RIP Gourmet (The Magazine I Never Cooked From)

by moderndomestic on October 7, 2009

Gourmet

And the magazine industry bloodbath continues . . .

The blogosphere has already been filled with mournful odes to Gourmet, but I can’t help but add my own. Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past 24 hours, by now you’ve heard that Conde Nast is shuttering Gourmet, the country’s oldest food magazine, along with Modern Bride, Elegant Bride and Cookie.

Many people thought that it would be the simpler, more pedestrian Bon Appetite that would end up on Conde Nast’s chopping block. Instead, it was the upscale and historic Gourmet – even the powerful force of editor Ruth Reichl couldn’t save it from the bloody carnage that is the state of magazine ad sales.

I grew up with Gourmet; my mother has been a subscriber for decades. I remember flipping through the issues that were fanned out on our living room coffee table. I never read the articles, but headed straight for the recipes. I loved reading those recipes. I loved cataloging their exotic ingredients, wondering what I would adapt to suit my own tastes, gasping at certain recipes that looked completely ridiculous.

But I have to admit – I don’t have any memories of actually making anything from Gourmet. It was a magazine that I loved to read, but mostly I regarded it as a beautifully shot piece of food fantasy. The recipes were so complex (who will really make a ten course tapas menu for New Years Eve?), so detailed, and so extravagant, that I was never actually drawn to make one of them.

No, I preferred the more budget friendly, practical Bon Appétit. When I moved to DC four years ago, I subscribed to Bon Appétit as a symbolic act to usher in the era of my adult life. Bon Appétit taught to use cumin in my improvised Mexican dishes. Even when I use Epicurious, I usually go for the Bon Appétit recipes because they won’t require an expensive grocery run.

Gourmet was decidedly upscale. Its recipes featured ingredients I couldn’t afford, its travel pieces featured places I would never go to, and its favorite housewares were decidedly out of my price range. I can see why Conde Nast eventually had to bow to economic reality and cancel the publication that was most out of line with our current economic environment. The era of cooking with saffron and truffles is out. The era of ice cream sandwiches and roast chicken is in.

Still, it’s depressing that a publication with such a rich history and strong writing had to close. I actually recently subscribed to Gourmet on my own – for the first time ever. I’m sad to see it go – and I’m even sadder to think of what Conde Nast will replace my subscription with. I have a sneaking suspicion it’s going to be Teen Vogue, since they replaced my Domino subscription with Glamour (i.e., the magazine that makes me sad to be a woman).

But, um, Modern Bride, Elegant Bride and Cookie? Good riddance.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Nonna Gorilovskaya October 7, 2009 at 11:22 am

Well said and man, that apple looks yummy.

It’s depressing that another publication is shutting down, especially since the common wisdom went that lifestyle magazines were not going to be hit as hard.

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moderndomestic October 7, 2009 at 3:07 pm

I know – did you see the interactive graphic about Conde Nast’s publication that accompanied the NYTimes story on Gourmet? It’s really scary. Like, ALL their ad sales are down – even at my beloved New Yorker!

Check it out: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2009/10/06/business/06adsales.html

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Mer October 7, 2009 at 9:49 pm

I have had consistently better results with Bon Appetit recipes in my kitchen. As a former English major, I am sorry to see any foodie/literary staple bite the dust, but I am relieved that it is not my user-friendly Bon Appetit. Having monitored the abundance of eulogies for Gourmet, I acknowledge that I may be in the minority, but having grown up with BA in my home, it would have been a real crime if it had not made the cut. — Also, it was great meeting you tonight at the DC Food Blogger Happy Hour. Looking forward to hanging out solo – per your suggestion – at the next installment.

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Tina October 22, 2009 at 10:09 am

I agree! I once had dreams of working in the magazine industry, so I collect them like one might collect books or CDs. I always loved reading Gourmet, but typically cook from recipes I find in Cooking Light or Bon Appetit! I had planned to purchase the November issue of Gourmet as a keepsake of the end of an era, but wasn’t lured by what is normally fantastic cover page photography. So sad…. but I’m guessing your Gourmet subscription will be replaced by Bon Appetit.

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