Cook to Heal What Ails Ya

Once upon a time I worked at Saveur, a glossy food magazine. This was, ahem, many years ago. I was still at New York University, getting my master’s in journalism and Saveur was my first internship. I loved food, cooking and magazines, so it felt like I’d found the perfect place to begin my journalism career.

Saveur’s offices were located downtown in SoHo, far from the maddening, midtown crunch where most every other magazine was located. The offices were airy and filled with sunlight—not to mention much prettier than the ones at The Daily News and The New York Post where my friends had secured internships. I was in heaven, but also, I was lost. And young.

This was my first taste of a real job in the big city. The office might have been perched on the edge of SoHo, but things were still very much corporate. First, there was work attire: For anyone else in the publishing world, Saveur’s dress code was pretty laid back, but it was still more put together than I’d been in any of my years during college and graduate school. So, every morning I struggled with what to wear. Frankly, I couldn’t have cared less what I looked like. All I cared about was words and writing. My only goal was to get clips.

That internship turned into a full-time job and my thrill at being staffed at Saveur lasted for only a short time. My insatiable thirst to write was driving me forward, but instead of watching the clips pile higher, I was thrown into the mundane office tasks that accompanied the mechanics of magazine production. My stay there wasn’t long. The panic I felt at having my budding journalism career die on the publishing vine propelled me out of that airy magazine office and down to South Jersey, of all places, where I worked at a teeny tiny community newspaper. There, in an ugly office (but, it should be noted, not the ugliest—for that was my next newspaper job back in New York), I reported and wrote my fingers off every week, covering every aspect of small-town life: education, politics, government and even the goings-on at the local water authority. It was the perfect boot camp for me, and, just as I’d hoped, the clips piled up.

No one I worked with at Saveur would ever remember the young woman who filed slides and answered phones for a handful of months. And it’s not just because I was Monica Rivituso back then; it was that I gave them little reason to remember me. I was too rarin’ to go and felt my current circumstances were doing nothing but holding me back. Like I said, I was young.

It’s a shame, because what I didn’t realize then was that I was surrounded by foodie luminaries, including Christopher Hirsheimer, who went on to Canal House fame, or Colman Andrews, a veritable food world giant in every regard. The presence of the people I was with was completely lost on the quiet mouse who dutifully answered reader mail, organized back issues, then abruptly, and, let’s face it, unprofessionally quit. My embarrassment at how I left Saveur has always stuck with me, so much so that when I went to a Canal House dinner at Williams-Sonoma with a friend, I couldn’t introduce myself to Ms. Hirsheimer or congratulate her on her books. Utterly pathetic.

Happily, I’ve since matured. And in retrospect, while I didn’t handle my stint or departure from Saveur as well as I’d have liked, I am glad I worked at a tiny newspaper in South Jersey, at a scrappy community newspaper in New York, and at SmartMoney.com, back when it was a new website and staffed with talent from top to bottom (that’s no slam on its current iteration—although, come to think of it, they just wiped out the entire archive, erasing the site’s golden era, so, forget it: The slam remains).

Today I’m doing an entirely different kind of writing—not journalism and not editing Wall Street folks, as I did for several years after I left journalism. Also, I cook. A lot. More than I ever have. Last Friday was a banner day: I made chocolate bark with sea salt…

pizza dough…

pesto…

a ginger/red pepper simple syrup…

and, finally, spicy pickles.

The pickle recipe, which yielded some of the most scrumptious little Kirby gems you’ve ever tasted, was from Canal House’s cookbook series (Volume No. 1). Not only am I going to make them again for a family gathering this weekend, I’m considering it a karmic way of making amends with Saveur.

2 thoughts on “Cook to Heal What Ails Ya

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