If you were cooking (or just eating anything more complicated than your mom’s grilled cheese sandwiches) in the 1980s, the New York Times Magazine food feature on Sunday probably gave you a tiny shiver of something like vertigo.
The recipe—for potato, shiitake, and Brie gratin—from 1989 is like hearing a song you haven’t heard since you were a teen. It brings back memories of how very grown-up and sophisticated we all were, eating our Brie and drinking our Chardonnay. No button mushrooms for us!
Amanda Hesser ably deconstructs the original recipe, explaining that the French bistro food fad was at its zenith back then, so “potatoes au gratin (oh-GROT-in) was becoming a potato gratin (gra-TAN) — a leaner, meaner iteration with less cheese sauce and more attitude.”
Hesser also goes to Tim Wiechmann, owner and chef at T.W. Food in Cambridge, Massachusetts, for a recipe update (he, by the way, was “distressed” by the cubing of the Brie directed in the original recipe). His “Totally Local” gratin, which calls for ingredients listed by which farm they came from, is very, very 2008.
If Hesser has merely whetted your appetite for 1980s cuisine, Sylvia Lovegren’s Fashionable Food, a charming overview of food fads of the 20th century, has an ’80s chapter that takes on everything from nouvelle to nuts (a short excerpt is available online). Or, do away with all that pesky cultural analysis and just mainline ’80s food memories at the Food Timeline, discussed here earlier.