An ode to “Everyday Food”

I remember exactly when Martha Stewart’s colorful little Everyday Food magazine started appearing in my mailbox. I was a single gal in my 20s, living in a 500-square-foot apartment in downtown Omaha. I used my tiny kitchen for making four things: cheese on toast, microwave dinners, boiled pasta that I’d sprinkle with canned Parmesan cheese and coffee. My mom, smart gal that she is, knew as much and subscribed me to what I can best describe as the beginner’s introduction to Martha’s magazine family. (I’ve written before about both my love for Martha and Everyday Food.)

At first, I just flipped through the magazines and put them on my counter in a colorful row. But then I started tentatively preparing some of the recipes inside the magazines. Easy stuff, like this zucchini lasagna, which I remember feeling very accomplished about, and these vegetarian enchiladas, which remain a favorite, and have been renamed Matthew’s Favorite Vegetarian Enchiladas at our house.

I felt a pang of sadness earlier this week when I got my December — my final — copy of Everyday Food in the mail. The magazine announced earlier this month that it was ending production of the print product. Martha Stewart Living will include a smaller Everyday Food supplement five times a year, but the magazine I grew to know and love won’t exist any more.

I’m thankful to Everyday Food because it got me into the kitchen. It taught me that cooking didn’t have to be as mind-boggling, as complicated or as messy as I believed. I still wasn’t great at it, though. Once, when trying to make cheese bread (cheese bread!) using a recipe from the book, I started my toaster oven on fire. I was home alone, so thankfully no one else was privy to that disaster, and I managed to put out the fire with a coffee mug of tap water splashed over the whole mess. I think I ordered in for a few weeks after that.

When Matthew came into my life, I became more adventurous, trying out the more complicated recipes that included ingredients I’d never used before or techniques I had never tried. I spent many hours shopping for the pantry staples that Martha’s magazine taught me about. And when I became a vegetarian for a few years, I discovered ways to cook meatless food at home that tasted really good and wasn’t too difficult.

I still encountered some duds. Lots of dinners turned out bland. I measured things wrong or forgot ingredients or cooked something too long in my wonky oven full of hot spots. Matthew, ever faithful, soldiered through. But slowly I learned those challenges are just part of cooking. I still mess up now, thankfully not quite as much. But with time and practice it’s gotten much easier. I’m even attempting to tackle my arch-nemesis, baking.

I’ll hold on to my nearly ten years worth of Everyday Foods, marked with post-its and folded pages and wrinkled from getting too close to the sink or the stove. They’re part of my cooking history, and they led me to Mark Bittman and Gourmet and America’s Test Kitchen and my vintage cookbook collection and to the spot where I am now, writing this blog post today and working full-time as a food writer.

So here’s to you, Everyday Food. My husband thanks for the countless pans of enchiladas. And I thank you for helping me be brave enough to cook.

Image courtesy Martha Stewart Everyday Food Blog.

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