Wednesday, January 26, 2011


Sunset magazine, that staple of Western life style, has been morphing over time into something I don't like. The articles have become shorter and shorter, like little ads. The graphics are such that frequently I mistake the lead page of an article for an ad; this is probably what the editors are looking for - a seamlessness of content and advertising. Too many articles boil down to lists of do's and likes.

I particularly don't like the easy breezy vocabulary they're using. Appetizers are now Apps. Credibility is now Cred. "Yeah" is used frequently. "Kinda" has replaced kind of etc., etc. The headlines are sappy: "Call the new Saturday Tuesday". What?? It's starting to look like a bunch of disparate blogs, one after the other. 

So we were letting our subscription lapse. I decided to try one last recipe from the December issue: A one dish feature - Pork chops with butternut squash, escarole and walnuts. It was excellent and reminded me of the reason we subscribed in the first place 40 some years ago. The recipes are always reliable - they are very well tested in the wonderful Sunset magazine kitchens and most of the time, pretty good. Sneered at by food snobs, the food content is not particularly sophisticated, no haute cuisine, but practical and realistic.

Lawry's entrance
In some ways, letting the subscription lapse is like cutting off a relative. For a long time, I worked at Lawry's. The California Center, my home away from home, was designed by Cliff May, same architect that designed Sunset's corporate offices in Menlo Park. Every day I had the pleasure of working in that gorgeous building surrounded by gardens. I knew various food editors from Sunset as over the years  Lawry's was a pretty consistent advertiser  - I did flavor schools there for mutually connected companies, for instance, Safeway.

Following is from the Cultural Landscape Foundation website: About the Sunset magazine headquarters:

Constructed in 1951 (with ongoing additions until 1966), architect Cliff May and landscape architect Thomas Church synthesized a corporate version of their celebrated yet sensible postwar suburban gardens. The structure, opened to the public in 1952, embodies many of May’s innovations, employing contemporary materials and ideas that aimed to modernize the ranch house without compromising the relaxed, informal, indoor-outdoor qualities.
Sunset magazine corporate office

As with other May and Church commissions, the outdoors came inside with ample patio gardens to assist with the seamless transition. Although the original display gardens by Church, which followed the contours of San Francisquito Creek, have been altered over time, the idea of a long serpentine border flanking a generous lawn still survives today with many of its original trees and shr

Nostalgia Hit: Working at Lawry's was my single best employment experience. If not for the allure of consulting which at the time was lucrative and plentiful, I certainly would have stayed. Richard Frank, the company founder and president believed that creativity and innovation were the keys to success and invested heavily in them. He would tell me repeatedly that the lab people should have at least 20% of their time for just thinking. One day he wandered into my office (I was R & D manager), sat down and said "I think you should go to Europe and get some ideas". He sent me and one of our  most creative food scientists to the Anuga fair in Europe, a favorite event of his and probably the biggest food trade show in the world. It was the first time for me - after that experience, I attended many times over the years. My point is that Richard fostered a fabulous environment - everybody felt respected and part of a team, as corny as that sounds given today's vicious corporate environments

End of story is that, yeah,  the Pork Chop recipe and a wave of nostalgia infused a bit of cred into the value of the subscription. Even though Tuesday will never be the new Saturday in our home, Sunset magazine will continue in our mail box for at least another year.    

1 comment:

  1. You were so lucky to work at Lawry's and, what a boss! I'm sure you lived up to his belief in you.

    I sure used to love to eat at the California Center. We often went there for lunch. Is it still open?