Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Dark times, drastic measures: Goodbye, Gourmet

The news of Gourmet's demise has left me feeling pretty blue.

While the death of this iconic magazine can't be blamed entirely on the Internet--certainly there were other factors at play, including low circulation and claims that Gourmet was out of touch with the average American cook--it cannot have helped. Without a doubt, the Internet has changed the face of journalism. Although the Web is great for leveling the publishing field--without blogs, The Hungry Dog would be a series of never-seen journal entries--leveling the field isn't always the best thing. As Christopher Kimball, publisher of Cook's Illustrated, noted in this op-ed piece last week, doesn't the world need fewer opinions and more thoughtful expertise? This goes for all kinds of journalism, not just food writing. Do you really want your news from any moron who can set up a blogger account?

There's been a little backlash to Kimball's piece; some food bloggers are feeling defensive. I guess my take on the whole thing is that I'd like there to be room and audience for both the old guard and the new guard. I'd like to pick and choose my information from any number of sources, including tried-and-true standbys like Gourmet as well as some of the incredible food blogs out there, whose numbers are growing by the day. 

Mostly, I feel concerned about what I see as a diminishing interest in in-depth reporting, which really is what made Gourmet not just a collection of seasonal recipes, but a series of well-researched and often excellent articles about food, politics, travel, and culture. While equalizing opportunity can provide a much-needed forum for those of us just learning how to be creative, it's sad to think that people are losing an interest in journalism with well-earned chops. I mean, how do you know that my recipe for flank steak with bok choy is any good? Most of you reading this have never met me. I could be a terrible cook and a compulsive liar. But you can assume that Gourmet's recipe would be pretty solid.

Anyway, feeling sad and hungry, I decided to make Gourmet's spiced applesauce cake with cinnamon cream cheese frosting. The cake smells like Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas all wrapped into one.

I served it to our friends Amy and Johann who came over for dinner on saturday. We morosely discussed the changing face of publishing while inhaling this moist, fragrant cake. Amidst the rueful sighs were furtive scrapings of forks on plates.
In case you were wondering what goes with a rich, appley cake full of brown sugar, vanilla, cloves, and ginger, the answer is dulce de leche ice cream. I suppose it's gilding the lily, what with the layer of cinnamon cream cheese frosting spread thickly over the top of the cake already, but dark times call for drastic measures. I suggest you make this cake. But don't trust me--trust Gourmet.


  1. Very valid Hungry Dog! I don't think people are losing an interest for in-depth journalism though, it's just moved to a different format. I read the new online and of course I visit blogs - almost every "famous" cookbook author has their own blog anyway, so I go there for "serious" info and visit other blogs for social reasons.

    Oh, and I trust you cos you're a dog person ;P

  2. your commentary was nicely thought out and very well-written. more importantly (what can i say, my stomach often speaks louder than my brain), i can't think of a finer recipe to use as a farewell to an awesome magazine.

  3. That heavenly cake is a perfect way to honor Gourmet and everything it stood for. I am in agreement with you for the most part but there are so many who are not avid food bloggers. They use their computers for email and little else. So Gourmet and the like will be greatly missed by them. Unfortunately, I fear we are going to lose a lot of my favorite magazines and newspapers. We always adjust though. Life continues and we'll find our way.

  4. I'll vouch for you! And for the delicious apple cake you brought down for me! Very very yummy! Fear I'll never get used to reading in-depth print on-line. The feel of paper and book while I sit in a cozy corner reading will always be my preference. But then I belong to another generation. MOM

  5. I am smitten with cream cheese frosting - the cake looks and sounds wonderful. At least all of the innovative recipe will still be available on epicurious. It is a shame, Gourmet magazine was my favorite travel companion.

  6. Your sentiments are so on the mark. As someone from the "old-school media,'' I, too, lament the demise of actual reporters who, well, investigate and report. I still am one of those, yet I'm also a blogger. I think there is room for both, and it's a better world with both. But I fear that the way the publishing industry is going that actual journalistic reporting will be done by fewer and fewer people. And I think we as a community will all suffer a loss as a result. We will be less informed, and that's a sad thing to be.

  7. Hungry Dog, you hit the nail on the head. I will certainly miss Gourmet. I've been a subcriber for a dog's age, excuse the pun. Tonight I made Coq au Vin,a recipe I had clipped out of Gourmet years ago. Long before I had a computer, just a sissor and a recipe box. Must have been the 80's. The dish was rich and tasty. If you closed your eyes while taking a bite you felt you were in Paris. Thanks Gourmet and Thanks Hungry Dog.

  8. Thanks, everyone. I guess there is comfort in the vast numbers of us who will mourn Gourmet...