It is an inevitable truth that everything that has a beginning has an end. Some enjoy heights of success, only to falter and fade away, then fall into oblivion to disappear with nary a blip. Others are lamented in their eventual passing. Then there are those whose demise brings on waves of despair, shouts of protest, flowing tributes in homage. “How can it be true?” you hear people shout! “Where are we to turn?” they ponder in sadness. These are the lucky few. Their demise sends shockwaves among their supporters. They live amongst their fans forever.
This is what happened with the closure of Gourmet magazine. Witnessing the shock and despair of its legions of fans at Conde Nast’s decision to shut down this matriarch of the published food world, I have to admit I didn’t quite get it right away. I revere books; I’ve never been much of a magazine lover, the only ones I ever subscribed to were the Architectural Review, Readers’ Digest and Archie comics (yes, the 12 year old in me never quite grew up). The hue and cry baffled me. Surely this was just a magazine meeting an untimely demise at the hands of business people? Given the tough economy so many things have gone a similar way. Cookbooks are still around, so how bad could it be?
This last week I actually had the time to sit and read some of the reactions. I didn’t grow up here so Gourmet is not part of my childhood memories, as it seems to be for so many of my fellow food enthusiasts. Gourmet had tremendous numbers of fans. Some of them were right under my nose as it were, good friends who used to subscribe to the magazine before the economy made us all take a long, hard look at our spending. Some had continued to forge through the recession and cut back elsewhere while retaining the favoured subscriptions. Harbinger of bad news as I was, I got to see their reactions first-hand. One friend was sorry she wouldn’t get a chance to renew her subsription, another told me her Christmas menu was now hopelessly adrift; she always cooked from the year’s relevant issue of Gourmet. Another wondered what would happen to the subscription she had just gifted to her nephew, a 17 year old in Malaysia who hoped to pursue a culinary career in the US. She had hoped it would inspire him further and nothing in the form of replacement would do, nothing else could compare. All these reactions made me distinctly uneasy. I love everything about food, the cooking, eating and learning, and clearly I’d missed out on what was a large part of most cooks here.
But was there anything to the hue and cry aside from the nostalgia and sentiment? I borrowed some old copies from one of my friends and read though them. Some things immediately started to stand out. This was a magazine that was as much about the state of food as it was about the eating of it. There were articles in it that were delightful literary pieces, while being amazingly informative. The focus was on cooking, eating and entertaining. Further contemplation and reading revealed a rich history and gave an idea of how this 69 year old magazine had been around for so much food history; the rise and fall of canned food, the birth of the microwave, the touting and banning of butter, the demonizing of carbs. It became easier to see why so many people felt like they had lost a comforting friend. Sadly it was lost in a world affected by financial turmoil. Maybe the lushness of the magazine was anachronistic for its time, falling out of favour, as the term ‘gourmet’ has over the years. Or maybe, following the cycle of life, its time was done.
It lives on forever among those who loved it. I hadn’t experienced in its entirety, even so I felt I had to try something, quiet, satisfying, as my moment of silence for its passing. I found these recipes for hummus and tzatziki, classics and cornerstones, just like the magazine has been. Here is an adaptation from a source that is probably going to ever appear this one time on this blog . Even so, the recipes it featured will always be around. So will the essence of this magazine, in some form or another; certainly, in the hearts of its fans.
I’ve always wanted to make these easy sides, but have often passed them over for more exciting or complicated recipes. Now, they seemed apt in their simplicity somehow. I decided to give them a go, in memoriam of a magazine that I was only introduced to through its demise. I love tzatziki. It’s a basic yoghurt based dip or sauce, one that in my opinion goes with practically anything. Call it a throwback to my love of raita, which is quite similar (if you hold the dill and garlic and throw in some chilli and cilantro). Also, I cannot resist the combination of yoghurt and garlic. Hummus is quite easily one of my favourite snacks. I’ve been in love with it since my father introduced me to my first bowlful on a trip to Dubai in the nineties. There are several wannabe white bean, kidney bean, even pea hummuses, but nothing quite like the original chickpea version. Even in these cold days, these dishes make wonderful snacks. Served together like this with some still warm, just grilled pita slices, they were a filling meal.
Hummus and Tzatziki
adapted from Gourmet
For the hummus:
Garbanzo beans (chickpeas) – 1 can, drained (reserve water to thin out hummus if required)
Lemon juice – 4 tbsp (or to taste)
Tahini – 2 tbsp
Olive oil – 2 tbsp
Garlic – 2 cloves
Salt to taste
Cayenne pepper powder – a pinch or two (optional)
– Mince the garlic cloves well and mix with a little salt.
– Blend the garlic paste together with the rest of the ingredients in a food processor. Season with more salt if necessary. Thin out with reserved water if it is too thick.
– Serve with some cayenne pepper powder dusted over.
For the tzatziki:
Cucumbers – 2 medium, peeled, deseeded and sliced very thin
Greek-style yogurt – 2 cups
Garlic – 2 cloves, minced
Lemon juice – of 1 lemon
Mint – 1 tbsp, finely chopped
Dill – 2 tbsp, finely chopped
Olive oil – 2 tsp
Salt and pepper to taste
– Salt the cucumber discs to draw out moisture. Leave for 20 to 30 minutes then squeeze dry.
– Mix the remaining ingredients together, then add the cucumbers. Check the seasoning. Chill for half-an-hour before serving.