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.”