Dear Mr. Townsend,
I have written a letter to you over and over again in my head ever since hearing the devastating news that the revered and beautiful Gourmet magazine was cancelled. I believe that it has taken this long for me to write the letter because I’ve simply not been able to come to terms with this news. I am astounded. Grieved. Disturbed. Angry. Disgusted. Every time I look at my teetering stack of precious Gourmet’s, I feel the wind knocked out of me again.
You see, the cancellation of Gourmet is tragic not only because this magazine was singularly unique amongst food publications, but also because I believe it represents a greater loss and a disturbing downward direction in our culture.
Gourmet magazine stood to me as the darling of food publications. Saturated with gorgeous photos, riveting food journalism and delectable recipes, Gourmet was the embodiment of all that is beautiful and sacramental about eating. Gourmet took us to new places, introduced us to new foods, challenged us to understand the meaning behind what we eat and where it comes from, inspired us to cook and to serve, to cook and eat with imagination. How incredible that a seventy year old publication could still stand as a smart and sexy educator and authority to a multi-generational audience. I believe this is because Gourmet elevated and honored the things that are important: food, beauty, truth, meaning.
Gourmet was the anthem and banner for food being more than just nourishment for our bodies, but also nourishment for our souls. Even more amazing is that this publication embodied these principles not in some irrelevant and dowdy manner, but with elegance, glamour and sophistication. Gourmet holistically supported and propagated the ideals of artful living and eating. Cancelling a publication this revered and established, a publication that has educated and inspired some of the greatest chefs of the last century, all due to a year of bad ad sales in a poor economy is egregious – outrageous! You have closed the Lourve. Sold Monet’s paintings at a garage sale. Bulldozed central park for an office park development. Cancelled your Roman holiday in favor of a weekend in Branson. Replaced Grace Kelly with Brittney Spears. Graffitied Michaelangelo’s David. You’ve taken your family to McDonald’s for Thanksgiving. Do I sound dramatic? I feel VERY DRAMATIC. Absolutely furious.
I subscribe to multiple food publications because I am an avid cook and have passionate interest in food and eating, but Gourmet is by far my favorite. The blend of inventive recipes, captivating essays and cultural savvy is unmatched in culinary publication. I’ve been left with Bon Appetit, which I subscribe to because I can’t help myself. Sure, Bon Appetit has its merits and strong points, but I believe its audience subscribes for different reasons. Instead of discovering new little items and delectable treats and nibbles in a section labeled, “Obsessions,” I’ll have to look in Bon Appetit under “What to Buy Now.” I believe this succinctly summarizes the vast difference between these sister publications. I do not want to be told what to buy now; I want to be wooed and seduced, enticed because I trust so much the passion and credibility of the source.
I find it utterly disturbing that one (or even a few) bad years can ruin a publication that is as old or older than our beloved grandmothers. What is this short-sightedness that continues to surface in a country that is founded on perseverance, dedication, resourcefulness? It seems that panic has swept the American business community, and I find myself bewildered time and time again as a consumer. Certainly a giant such as Conde Nast would see that nearly one million customers, disgruntled (at best) and outraged (at worst) costs much more than a year of slow ad sales. In terms of the transition from print to web, the Gourmet website is a recent award winner; a representation that the Gourmet brand is not only relevant, but strong. This is especially impressive seeing as how the audience that reads this magazine is most likely one that honors and values a sensory experience, which is much more difficult to have by clicking through a website.
For me, the website is an interesting supplement to the magazine that I anxiously await each month. The experience of holding and turning pages in my hands, the smell of a brand new magazine, the glossiness of an undisturbed cover, the knowledge of new things to be discovered with the simple turn of a page, the portability of a tangible publication- these things cannot be replaced by the internet. The pages of my magazines are crinkled from water and olive oil, my cherished issues having been present next to a hot sauté pan or with me in my nightly bath, delightfully enjoyed alongside a little glass of red wine. Gourmet magazine has been with me as I have learned to cook, has transported me when I needed to dream and discover new things in the hardest of times, has inspired me to stretch and grow myself as a home cook and food lover. How many times have I run to the mailbox the moment I hear the postman drive away, anticipating this monthly pleasure that will act as my muse in the kitchen?
There is a reason that history is upheld and protected. There is a reason that in the midst of exploding social media and an overworked A-D-D society, there are movements to return to simplicity, quality of life, community, and appreciation of the traditions that worked for our grandmothers and grandfathers. I realize that I’m delving into some wider issues, but for some reason the cut of this senior publication in the midst of a great food revolution just reeks of the brokenness that I observe in crumbling systems and lifestyles that the enlightened seek to overcome. What are we becoming culturally when we are okay with slashing these beautiful and treasured things in favor of a few more dollars? Where is the reverence for that which transcends the whim of trends, for the things that are worth preserving because they unite us generationally? What else should I expect to disappear and fall apart? I find myself more and more disillusioned in this culture that surrounds me. I liked knowing that I was connected to and a part of a community that had existed for decades. There is beauty in the old and the established. Have you missed this entire revolution and return to quality, even at a greater cost? I’m convinced that the future sees us returning to this mindset. This counterculture will become the mainstream. We have no choice. The Europeans understand this best (which is why we love their wines, cheeses, foods, museums so much). Americans, sadly, still continue to lack this vision and sophistication. I expected more from Conde Nast. I expected more from a company that published these ideals.
I will continue to mourn the loss of this lovely and beautiful magazine. I am truly heart broken. I still just can’t believe it. I can’t believe it.