I know I said I wasn't going to write about Gourmet, but I take it back. My colleague Julie is compiling reminiscences, so I thought I'd share my story about the time I interviewed Sara Moulton and Ruth Reichl and didn't throw up.
The year is 2006. The sky, blue; the time, 10am. I'm working with the cookbook author Flo Braker in her Palo Alto kitchen, when somehow it comes up that she went to the University of Michigan. Hmmm, how interesting. Later that night, with a few well-placed clicks of the mouse, I discover that Joan Nathan, Sara Moulton, Rick Bayless, and Ruth Reichl went there, too.
A few days later, I pitch a story to the editor of Michigan Today, the university's alumni magazine, and whoosh, I'm in.
The interviews begin. Braker is easy because we're already working together. Bayless is in Mexico and we just can't connect, so he's out. And Nathan's phone interview goes off without a hitch.
Sara Moulton, whom people know as a television personality but who was also the head of Gourmet's executive dining room, is next. I interview her at her office in the Conde Nast building in Manhattan, and though I'm nervous, she sets me at ease. She even tips me off to a vegetable-based school initiative that I spin into a completely different article for Vegetarian Times later that year.
Then, Reichl. Turns out I have to interview her by phone because she's out of town the week I'm in New York. I sit at my laptop before the call, reading my questions aloud and trying not to, you know, hurl. Any writer who has ever interviewed someone they really admire knows that feeling of panic that sets in just before you dial, that feeling of "please, dear god, do not let me make an ass out of myself, at least not for the next half an hour."
Reichl's assistant has allotted 30 minutes for the interview, and once we begin the time just whizzes by. I wonder if she knows I'm still in my pajamas? I finish my questions, thank her, hang up, and breathe a sigh of relief. Then I look at the clock.
Only 20 minutes has passed.
The things I should have asked her with my extra time! About her hobbies! Her favorite restaurant! Her college roommate! I could have told her about me. About how I would love to freelance for Gourmet, yes, thank you very much, perhaps a nice little travel feature about Rome, or Paris, or Tokyo, why not? I could have told her I had curly hair! We are soul sisters, and now she will never know.
Gourmet is kaput, and with it my chance, however remote, to ever grace its pages, to ever be, let's face it, Ruth Reichl's BFF.
Here's my article from Michigan Today.
Recipe for White Beans Puttanesca
Adapted from Gourmet Magazine, October 2008 (original recipe is here)
This recipe appeared in the Gourmet Every Day/ Quick Kitchen department, which was, frankly, the part of the magazine I generally cooked from. Sure, I lingered over the travel features and spent real time reading the Politics of the Plate, but when it came to actually cooking, this section fit my reality.
Note: I subbed anchovy paste for the anchovy fillets called for in the original recipe. A $2.50 tube keeps in the fridge for a good year. And while baked pita chips make an excellent accompaniment, any crusty bread will do.
Serves 2 for lunch or 4 as a side
3/4 teaspoon anchovy paste, from a tube
3 cloves garlic, minced
Pinch crushed red pepper
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
1 small tomato, seeded and diced
1 tablespoon drained capers
1/4 cup pitted Kalamata olives, chopped
One 15-ounce can cannellini (white kidney) beans, drained, rinsed, and slightly mashed
2 tablespoons chopped basil, thinly sliced
Baked pita chips, or crusty bread, for serving
Combine anchovy paste, garlic, red pepper, and olive oil in a medium skillet. Set over medium heat and cook, stirring, for two minutes, breaking up the anchovy paste with the back of a spoon. Stir in tomato, capers, and olives and cook two minutes longer. Add the beans and simmer until heated through, about three minutes longer.
Garnish with basil and an extra drizzle of olive oil. Serve with pita chips or crusty bread.