Past Perfect

Published in Gourmet Live 02.29.12
From spirits steeped in history to the perennial favorite macaroni and cheese, we’ve got reason to be glad everything old is new again

In this most fashionable of months, as the designer shows blow through New York to the runways of Europe, we’ve been thinking about the culinary equivalents of the little black dress: proven classics that never go out of style.

We start this Past Perfect issue by sharing a drink with James Rodewald, veteran spirits editor at Gourmet magazine, who dips into the world of distillers using modern technology to revive historic blends enjoyed by the likes of George Washington and Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton.

From master distillers we turn to master cooks: In this centennial year of Julia Child, we are privileged to have her iconic editor, Judith Jones, define what it is that makes a dish a true classic. Channeling her experience cooking and working with Child, Jones not only delivers a resonant definition but also identifies a common denominator in the cooking of Child, Lidia Bastianich, and Madhur Jaffrey, to name just a few of the legends Jones saw into print.

Our own eminence Kemp Minifie, formerly Gourmet’s top food editor and now at Gourmet Live, applied her four-decade view of the magazine’s unparalleled archives to select the 10 recipes, from starters to desserts, that will stand the test of time. Minifie will send you straight to the stove with her tantalizing picks, including America’s quintessential comfort food (mac and cheese), freshly updated favorites (Asian pulled-pork sliders), and the chocolate cake that’s broken every record on sibling site

For a glimpse at what America has dined out on for much of the past two centuries, read Geoff Nicholson’s appreciation of Menu Design in America: 1850–1985, a definitive, full-color guide to what Nicholson terms a “surprisingly profound subject.”

We close with a comeback story: lard, the once ubiquitous ingredient that Crisco nearly killed. Regina Schrambling has the details on when and why to give lard a try in place of butter or shortening.

And if this issue whets your appetite for more classic recipes, check out Gourmet Comfort: 112 All-Time Favorites, on sale at newsstands and booksellers nationwide.

What recipe is your all-time favorite? Tell us via Twitter or Facebook, drop us a line (, or post a comment on our blog. For more tasty bites, sign up for our weekly newsletter to get convenient access to our most-read blog posts, editors’ favorite recipes, and exclusive reader offers.

Here’s to history at its most delicious!

The editors of Gourmet Live

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