The Man Who Sank Gourmet?

I’ve received several notes from readers over the last ten days asking me if I had any comment on the demise of Gourmet magazine. One in particular asked if, as a member of the “new food media”, I felt in any way guilty about it. I confess that was a bit of a laugher, though very complimentary in its own way. It would be quite an exercise in self-flattery to think that I’d gotten big enough to have an impact on Gourmet‘s readership, or that I’d become enough of a pest to make Ruth Reichl’s enemies list. I confess latter is a pretty entertaining thing to think about, if only to speculate on what sort of hit she’d put out on me. Have me drowned in a vat of roasted red pepper aïoli, perhaps.

Really, I don’t feel one way or another about the demise of Gourmet because I never read it. Truth be told, it always seemed like the food magazine of another generation. Which is not to say I consciously considered it stodgy, more like that it belonged to somebody else. The flamboyant cursive of its masthead always made me think of early 60’s women’s fashion, of ladies’ lunch groups dressed in pink woolen suits and pillbox hats. The food magazine Jackie O would read. Cultured, refined and urban, utterly captivated by all things French.

I know the magazine evolved beyond that over the years, but I could never shake the conviction that Gourmet was a provincial publication. Top quality, make no mistake, but one that was mostly by, and mostly for, people who lived in New England and New York. Dispute that idea if you will, but I think there’s merit to it. The question then becomes: can a provincial magazine survive in times like these? When people no longer look to solely to New York for their cultural cues? When the province of New England has been hit especially hard by a severe recession? The answer, it’s clear, is not. Some have said it’s because Gourmet‘s editors forgot they there was a wider world out here. I myself wonder if they ever really knew it to begin with.

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