Conde Nast is shutting down Gourmet is both depressing and infuriating. I understand that we're in a recession; I understand that the magazine profit model is based on print advertisers; I understand that advertising is down; I understand that something's gotta give. However, I do not understand keeping Gourmet afloat while Bon Appetit (a lesser magazine by all accounts) stays as is. Maddening.
As is so often the case, I feel like the lowest common denominator wins here. Why, for instance, should a magazine like Gourmet, with nearly 70 years of rich history, be given the boot, when there are approximately a dozen magazines aimed at young women on the newsstands right now with a not-so-subtle mission of self esteem destruction? It's the same reason that television shows with cult followings are canceled, while lackluster dramas that are neither terrible nor great stay on the air for a decade. Why beautiful films can't find financing, yet a dozen truly awful romantic comedies are produced annually. Why voters are often forced to support a lesser match to their values, just so that another candidate doesn't win. Why people like Sandra Lee have their own "cooking" shows. I, for one, would like some better choices, personally.
Because I'm feeling wounded, I'd like to remind everyone why Gourmet was the best choice, and why to me this decision is terrible.
Ruth Reichl. We already know how I feel about Ruth, and Gourmet was unmistakably hers. Ruth's joy about eating and curiosity about food - from high-end decadence to low-end street food - was splashed across the magazine every month, and it was infectious to read.
Culture. Gourmet captured the culture of eating across the world better than any other print magazine. It's a medium that's far better suited to television than to print, but Gourmet excelled in bringing readers the faces and ways of life and accents and smells and sounds of other countries, through words and photography alone. No one else came close.
Food Politics. Gourmet stood far and above every other food publication in its coverage of food politics. While alternative media and the mainstream press have been increasingly covering topics of labor, scale, safety, and more the last few years, Gourmet was the only food magazine doing the same. Gourmet's ongoing coverage of Florida tomato slavery in particular stood out as top-quality, forward-thinking journalism, done in a time when a puff piece about tomatoes or about politics might have sufficed instead. Gourmet strived to be more than just "food porn," and was the only magazine to consistently prove itself in the real world arena this way.
Literary. So Gourmet was filled with fantastic recipes, timely political pieces, the voice of Ruth, sure, but what's more, it was literary through and through. I loved the writing in this magazine - smart and evocative and never dumbed-down. Each piece was a pleasure to read, and as a reader, you knew that nothing had been scribbled off and rushed to press. There was care behind the sentences, and you felt it.
Gorgeous. Food photography can be done on a table under a bright light in a warehouse. We might never know the difference. But Gourmet's photography took us other places - to kitchens full of cooks, to picnics out in the open, to backyard cookouts, to streets full of vendors, to fields during the harvest. Looking at Gourmet's articles was nearly as pleasurable as reading them, and that's saying a lot.
History. Gourmet was a magazine built upon its own history, and those kinds of traditions are infinitely appealing to me. On Gourmet's website, you can read what M.F.K. Fisher wrote for them in the 1940s, or what New Orleans restaurants were up to in the 1950s, and on and on. Keeping traditions alive are one of the best ways we step forward into the future. Gourmet's beautiful writing helped us do that. It was 70 years strong, and it knew it. How sad for all of us that Conde Nast did not.
Conde Nast says that Gourmet will continue to have an online and branding prescence, but that all new publishing endeavors will take place under the Bon Appetit brand.