Goodbye, Gourmet. I'll Miss You.


The first email I received in my inbox this morning brought the worst kind of bad news: an old, dear friend had died. After almost 70 years of good taste and resolute narrative, Conde Nast has decided to close Gourmet Magazine. Apparently the publisher was forced to choose between its two heavy-hitting food magazines, with Bon Appétit coming out on top.

The word heartbroken feels too feeble to describe the very real ache in my chest. I’ve lost something that I value so much – Gourmet has been my companion when I travel to strange places, and kept me company during many dark, dismal nights alone. It has been my most optimistic visitor through numerous weeks spent in the hospital, comforting me with possibility while I confront my own mortality.

Knowing that Gourmet might be gone makes me feel very, very lonely.

And it appears I’m not the only one; Conde Nast’s decision has caused an uproar throughout the food community. The Internet is foaming at the mouth with critical blog posts, from both heartbroken readers and shocked culinarians. One such post by Jane Black, which appeared on the Washington Post website, invites readers to share their thoughts and feelings on the loss of Gourmet. Mournful comments are mounting, and it’s clear that the death of this publication is very painful for readers.

Even the Twitter community is contributing to the melee, with the term “Gourmet” topping the site’s popular Trending Topics (not an easy feat to accomplish during these days of inane Twitter voracity). Grassroots Twitter “petitions” have already begun to surge with the help of users such as food writer Amy Sherman, which prompted the creation of a “Save Gourmet” Twitter account that bereaved readers can follow to drown their sorrows. Even Ruth Reichl issued a brief statement on the site, expressing her shock and sorrow. More from Reichl can be found on the LA Times website.

What are my thoughts? Here they are, and you’ll notice that I refuse to discuss the magazine in the past tense, perhaps out of a divine sense of optimism that Conde Nast will reconsider (or else I’m stuck in stage one of the Kübler-Ross grief cycle):

While many consider Gourmet the most pretentious of food magazines, those of us who revel in the art and craft of culinary literature love the magazine for its sheer quality of the written word. We inhale Gourmet’s long, sensual narratives and covet the intimate travel pieces that feel like they’re coming to us across the fireside from a close, articulate friend. Those of the more visual ilk savor the magazine’s food photography, produced by some of the industry’s best and brightest. The cover of the most recent issue – October 2009 – features a close-up of a red wine caramel apple that looks so fresh that at first glance I considered reaching right through that cover and taking a crunchy, sticky bite.

Gourmet’s loyal readers see past the stuffy label applied by those that don’t understand the literary world of culinary culture. We see accounts of old-world grandmas, recounting kitchen memories and sharing with us their great-grandmother’s recipes. We see stories about tiny, hole-in-the-wall restaurants, run by passionate immigrants who work sixteen hour days to celebrate their sheer love of traditional cooking. We see a world we can find nowhere else, where we can learn about Swiss cheese in Nesselnbach, road food in Illinois and a one-armed home chef who struggles with braising a chicken for guests. Does this sound pretentious to you? No, it sounds electric.

As I said in my comment on Jane’s WashingtonPost article, I can’t believe that Gourmet is going away, and in bittersweet solace, we’re left with Bon Appetit. While it is a fine publication in its own right, Bon Appétit does not contribute to our culinary culture (or couture) to the degree that Gourmet does.

While Conde Nast is continuing the brand, that’s little consolation to those of us – and there are MANY – that looked to Gourmet for inspiration as well as information, and no other outlet will provide a suitable stand-in. Not the Gourmet website, not Gourmet books, and certainly not Bon Appétit.

Gourmet feeds our hearts, our bodies, and our souls. I refuse to accept that my old friend is gone, and if I have to petition God himself for a recount, just give me his home address.

What are your feelings on Gourmet’s closing?

Edit: NPR’s Diana Abu-Jaber wrote a beautiful tribute that touched me. Please click to read, “More Than Just A Magazine, ‘Gourmet’ Says Goodbye.”

Comments

  1. Melanie McMinn says:

    A sad day indeed. May she rise again!

  2. Alexandra says:

    Magazines do become like old friends. When Nat. Geographic bought The Green Guide, I was delighted. Two issues later, someone high up decided to cease its publication. My heart broke, so I understand what you articulated so well about Gourmet. Perhaps the widespread reaction will change the mind of the person at Conde Nast who made the fateful decision?

    • I’m hoping the outrage will change their mind, but I know how the industry can be. I can remain optimistic, right?

  3. Christine says:

    This is a shock! I haven’t read it in years – only because I live abroad – but always liked knowing it was out there for me to read again someday.

  4. My condolences for your loss.

  5. WHAT? You have got to be kidding me. They would not take Gourmet.

  6. judith stock says:

    I do know how you feel. And, perhaps only ardent magazine readers or those that write for magazines might know the feeling when one magazine that you love and care about goes down.

    My latest magazine treasure to bit the dust was House & Garden. I love that magazine, it had all the design goodies and one of the best editors in the world Dominic Browning. Miss that pub. So I know what you are going through. Hope Gourmet will go forward…

    • I loved House & Garden as well, and it breaks my heart that the industry is crumbling like it is. They tell me this will make room for new pubs, like a forest fire makes room for new life, but still – that doesn’t make the fire any less painful.

  7. Valerie Smith says:

    You said it even better than I did (in my response to the L.A. Times article); thank you for an excellent and heartfelt article.
    Valerie Smith

    • Thank you, Valerie! Your response resounded with me as well. I will really miss this magazine if they go ahead with closing it.

  8. Nice, heartfelt expression of your sorrow, Stephanie. It’s sad when beautiful, talented magazines go away and a very sorry sign of the times.

  9. Paula - bell'alimento says:

    I could hardly believe it this morning when I heard the news. I used to “borrow” Gourmet magazine from my Mom’s house & of course it never found it’s way home. I was fascinated with the photography & salivated at the recipes & have continued to since I saw my first copy. It has inspired me beyond words. Gourmet is simply a food icon.

    • I know! If it weren’t for Gourmet, I probably wouldn’t be writing about food. It paved the way for food as a literary topic and gave food writers something to strive for. I’m so sad at its passing.

  10. Susan Johnston says:

    I saw that on Twitter today, and I was shocked. What a shame!

  11. Meredith Resnick says:

    I think this is truly what is meant by the end of an era…and on so many levels. Reading a talented food writer as yourself discuss the closure brings the issue home even more.

  12. Kristen J. Gough says:

    Truly, a sad day. I must admit, I’d rather flip through Gourmet than Bon Appetit. I’ll just have to turn to your site for inspiration and new flavor combinations.

    • Thank you, Kristen. :) I really can’t imagine Bon Appetit being anything close to what Gourmet had. I get both magazines, and really, there’s no comparison.

  13. I can relate to your blog post. Just launched last night a facebook page “Save Gourmet”.

  14. Jennifer Margulis says:

    I heard about this on the radio and also felt just wretched about it. I can’t bear to see all of these markets and wonderful magazines biting the dust.

  15. What is sad is that i never read it regularly, but just recently stole a stack of issues from my dad’s house, and have started to love the magazine!

  16. J. Sperling Reich says:

    If Save Film At Lacma can save a revival film series in one city (Los Angeles) than a viral campaign for Save Gourmet should also work. I’d be willing to pay twice as much per year for a subscription, and I know many others would too.

    What do you think is the best way to help Conde Nast realize the error of their ways and revive the magazine?

    • These days, social media is king. If you look over the publishing world as a whole, inclusive of areas like books and web content, you’ll see that social networking has become a major avenue of marketing for a reason – it’s the most effective and easily accessible for both publisher and public.

      That means to make a difference, people – and I mean everyone – needs to get out there on their platform and spout. Talk about the magazine, talk about what avenues you would accept as a reader, talk about how upset you are at its passing. While it’s not probable that Conde Nast will reverse their decision, stranger things have happened, and it doesn’t cost anything to share your passionate viewpoint to those who will listen. If nothing else it will help Conde Nast form future decisions, such as the format of new magazines (or old ones, such as Bon Appetit).

      And who knows? Perhaps with enough outcry they will bring Gourmet back. Maybe in a few months, or maybe once the economy stops having kittens. One can certainly hope.

      For what it’s worth, I too would pay twice as much – though I think a plan like this would not be a safe bet for Conde Nast. Relying on an already strapped readership to cough up more money is not a good business decision at all. Perhaps a bi-monthly or seasonal print schedule would be more realistic?

  17. Kelly Cline says:

    If not for Gourmet I never would have discovered food photography and set my foot on the path towards making that my career. It was an inspiration and exposed me to so many new & wonderful culinary experiences, that without I would not have had.
    It makes me horribly sad.

    • I’m in a very similar boat – I don’t know where I’d be without Gourmet. Probably eating an icky diet while working IT. No thanks!!

  18. Alisa Bowman says:

    Wow– it looks like this really touched a nerve. The timing is odd. I realize that magazines are struggling right now, but it seems like a lot of us have responded to the recession by cooking more, both to save money and to reward ourselves with flavor and comfort. I suppose, in the end, they just weren’t making money, as money seems to drive all corporate decisions.

    • I agree – I’m in more of a position than ever before to be cooking great gourmet meals at home, since I can’t/won’t pay for a fine restaurant. I’m going to miss this mag so much.

  19. Almost Slowfood says:

    What can I say that hasn’t been said? I too will deeply miss Gourmet. It was so beautifully done in every way. You’re post was lovely:)

  20. Judy Pokras says:

    Thanks for a very well written piece, Stephanie. It’s just shocking and sad news. I’m glad I saved some of my Gourmets, even when I recently moved and people were chiding me for being a pack rat. Although I eat 100 percent raw vegan, I did look to Gourmet for inspiration, and there was plenty there. I’m also very sad about the demise of Domino, and I’m so glad I saved more than a year of those. I pray that both mags eventually come back. As an out of work journalist (since my recent move), I’m also sad for personal reasons, as it’s very hard to find work with so many publications going out of business or downsizing.

    • I had no idea you were raw vegan. I’m so completely enamored with that style of “cooking” – I have a ton of raw cookbooks here, and I love poring over them and making new things.

      Very cool that you’re raw!

  21. Claudine M Jalajas says:

    A really nice story that made me want to go out and start reading gourmet magazine. However,due to it’s impending doom, I’ll have to settle for back copies at the library. Sounds like I missed out on something when I was feeling too inferior to read it.

    • I’m going to keep an eye out for anyone I know who’s getting rid of theirs. I only have a six issues here – I tried not to let them pile up. Complete fail on my part.

  22. Bonnie Schwab says:

    The only silver lining I can see is that the ever-creative Ruth Reichl will no doubt emerge with a fabulous new creation…

  23. Monica Bhide says:

    I hear you.. I will miss it too but I have no doubt that Ruth will be back with something bigger and better.

  24. Vera Marie Badertscher says:

    Steph: Thanks for this beautiful piece. I returned from an out of town trip and had not yet caught up with Twitter, so your article brought me the sad news. Yet another sterling publication gone.

  25. Add me to the list of shocked Gourmet subscribers upon hearing the news. I can’t tell you the number of recipes I love to cook that have come from my many years being a subscriber. Just this year, I cancelled my Bon Appetit subscription. It never could compare to Gourmet. Looks like I will be seeing it again. It will be like rubbing salt on a wound when I see it in my mailbox. I am hoping that Ruth will find someway to turn this all around.

  26. Very sad to hear the news of Gourmet Magazine folding. Wondering if anyone out there has the March 2006 issue of Gourmet Magazine – it was the Montreal special edition? If so – let me know!

    • I’ll keep an eye out for it, Chris. Maybe they have it on Ebay? There’s lot of Gourmet stuff up there now! All very expensive, though. :/

  27. “the worst kind of bad news: an old, dear friend had died.” No, it’s a magazine, real friends dying is much worse.

  28. I am in denial as well, but have worked into anger. I’ve been receiving it’s lesser cousin Bon Appetit as some sort of consolation prize for another magazine they cancelled, and have several times thought of calling and asking for my preferred GOURMET instead! Now it’s too late!! I am just heartbroken.

    In my opinion Conde Nast is making a mistake. I suspect they are trying to reap the benenfit of Bon Appetit’s recent redesign. A new font/graphic design does not a culinary mag make. Gourmet is a classic, well loved, worthy, choc full, with superior recipes and articles. The spirit of the thing is superior as well. And wrapped up in the package have been Ruth Reichl and Sarah Moulton, 2 food icons also loved by me.

    I can’t go on… still too upset, I guess.

    SAVE GOURMET!!!!

    • I completely agree. They’re making a huge mistake – they’ve stunted food culture and given us a band-aid in Bon Appetit. It’s really, really offensive.

  29. well that stinks, i’m going to miss it.

Trackbacks

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