Saturday, February 28, 2009

Old Gourmet Magazines

Not only do I have stacks of books around the house (since all the bookcases are full), but I have stacks of old cooking magazines too. I use them for menu ideas, seasonal recipes, and what not. March 1986 Gourmet, "The Magazine of Good Living" does not disappoint. I love pre-1990 issues of Gourmet. Not only are they full of recipes, they also have interesting articles of all kinds. Here are a few samples from the March 1986 table of contents:

- Gourmet Holidays: Antwerp
- The Ballymaloe Cookery School
- Paris' Open-Air Markets

- Purim: The Festival of Lots
- Christie's Wine Course
- Cooking With Jacques Pepin

You see, the magazine is about more than cooking. It really is about "fine living". After about 1990 I noticed a marked change though. Fewer articles, more advertising, less real content...maybe the publishers decided to take "nouvelle cuisine" concepts and apply them to the magazine too. Probably it was just a business decision, but they lost me.

Back to the March 1986 issue...I have learned so much about the city of Antwerp. Having raced by it on a high-speed train a few years back, I'm now sorry we did not stop there to seek out some of its museums, diamond centers, and of course, chocolatiers. I learned about the history of the name "Antwerp". Ant is "hand" and werpen is "to throw". This is from the legend of the Roman warrior Silvius Brabo (whose statue stands in the square of the Grote Markt):

"...Silvius Brabo, the Roman warrior who freed the Schelde land from a reigning giant. The giant was an unpleasant bully who extracted exorbitant tolls from all who passed along the river and cruelly whacked off the hand of anyone who wouldn't pay. Brave and indignant Brabo fought the giant, cut off the ogre's hand, hurled it into the Schelde, and practiced posing while some clever Flemings translated his good deed into a suitable city name...Delightful reminders of the legend are also found in every bakery and chocolate shop in the form of delicious cookies and bitter, milk, or white chocolate Antwerpen handjes."

I also learned from this article that traditionally, until the middle of the fifteenth century, only images of the Virgin could be decorated with diamonds. The French Kings changed all that. And now Antwerp is (at least in 1986) the world's leading diamond city.

Besides Antwerp, I now want to visit Ireland and go to the Ballymaloe Cookery School. I wonder if it is still in business? internet research project. Stay tuned, I will let you know what I find out.

So, if you see a pre-1990 Gourmet magazine at a garage or library sale, buy it. I guarantee you will find a treasure trove of ideas for "fine living".



  1. Very neat. I never thought about old cooking magazines...something to look for! :) Thanks for the idea.

  2. Antwerp is a beautiful city even in the cold of winter. Somewhere in my photo archives I have a picture that I took of the statue you refer to in your post. I would love to go there again maybe in early summer. So much history, we went to the National Shipping Museum in the Steen Castle it was wonderful.