Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Savouring Sentimentality

Last night, while waiting for the last bit of liquid to cook off of my wild rice, I was informed that Condé Nast will be closing Gourmet magazine. An interesting solution to a financial problem. Of course, on a superficial level, ceasing to publish a magazine that has a high budget and a low readership seems like a sensible move. However, Gourmet has a circulation of 980,000. Granted that this economy is difficult, it is a phase that will eventually pass. Gourmet magazine has been in circulation since 1941, and like many Condé Nast publications (think Vogue, GQ), does not sell the practical but the ideal and aspirations.

By closing Gourmet, Condé Nast is sending the signal that there are no more culinary aspirations. There are no more smart, educated analyses on food. The nationwide voice of food politics is reduced at a time when more people are looking to the White House for direction on what to put on their plates. The Michelin stars are figuratively burning out of the media sky and no longer giving home cooks something to strive for. A meal in 30 minutes is not an art. A meal to savour for 3 hours, that is an art.

Condé Nast has decided to keep Bon Appetit magazine, another fine culinary periodical that is more focused on the practical hands-on approach. The pages of Bon Appetit are more down to earth, presumably the reason why an external consulting company decided to keep the brand. Furthermore, Bon Appetit has a higher readership, most likely because it is less intimidating. Recipes like "Around the World in 80 Hot Dogs" are not daunting. Reviews of the Maine lobster festival from author David Foster Wallace are.

I thought of all the reasons why my throat had a lump in it last night and why I let the rice burn. I am not directly involved in Gourmet magazine - I can not afford an overseas subscription. Nonetheless, I was greatly saddened, not only by the magazine but also by the burnt dinner. But why?

These are undoubtedly hard times for all economies, particularly for print media. Therefore, it is understandable that Condé Nast needs to reduce its costs. However, without the tradition and lore of Gourmet, Condé Nast is losing its art and keeping its commerce. And that, in any economy, is the saddest aspect of all.


Cathy said...

Hear hear. Beautifully said! I am going to miss my subscription so much :(

taste traveller said...

Thanks, Cathy. I think I actually cried. Then again, it could have been the smoke from the burnt rice stinging in my eyes.

Amanda said...

Beautiful essay!

Anonymous said...

Well said.

Murasaki Shikibu said...

The sad thing is that there are consultants everywhere who don't really know what they're talking about and are experts are at bullsh*tting. When you're not unhappy eating frozen sandwiches made with English bread & ham - you sure won't appreciate any gourmet magazines.

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