So when I began to do a magazine of my own, I knew I wanted recipes that rely on the quality of their ingredients, stories that reflect the culture of a country or the life of a cook, and photographs that leap off the page and make your mouth water. I wanted dishes—some very rich, some very healthy, all very doable—from everywhere. And I wanted to tap into the imaginations of the most creative people (whether four-star chefs or just plain fabulous cooks) ever to put on an apron.
We got Marcus Samuelsson to dazzle us with a bright green callaloo soup and a mellow mango jalapeño couscous. We got Art Smith to share his great-great-grandmother's melt-in-your-mouth 12-layer chocolate cake recipe, Nina Simonds to bake up a batch of pumpkin applesauce muffins that must be the reason God invented coffee, Govind Armstrong to devise a showstopping Thanksgiving, and Bobby Flay to mix up a cactus pear margarita so enticing, I promise you'll be asking for another round before your second sip.
On some pages you'll find that the silver is polished, the crystal is sparkling, the candles are lit, and the champagne is poured. On others, the picnic basket is packed, the iced tea is brewing in the summer sun, and the Frisbee is flying. But whether it's a formal sit-down in the dining room, a casual brunch on the patio, or leftovers in the kitchen, the food, however wonderful, is actually only a supporting player. The starring roles go to the people with whom you share this food.
Let's face it—thanks to the portable DVD player, we can now watch TV in our cars while chatting on our cell phones and receiving e-mails on our BlackBerrys. We can live with people but go days on end without ever making eye contact. We can meet friends at the latest hot spot and then shout to be heard over the scene at the bar. Somehow, dinner has become something we pop in the microwave and gulp down at the sink while signing off on homework and sorting through our mail.
I believe we can do a whole lot better than that, and I believe we all deserve better. More than anything else, these dishes are meant to inspire you to bring together your friends, your family. So here's to the people you love, excellent conversation, lots of laughs, the occasional glass of champagne for no particular reason, and meals you wish would last forever. Here's to life!