I remember quite vividly the first time I read Gourmet. I was thirteen years old and visiting my father and his new wife in their house in a suburb of Boston. It was the first time I'd met Susan - my new stepmother - and I was jetlagged and a little overwhelmed. But Susan was nice and my father was happy and the house was cute and there was a cat named Taylor who warmed to me right away, so I found myself relaxing in spite of it all.
And furthermore, the next morning when I woke up too early and came downstairs, I discovered a stack of magazines with looping script that spelled out Gourmet, with luminous photographs and mouth-watering recipes and photographs of food and stories - well-written, to boot - about the very things I liked to read about. I leafed through the pages slowly in wonder. I felt like the world was opening up, quite literally, in front of me. Whole galaxies of possibility in front of my very eyes! I'll never forget that feeling.
Before long, I was copying - in longhand - all the recipes that grabbed my imagination. I don't even remember how many loose leaf pages I filled, but for years after that first visit, I would look forward to settling down on my visits to see my dad and Susan with a stack of Gourmets by my side; hours stretching ahead of me in which I could read and fantasize and lose myself in the beauty of that magazine.
For me, as for many, many others, Gourmet was not just a magazine. It was one of the first things that Susan and I shared, and I can't look at an issue without thinking of her. I had an emotional attachment to it, as well as a professional one. As a cookbook editor, I used Gourmet to find photographers, stylists, and writers, not to mention book ideas. It has been an invaluable source of inspiration.
Much has been said and written about the folding of Gourmet over the past few weeks. I know some people never warmed to the "new" Gourmet. I know some people subscribed only because of Ruth Reichl. I know some people think the Internet killed Gourmet. And some people think heartless businessmen in suits are to blame. I don't know what did Gourmet inultimately, but what I want to address are readers threatening to cancel their subscriptions to other magazines out of protest or anger because of the folding of Gourmet.
Please don't. Please remember there are people behind all those other magazines, people who work hard and who are passionate, who have tastes and opinions that matter, who are doing their very best in a very difficult industry, whose work each month inspires millions of cooks and readers and dreamers and artists. If anything, in the wake of Gourmet folding, we should become new subscribers to other food magazines, lending those publications our support and our dollars, letting the writers and editors there know that people are still reading, still paying attention, still hungry, for lack of a better word, for nourishment. Magazines aren't static - they're living, growing, changing things and they need us, like a plant needs water, to keep them vibrant and alive.
I found this fantastic soup on Gourmet.com earlier this week. After one of the magazine's editors warned that web-exclusive recipes on the site would eventually disappear when the site got taken down, I spent the better part of an hour getting lost in there, finding delicious things to cook, rereading older pieces by MFK Fisher and Francis Lam, marveling at the amount of work that went into it all.
Tonight, after more than a week out of my kitchen, I chopped up an onion and cooked it in olive oil, then stirred in ground cumin and a few spoons of prepared red curry paste, cooking and stirring the paste gently to release the fragrance. Then I poured in chicken stock, a can of tomatoes and their juice, crumbling brown sugar and some salt. After a brief simmer, a 15-minute window in which I had just enough time to straighten up the apartment, admire a new pair of shoes and read my mail, the soup was ready. I blitzed it into smoothness with an immersion blender, and brightened it up with a good squeeze of lime juice. My apartment smelled incredible.
Would you understand what I meant if I said this soup tasted like the brightest summer day, simultaneously, impossibly full of languor and excitement? The flavors are strong and bright and layered, despite the humble ingredients, and the fact that you can make the whole thing within half an hour of walking in the door only makes this taste better. The original recipe has you add a cup of water to the brew, but I left it out and the soup was perfect: just hot and spicy enough and not too thick. I find traditional tomato soups, slick with cream, leave much to be desired. This one is my new gold standard: practically shimmering with life.
Thai-Spiced Tomato Soup
1 onion, chopped
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons Thai Kitchen red curry paste
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
2 (14-oz) cans reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 (28-oz) can crushed tomatoes
1 tablespoon packed brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
Juice of 1/2 lime
A handful of cilantro leaves (optional)
1. Cook onion in oil in a 4- to 5-quart heavy pot over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 6 minutes. Add curry paste and cumin and cook, stirring, 2 minutes.
2. Add broth, tomatoes, brown sugar, and salt and simmer 15 minutes.
3. Purée soup in batches in a blender (use caution when blending hot liquids). Return soup to pot and reheat. You can also leave the soup in the pot and purée using an immersion blender. Stir in the lime juice and serve, garnishing with cilantro, if using.