Last course

A foodie laments Gourmet magazine’s end

Henri is the food critic for SN&R’s sister paper in Chico.

I was devastated. Undone. How could they even do such a thing? Somehow it seemed personal—after all those years of loyalty and commitment.

Suddenly, Gourmet magazine was over.

Publisher Condé Nast announced last month that Gourmet—proverbial “Magazine of Good Living”—had become another fatality of the digital age, experiencing a 25 percent drop in ad revenue and a similar decline in circulation. After 75 years as the premier food-and-lifestyle magazine in the English language, Gourmet will shut off its burners for good. The November issue, on newsstands now, is its last.

Founded in 1941 by Earle R. MacAusland, Gourmet originally focused on recipes from editors and readers, as well as articles on food. Over the years, the magazine broadened its scope to include travel articles and essays—as well as pieces on wine and cocktails—but almost always with a food angle. While some fault the magazine for being slick and elitist, the editors and writers usually found ways to show the connections between those things that make us all human.

I remember Lolis Eric Elie’s moving testament to a beleaguered New Orleans’ restaurateurs, who had the vision and courage to rebuild in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. And Carolynn Carreno’s memoir of visiting her grandparents’ Tijuana home and joining three generations in a tamales-making assembly line at Christmas—and by so doing reconnecting with her Mexican heritage.

As Ruth Reichl, editor since 1999, says, “There’s no better way to experience a culture than to stand at the stove with a wonderful cook.”

I subscribed to Gourmet off and on—mostly on—over the last 25 years or so, and the magazines found me in pensiones and apartments and hotel rooms around the world, from Bangkok, Thailand, to Barcelona, Spain, and here in Northern California. Of course, it wasn’t always prudent to take them with me when I moved, so I always made sure they found good homes, offering them as gifts to friends, neighbors and favorite chefs. I shared a storage shed in a small Midwestern hometown, my side of which was piled nearly to the ceiling with back issues.

Of course, Gourmet will live on, reinventing itself, adjusting to these troubled times. Reichl has just published a new cookbook, Gourmet Today, with more than 1,000 recipes from the magazine’s test kitchens, and Gourmet recipes will continue to be available online at Also last month, Reichl launched the PBS television show Adventures With Ruth, where she travels the world with celebrities, including Frances McDormand and Dianne Wiest, in search of ingredients, recipes and menus from a wide variety of cultures.

Over the years, the November Gourmet usually highlighted turkey, often from a particular region or culture, with an elaborate assortment of side dishes and suggested wines and other beverages. This final issue is no different, the menu from the American South—including crab hush puppies with tartar sauce, oyster casserole, smoked sausage jambalaya, braised turnip greens, cheddar corn muffins with jalapeño butter and bourbon pumpkin pie.

The turkey itself is cooked simply—as it should be—roasted and served with cream gravy. The recipes are in the current issue and online.

An inconvenience? Perhaps. A sad dirge? Not at all. As mon père, the late Etienne Alain Bourride, used to say, “When one oven door closes, another opens.”