This morning I was so preoccupied by Gourmet magazine’s closing that I blurted out the news at my 8 a.m. aerobics class. The instructor said she always read it at the dentist’s office, after People. “Maybe I should have read Gourmet first,” she allowed. Someone in the crowd said Saturn was closing, and the conversation turned. They didn’t know that Twitter and my email were abuzz with the news.
I can’t say I’ve read it forever, but being a journalist, I loved Gourmet as soon as Ruth Reichl became the editor in 1999. I looked forward to how the former newspaperwoman made her mark. I liked the messy photos of half-eaten food, the long literary narratives, the smart farm-to-table conversations, sensuous travel narratives, and the occasional political and green living pieces.
In her editorial this month, she reflects on her first issue 10 years ago, amazed at the staying power of two new chefs: Thomas Keller and Ferran Adria. How satisfying to be right about their popularity.
Typical of the brutal world of publishing, she didn’t know until today. She tweeted Saturday: “Foggy fall afternoon. Cup of lemon tea. Outside the window a deer is munching on the lawn. About to start the Saturday puzzle. Happy.” Then just now: “Thank you all SO much for this outpouring of support. It means a lot. Sorry not to be posting now, but I’m packing. We’re all stunned, sad.”
While the Gourmet brand of television and its own cookbooks will continue (see Reichl’s letter on Amazon), this is also a sad day for all the freelance writers who long to be published in the magazine, in long, beautifully-written narratives they could exclaim over when the magazine hit the newsstand. These days Gourmet wins more awards for the Gourmet website, where the short subject is king and much of the content is repurposed from the magazine.
Reichl has been a cook, restaurant reviewer, memoirist, cookbook editor, website editor and television producer. She’ll certainly survive and thrive. I hope she’ll always be remembered as the editor who tried to make the magazine the New Yorker of food. I think she succeeded.