Thursday, October 22, 2009

Rest in Peace Gourmet Magazine

Last week it was announced that Gourmet Magazine was shutting down as of the November issue. I just found out this morning while listening to a podcast of the Splendid Table. As you may have noticed, I used Gourmet's recipes on a regular basis. Their associated magazine, Bon Appetit, is still in business. In fact, all active subscriptions to Gourmet will be shunted to Bon Appetit. The overarching website,, will still carry all of Gourmet's recipes.

The only reason I've read for Gourmet's sudden shutdown is a precipitous decline in advertising revenue. It seems all print media from newspapers to magazines is suffering, especially in this slow economy. What is not clear is what will fill the vacuum left by Gourmet (nature abhors a vacuum, after all). No new technology is poised to replace food magazines quite yet, but some are getting closer.

The most obvious replacement would be to make the magazine electronic. E-readers such as the Kindle will at some point come in color, which would allow magazines to exist even if they're made of ones and zeroes instead of paper. But changing media from print to electronic may not get at the heart of this cultural shift. Food writing in some regards is outsourcing to lay people. While I do have 3 food magazine subscriptions, I also read about 10 food blogs on a regular basis. Many foodie sites also compile posts from these blogs to summarize the current state of the food blogosphere. My new favorite is

Food blogs are great, but they still do not yet replace food magazines. Magazines can compile sets of recipes around a singular theme, holiday or culture. Most of us bloggers do not have time to devote every entry to exploring the cultural ties of a particular ingredient. Perhaps today's food magazine writers will switch their focus on blogging, but the key would be to come at blogging with the same fervor, not as a supplement to or promo for magazines. I still love when I get a new magazine and can flip through the hi-res photos of well-crafted foods. The writers get to travel all over the world to draw our attention to international traditions and trends. But as blogging grows in worldwide popularity and scope, we may yet regain what we have recently lost. But until that happens, the food world is a little more empty for its loss. Hopefully, all those who worked for Gourmet will be able to use their talents elsewhere to keep the food-obsessed informed of today's culinary and innovations and trends. Tonight, let's all serve a 21 bun salute to our fallen ally.

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