When in 2009 Gourmet magazine shut down, many talked about the end of a glorious chapter in the world of food publications. Two years later Noah Fecks and Paul Wagtouicz, two photographer friends from East Village, NY, started a blog named “The Way We Ate”.
Each week the two friends cook recipes from a single issue of Gourmet magazine, with the goal to eat their way through all 815 issues of the publication.
FDL talked to them about their experience and their first book, which was inspired by the blog and will come out later this year.
How did you come up with the idea for the blog?
We both were looking for a way to create something that was a homage to this publication, that left a gigantic hole in our hearts when it closed. Gourmet, in it's whole history spoke more about good living than good eating (although, I really feel the two are inseparably linked)... It's that lifestyle that we don't want to lose, the one where you and your friends and family set aside some time to be fancy, elegant and to share that together, and celebrate everything that's incredible and fantastic about food, pleasure, wine and enjoyment of life.
How did you manage to collect all the back issues of Gourmet?
We are huge fans of libraries, and we find that libraries like to sell their back magazines sometimes, so in a mix of libraries, ebay, garage sales, church basements, and some friendly grandmothers, we've managed to get them ALL!
What was your relationship with food prior to The Way We Ate?
I (Noah) had worked on many food shoots for over 20 years, climbing my way up from being a photo assistant to a photographer today. It took a long time, but i've been able to really record and experience how food has changed over that time. It's been fascinating... i'm so excited to see the next 40 years! Aware (Paul) and interested, but still kind of an outsider. I had my staid set of recipes I'd prepare, but nothing so adventurous as now, with the blog.
Which part of the "vintage" american cuisine do you like the most so far?
We feel that living in the United States, we're so interested in the other cultures of the world, and many of those cultures exist in the US as well in some form (little italy's, chinatowns)… So what's best about going through the 20th century, you see cuisines introduced. As Jets and Flight become more available, so does interesting food. In this way, food and travel are really hand in hand through the whole 20th century! I (Paul) love how the classics never change, but the more whimsical food trends through the different decades continually surprise you. It's nice to make something you know and love, but also to push the envelope once in a while and leave your comfort space.
Which are the differences from today's cooking?
I (Noah) don't really like the idea of "seeking the authentic"... I love hyrbids, and mash-ups... Sometimes the BEST pizza, isn't the most authentic. But i do think we live in a very creative inventive time for food. (Paul) In magazines, the home cook is instructed to buy pre-made pre-packaged components for a meal and walked through the assembly to make something quickly. I long for the time when a lengthy meal preparation was a cause to contemplate the rest of your day and enjoy the process, not to complain. There's a sanctity to our sustenance that's increasingly missing from mealtime.
And the similarities?
Some things never change, and that's good... I think a dinner party, or a meal with friends really holds a significance with humans that will hopefully never change... Entertaining, sharing the bounty... never gets old. Has this project created any new professional opportunities for you? (Noah) Yes! What has changed the most for us, is that we're very often hired as a duo, or asked to work together. We love working together and spending time together, so it's really a thrill to be asked to do so. (Paul) Not least of all, we're working on a book with the blog's title for Touchstone/Simon & Schuster that will be released this Fall. It's got a familiar vintage approach, but working with some pretty interesting source material.
Which is the most bizarre recipe that you have cooked so far?
We Recently made Candied bacon, which i thought would be silly, and like a "stunt"... but it was incredible... for something with two ingredients (Demera sugar and bacon) it had a real sublime quality i would never have anticipated! (Paul) Tomato Aspic shocked me with its peculiarity and deliciousness.
Do you eat all that food that you cook for the blog?
We do! with our friends of course :) if you're not too hungry, you can always put it in the freezer! (Paul) Just ask my tailor.
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