Monday, October 05, 2009

No! Not Gourmet!

I am shocked! I get that ad revenue is down, I get that they need to cut costs, but to close down Gourmet! Get rid of Lucky, get rid of one of your golf titles, cut Architectural Digest down to six months a year, but please don't get rid of Gourmet!

I have to be completely honest--when Ruth Reichl took over, like so many others, I declared the magazine to be ruined, and let my subscription lapse. I felt a little like I did in high school. You know, you're friends with someone early on, then they join some club or team and you feel like their new friends change them. The new person they've become just isn't someone you want to be friends with at that point in your life. You both move on. Then, one day several months or years later, you find yourself interacting with this person--maybe you're both on the yearbook committee now, or you're both in the spring musical production--and you realize that you've both changed more, and now you can be friends again.

Well that's how it was with me and Gourmet. Gourmet's new friend Ruth changed it, and not for the better in my opinion at the time. Then, one day, maybe two years ago now, I picked up a copy on the newsstand. I don't know what prompted me--maybe it had a pretty cover. Maybe I had read something on a food blog about a recipe that sounded good (let's be honest--that was probably it). Whatever the motivating factor was, I picked it up and kept picking it up. And then I subscribed. And now I make probably two recipes a month out of it, and flag even more for future use. I love what Gourmet has become--it's much more in synch with how I cook today. Lots of weeknight recipes, with a nice mix of fancier stuff for weekends and holidays when I have more time for cooking.

In fact, so completely have I about-faced on Gourmet that when a friend told me she had old issues from 1999 - 2004 or so that she would let me I have, I jumped at the chance. That span represents the almost entire time that Gourmet and I were estranged. I got a second chance! The stash even included the September 1999 issue that was the first one on which Ruth Reichl worked, and which created such an outcry (both for and against), as well as the November 1999 issue in which said outcry was recorded. I also have the August 1999 issue, which was the one just prior to Reichl's taking over, and which followed the older format. It's fascinating to read the two together.

Of course, the magazine has come even further now, with bigger changes that are nice to see and note. In the period BR (Before Ruth), Gourmet's opinion was clearly that there were no restaurants worth troubling with anywhere but New York and LA. Ruth expanded the restaurant reviews to the whole country. Gourmet used to be full of huge beautiful pictures of Italy, Francy, Germany, Laos...big glossy shots of places far away, along with travel tips for when you got to go (ha!). They still cover some travel, but it's not the main focus any more. The main focus is clearly food. Food that you could cook on Thursday night, as well as things you could make for your guests on Saturday night, or for Thanksgiving dinner. I feel it's more well-adjusted in the past couple of years. The Quick Cook or Gourmet Every Day columns from so long ago often had things like oatmeal cookies and cranberry sorbet. Perfect! Just what I serve for dinner every night! No, now you get things like steak, pork chops, and shrimp, as well as vegetarian choices. Much more useful.

I'm just hoping Conde Nast gives Gourmet a second chance. I looked at the Conde Nast website, bu there was no "contact us" button, so I guess I'll send an email directly to Gourmet. They can't do this! I already subscribe to Bon Appetit, Food + Wine, Martha Stewart Everyday Food, Cooking Light, Fine Cooking, and Donna Hay Magazine. On the newsstand I often buy The Food Network Magazine, La Cucina Italiana, and Delicious. I refuse to buy Paula Deen, Rachel Ray, anything Taste of Home, and anything Cook's Illustrated publishes. There will be a sad hole left in my cooking life.

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