Farewell to Ruth Reichl’s Gourmet

 Career
Oct 052009
 

Gourmet-MagazineThis 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.

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 Posted by on October 5, 2009 at 11:27 am

  14 Responses to “Farewell to Ruth Reichl’s Gourmet”

  1. Oh Dianne, I’m so heartbroken. I keep saying that word over and over today and it’s beginning to sound trite, but I can’t think of a better way to describe how I feel.

    HEARTBROKEN!!

  2. A sad day indeed. It’s a rare publication that can teach both how to cook and how to write, and Gourmet was the gold standard for both.

  3. Such bummer news. I did love to hate on Gourmet at select times, though, for its muddy-dark photos and the smugly hip models who polulated its dinner party spreads. What I loved about it was Reichl’s doing. She gave Gourmet life and relevance.

    Gourmet was more tapped in to the politics of food than any other food magazine I can think of now. Very sad to lose that. Not too sad to lose the travel pieces of places I could never, ever afford to go.

    I do enjoy the Gourmet website. Will that, too, vanish?

  4. Dianne- I couldn’t agree more. Under Ruth’s guidance Gourmet was a joy to read. I treasured it not only for the stunning photographs and recipes that challenged me to try new techniques and ingredients- but because it was always smart. The insightful writing and carefully crafted pieces opened my eyes to many aspects of the food world I would have otherwise missed. This is such a loss.

  5. You are right that for many us having our writing in Gourmet was a hallmark of successs. (or in my case an aspiration).

    If they keep the on line version , I wonder what it will use use for content now the magazine is gone. Maybe they will re-focus and do more than re-package content. One hopes so, that we won’t lose Gourmet’s distinctive voice entirely.

    • Faith, thanks for writing. I don’t think they’ll keep the online version. I read somewhere that they’ll keep the recipes on Epicurious, but that’s it. The website is too tied to the magazine.

    • Splendid post, Stephanie. You did a great job of synthesizing the collective sense of loss, and analyzing why you love Gourmet. Thanks for linking to me as a “shocked culinarian.” That’s a new title, for sure.

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    This is unbelievable. Gourmet is one of the best, if not THE best of food magazines out there. I hope this doesn’t mean more junk in the food magazine industry. We have enough junk food already.

  7. Dianne, A beautiful tribute to one remarkable writer. I too loved Gourmet the minute she took over, relished the narratives and stories and risque food photographs, her willingness to push the element in regards to content, politics of food and so much more. She made Gourmet standout in an already crowded magazine world. I feel even more lucky now, that I had one tiny snippet in the magazine while she was at helm.

    And like everyone, I was completely shocked and am deeply saddened.

  8. Your post was the first thing I read this morning, after going to bed last night, stunned about Gourmet. I still can’t believe it. I get Bon Appetit also, but have complained for years that the magazine had dumbed down its articles and photography. Now they’re shutting down the superior Gourmet and putting their emphasis on Bon Appetit? I don’t get it. Gourmet’s articles were incredible. I will miss it sorely every month.

  9. So I think she AND the New Yorker should start a new food magazine called something like The New Yorker of Food. I have subscribed to Gourmet for 40 years; it’s the ONLY magazine I have continuously subscribed to for more than a few years. There are a zillion two-bit food mags out there, but Gourmet is the only one that has serious writing about food.

  10. [...] The Internet is foaming at the mouth with critical blog posts, from both heartbroken readers and shocked culinarians. One such post by Jane Black, which appeared on the Washington Post website, invites readers to [...]

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