My grandmother told me to never let my subscription lapse; I always kept it going, no matter what. My husband renewed my subscription to Gourmet every year as a gift. He is the first to say that he benefited from my loyalty to the magazine.
I was told to never let it lapse, but in the end I did. It happened gradually. I began to view epicurious.com as my personal archive of Gourmet recipes. All of my favorite recipes for Thanksgiving, Easter, Christmas Brunch, and Christmas Dinner were there. Recipes for muffins for house guests and stews to console friends could be printed out in minutes. I began to ignore the roux-splattered magazines that lined my cookbook shelves. I wondered if it wouldn’t be “greener” and more responsible to stop the subscription. My husband was reluctant. He said my relationship to the magazine was about more than cooking, but in the end he agreed (“submitted” is his word). We finally canceled. We weren’t the only ones. Loyal subscribers logged on and subscriptions lagged.
My mother spent many Sunday afternoons reading and clipping recipes from Gourmet. She told me that in retrospect, she realizes that she cooked very few of those recipes. For her the magazine was about savoring possibility. And she loved the writers: MFK Fisher, Elizabeth David, James Beard. And our favorite: Laurie Colwin.
I clipped recipes, too, but I also clipped travel articles, my own homage to possibility. And when possibility became reality I knew where to eat and where to stay, no matter where in the world we were. Gourmet taught me about cooking and writing and a lot about travel, too.
But the magazine’s last lesson to me is this: Reading is meant to be delicious. Readers savor possibility in the turning of pages. There is a difference between skimming a screen and reading.
I know it now. When I began to log on to epicurious. com, I went straight to the recipes. I never read another essay; I never read another travel piece. Something important was eroding without my knowledge, but with my participation.
You may catch me skimming an article from the New York Times, the Washington Post, or the Richmond Times Dispatch on my iphone, but you won’t catch me reading one. Really reading a newspaper requires the smell of newsprint, the feel of its thin fibers between your fingers, and the sound of a paper (and story) unfolding. It also means supporting the writers financially. I know it now and I won’t let those subscriptions lapse.
From Gourmet I learned about the felicitous combination of orange and chocolate; caper and tomato; grapefruit and mint. Now I have a growing awareness of the value of morning coffee paired with my newspaper. It means more time at the breakfast table, help with the crossword puzzle, and ideas shared in random read-aloud snippets from articles, editorials, and letters to the editor. It means reading in company or reading in peaceful solitude.
It turns out that Gourmet wasn’t about the cooking. It was about the feast. Now I know–too late, but just in time– and I’m thankful.