Yesterday, the Arizona Star ran an interview with Caroline Bates, a food and travel writer who wrote for Gourmet for 30 years. Looking back from atop the smoldering ruins of the print journalism industry, Bates’s account of the magazine’s halcyon years is even more nostalgia- and envy-inducing. When she began working at Gourmet in the late 1950s, it was still run out of its publisher’s home in the penthouse of the Plaza Hotel. No one was allowed in the kitchen, where the French chef had once threatened an interloper with a knife, but Bates was allowed a clothing and hair allowance, a luxury that’s today unheard of among most fashion magazine editors, let alone food scribes.
Bates recalls testing the recipes that went into the magazine, including 12 herring recipes that made her entire house reek, and writing about San Francisco’s first Vietnamese restaurant in the 1970s. Bates describes the shuttering of Gourmet as “an unconscionable act..There was no sense of history of this magazine.”
But on the plus side, she may write her own history of the magazine, explaining that “I’m the only one that goes back that far.”