Almost exactly 30 years ago the very first issue of F&W—then called The International Review of Food & Wine—hit the newsstands, loaded with pictures of aspic-suspended vegetables and wicker ducks resting atop a nest of dried spaghetti (what?), essays by George Plimpton (yes, the Paper Lion himself) and a guy named Wilfrid Sheed.
This fall we’ll be celebrating our 30th anniversary (a.k.a. the pearl anniversary, if anyone plans on buying a gift). To prepare for this occasion I’m looking through issues of F&W from 1978 (when I was a zygote) and realizing that, yes, as much as our tastes have changed, things have more or less stayed the same. I offer a few examples, gleaned entirely from our inaugural issue:
Then: Food writer Gael Greene swoons over a dinner in Lyons, France (“I remember feeling wonderfully soft walking down the road afterwards.”).
Now: G.G.’s still gushing, only now via high speed DSL.
Then: A new, unforgiving era of restaurant criticism is dawning. Thanks to the “savvy, cynical Seventies,” says the launch issue’s editorial, “exposés and public putdowns have become chic, on the order of such other painful fads as jogging, sadomasochism, and pierced ears.”
Now: Thanks to web-savvy, cynical bloggers, restaurants are hyped, dismissed and put to pasture before they even get out of previews.
Then: Three-martini lunchers rail against President Carter for threatening to abolish tax deductions on business meals (“Mark these words,” an essay on the topic concludes. “The elimination of the business-entertainment deduction would be the end of the restaurant as we have known it.”).
Now: Places like Kobe Club subsist on expense-account meals, seeing more platinum than Jay-Z’s jewelry box.
Then: The practitioners of nouvelle cuisine are obsessed with vegetables. In a colorful, oh-so-70s photo spread, the Countess Marine de Brantes demonstrates how to make an 8-inch-tall “bouquet” of spring vegetables that can be served hot or cold.
Now: The lords of molecular gastronomy are obsessed with vegetables and hot/cold preparations.
Then: Roundtrip air to the Bali, “a sequence of visual desserts and constantly unexpected events,” according to our first ever travel story, is about $750.
Now: Still exotic, still about $750.