Goodbye Gourmet Magazine

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The November issue will be Gourmet magazine's last. Ad revenue has dropped nearly 43 percent and publisher Conde Nast has pulled the plug. Commentator Bonny Wolf considers what the loss of the magazine means for generations of cooks and adventuresome eaters.


The November issue will be Gourmet magazine's last. Ad revenue has dropped nearly 43 percent, and publisher Conde Nast has pulled the plug. WEEKEND EDITION food commentator Bonny Wolf finds reactions are mixed.

BONNY WOLF: There is as much shock as chagrin. Gourmet magazine has always Ben there - well, at least for 68 years. It is the iconic food chronicle, the first of its kind, an institution. Along with Julia Child, Gourmet introduced Americans to a new world of food. Now, that world has changed.

I did an unscientific survey on Gourmet's demise. Reactions varied from: I could care less to: I'm in mourning.

Some call it elitist while others say it's the only food magazine that hasn't been dumbed down. Some love the literate prose, others want more recipes, less writing. Editor Ruth Reichl is praised and damned. But, like the magazine, people know her name.

The World Wide Web did the magazine no favors. Why invite more clutter when you can go online to Epicurious, a Gourmet partner, and get the same recipes for free?

But Gourmet is more than recipes. It approaches food as culture. It inspired generations of cooks to reach beyond the known. My friend Peggy in Denver fantasizes about going to that little café in Montréal of the B and B on the coast of Maine. Joanne emailed: I have traveled to Chile, remote Chinese villages and hidden corner of New York City, thanks to Gourmet articles.

And people hang onto them. My friend Jennifer has every copy since 1977. The November issue is especially prized for holiday planning. Every year before thanksgiving, Jennifer hauls out all 32 of her November Gourmets.

Today's food magazines reflect a world of different tastes. Worried about fat? Get Cooking Light. On a budget? Every Day with Rachael Ray. It's also generational. My friends are of a certain age. Our children, in their 20s, cook differently, if they cook at all. With some happy exceptions, they don't use a magazine like Gourmet for dinner party inspiration.

And they live in a digital world. My 28-year-old son says Gourmet, as well as most print publications, has no relevance to his generation. Even the word gourmet is old-fashioned, replaced by the insolicitous(ph) term foodie.

Blogs, recipe sites and food TV will inspire the next generation of cooks, but for those who see the death of Gourmet as the loss of an old friend, there will be one last November issue. Hang onto it.

HANSEN: Bonny Wolf is the author of "Talking with My Mouth Full" and editor of NPR's Kitchen Window.

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