Monday, September 21, 2009

A new day for Gourmet ...Today

About ten years ago, Ruth Reichl and the editors of Gourmet Magazine set out to "gather the cream of the crop" of sixty-plus years of the magazine's recipes and put them together in a single cookbook with "every recipe you would ever want." The result of these efforts, as you know, was The Gourmet Cookbook.

If Ruth & Co. thought their work was done when they published their 1040-page, 1,300-recipe book, they thought wrong. It's a different world now than is was six decades ago when Gourmet magazine first appeared. And a lot has changed even in the short time since The Book's been on the market. Words like "foodie," "flexitarian," "locavore" and "mixologist" have entered our everyday vocabularies. Television shows like "Iron Chef" and "Top Chef" have raised people's standards about what they want to eat, while shows like "30 Minute Meals" have made people less willing to wait around for good food.

In light of these changing attitudes, the folks at Gourmet thought that the time was right to publish a new collection of recipes for the way that people are cooking today and will cook in the coming years. Gourmet Today doesn't replace The Gourmet Cookbook. Instead, the new book picks up where the other one left off. If The Gourmet Cookbook is about the best of food's past, Gourmet Today is about its future. It's a lot like the two-volume Gourmet Cookbook the editors published in the 1950s. Each of the two books compliments the other, but can stand on its own as a complete cookbook.

So, what's different about Gourmet Today? The most immediately noticeable difference is the color. The bright green cover nicely complements the sunny yellow cover of The Gourmet Cookbook, but stands out as something new and different. The rest of the design and layout is very similar to the older book, making it easy to use for cooks familiar with The Gourmet Cookbook. The other major change is the addition of three new chapters designed to meet the needs of today's cook: Drinks, Grilled Dishes and Vegetarian Main Courses. There's more emphasis on ethnic foods (Asian foods in particular), taking advantage of the wider variety of ingredients that are now more and more available in supermarkets. Also, in a nod to the Rachel Ray faction, more than half of the dishes in Gourmet Today can be cooked in a half-hour or less. There are also a couple of new features that really make this a very usable book for planning meals and parties: first, each chapter includes a recipe index (or a "checklist" if you're a cook-through blogger), next, the book's general index is one of the most comprehensive I've seen (it's 66 pages long!), and my favorite new "usability" feature is the addition of suggested menus composed of recipes from Gourmet Today. Often, as I'm cooking my way through The Book, I'll pick a great-looking recipe, but I'll have no idea what to serve with it. Well, in Gourmet Today, the editors have offered suggested menus for everything: seasonal quick weeknight meals, vegetarian menus, holiday meals, cocktail parties, and even weddings.

I was thrilled to get an advance copy of Gourmet Today from the nice folks at Gourmet. And the best part is that it's autographed by Ruth Reichl! The inscription says, "To Adam - From one cook to another, Ruth Reichl, August 2009." And tucked inside the book was a nice note from Ruth. "Dear Adam - Couldn't wait to share this with you. I really hope you like it!" Thanks, Ruth!

As I flipped through Gourmet Today, I was really impressed with the great variety of delicious sounding dishes. I was also pleased to see that the editors took the opportunity to fill some of the gaps in The Gourmet Cookbook. As I said, the editors of The Book aimed to provide "every recipe you would ever want." Well, that was a very tall order, and of course, there were bound to be some omissions. No baklava? No classic Christmas fruitcake? No spanakopita? Thankfully, Gourmet Today provides those missing recipes (pages 803, 735, and 61, respectively). It's hard to find anything to complain about in Gourmet Today. If pressed, I'd have to say that while my "no-red-meat-thank-you-very-much" wife and I are glad to see the addition of vegetarian main courses, it would also have been nice to have more gluten-free options. Many of the vegetarian mains involve pasta, bread, or pie crust (quiches and tarts). That's a small criticism, though, for a book that doesn't bill itself as being allergy-friendly.

Since I know you're wondering, no, I'm not going to attempt to cook through Gourmet Today. Even though I've got almost 200 recipes under my belt, I've really only just begun to cook through The Book. I'd be crazy to add another 1,000 - plus recipes to The Project. But, for the next few days, in honor of the release of Gourmet Today, (in bookstores September 22!) I'm going to do some blog posts about recipes from the new book to give you a bit of a taste. I hope you enjoy it as much as I know that I will.


Teena said...

I'm so jealous! You and Melissa both got a copy and I didn't -- apparently the people over at Gourmet hate me! :(

Melissa Bach Palladino said...

I'm shocked!! Surely that's an're further along than either of us!

Adam said...

I just read in the New York Times that the Federal Trade Commission has adopted guidelines requiring bloggers to make a "clear and conspicuous" disclosure of any "freebies or payments they get from companies for reviewing their products."

Now, neither Gourmet nor Houghton Mifflin asked me to write a review of Gourmet Today, but in case this post can be construed as a "review," and in case the photo of the autographed book isn't "clear and conspicuous" enough, I'll state here for the record that Gourmet sent me a free copy of Gourmet Today.

But, I'll also state for the record that it's a fabulous book, and I would have bought my own copy anyway ... and so should you!