Iron Chef America Featuring the White House Garden

So, did you all watch Iron Chef last night?  It was touted as a historical battle of super chefs, including Bobby Flay, Mario Batali, and Emeril Lagasse with White House Chef Cristeta Comerford.  Their asssignment:  to use anything from the White House Garden (and Beehives) to create dishes– locally sourced, organic, sustainable– that would wow America.  I reveled in the shots of the lush White House Garden, filmed last October during the full harvest bloom.  I marveled at the panoply of professional equipment (and sous-chefs) at the Stadium Kitchen where they held the competition. I learned some marvelous techniques, including blanching and pan-frying icicle radishes to complement scallops (which I don’t eat or serve in my kosher home) and also that professionally trained chefs also have trouble with short pastry. The finished four dishes per team were beautiful to behold.

No spoiler here: you could find out about the winning team elsewhere, such as the informative Obama Foodarama website.

The Demise of Gourmet Magazine, A Cultural Icon

After 70 years of publication, Conde Nast is ceasing publication of Gourmet magazine, while maintaining its support of Bon Appetit magazine.  As with many (most?) corporate decisions, it was a precipitous one, announced to its staff on Monday just as the November issue was off the presses.

As an immigrant to this country, I learned about the cultural rituals of my new country through the Girls Scouts manual– obtained from my small, neighborhood library, another American treasure– and later on, the pages of the food magazines.  The National Geographic was too arcane for me, but Bon Appetit broadened my cultural horizons past my family’s tenement apartment in New York’s Chinatown.  It showed me what people really do eat in their own homes and how to prepare their dishes.  It gave me a cultural passport, even before I could afford to travel on my own salary.

The New York Times reported on Gourmet’s demise in its Wednesday’s Food section—my favorite section of the whole week!—and noted that now-prominent chefs and food writers were weaned on the pages and recipes of Gourmet and how it provided a “home for literate, thoughtful food writing.  Its stable of contributors included James Beard, Laurie Colwin, and M.F.K. Fisher…”  It even quoted Alice Waters saying that a “review in Gourmet used to mean everything. ‘Yes, you could be in The New York Times, but that was sort of fleeting.  Gourmet was just a bigger cultural picture.’”

Well, if you’re not a subscriber (who may be getting the good-bye letter by now), you’re out of luck.  The newsstands and bookstores did not get any additional copies and they’re most likely sold out by now.  You could check with your local library.   Me, I’m relishing my September issue of Gourmet, which was billed as the “The Ultimate Harvest Cookbook” with recipes for everything in season from A (apples) to Z (zucchini).