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Globe Editorial

Gourmet Magazine, 1941-2009: A recipe for obsolescence

(Digital Illustration By Elaina Natario for The Boston Globe)
October 7, 2009

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4 cups culinary excellence
1 cup gorgeous photography
1/2 cup big-name bylines
bucketloads of money
3 live-in cooks

Whisk together first three ingredients in a glossy vessel, until Gourmet, “the magazine of good living,’’ begins to form. Pour in money liberally. Add cooks one by one as needed, but please note: some domestic help will be necessary for readers to achieve desired results.

Freeze magazine in mid-20th-century high-end lifestyle, even as center of American food scene shifts away from the globe-trotting gentry and toward home cooks with adventurous palates but limited means. Let stand as vast wasteland between Gourmet and Good Housekeeping fills with dozens of other choices - Bon Appetit for those seeking ambitious but practical recipes, Cooking Light for the health-conscious, Cook’s Illustrated for perfectionists in search of the optimal way to roast a ham.

Blanch magazine in dismal recession that ravages all advertising-supported publications. Scramble to add frugality-oriented features even at risk of undercutting core identity. Simmer at low boil as owner, heretofore profligate publishing firm Condé Nast, cuts costs across vast magazine empire and preserves less prestigious Bon Appetit at Gourmet’s expense. Let renowned title cool after nearly seven decades.

Serve as symbol of bygone vision of gourmet life in America - and as sign that even upmarket niches can be too confining.

4 cups culinary excellence
1 cup gorgeous photography
1/2 cup big-name bylines
bucketloads of money
3 live-in cooks

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