Tuesday, October 6, 2009

A Death in the Family

Unless you live under a double broiler, you know by now that Gourmet magazine is dead, a victim of the same slow, creeping virus threatening print media in general: poor ad sales and, thus, decimated operating capital.

I never read Gourmet. Oh sure, I thumbed through its pages in doctor's offices (subscription addresses carefully cut out of the cover, as if I'd come to the donor's house and steal their Silpats). It was, to be inelegant, food porn. I'd look at the pictures and be intoxicated, then look at the recipes and quickly become forlorn...you mean that takes two days to prepare?!? And what the hell is a gelatin sheet?

For me, Gourmet was always aspirational; as, indeed, nearly all food publications -- including cookbooks -- are. They are conduits of ideas, of challenges, of presentation aesthetics...things you want to try someday. But never do.

Too often the contents of these publications are impenetrable (what's a glug of oil, exactly?), unrealistic (sorry, magazine, I can't make that because I don't have three ovens!), or downright inaccurate -- one of my favorite sections of food publications is the Errors column: "In last month's issue, the cookie recipe should have read '2T of sugar' instead of '5 cups of salt.' We regret the error."

I'm sorry for the people whose lives will be lessened by the disappearance of Gourmet, and I'm certainly sorry for the folks who are losing their jobs.

But I can't feign any false sense of outrage or mourning at its passing. It was too grand, too assumptive, too prescriptive by its very nature as nearly all recipes are. I like to sail into uncharted waters of food without a lot of that...with only a few technique stars to guide me, and my own innate sense of what works. I like to try, to fail, try again and succeed wildly on my own terms.

The only "gourmet" in this house was going to be me. Not some publication title on the coffee table. Condé Nast has now made sure of that.

1 comment:

  1. It is definitely a sad day indeed. I like the magazine Cuisine At Home. Very good basic recipes and food tips.