Gourmet Magazine, RIP

Slate's Culture Blog
Oct. 5 2009 12:18 PM

Gourmet Magazine, RIP

Condé Nast announced today that it's closing Gourmet , the almost 70-year-old food magazine. Over the course of its illustrious history, the magazine has been the publisher of legendary food writers like MFK Fisher and James Beard, and its editor, Ruth Reichl, possesses a status in the foodie world akin to French Laundry chef Thomas Keller . It celebrated itself just three years ago with the publication of the Gourmet Cookbook , a collection of about 1,000 of its most useful and popular recipes.

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In her introduction to that tome, when relating why she decided against including step-by-step instructions for how to " glove bone " a chicken, Reichl explains: "This is not, after all, a historical document, but a book that wants to live in your kitchen. We did, however, put in hundreds of recipes for nights when you need to get dinner on the table in a matter of minutes."

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Gourmet magazine would have been better off if it has pursued the "live in your kitchen" approach of the Gourmet Cookbook . Instead, the editors stressed aesthetics (the magazine is beautiful) and high-wire cookery. There is, certainly, a foodie movement afoot that enjoys involved projects like making and jarring one's own fresh elderberry jam, but there's a far larger audience for quick, simple meals. Bon Appetit , Condé Nast's other food title, is not perfectly suited to this task, but it is certainly more suited to it than Gourmet . And it has seemed as if  B.A. has been moving toward the Rachael Ray end of the spectrum for some time now. Its November issue reads a lot like the cover of Family Circle : "68 Recipes to Mix and Match," "Thanksgiving Made Easy," "Leftovers Done Right!"

It would have been difficult for Reichl to follow her own advice entirely; doing so would have abandoned Gourmet 's essence. Hopefully, though, with Gourmet out of the picture, Bon Appetit will be able to straddle the two food worlds—some Gourmet and some 30-Minute Meals —a bit more easily.

For more on Gourmet , read Laura Shapiro's review of The Gourmet Cookbook .

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