I came back from my trip to NorCal on Tuesday. I drove in a storm and followed a police car that went 5 mph through a giant puddle. The reason for my return in this storm was the talk at Skirball with Ruth Reichl, Jonathan Gold, and Laurie Ochoa. I had a food filled weekend with the Tasty Awards and the Fancy Food Fest that the storm kept me away from in SF, but it was LA that had the real food event I was looking forward to. I greatly admire all three of these people. I made it off the 405, an hour before the event. I changed my shirt in the car and met up with our friend, Kane, before Josie arrived straight from work. When the event started was when I knew that Evan Kleiman would be the moderator for the evening. I was thrilled. I met Evan when Josie and I volunteered to work the cookbook table at Taste of the Nation LA, she said one of the wisest comments I’ve ever heard. Josie and I gave her our business cards and she said, “Why does a blog need a President and a Chief Creative Officer?” Josie responded, “Well, it’s kind of a launchpad to something bigger” Evan didn’t skip a beat and said, “Honey, life is a launchpad to something bigger.” Truer words have never been spoken.
Evan put everyone at ease and the conversation flowed beautifully. Ruth, Jonathan, and Laurie came into Gourmet Magazine as renegades. They brought the idea of conscious food to the forefront, branched food out of the high-end restaurant/hotel world, and kept the literary excellence and journalistic integrity that Gourmet Magazine has always been famous for possessing. The night was inspiring and heartbreaking at the same time. The magazine that had contributions from such writers as Maya Angelou, David Foster Wallace, and F. Scott Fitzgerald closed with no dignity. Ruth had the December issue all ready to go with January, February, and most of March completed. These issues never saw the light of day and the magazine was closed with zero warning. However, this night was a celebration but the loss in all of our food lives could not be ignored. The video below was one of my favorite moments of the evening and the whole night can be seen and heard on Zocalo.
For me, the most uplifting part of the night was when an audience member asked what the legacy of Gourmet Magazine will be. Laurie Ochoa responded by saying that they never talked down to their readers. I loved that. In a world of oversimplifying and 30-minutes meals, it is nice that integrity is still held. Jonathan Gold made a joke about “Paula Deen’s Gourmet,” which gave everyone a chuckle and a genuine worry. I loved that neither Jonathan Gold nor Gourmet magazine ever gave restaurants a star rating. It is so much more than that; it’s a story. Pulitzer Prize winning Jonathan Gold loved being able to write 3,000 words on a single restaurant review in the magazine. He even told this great story about how at Gourmet you had to visit more than 8 times to write a review and at one of the later visits at Alain Ducasse’s restaurant in NYC he had an worm in his salad. He played with it. The staff went crazy and someone tipped off the NY Post but he shrugged it off saying, “Look, I am from California, I understand. It means it’s organic.” This story was the perfect example of an Uncouth Gourmand and got me thinking a lot about Josie and myself. As most of you know, Josie and I bonded during a trip to Europe where the idea of the UGs was born. We spent more money than we spent on all of our hostels for 3 weeks on a $500 lunch at Le Louis XV in Monaco, also an Alain Ducasse restaurant. It was at this time when we put together the words uncouth and gourmand. We realized that sometimes a Doner kabob at 5am is just as good as a 5 star meal and that the dining experience must be a fun one. The first time we met Jonathan Gold and said that we were the Uncouth Gourmands, he said that is who he has been his entire career. It is true, he is an idol of ours.
As much as we love him, it was Ruth that was the star of the evening. What a career and what a genuinely thoughtful woman. She sat on the floor and spoke with everyone afterward. We were waiting in line next to Teenage Glutster and Gastronomy Blog (photographed with us) and it was nice to see how excited they were to meet her. I know some people believe it is the fast paced blogging world and tweets that are putting an end to the print business but that doesn’t make the two things enemies. Bloggers are also thoughtful and have ethics, integrity, and “intellectual rigor” that the WSJ tributes to Gourmet Magazine. At the same point, Ruth talked about how much she was looking forward to the future technology for Gourmet magazine and enjoys reading blogs. In fact, when I met her I told her that I live in Pasadena, which was home to what she claimed was the best egg salad (the place was Euro Pane and I totally agree). I knew this information from her Twitter and I also read on her Twitter about the end of Gourmet magazine from the source. What I am trying to say is that clearly the medium has changed but the legacy that Gourmet pioneered lives on and I am thrilled it is so prevalent in my fellow LA bloggers.
I knew I wanted to write this post today, but there was one problem. I was hungover and starving. I remembered that Ruth said that the recipe collection is still on the Gourmet site and I felt compelled to make something. I woke up this morning dreaming of perfectly roasted chicken and found a recipe on their sadly no longer updated site. Even better it was in the easy to make category. I made the Chicken and Parsnip “Fries” with Spicy Vinegar recipe from the Gourmet site and I photographed it with my new camera. Look at that, I am upgrading my photo equipment. I am really not trying to use a Melvin Udall line but Gourmet Magazine and Ruth Reichl make me want to be a better Uncouth Gourmand, writer, cook, food photographer, and person.