Having moved recently, I can confirm that packing up your belongings and transporting them to a new location forces you to address certain, ahem, realities. Mainly, the overabundance of, stuff. In our case, weeks before the actual move we started going through closets and drawers in an effort to winnow our possessions.
As the weeks turned into days and the clock was ticking down to Moving Day, the conversations went from “hey, wow, look at this...a plaster cast of my hand from first grade. How cool!” to “why on earth are you keeping this old Nikon?! That's crazy.” to grim silence as we continued to go through the contents of our closets and basement. One car load after another…after another went off to Goodwill packed with things we don't use any more.
And then the question of The Magazines came up.
First, let me assure you, I am not a hoarder. Nor am I sentimental. Clothes or shoes I have not worn in a year or two are immediately edited out of my closet with ruthless enthusiasm. Ok, so maybe I should be a little more ruthless with our kitchen cabinets and drawers. I'm looking at you, unused french press, mini-muffin tin (what was I thinking?) and lobster butter warmers...your days are numbered. Well, and, then, there are the cookbooks. Lots of them...but now…where was I going with all this?
Ah, yes...the magazines.
So years ago, Steve returned from a visit to his grandmother's with one of those old Samsonite suitcases. (You may know the one...there were commercials when I was a kid, showing a gorilla throwing the suitcase around a cage, like a true airline baggage handler, as evidence of its indestructability.) Turns out this suitcase Steve brought home was packed with vintage Gourmet magazines, found in Nana's attic. I was ecstatic.
I've talked about my long term relationship with Gourmet magazine before, and here was a treasure trove from another era. The magazines covered a range from the late 60s and early 70s to the very early 80s. The ads alone are like a cultural time capsule: Trimline phones (“fits in the palm of your hand!”), Parliament Lights (cigarette ads! I kid you not!) and some kind of booze called Dry Sack “made for a man”(...ha ha…really?).
And so we’ve been toting boxes of these old magazines from one apartment to the next for the past ten years. (And did I mention they weigh A TON?) As the days leading up to our recent move dwindled, I was torn over what to do with “the magazines”. Storage space was limited in the new apartment and there was my pronounced aversion to sentimentality, but dear readers, I just couldn’t do it. I simply could not let go of this archive of food-related memorabilia. For heavenssakes, I haven’t even made a dent in it! So, the magazines have moved with us.
For the time being, I’ve created a “library” of sorts, organizing them by year in cardboard magazine boxes like you might see at the library. They’re everywhere, and I’m continuing to scheme ideas for where to put them. I’m even keeping a rotating set on a side table, available for browsing, so they can somehow continue to live…and be appreciated.
Tomorrow is Friday, and I’ve gotten into the habit, or ritual, of preparing a cocktail on Fridays after work for the past year or so. It’s something I like to ponder during the week, especially when things feel hectic…”what should I make for Friday Cocktail”? I think to myself. Some people meditate. Others play soothing music. I think about cocktails.
I’ve landed on a rotation of six or seven different cocktails and one of them is a true classic that I found, you guessed it, in the pages of an old Gourmet from my stash.
One of my favorite features in the old magazines is the Letters to the Editors section, called charmingly, Sugar and Spice. Each month people from all over the world would write in to Gourmet, telling of their enjoyment of this travel feature or another, sharing heirloom recipes, and just spreading the love. (I don’t ever recall reading any letters of complaint…at least not so far.) Back when we first got the magazines, I just randomly pulled one from the pile (May 1980) and flipped to the Sugar and Spice section. My eyes landed on this gem of a Martini recipe, courtesy of E.J. Toner, Jr. of Howell, New Jersey
expressing an appreciation for “a really good dry Martini” before enjoying a “quality cut of rare beef”. (Mr.? Ms.?) Toner explains...”this kind of Martini is an elusive rascal, but for those who are truly discerning I think I have found the perfect recipe.”
I have one word for you: priceless.
And just for fun, in the same batch of letters, from May of 1980...
Florida's Lace Cookies (I can just picture them!),
Green Bean and Mushroom Salad (most definitely one of those ‘retro dishes’… picture the green beans cooked to within an inch of their lives)
Glazed Marble Cake (I just might make that this weekend)
Supper at the Monastery (some history buff with a fascination for the middle ages has shared his recipe for a dish he envisions being made at a monastery from that era…for reals)
Basil, Walnut and Garlic Soup (this felt incredibly current)
Super Sesame Chicken (a classic from the kitchen of the letter writer and a favorite of her kids’)
Ki-Ki’s Onion and Poppy Seed Crackers (a hand-me-down recipe that goes back several generations in the Miami letter writer’s family. She says they “go very well with drinkables”.
…and I’m supposed to throw these magazines into the recycling bin?! NEVER!!!!
Case closed. And without further ado, I leave you with an “elusive rascal”.
Dry Martini Toner
Dry Martini Toner
Make ice cubes from bottled springwater. Put 6 of the ice cubes, crushed, in a cocktail shaker, pour 2 teaspoons dry vermouth over them, and shake the mixture for 3 seconds. Pour off the vermouth and add ¼ cup gin and 2 tablespoons vodka to the ice. Stir the drink for 15 seconds and strain it into a chilled crystal cocktail glass containing 2 olives. Makes 1 drink.
Courtesy of E.J. Toner, Jr. (and Gourmet magazine)
Howell, New Jersey