One of the things I love about going to visit Madame Mere is perusing through her old Gourmet magazines. She has them all filed away in those big albums available at the end of the year, all the way back to the seventies. Every time I open one I am saddened by the fact that we don't get that kind of content in a food magazine anymore. The Wine, California, New York and Paris Journals... what delight. And the in depth articles on travel and food from around the globe. Gourmet, The Magazine of Good Living, read the caption below. That said it all.
I remember in the last months of Gourmet the quality of the articles began to decline as the magazine emphasized photography instead. Boy, was that a mistake. Did they not realize that we mainly bought Gourmet for the recipes and the articles and not the artistic content? When I first began to cook, we were supposed to read a recipe and determine if we liked it or not. Cold turkey. No pictures, no detailed instructions, no reviews. Take it or leave it. It was a leap of faith, so you had to know who to take the plunge with. Joy of Cooking?...yes. Julia?...yes. The New York Times' Craig Claiborne?...check. Gourmet?... definitely.
|Gourmet, The Magazine of Good Living|
I know that nowadays people would rather look at a beautiful photo than read a recipe. Food porn, that's the new thing. Look at the success of Pinterest and Instagram. Combined with texting and email we are rapidly becoming a society of mutes and voyeurs. And, of course, there goes etiquette and social manners. No more engraved invitations or thank you notes. And don't get me going on the demise of the dinner party... or any kind of entertaining at home. No, those days are gone and boy do I miss them and worry about what's in store for my grandchildren.
I sometimes regret having all the china and silver that are packed away and gathering dust in the basement. And the linens that need to be carefully washed and ironed. Who's going to use all that stuff after I'm gone ??? I expect to be turning in my grave like the spin cycle in a washing machine. Regardless, brides still want the loot. Life is funny.
Today we have more advantages than ever before yet we choose not to cook or entertain. The most important and expensive part of any house these days is the kitchen and, except for the refrigerator, it remains immaculate and looks practically new. Our grocery stores are full of food and spices from all over the world and as far as pots and pans and gadgets, you have one for every chore and cuisine. Tagines? in all colors. Just look at the Williams Sonoma catalogue. Who buys this stuff?! And cookbooks? even the cat has a cookbook, with photos and videos. Speaking of which...I give you Madame X She doesn't cook, but she eats rather well.
I don't know what got me going on this tirade, except I like and miss the good old days. Yes, I miss Gourmet magazine and wish they brought it back. Soon. I would give up the entire Food Channel and all the cooking blogs, including mine. All for one good cooking magazine. Gourmet.
For old times sakes, I am posting a recipe from an old issue, very appropriate for this time of the year and very simple to make. It is a rich cake. It has a great picture too....
Topped with beautifully browned fall pears, this moist cake is perfect on its own—and even better with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Upside Down Pear Gingerbread Cake
- 2 1/2 firm pears (preferably Bosc)
- 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
- 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup molasses (preferably mild)
- 1 cup boiling water
- 1/2 cup 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
- 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
Special equipment:a well-seasoned 10-inch cast-iron skillet or a 12-inch deep nonstick skillet (handle wrapped with a double layer of foil if not ovenproof)
Accompaniment:vanilla ice cream
Peel and core pears and cut each into 8 wedges.
Melt butter in skillet over moderate heat until foam subsides. Reduce heat to low, then sprinkle brown sugar over bottom of skillet and cook, undisturbed, 3 minutes (not all sugar will be melted). Arrange pears decoratively over sugar and cook, undisturbed, 2 minutes. Remove from heat.
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and salt in a bowl. Whisk together molasses and boiling water in a small bowl. Beat together butter, brown sugar, and egg in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until creamy, about 2 minutes, then alternately mix in flour mixture and molasses in 3 batches at low speed until smooth.
Pour batter over topping in skillet, spreading evenly and being careful not to disturb pears, and bake in middle of oven until a tester comes out clean, 40 to 50 minutes.
Cool cake in skillet on a rack 5 minutes. Run a thin knife around edge of skillet, then invert a large plate with a lip over skillet and, using pot holders to hold skillet and plate tightly together, invert cake onto plate. Replace any pears that stick to skillet. Serve warm or at room temperature.