It was widely reported today that Gourmet Magazine would no longer be published, effective immediately. Tweets and blog posts began early and have continued throughout the day, with writers, chefs, and eaters mourning the loss of this historic publication. It was reported that the primary reason for the magazine’s demise was that it relied upon “established writers and exhaustive reporting,” apparanetly an exhaustive expense that the publishing house was no longer willing to absorb.
The sadness of today’s events is not simply with the loss of this magazine, but also with the loss of thorough, intelligent coverage of food, agriculture, restaurants, chefs and home cooks. In a world of sound bites and blogs, condensed recipes and simple examinations of the most sophisticated topics, Gourmet was a beacon of light.
What will replace Gourmet?
The realistic answer? Most likely, we will never witness the likes of this publication again. The abbreviated nature of the food blog has trained our eyes to quickly scan topics, and quickly move along. Our information arrives in a snippit and rarely is there any reflection or analysis.
Case in point: Other than a cookbook, when was the last time you read about an acutal BOOK on an online food site? Ms. Reichl has published many volumes describing her life as a food critic in New York, warm and witty recollections certain to entertain the reader with even the least little bit of interest in the food world. The most recent food critic of the New York Times, Frank Bruni, recently published a novel about his personal relationship with food. Exactly one local food blog covered the novel, through a vidoetaped interview with the former critic. It would appear that we are all so busy writing – writing our own opinions, that is – that we are simply too busy to actually obsorb the words and wisdom of others.
Just this week, I completed Ms. Reichl’s latest novel, “Not Becoming My Mother.” A poignant and often devastating recollection of her relationship with her own mother, the novel offers a glimpse of the early years in the life of a woman that eventually became one of the most revered and respected members of today’s food literati. At the close of the novel, Ms. Reichl observes that her mother granted life’s most important lesson – “in the end you are the only one who can make yourself happy. More important, Mom showed me that it is never to late to find out how to do it.”
Ms. Reichl reflected upon the origins of her own passions, the relentless education that led to sosphisticated knowledge and the brilliance to share this knowledge with her public. So, too, must today’s young writers continue to READ and LEARN from MASTERS of this craft. Their brilliance, their talent, their writing, their observations, their questions, their ENDLESS INSPIRATION is what makes us all better people. It is the magic of the written word that allows us to reflect upon ourselves, to improve ourselves, and to rejoice in the contributions that we each bring into this world. Food writing has the potential to be the most beautiful, erotic, exotic, intoxicating literature. Today’s young, talented bloggers and food writers are mistaken to overlook the brilliance of the masters, to deprive themsleves of the sublime inspiration that arrives in their words. To be lifted to a higher place by a writer is the greatest joy afforded by literature. To approach that realm, young writers must continue to allow themsleves to be moved, and lifted, by the brilliant words of the past. Even if those words arrive in a hard cover novel long since out of print. The feeling of closing that last page…of that final sigh…that final acknowlegment of embracing brilliance can only arrive through the written word; Indeed, through “established writers and exhaustive reporting.”
To Ms. Reichl, I say a very heart felt THANK YOU. For years, I have opened each issue of Gourmet to read the Editor’s letter, always a personal, touching story that each month somehow managed to relate universal truths. I plan to begin re-reading all of her previous novels as well. I fully expect that I will be just as entertained, transported and transformed as I was the first time that I read them.
Gourmet will be sadly missed.
And Ms. Reichl? We eagerly await your next post.
Hopefully, it will not be a fifty word blog post or a 140 character tweet. We want to READ the ENTIRE STORY.