Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Requiem for "Gourmet" Magazine

You would think we would be used to the collapse of old media darlings. Still the news that Conde Nast will cancel Gourmet magazine came as a bit of a shock to me.

First, a confession. I was a Bon Appetit reader and subscriber back in the early 80's. My mom and I would buy individual copies in the grocery store, and after awhile, we realized it would be cheaper to just get a subscription.

A few years ago, I subscribed again. I was surprised by how few recipes remain in the magazine. Back in the early 80's, when I was a subscriber, there were more recipes than I would have time to try in a month. Decades later as a subscriber for a year, I think I tried 10 recipes--and let the subscription lapse.

Since I'm not a Gourmet reader, I can't analyze what went wrong. Or maybe there was nothing wrong with the magazine itself. Maybe Conde Nast just needed more profits than they were getting. With the explosion of recipes on the Internet, why would anyone need a magazine anymore?

We sometimes forget how much of the nation doesn't have access to high speed Internet. A lush magazine can be a way for people to learn to cook. I already had a head start on cooking before my first subscription to Bon Appetit, but the magazine opened my mind to all sorts of possibilities: savory cheesecakes, breads from around the world, all sorts of international dishes.

I feel both sad and guilty about the state of the magazine world. I feel sad, because so many magazines were so important to me as I grew up, and I know that they're likely to cease publishing in the near future. But I feel guilty, because I'm letting my subscriptions lapses. I have a huge pile of magazines, which I never seem to have time to read. I feel like I don't have the right to feel sad, if I'm not going to support these magazines. But I also hate spending money on something for which I no longer have time.

Perhaps this task is one of the primary ones for people at midlife. We have to look at what we've been doing and decide if it's worth continuing. We have to examine our values to see if they're still working for us.

And maybe, it's time to reclaim some of our youthful activities that brought us joy. I'm in one of those cooking slumps, where I feel like I make the same few dishes over and over again. Maybe I need to buy a cooking magazine and try something wildly outside of my comfort zone.

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