The now-defunct Gourmet magazine had an ambitious goal: tap into America’s pioneering nature and refine this adventurousness into a thirst for good living. By January 1941, the Great Depression had worn everyone down. Americans were ready for a magazine that reminded them of happier, more prosperous times. They wanted travel, adventure, luxury. Earle R. MacAusland, creator of the magazine, was banking on it.

There was no inherent reason Americans couldn’t appreciate the finer things, posed MacAusland. “The art of being a gourmet has nothing to do with age, money, fame, or country,” Gourmet stated in its first introduction. But appreciating good living is not exactly the same as living well. Americans had a land of plenty but centuries of uncouthness working against them. They would need to model their tastes after those with more experience — Europeans, namely, which really meant the French, who were considered the arbiters of global… More…