True surprises are rare in our hyperlinked world, but last week’s announcement by Conde Nast that Gourmet would close certainly came as a shock. In Denver, we lived through last winter’s collapse of The Rocky Mountain News and have watched from afar as other titles have folded from coast to coast. But nothing has hit home quite as much as the closing of Gourmet, which to so many of us has meant the epitome of fine food, excellent writing, and style for decades. It is a title I read from cover to cover each month, and that my mother and grandmother read before me. But now, due to the economy and, I suppose, a trend in simpler cooking habits, it is a habit my children won’t share.
As others have noted, perhaps the magazine emphasized style a bit too much in recent years. I admit it’s been years since I followed an entire menu from Gourmet. When I cook, I tend to use simpler recipes from its Quick Kitchen section, or I open up cookbooks by Deborah Madison or Alice Waters. Given my three kiddos and other responsibilities, I know I don’t have the time to cook for the hours if not days that many of its feature recipes required. I guess I wasn’t alone in this.
Still, I mourn the loss. One woman who braved below-freezing temps to attend the Fort Collins Fall Festival yesterday told me how she’d sorted through some seven years of Gourmet and put favorite recipes in a 3-ring binder to create her own cookbook. I did a similar thing when I went to college two decades ago, pairing recipes from Gourmet and other sources with handwritten recipe cards from my mom. The binders (now there are four) are among the most frequently used in my kitchen.
Gourmet, like National Geographic, is a magazine to keep. There aren’t too many titles that inspire such dedication. Too bad it wasn’t enough to save the publication.