Monday, October 19, 2009

The end of an era

Today, on the day that I received the final issue of my subscription to Gourmet, comes a post on a more personal note.

Gourmet was a fixture in my house as I grew up.  My mother started her subscription to the magazine prior to when she married my father (they were married for more than 30 years), perhaps even before they met(?).  She archived each issue on a bookcase in our kitchen pantry.  Some vintage copies are now in tatters — print fading and pages separating from the binding — because recipes from this magazine were staples in her culinary library and she referred to them constantly.

She and I spent every Thanksgiving together in the kitchen, constructing (and taste-testing) her annual feast.  She was known for her take on cranberry sauce – which even my father joined in to watch her prepare, ceremoniously witnessing the popping of the cranberries – but without diminishing my mother's talent in the kitchen, some of that credit should really go to a 1970s copy of Gourmet

When she passed away in 2007, among the things that we discovered was the following:  My mother did not always remember to pay the garbage bill, but she was paid up on her subscription for Gourmet through to 2010 (this was since transferred over into my name). 

To me, this is significant.  In an age where many magazines have gone online, there is something to be said for this beautiful physical archive that she so lovingly maintained.  And, with the recent revamping of the art and design of Bon Appetit toward more graphic covers (that are often less seductive and more flashy)....

there is also something to be said for the warmth of the writing and of the mouth-wateringly beautiful food photography in Gourmet (though some would like to discard it for being "dated").  At the end of the day, I think that's what the loyal readers of this magazine responded to.

For those yet to receive theirs, Ruth Reichl, the EIC of Gourmet, writes in her Editor's Note:
For me, the whole point of asking people to dinner is that you're inviting them into your life.  They show up for a true reality show, for a moment when they discover who you really are.  Your friends may not get a faultless meal in a fabulous house, but they do get the pleasure of knowing that you trust them.  If you want a cleaned-up version of the truth, you can always hire a caterer and a phalanx of servers and be assured of a perfect evening.  But perfect evenings rarely lead to great friendships.  So this Thanksgiving will once a raucous, riotous mess.  It will be wonderful.

Reichl states it perfectly, and Gourmet magazine cultivated it – it was the "magazine of good living." 

The Thanksgiving issue was Gourmet's crowning glory, since it epitomized all that I felt the magazine was – it didn't try to be the hippest and trendiest, it was just about good food, creating and celebrating a warm atmosphere with friends around your table.

CBS News Video – Gourmet picking the quintessential Turkey

Sadly, with its closure, I think for many Thanksgivings to come, there will be an empty seat at that table.

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