Goodbye to an old friend: Gourmet folds

by Terry B on October 7, 2009


By now, probably everyone has heard that Gourmet magazine has published its last issue. Certainly, there has been plenty of coverage of the announcement in every medium out there. I don’t know that I have anything significant to add to the noise, but not saying anything at all just wouldn’t be right. Think of this post not so much as a full-fledged tribute, but more as a scribbled note, a bunch of flowers or perhaps a votive candle in a jam jar left at a makeshift memorial somewhere.

Gourmet was something I grew into gradually. As a fledgling semi-serious home cook, I found its—I don’t know, seriousness, I guess—more than a little daunting at first. But Marion loved it for that very reason. Her cooking chops were well established, and she appreciated that Gourmet’s recipes felt like real cooking. So it was that, for a time, we had his and hers subscriptions to both Bon Appétit and Gourmet. I pored over the former and merely glanced at the latter; Marion took exactly the opposite approach.

But as the months and the magazines piled up, I found myself lingering longer over Gourmet’s sumptuous photographs, studying recipes and finding them less daunting, more doable. And more interesting than a number of things I was cooking. Slowly but surely, I had become a fan.

About this same time, though, we had a dozen or more magazines coming into the house between us, more than we could keep up with. In a purge of subscriptions, Gourmet was one of the casualties. We still occasionally picked up a copy at the newsstand and were always happy when we did. Recently, we’d actually considered subscribing again.

Granted, there is no shortage of cooking magazines out there still, many inspired by our current collective fascination with food. And many of them celebrity-driven, focus-grouped creations, probably with limited shelf lives. But Gourmet was different. It had been around since January 1941 and was one of the early voices helping to elevate how we think about food and cooking. And under the brilliant guidance of editor Ruth Reichl, it had been renewed, refreshed, taking on a new relevance and liveliness. Subscriptions were actually rising.

In his thoughtful, hopeful tribute to the magazine, “Don’t RIP, Gourmet—Come Back Soon,” food writer for The Atlantic Corby Kummer describes part of Reichl’s influence this way: “From the start she announced that she would bring in unexpected writers—novelists, crime reporters, poets—whose unexpected and wonderfully readable takes would rethink how people considered food.” Kummer—and others—hold out hope that the magazine will be revived. Judging from everything I’ve read since the news, Marion and I will be among many welcoming it to our mailboxes every month if it is.

The sense of loss of faithful and not so faithful readers aside, Reichl’s tweet on Twitter on Monday reminds us of the human toll of such an ending: “Thank you all SO much for this outpouring of support. It means a lot. Sorry not to be posting now, but I’m packing. We’re all stunned, sad.” Good luck to everyone on the Gourmet team. And thanks for all you gave us.


{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

altadenahiker October 7, 2009 at 3:50 pm

I really only bought the magazine for the pictures, but that was enough. The holiday issues were always my favorites, and each year they had to come up with the new ultimate turkey recipe. Guess they finally ran out.

Yet more writers hit the streets. Guess that leaves Bon Appetit. I’ll subscribe today. ($1 an issue; they can’t be long for the world.)

Terry B October 7, 2009 at 3:58 pm

altadenahiker—Bon Appétit is another Conde Nast publication; it was seen as the younger, hipper sibling of Gourmet by some. They seem to be doing okay—well, as much as any magazine is doing okay these days. But do subscribe. They can use your money and it’s a very good read.

Interestingly, the “turkey issue” of all food mags is my least favorite. Marion has the turkey totally under control, and we want tradition, not something new.

dani October 7, 2009 at 8:13 pm

Gourmet Magazine was my first exposure to food beyond my mother’s handed-down recipes. (Not that they weren’t wonderful.) It’s not surprising, but definitely sad to see it go.

Congratulations again on your Foodbuzz nomination as the food blogger we’d most like to see open their own restaurant! Well deserved.

Terry B October 7, 2009 at 8:42 pm

Thanks, Dani! And thanks for alerting me to the nomination in the first place. Turns out I was nominated for a Foodbuzz Blog Award! Okay, my dear readers, as they say in Chicago, vote early, vote often!

Hannah October 8, 2009 at 9:58 pm

My mom subscribed to Gourmet all through the 1980s and 1990s. I have really fond memories of our huge built-in bookshelves in our old house’s living room. The bottom shelves were absolutely taken over by Gourmet, she kept every issue. Before I was cooking myself, I’d sit on the floor and page through all the back issues, in awe of the art-like creations on the glossy pages.

It was a wonderful magazine, and my mom and I will miss it sorely.

Pam October 9, 2009 at 3:42 pm

Gourmet magazine was an acquired taste for me as well and I did learn to love it. I still subscribe to BA but I must say that I don’t care for their photography in the past year. They sometimes make the food look unappetizing……Congrats on the award nomination

Terry B October 9, 2009 at 3:54 pm

Hannah—What a great memory! I’m sure the time spent with those magazines had more than a little to do with the fact that you cook today.

Pam—We subscribe to Bon Appétit as well. Not sure I agree about the photos being unappetizing, but one trend I’ve noticed in food photography in general that I find intriguing is embracing casualness and imperfections. There will sometimes even be photographs of food with bites missing—I’m thinking particularly of slices of pie with fruit fillings. Interestingly, I think this makes it even more appealing to me for whatever reason.

Hsin October 10, 2009 at 7:46 am

I’m sorry to see Gourmet go. Who knows what Conde Nast will send me to finish out my Gourmet and Cookie subscriptions.
I had Domino until that folded and the company sent me Glamour as a substitute. What on earth (or in my subscription history) ever made them think I’d ever want Glamour?
I just have bad luck with publications. (I had a Bon Appetit subscription until I discontinued that in favor of Gourmet — I guess I’d bet on the wrong horse.)
That’s why I’m recently enjoying blogs such as yours. I’ll be coming back here again. For magazines from now on, I think I’ll just head over to Borders and read them in the cafe so that I don’t keep getting cheated out of my subscription payments. Ha!

Terry B October 10, 2009 at 3:34 pm

Hsin—We were really sorry to see Domino go too. It offered real world, affordable home decor solutions, a welcome change to all the publications showing real estate porn. We really don’t care how celebrities and rich people redo their fabulous second or third homes. We want ideas we can use. Do try to continue to support magazines, though. The more of them we lose, the poorer the world of information becomes.

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