It’s Sunday and often the day I evaluate the goings-on in the past week. What a week it was. A double-header on Leonard Lopate’s wonderful radio show on WNYC (and you can hear the podcast) and a special party (in my honor I am proud to say) at New York University to celebrate the legacy of Gourmet magazine and the “rescuing” of their extensive library. You might remember that when Gourmet abruptly closed last year, their 3500-volume cookbook library was in immediate danger of being discarded. Upon direction from management, and no one fully knows why, the collection was to be sold off, book by book. Unthinkable in the food world, for this trove of cookbooks was far more than the sum of its parts. It chronicled the history and breadth of our food culture, showcasing the evolution of our eating habits, and the coming of age of today’s food revolution.
Through a stealth series of phone calls made by the director/curator of Fales Library, I was asked whether I knew anyone who could rescue the collection. It didn’t take me long to figure out who. I could think of no better way to honor my mother, Marion Gold — a gorgeous woman of Hungarian lineage — more Zsa Zsa than Julia — who was the spark plug for my passions both in and out of the kitchen. She encouraged me, at a time when women were anathema in professional kitchens, to pursue my dream. That meant…dropping out of graduate school (at NYU!) and heading for my first food-related job interview at…Gourmet magazine. It’s lovely when life comes full circle. I never got the job, but instead cooked in many New York restaurants (including the wonderful, and sadly missed, La Colombe d’Or and the revered Le Plaisir) before committing fully to the industry that has become my life. Years later, I wrote several articles for Gourmet and years later, was featured in one of their cover stories. The night was a “who’s who” of visionaries in the food world — Sara Moulton, Arthur Schwartz, Jeffrey Steingarten (from Vogue), Leonard Lopate, Eddie Schoenfeld, award-winning author Karen Dornenburg, tv star Ellie Krieger, and many faces from Gourmet. More than 150 guests sipped and schmoozed and gazed at some of the books from the collection. More than 2800 books have already been catalogued with funds provided by Les Dames d’Escoffier, with only 700 or so, to go! The collection will be available “on line” when it has been completed. At the end of the evening, Zanne Zakroff Stewart, Gourmet‘s executive food editor for decades, came up to me and poignantly said, “I have every recipe from Gourmet but one. It is the one for your candied ginger and rosemary bars. I have looked everywhere and am desperate to find it.” It was a sweet ending to a wonderful night. I will post the recipe as soon as I find it!