The First Issue of 'Gourmet' Magazine: The January 1941 'Holiday Issue'

"Gourmet will speak that Esperanto of the palate that makes the whole world kin..."

Goumet magazine January 1941 cover

Gourmet's premiere issue, the January 1941 "Holiday Issue." Click to enlarge. [Photographs: Adam Kuban]

Earlier today we all read the sad news that Gourmet magazine was closing and that its final printing would be the November 2009 magazine. But let's take a look back to the very first issue of Gourmet—January 1941.

The first issue of the magazine was also its first holiday issue, as seen at the bottom of the cover, below a menacing cross-hatched and becloved boar's head illustration. The iconic scripted "Gourmet" title is instantly recognizable as is the elegantly sparse design—no cover lines here, just the tagline the magazine used throughout its 69 years, "The Magazine of Good Living."

Pearl V. Metzelthin was the magazine's first editor; Louis P. De Gouy its first chef; and Earl R. MacAusland its first publisher. Subscriptions were $3 a year.

Unlike the magazine we know and love today, there are very few photos in the first issue (no real surprise there), but there are plenty of jaunty illustrations. Let's take a closer look at the then-newcomer's style--along with its table of contents and mission statement. (More photos, after the jump.)

Gourmet Magazine Table of Contents, January 1941

Goumet magazine January 1941 TOC

Gourmet's premiere-issue table of contents, January 1941. Click to enlarge.

Page 4: An Introduction to GOURMET
Page 6: Burgundy at a Snail's Pace, Samuel Chamberlain
Page 11: Le Gourmet, Tony Sarg

Gourmet pheasant story

The caption reads, "The wild pheasant deserves profound veneration." Click to enlarge.

Page 12: Game for Gourmets—and Others, Louis P. De Gouy (above)
Page 14: This Little Pig Went to Table, Pearl V. Metzelthin
Page 16: Help Yourself to the New Year, Elizabeth Lounsbery
Page 18: Gastronomie Sans Argent, Gourmet Chef
Page 20: Gunning for Gifts

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Chef Georges Gonneau of the Hotel Pierre was featured in the inaugural "Famous Chefs of Today" column. Gonneau was born in France, and "During the World War, Chef Gonneau was mobilized. Afterward he became chef of the Commission d'Armistice, headed by Marshal Foch, at Spa, Belgium, where he served memorable meals to all members, including General Pershing." The illustration here is by Don Freeman.

Page 22: Famous Chefs of Today, Don Freeman and Gourmet Reporter (above)

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Click to enlarge.

Page 24: The Choice of Wine, Peter Greig (above)
Page 26: Negus and Nog
Page 27: Gourmet's Meal of the Month, Georges Gonneau
Page 28: Food Flashes, Clementine Paddleford
Page 30: Specialit├ęs de la Maison, P.V.

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World War II had been raging for two years already in January 1941, but the U.S. would not yet enter for almost another year. Still, the war's presence finds its way into the pages of Gourmet via this ad for Huntley & Palmers Betterwheat Biscuits. Click to enlarge.

Pages 35 and 46: Food Questions and Answers
Page 44: Ed Wynn Wishes Gourmet wWell
Page 48: The Last Touch

Editor's Letter, Gourmet Issue 1

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Click to enlarge.

Readers outside the publishing business couldn't be blamed for skipping the monthly editor's letter. I know I did until I started working in the magazine industry. But the introduction to the first issue of Gourmet deserves a look-see:

To you—A Lover of Good Food—we introduce Gourmet, the Magazine of Good Living

The name Gourmet is selected for this publication because it typifies the acme in appreciation of food perfection. Ina broader sense, however, the word gourmet signifies far more than just food perfection. It is a synonym for the honest seeker of the summum bonnum of living.

The art of being a gourmet has nothing to do with age, money, fame, or country. It can be found in a thrifty French housewife with her pot-au-feu or in a white-capped chef in a skyscraper hotel. But where it exists, the practitioner of this art will have the eye of an artist, the imagination of a poet, the rhythm of a musician, and the breadth of a sculptor. That is the subtle amalgam of which the true gourmet is compounded.

Never has there been a time more fitting for a magazine like Gourmet to come into being. Good food and good living have always been a great American tradition. At our very fingertips in this land of glorious plenty lie an abundance and variety of foods unequalled anywhere. And our native, unquenchable thirst for discovery is now leading us daily into new and exciting channels of exploration in the realm of fine food and drink.

But perhaps more important than all else today should be our recognition of that Biblical axiom, "Take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry." How much more significant this admonition is today when the made hurly-burly of our modern daily existence forces us all to catch hold of the charged wire of noisy, strident living—and when the need to let go is the gravest task that faces us all! It is a wise person indeed who makes the satisfying of his palate an exciting, stimulating adventure—a time when he completely dissociates himself, if only temporarily, from the discordance of the world—a time when he responds to the sensuous enjoyment, not only of food but of its color and form and savor—a time when friend holds fellowship with friend—when ease (never the apathy of a glutted diner) promotes that delicious feeling of physical and aesthetic well-being. And when, for a brief moment, we recapture the mellow moods and manners of a bygone day which unashamedly followed the pursuit of happiness in such admirable fashion.

Gourmet seeks to connect this link of a gracious past with the tempo of today, and to initiate a healthy curiosity in those who have heretofore thought of eating as merely the satisfying of hunger. It hopes to start them on explorations into new bypaths of culinary delights , to whet their appetites and excite their senses so that they will strive for broader horizons in their dining and wining adventures—and so that this new enjoyment will soon become a part of their lives.

To those who would like to share a gourmet's joie de vivre, Gourmet promises a policy dedicated to presenting the unusual in food, its sources, its combination in menus, exciting news of the coteries-that-make-news in diplomatic and society circles, of culinary hobbies and amusements. In short, Gourmet will speak that Esperanto of the palate that makes the whole world kin ... good food, good drink, fine living ... the universal language of the gourmet.

Pearl V. Metzelthin, Editor
Louis P. De Gouy, Chef
Earl R. MacAusland, Publisher

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