No Longer a Gourmet

The latest issue of Gourmet magazine has sat untouched on our kitchen table for the past two weeks. Even though I have been a Gourmet subscriber for more than 20 years, in recent months, I have realized that I really don’t look forward to reading it.

It’s not just because I have no interest in most of the recipes ““ I really don’t see myself whipping up Merlot-braised Lamb Shanks with Saffron and Rose Water for us and the kids. I drop it like a hot potato because the photographs and writing are so smug that I do a slow burn every time I start reading it.

This certainly wasn’t always the case. I used to savor every issue of Gourmet ““ delaying opening its plastic wrapper until I knew I could have a few minutes of uninterrupted time to scan the articles and read the editorial page. Then once I got into it, I loved discovering little tidbits that I had previously overlooked in the nooks and crannies of each issue. I would even highlight recipes in the index that I thought I might make. I rarely got around to it, but just thinking about it was diverting.

So is the reason I no longer enjoy reading it because the magazine has changed or I have changed? I think it’s both.

I began subscribing to Gourmet shortly after I got married. Back then I imagined I would regularly host dinner parties and serve meals that would elicit ooohs and awwws from the stylish guests who attended ““ much like the images in the magazine today. I was so invested in this fantasy that I registered two china and silver patterns (expensive every day stuff and outrageously expensive good stuff) only at Gump’s in San Francisco.

Fast forward through a couple of decades”¦I have long since turned over the few pieces of “good” china I received as wedding presents to a consignment store, and the only times we “entertain” are at Thanksgiving and Christmas which are much more like a down-home church potluck than an extravagantly staged dinner party.

It would seem that I could still enjoy the magazine as an art form much like a fashion magazine. No one ever imagines that they’re going to dress like the models in Vogue, but it’s still fun to look at.

However, changes in the magazine make it difficult to just appreciate the food. Flipping through an issue from 1992 (I have saved it because it has the biscotti recipe that I make every year for Christmas gifts), it strikes me that the magazine used to be more about food than lifestyle. Back then, there were never people pictured around the lavish table settings; the food was photographed in isolation from anyone consuming it.

But now, models have been added to the table scenes and their expressions, clothing, and “I’m so cool” attitude dominate the photos. However, it’s the declarative statements that accompany the pictures that really get my goat”¦cheese. Admonitions like, “For extra drama, take turns beating the egg whites by hand. At most dinner parties, guests miss the spectacle of a soufflé fresh from the oven.” They are so right, not only have my guests missed the soufflé fresh from the oven spectacle, they have missed the souffl锦 and the entire dinner party.

Or how about this description: “A lobster gelee shimmers, and the room becomes electric with the energy of a most festive feast.” You know, even without the lobster gelee, I find that a family of five with three cats and a large dog makes a room electric with energy.

Obviously, the editors at Gourmet are not talking to me. I must be the anomaly in their household income demographics because I’m not in the market for a Porsche, Mont Blanc watch (especially if Nicholas Cage is modeling it), or trinket from Tiffany’s. However, I guess the need for cat litter cuts across all economic lines ““ judging by the Scoop Away ad, even rich people have to deal with cat poop. Finally, something I could relate to.

So will Gourmet miss me when I don’t renew my subscription? I’m sure they won’t ““ they have much bigger poisson to fris.


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