I'm not a rich woman by any means, although I suppose that's a relative statement. I don't own a car or a house or even have an insurance policy, but I eat very well, live with an enormous amount of beauty and kindness, and have a pretty terrific set of friends and family and neighbors. Still, there's not a lot of extra cash in my life for things like vacations or the latest tech gadget or party dresses. So when a neighbor gave me a year's worth of old Saveur and Bon Appetit magazines, it was quite the treat. I stashed the glossy pile in a shelf near my bed, anticipating the joy of working my way through their rich and bountiful pages.
The pile sat untouched for a while, though, as I'm a bit out of the habit of reading magazines. But a few days ago, I randomly pick up an issue (Saveur, August/September 2011) and sat down for a few minutes to take a look. I turned the pages slowly (savoring the Saveur!) and was immediately immersed in its lush, glossy realms, foraging for mushrooms in China and breaking fast in the United Arab Emirates. There were pages and pages of all kinds of pesto, a gorgeous array of salsas, and an equally gorgeous selection of rums recommended for sipping or mixing. I was particularly happy to read about my neighbors in California's Central Valley, the most productive agricultural region on the planet!
After a while, though, I started to wonder about overexposure and saturation, thinking about how I used to subscribe to at least two or three different monthly magazines, sometimes more. I remembered how I would 'read' them by briskly flipping through, barely pausing to take note and gobbling up the pages like a fast food burger eaten behind the wheel at 80mph. I'd been on a magazine fast for almost two years and it was probably the lack of exposure that made the Aug/Sept 2011 issue of Saveur feel like it held more than enough information and inspiration for a lifetime.
I eyed the stack of remaining magazines next to my bed and wondered if I even needed them now. Perhaps I could make a vow to cook only from the Aug/Sept 2011 issue of Saveur for the rest of my life. Wouldn't that be fascinating? Even just one single year would be an interesting lesson in how many recipes, how many beautiful photographs, how many informative articles a body really needs to be healthy and happy. And of course, much of the world survives quite nicely on a handful, it not less, of recipes and dishes. Surely I could do the same?
As a thought experiment, the Aug/Sept-2011-issue-of-Saveur-for-the-rest-of-my-life is an interesting one and well with considering. But the truth is, I probably don't need to go through it to understand its deepest lessons of austerity and appreciation. The tension between the spare, monk-like life of simplicity and the intricate, riotous appeal of plentifulness is a rich and interesting territory. I've had the opportunity to explore both extremes and it seems to me that a life lived somewhere in the middle is a good place to be.
This tale of the August/September 2011 Issue of Saveur Magazine isn't over but I suspect I know where it is going. I'll read and absorb what I can from my wondrous pile of magazines and then hopefully I'll find someone to pass them on to, someone who can learn and appreciate them and maybe pass them on as well.
Related: Saying Goodbye To Cooking Magazines
(Image: Dana Velden)