Ruth Reichl was editor of Gourmet magazine from 1999 to 2009. A writer’s writer, Reichl had spent the previous decades as a restaurant critic for the Los Angeles Times and New York Times, keeping her identity undercover.
Thrust into the corporate limelight as editor of one of the oldest and most prestigious food magazines, and with no previous managerial experience, she chronicles the decade in her new release, “Save Me the Plums” (Random House, 2019). Going from being a newspaper journalist who took public transportation to a glamorous editor for Conde Nast publishing meant hitting the ground running, albeit in a private limo.
While she had a wonderfully evocative vocabulary as a columnist, magazine lingo totally confounded her. Her mind went blank at first, headaches lodged behind her right eye. She had to fire and hire staff, something completely foreign to her. Her saving grace, she had been reading Gourmet since she was 8-years-old and had an incomparable, innate comprehension of, and passion for, the magazine.
Despite bringing the magazine into the 21st century, she could not forestall the rise of cooking websites and the financial crash of 2008. By 2009 Conde Nast shuttered Gourmet after 70 years and transferred its recipes to the website Epicurious. The story is fascinating, but the best part is Reichl herself, a self-proclaimed common person who dared to step into a leadership position despite self-doubt and sometimes illogical and cold-hearted corporate dealings.
In the end, regardless of her non-stop schedule to hard-sell advertisers with constant appearances and fundraising dinners, the magazine abruptly closed. People had to vacate the premises in two days. What people are when they are on top is one thing, but what they are in failure shows their true nature. Although Gourmet ultimately failed, Reichl does not. This is a great memoir.
A few scant recipes are included in the book that also can be found on epicurious.com. Reichl relates a story about the test kitchen at Gourmet, in which a sloppy joe recipe served on cheddar biscuits went through five iterations before the recipe tasted right and looked sufficiently “Gourmet.” We can achieve the same effect with a down-home sloppy joe pie. The kids will love it.
Lisa’s Big Tastin’ Sloppy Joe Pie
1 pound lean ground beef
1/2 cup chopped red onion
1 small green pepper, chopped
8 ounce can tomato sauce
8 ounce can niblets-style whole kernel corn
1/4 cup water
1 package Sloppy Joe or chili seasoning
10 ounce can buttermilk biscuits
1/4 cup milk
1/3 cup stone ground corn meal
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
Sliced green onions for garnish
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Brown ground beef, green pepper and onion in skillet until no pink shows and vegetables are tender. Stir in tomato sauce, corn, water and Sloppy Joe mix. Bring to a boil then simmer while preparing crust.
Separate biscuits and flatten. You will use approximately 7 – 8 biscuits. Dip each in milk then coat in cornmeal. Arrange biscuits in bottom of 9-inch pie plate. Press together to make a crust. Sprinkle with half cup cheese. Spoon meat mixture over top. Sprinkle with remaining cheddar and Parmesan. Bake for 25 minutes until crust is golden. Top with green onion. Serve hot with a side salad or vegetable. Adapted from Lisa Ward Harbison, MHS Future Business Leaders of America cookbook, 1986.
Reach Melony Carey at email@example.com or (918) 683-3694.