For a year or so in the early eighties I was getting up at two in the morning to bake bread for a cafe in New Haven. As good and wholesome as making bread is, it's also a pretty mindless task. That is to say, there's a lot of time for thinking. On this particular morning I was trying to come up with Christmas gift ideas. My idea that morning was to give people notebooks for Christmas and send them recipes throughout the year. I was pleased with it because I had all these terrific recipes (every place I had worked had two or three things that were really spectacular. In one place it was the bread pudding. While it doesn't sound like much, every time they tried to drop it from the menu, their customers would practically riot.) Over the years I'd made it a point to learn how to make those things. My plan had been that if I ever wanted to start a restaurant I would have a collection of great recipes. Anyway, my Christmas plan was to scale these recipes down for two or four people, jot down tips, and mail them to friends at appropriate times, stews in the winter and so on.
I was really warming up to the idea of a few recipes every month or so because books and magazines had driven me crazy with their abundance (with so many recipes to chose from I usually found it easier to chose nothing.) I thought that by sending my friends a couple recipes each month with a casual letter, it would be easier to make them. And after a year they would have expanded their repertoire by some two dozen dishes.
I never followed through though, I think I settled on gift certificates or something. But the idea continued to simmer. One night a few years later, over a bottle of wine, I was telling my wife how I wished that someone would approach good food without turning it into such a big deal. (This was in the eighties when writers expected people to make their own pasta for dinner and buy special pans and imported ingredients as if everyone lived down the street from food emporiums like Balducci's or Dean and DeLuca.) "So why don't you do it?" she said. "You could call it The newsletter for people who love food, but have a life."
We both had a good laugh over the line. The thing is, I thought it was a great idea. About a year later, in September of 1991, I put out the first issue of Just Good Food.
Both chef and musician, John Ryan wrote the Just Good Food blog from 1996 through 2001.
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