Coming Full Circle

While I was a longtime subscriber to food magazines through my early cooking years, after a while I began to realize that I was seeing the same recipes year after year.  Every May, for instance, brought the secrets of the perfect burger.  Every fall, I saw the same recipes for squash soup and roasted turkey.  This would have been tolerable, if not for the fact that, other than the recipes and advertisements, there was often very little else to read in each issue.  Once launched, providing me with free access to all of the same recipes that were contained in the magazines, there was little reason to continue paying for my subscriptions.

I can’t say the same, though, for Saveur magazine.  For close to fifteen years, I’ve been diligently picking up Saveur each month, and the back issues take up the bottom shelf of the bookcase that holds my cookbook library.  Saveur has always provided well-written content that provided a foundation and background information for the recipes that accompanied each article – while the other magazines eventually made their way to the recycling bin, my Saveur issues were digested from cover to cover, then carefully archived.  In fact, when it comes time to decide what to serve for a dinner party, I pull out all of the current and prior months’ issues of Saveur from the stacks, yielding a pile of around 30 issues that serve as source material for my menu.  My collection used to be in chronological order, but has since evolved to be organized by season.

Because Saveur became the only food magazine that I read, it also happens to have become a major influence in my style of writing.  With food blogs quickly approaching a market rate of a dime per three dozen, I knew that I wanted to create a website that was more than just a collection of recipes or overviews of what I ate for lunch.  I wanted a site that reveled in writing about food as an experience, one that was a barometer of culinary culture, whether I was writing about an eight course tasting menu or a cheesesteak from down the block.  I respected and admired the writing style in Saveur and purposefully set out to emulate it, and sometimes I hit that sweet spot and sometimes I don’t.  It largely depends on how much coffee I’ve had.

When Saveur announced that they were soliciting reader submissions for their Top 100 list, I figured it would be fun to submit something.  I clicked over to their website, pulled up the form, and gave them a paragraph on the farmhouse table dinner at Talula’s Table.  Having written longer pieces on the topic once or twice before, it was fairly easy to dash together something quick and concise.  I hit ‘Submit’ and promptly forgot all about it.

One afternoon in October, I picked up my phone to see that I had one missed call and one voicemail.  The missed call was from the 212 area code, and I presumed it to be a misdial, as I don’t know anyone in Manhattan who would be calling my cell phone.

Listening to the voicemail revealed that the call was no mistake.  An editor at Saveur wanted to let me know that they were going to use my Talula’s Table entry in their Top 100 issue. I can count on one hand the number of times I have literally jumped for joy, and this was one of them.  But this was back in October, and the issue wouldn’t be arriving on newsstands until some time in January, long after Halloween, Thanksgiving, and the mad rush through the holidays.  Just as I had forgotten about submitting my entry in the first place, I tried very hard to put the notion of appearing in a national publication out of my mind.  It could have been, after all, cut due to space reasons.  The editors could change their minds.  The Large Hadron Collider could have spawned a black hole and ended the planet before it was published.  Until I held the hardcopy issue in my hands, it would not be real for me.

About two weeks ago, the current Saveur issue featuring the Top 100 became available in digital format.  I pulled it up on my browser, and while I saw my words laid out on the screen, part of me still couldn’t accept the reality of the situation.  But, there it was.

As it turns out, the world of magazine editing is a strange and wondrous place.  On the submission form, I had initially given them a single paragraph, knowing from previous Top 100 lists that each entry is allotted a very limited amount of space.  Saveur came back and asked me for more details, so I gladly wrote a longer piece, about four paragraphs.  Ultimately, the final copy that appeared in the issue had been edited – back down to one paragraph.  It still contains the major points of my original work, so I can’t help but be pleased with it.

It was only last week, when I spied the issue on the magazine rack at the supermarket, that it really felt real for me.  I grabbed a copy and flipped to the center of the issue to find my Talula’s Table entry staring back at me.  My name, my photo, and my words have been published in Saveur, the magazine that has propelled my food writing endeavors from the very beginning of this site.  It’s a small paragraph, to be sure, but it’s a start.  It’s not a feature article by any stretch of the imagination.  Still, the piece, #52, occupies the entire center of a spread that spans both pages, accompanied by a photo of a party enjoying the farmhouse table dinner.

It was a wonderful way to begin the new year.