Hearing that Gourmet Magazine has died is like learning about the end of Webster's Dictionary, the Washington Monument or Growing Pains re-runs; one less venerable pillar of civilization—even one ignored for years—leaves our world a little less solid.
Or stolid anyway.
I learned how to write cursive from the cover of Gourmet. My earliest big media memory was of the ubiquitous copies of Gourmet my mother would stack in huge towers on our living room table, until eventually they thought to sell her big blue binders so she could keep them forever, their volumes supplying our family with endless blueprints for Stuffed Mushroom Caps, Turkey Curry and Spanakopita.
Beyond my family meals however, along with Julia Child and Alice Waters, we have Gourmet to thank for the foodie revolution, thanks to which we're not all going out in suits and ties to pay 150 dollars for a plate of Chicken ala King and a baked potato with a fruit Jell-O dessert.
According to its distressingly brief Wikipedia bio, Gourmet earned its permanent place in the media galaxy by laughing in the face of America's fight against fascism in Europe and the Pacific. After debuting in 1941, going head to head against the then dominant American Cookery magazine, Gourmet made the critical decision in its infancy at the outbreak of WWII not to scale back its recipes in acknowledgement of wartime rationing, but to continue to blithely push a menu of French-inspired excess. The decision brilliantly pushed American Cookery off the block and left Gourmet to reign as the undisputed dictator of our national cuisine until very very recently.
The magazine became a beacon of non-technical literary writing about food featuring, in its earliest days, series such as the great MFK Fischer's Alphabet For Gourmets right up to David Foster Wallace's classic essay, "Consider the Lobster" published in Gourmet in 2004.
In the recent years, under the stewardship of Foodie Exemplar Ruth Reichl, critics accused the magazine of failing to find the balance between "people who want to cook" and snooty foodies who want to read a bunch of high-falutin' prose stylings. My mother ended her subscription a few years ago. With more competition from Bon Appetit and the internet, Gourmet's position declined, until the tragic conclusion today.
Below take a trip through the memories of the Gourmet we'll never know again.