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.