Yesterday, the front page of The New York Times announced the end of an era. As a society, we’ve cast our consumerist vote against “lavish,” food, as the Times termed it. In doing so, we’ve silenced an outlet for artful writing, thoughtful cooking and a publication, which demanded its readers to genuinely think and become conscious and curious culinarians, replacing it with 30-minute meals, convenience and celebrity infatuation. As a result, Gourmet Magazine will be ceasing publication after its final November issue due of dwindling readership and the loss of key advertisers.
There is no doubt that someone like Rachel Ray is more accessible to most readers. Gourmet, even the name, suggests an elitist, unattainable quality. There is nothing inherently “wrong” or “bad” about a 30-minute meal, or the Food Network. I expect that their popularity has encouraged thousands of Americans to light up their stoves, rather than their microwaves, and move beyond meals of Hamburger Helper or Easy Mac.
The problem exists when Every Day with Rachel Ray becomes a cultural replacement for Gourmet. Gourmet strived to offer more than just a recipe. With careful deliberation, its editorials examined human experiences, politics, worldly travel, and our individual relationships with food. In losing Gourmet, we have lost a major alternative to hastily putting together a plate for dinner and collectively lowered our standards of intelligence. The articles were lengthy, the words were too big, the recipes too challenging, and the content too heady. This was its crime.
The decline and fall of Gourmet testifies to the national epidemic of complacency. The implications suggest that our vote will always fall in favor of convenience and simplicity, but as we begin to loose our alternatives to the 30-minute meal, we allow convenience to become idleness and translate simplicity into illiteracy. As we do so, we weaken ourselves and limit our perspective.
If elitism entails lengthy, but evoking, discussions, exposure to interesting ideas, foods and places, and the advocacy of thought, I’d rather be an elitist. Although yesterday a major loss occurred, it is important to remember that it is still up to us what we consume, not only as food, but as food for thought.