Thursday, October 08, 2009

Gourmet is Dead...and so I'm eating Ego Waffles.

Gourmet's been dead since Monday and the slew of internet opinions on the subject have been a lot of fun to read. Today my favorite is this one, and I encourage you to go read it while I try to write a personal statement*.

*How does anyone write these things without sounding like a total self-centered jerk? Anyway, I work for a food magazine (sometimes) and the Gourmet news is HUGE to us so that's all I can really think about, so let's see how this whole personal statement thing shakes out.

Here's my favorite comment from the reader section:

"I love Cook's Illustrated, and I have begrudging respect for Christopher Kimball (I always deduct points for bowties unless you're Chuck Bass). And while I agree that the Internet has created a whole new class of pseudo experts -- which kind of makes me wish I hadn't closed down my blog for fear that I was a fraud -- I think he's willfully ignoring the good things that have resulted from this tiny revolution.

The web, along with the countless home-cook shows that have sprung up on cable channels, has demystified and de-elited the world of cooking for many of us. A lot of people don't take risks and don't try to advance their skills in the kitchen because of low self-confidence and the fear that some obnoxious chef will swoop in and declare that they will never be chefs, only mere cooks. I won't bother defending Rachael Ray's personality or credentials, but Anthony Bourdain's dismissal of her left a sour taste in my mouth because it wasn't just a cruel thing to say, it was a dig at all of us who love food but for any number of reasons haven't received formal training. (Incidentally, it's why I adore Mark Bittman and Julia Child. No pretensions and no "beginners need not apply" declarations; only real love for food and cooking.)

I've learned how to truss a chicken, deglaze a pan, make flavorful sauces, roast a rib-eye to perfection and make compound butter because of no-name food bloggers. Those tasks are all actually quite easy, but what learning how to do them did for me was to give me the confidence to adjust recipes as I cooked, come up with my own ideas and serve my creations without the nervous disclaimers that usually accompanied even the most basic meals I used to make.

Gourmet was a beautiful magazine, one I read cover to cover for the past few years. But like Vogue, it was only a practical resource for the wealthy and cultured. For everyone else, it was pure fantasy: Isn't that beautiful? I want a farmhouse so I can serve a six-course meal to 10 people and we can all wear handknitted sweaters and drink brandy out of snifters while someone plays a mandolin. Maybe one day I'll be able to afford truffle oil and specialty herbs and those adorable organic baby vegetables and handcrafted cheese instead of whatever's on sale at the grocery store.

I'm not saying there isn't a place for that, or that people with the resources and time to craft such elegant meals don't deserve to have a publication that serves their needs. But if there were actually as many people like that as Conde Nast thought there were, Gourmet wouldn't have gone out of business."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I hated how everything was always photographed in the dark. I don't want to eat a hamburger in a cave!