On my desk right now is an issue of Gourmet magazine. It is from October of 1944, just three years after it started publication and still in the midst of World War II. How I got that issue and about a dozen others is, well, I stole them.
My sister used to work at a hotel in Lake Toxaway, N.C., that is now the Greystone Inn. Back then, it was still called the Moltz mansion by the locals because it had been owned by Lucy Moltz, a prominent resident of the resort community. By the time Louise got there, it was a threadbare hotel about to be torn down. Amazingly, a lot of Mrs. Moltz’s personal items were still laying about. One day when I was up from Charlotte at our own condo on the lake, I went over to the Moltz mansion and was poking around. I opened a cabinet in what used to be the grand library and there were the issues of Gourmet. I figured nobody else would want them and so I took them.
The mansion was saved and is now a luxury hotel. It never occurred to me that my old issues of Gourmet would become collector’s items. I am sad the magazine has ceased publication. I think it’s a shame when any venerable magazine or newspaper dies. But I understand why Gourmet didn’t make it. I’ve been a subscriber to Gourmet and a lot of other food magazines for years. And I think Gourmet lost touch with its readers. Ruth Reichl, the renowned food editor, became editor of Gourmet a few years ago and wanted to put her stamp on it. Gourmet became preachy. I don’t mind preachy from some quarters. I want to know that buying tomatoes in the grocery store is subsidizing slave labor in Florida. But I don’t want giant doses of it in a magazine I turned to for comfort and inspiration. I also don’t want nameless models in my pictorial food spreads who obviously never eat so much as a grape. I want photos of real people, with names, eating real food.
I have three food magazines I have yet to read on my nightstand. Two of them are Gourmets. Still in their plastic sleeves. That says something.
So I’ll end my farewell to Gourmet with a recipe from the December 1946 issue. It was in the “You Asked For It” section, in which readers write in for recipes. Here it is in its entirety.
Q. Have you ever heard of a Southern dish called “hush puppies?” Mrs. Fisher Dunlap, New York, N.Y.
Q. Indeed we have. there’s nothing quiet about them except the name. They are basically a corn pone.
Hush Puppies: Into a mixing bowl put 2 cups freshly ground corn meal and stir in enough sweet milk, about 1 1/2 to 2 cups, to make a mixture that is soft but not liquid, and which can easily be taken up in a light spoon and droped onto a baking tin. Last of all, add 3 or 4 tablespoons melted bacon or ham fat and 1 onion, chopped fine. Mix the puppies well and shape them into pones, oblong cakes about 3/4 inch thick. Bake slowly in a moderate oven (350 degrees) to be sure they are cooked through. Note that this recipe does not call for salt.
(Obviously, they got the baking part wrong. And I can tell you from experience that nobody in New York City had access to proper cornmeal. But A for effort.)