Thursday, October 8, 2009

Goodbye Gourmet

Ever since reading Ruth Reichl's fabulous memoirs, I have been comforted by the notion that she is at the helm of Gourmet magazine as editor-in-chief. She's still out there, I think to myself, connecting ideas to food and sifting through our culture's culinary habits for the meaning of life. Alas, as reported this week, Gourmet magazine is no longer; Condé Nast finally pulled the plug on what was probably a very unprofitable subscription. The Globe and Mail featured a pair of opinions (one for and the other against) by two of its food writers on the demise of this 68-year-old publication. Much is made of Condé Nast's decision to keep Bon Appétit, its other food magazine, while scrapping the veteran. The writers' comparisons of the two magazines is entertaining.

As much as I love Ruth Reichl, I never once even glanced at a copy of Gourmet under her direction. My only memory of Gourmet is of flipping through the odd issue kicking around my parents' house and marveling at the utter insanity of some of the recipes. My thought was always the same: Who really cooks like that? In the mid 90's at least, Gourmet was about bringing fine dining to our homes, teaching us how to make the dishes requiring hours and hours of preparation, like the ones we might sample at Le Cirque if we were charmed enough to dine there. I imagine the current version of Gourmet isn't much different. Perhaps the element of fantasy was always the point; by featuring food to drool over rather than recipes to add to your arsenal for quick dinners, Gourmet lifted readers out of the everyday slogging that is feeding. By comparison, I continue to buy Vogue, another Condé Nast publication, yet I will likely never dress off the pages in head-to-toe designer togs.

I feel a little funny saying farewell to a magazine I've never read, but I feel a twinge of sadness at its loss. I feel for Gourmet's devotees. I remember my own disappointment at the recent loss of Blueprint and Domino, two similar lifestyle and home decor publications targeted to a reader exactly like me, a stylish 30-something woman, cut to improve some bottom line. As will likely be the case with Gourmet, there are no magazines in print that can replace the ones lost, none to fill the void, none that match the needs of the specific reader so perfectly.

And so, I raise my keyboard first to Ruth Reichl. Thank you for being fearless in your writing about food. And to the readers of Gourmet: I hope you find what you're looking for.

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