And there it was, my non-Gourmet. First I got sad about Gourmet’s passing all over again. I like the way Elissa Altman summed up its demise: “Gourmet folded because it had a direct competitor under the same roof in the same genre geared to more practical and commercial endeavors, it made more money, and one of them had to go…End of discussion.”
Once I got over the fact that it was not Gourmet, I was curious to see how Bon Appetit was different. Content, for one thing. Bon Appetit is all about entertaining. Tone, for another. It’s all about ease: world-class dining made simple.
Yet most of the recipes didn’t look that easy. In fact, I got the biggest laugh from a cover blurb promising “5 Easy Ways to Eat More Veggies.” The number one way? Cook cardoons.
(If you’re wondering what they are, it’s probably because your grocery store has never sold them and you’ve never seen them before. In a technique piece in Saveur, which described cardoons as “high maintenance.”)
On behalf of freelance food writers everywhere, I examined the March issue’s contributors, and found a mix of mostly veteran food writers, with one or two youngsters:
- Cookbook author Molly Stevens wrote the cover story on 1-pot wonders
- Coi chef Daniel Patterson penned a recipe story based on restaurant dishes
- Brat Pack actor Andrew McCarthy (the wild card) wrote a piece on Irish soda bread
- Filmmaker and new cookbook author Tamra Davis supplied recipes for vegetarian kids
- Diane Chang wrote a lovely essay about her grandmother’s cooking, with a portrait of the two of them as a full-page photo
- Carolynn Careno, a freelance food writer and cookbook co-author, recreated an Idaho cabin dinner
- Molly Wizenberg of Orangette wrote her monthly column, a pleasure to read.
And you know what’s really strange? If you want to read any of these pieces, click on the website’s magazine section to access close to the entire issue’s content.
I couldn’t find any pieces about food policy or farming, or essays as brilliant as “Consider the Lobster.” Bon Appetit is much less lofty and aspirational. But then, Ruth Reichl is not in charge. On the other hand, it publishes younger writers, even a blogger. I don’t think Gourmet was ever going to acknowledge food bloggers. It was run by snobby old-school journalists. Let’s be honest.
I’m sure I’ll come around. Right now, I need reasons to fall in love with Bon Appetit. If you have some, let me know.
For more reading on differences between Bon Appetit and Gourmet:
- BookSlut’s smackdown: Gourmet vs. Bon Appetit cookbooks
- The Wall St. Journal‘s side-by-side comparison of the two magazines, by the numbers