The End of an Era

As some of you may have heard, after nearly seven decades Gourmet Magazine has ceased publication as of their November issue. This magazine has long been considered to be one of the food guru’s bibles, and the fact that it will no longer be in print has shocked foodies across the globe. The failure of Gourmet has been met with sadness at the end of an era and the loss of high-quality culinary journalism and outstanding recipes for which the magazine was renowned. But there has also been a considerable amount of anger as people search for the culprit behind the downfall of one of the food industry’s most celebrated magazines.

Some people are blaming the demise of Gourmet (and the world of food in general) on shortcut cooks like Rachel Ray’s “30 Minute Meals” and Sandra Lee’s “Semi-Homemade Cooking”, which are based on the idea of making meals using prepared ingredients in the name of convenience. They believe the overall concept of fast meals encourages an interest in a style of cooking to which Gourmet did not closely follow, one which destroys people’s desire to pursue new cooking techniques in the kitchen, explore new foods, and investigate more deeply the overall culture, history and evolution of food. Limited time in the day for cooking and enjoying a meal together, has enabled the general population to create a relationship to food based on the belief that the quicker a meal can be prepared the sooner you will be able to get back to your over scheduled lives.

Other people are busy pointing fingers at the continued rise in popularity of food related television shows and the Internet as the main culprits in the death of Gourmet. They warn that if we are not careful and do not start regulating the large number of websites polluting the food world that we will seal our fate as a society that exists on substandard food.

A recent article in the New York Times by journalist Christopher Kimball, received a hailstorm of criticism for his condemnation of bloggers who he believes are defiling the world of food journalism by daring to have an opinion and share it with the general populace, thus leaving no room for what he considers professional media (such as Gourmet).

“The shuttering of Gourmet reminds us that in a click-or-die advertising marketplace, one ruled by a million instant pundits, where an anonymous Twitter comment might be seen to pack more resonance and useful content than an article that reflects a lifetime of experience, experts are not created from the top down but from the bottom up.” (Click here to read the entire article).

The belief that we are being bombarded by the uneducated opinions of bloggers and Tweeters who pollute the online world of food with their non-professional recipes and misguided rants, is obviously one to which I do not subscribe. Perhaps I am being naive, but if you don’t like what a website has to offer STOP READING!

Previously published by Condé Nast Publications, Gourmet was the first glossy food and wine magazine to be printed in the United States. After its first issue came out in 1941, the magazine quickly established itself as a culinary icon. With an initial focus on the European and New York food scenes, Gourmet definitely catered to the upscale cook. Often publishing recipes well beyond the means (and budget) of the average home cook, this magazine has often been criticized for pandering their pages to the upper class.

At its time of death, Gourmet Magazine had an impressive circulation of close to a million people yet even these numbers were not enough to save the publication from decreased advertising sales along with what company officials are calling changing food interests amongst its readers. It is this unwillingness to change with the times that many people believe is the main cause for the magazine’s failure. With so many options now existing for people looking for a more approachable take on food, we are seeing other food magazines like Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food continue to do very well in the same market where Gourmet failed.

Apparently the Gourmet brand itself will continue to exist in the form of television shows such as “Gourmet’s Adventures with Ruth” (hosted by the magazine’s previous Editor in Chief, Ruth Reichl) as well as through the Internet via where recipes will be posted at least for the time being. But all arguments aside, I for one will miss the magazine. I subscribed to Gourmet for many years, and each month would eagerly devour the beautiful photographs, thought provoking editorials and colourful commentary contained within every issue. Often intimated by strange lists of ingredients and unfamiliar techniques, I would rarely attempt recipes contained within its glossy pages. But the ones that I did venture to try always turned out great and have since become some of my favourites.