Bible of food world goes out of print
On Oct. 5, Conde Nast, publisher of famous magazines like Vogue and The New Yorker, announced in its memo that the November 2009 issue of Gourmet will be the last for this 70-year-old magazine. Gourmet is a magazine about food; about how food centers our lives; how just like culture, people, and thought are the backdrop of society, they are the plate for food. This announcement will have many repercussions, mainly in the landscape of food journalism and in the lives of people who are hooked on this magazine.
The memo from Conde Nast was not personal; it was just business. Looking back, the newer issues of Gourmet, especially the issues published this year, are thinner compared to those of 2007. With an increasing number of food magazines and Internet blogs, people can just use Google to troubleshoot their cooking dilemmas — all for free! It is no wonder, then, that Gourmet’s readership has taken a hit.
Many people are of the opinion that Gourmet is out of date. The magazine has become irrelevant in a day and age where more space in the supermarket is given to boxed, packed, and frozen food than fresh produce. Ultimately, the closing of Gourmet is a reflection of the fact that people prefer a quicker way to cook. Gourmet is not full of quick meals that compromise on flavor but contains recipes for those who enjoy cooking and are not looking for shortcuts. In this magazine, recipes are well-experimented, so one always ends up with a delicious meal.
More than being just a magazine containing recipes, Gourmet understands food for what it is and what it should be. While many critics say that Gourmet is too fancy and only praises chefs who cook a $700 meal, they forget that, at the same time, Gourmet also features cheap street food from around the world. This is not to say that the magazine covers every income level, but
shows that it realizes the true potential of food. At a certain level, Gourmet is almost like art.
With all the glory that Gourmet gets for dining and talking to Michelin star chefs, the editors remember that it’s about food and not about the convention. In 2008, there was an issue dedicated to Italian-American food. The concept was deemed as not traditional, not real, and therefore not good food. But Gourmet thinks of food as a reflection of changes in the culture and the way people are living. Americanized Italian, or Americanized Chinese, cuisine is just like any other cuisine, and it evolves.
The New York Times surprised me when it described Gourmet as “sexy, well-read, globetrotting.” I always think of the magazine as rich, complex, and comfortable — I can read it anywhere and immerse myself in reading about how turkey gravy is velvety smooth or how the wine “was just a country white, but poured with a generous hand from an endless bottle.” I did not grow up reading Gourmet as many people did, but when I chose to study food, Gourmet was my textbook.
Numerous James Beard Awards, a.k.a. the Academy Awards of the food world, do not guarantee the success of what The New York Times called the foodie’s New Yorker. Food lovers are saddened by the pre-manufactured, processed, and unemotional relationship Americans have with their food, but this relationship can be altered, and when the right moment comes, I believe that Gourmet will come back.