be a bit more beautiful, that I would feel more creative, and that I would be embracing something bigger than myself…Paris…new foods…and a new way to look at life.
Fourteen years ago I was working at the Stratford Festival of Canada as an actor for the first time. I invited a few friends to dinner, some old friends, some new ones. I didn’t have a cookbook with me and the dial-up internet wasn’t filled with recipes in those days – or if it was, I didn’t know where they were. But I did have Bon Appétit May 2001, Special Collector’s Edition: Paris. There were five of us, I think, and I decided to make the most adventurous dinner I had ever made. In addition to the Roast Lamb with Rosemary and Garlic that I figured out somehow, I decided to make Goat Cheese Soufflés (pg. 220) and , and Tea Flavoured Molten Chocolate Cakes (pg. 149). I didn’t have the right pots and pans, and I bought ramekins at the dollar store. We sat at the kitchen table. We laughed and we drank wine. That dinner I learned a very valuable cooking lesson. Well, two actually.
1) Never attempt soufflés or molten chocolate cakes without electric beaters of some sort
2) Invite friends with strong arms who are willing to pitch in.
My fantastic friends saved the day by beating egg whites to stiff peaks for hours, it seemed (in reality it was likely 30 min, but I was many hours grateful.)
Dinner parties and experimenting with new recipes became part of my life in Stratford. And that was the beginning.
When I look at this issue – which I do often, I remember that dinner. I flip through and see all the French classics that I have made and mastered since then. Dishes that seemed so foreign and glamorous to me in 2001. This issue inspired me to revisit Paris again in 2002 – by myself! – and armed with Patricia Wells’ book A Food Lover’s Guide to Paris (recommended in the issue). This magazine was the beginning of a journey that I am still on today.
When I look at my March 2016 issue of Bon Appétit on my coffee table, I don’t know how long it will be with me. I can guarantee that it will make it to the side table with a stack of about 25 other issues, but will it make it to the cookbook shelf with May 2001? I don’t know.
We are so inundated these days with visual stimulus in food!
Today if I go on the internet, or stand in line at the store and flip through food magazines, I will see beautiful pictures of dishes I suddenly NEED to make, but if I don’t make them right now, will I remember them? Are they delicious whims? Or part of my journey?
If you have an issue of a magazine that has made an impact on you – food related or not – I’d love to hear from you.