Beating the Nazis with Truffles and Tripe: The Early Years of Gourmet: "The Magazine of Good Living"

October 23, 2011

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Cover of David Strauss' book "Setting the Table for Julia Child" (details)

Journalist Lucius Beebe once remarked that it had taken “a stout heart and a sound stomach” to create a magazine of good living in 1941 as the Depression ended and Americans entered World War II. The success of Gourmet, however, depended even more on sound strategizing. Among potential readers, the staff targeted those who would replace the recipes of the ladies magazines, based mainly on processed food, with a mix of traditional American cooking and classical French cuisine. This reformulation of gourmet dining was timely in view of the Franco-American collaboration against the Nazis. It also presented a great opportunity to staff and readers alike to devise a food regime based on unrationed, mostly American ingredients—a move far more patriotic than the government’s own rationing program.

David Strauss taught U.S. history, with an emphasis on cultural and diplomatic themes, from 1974 to 2002 at Kalamazoo College in Michigan. In addition to his most recent book, Setting the Table for Julia Child: Gourmet Dining in America, 1934-1961, Strauss has also published Percival Lowell: The Culture and Science of a Boston Brahmin and Menace in the West: The Rise of French Anti-Americanism in Modern Times.

Recorded Saturday, October 22, 2011 at Kendall College.