By this time you will have heard that Gourmet, which has been published continually since 1941 and which has published almost every important food writer of that time, from MFK Fisher to Francis Lam, is no longer to be published; November '09 will be the last issue.
We started reading Gourmet when we were a young teenager, say 1973 or thereabouts. A lot of histories will tell you that Gourmet's editorial style was Thurston-Howell-The-Third foolish ("Lovey, come see if the hummingbirds are done!") until Ruth Reichl was hired as Editor-in-Chief in 1999. This may be funny but it isn't true; although there were always strains of the Howell breed in the magazine, from the middle 60's onward Gourmet tried to cope with the change in society around it. No more tawny beverages like scotch and bourbon; gourmets of the Johnson era were beginning to drink clear liquors, most notably vodka, and wine was coming from California and even New York State. Asian foods, as actually made in Asia, were getting to be important as well, and (in New York at least, and California too) a beautiful bit of untrifled-with beef or produce could be every bit as important as Noisette D'Agneau Arlesienne or Tripes a la mode du Caenne.
Our very first exposure to gourmet eating had come with Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe novels. The great detective, himself the creation of another era, employed a personal chef to produce a cuisine which, while centered in French traditions, also included American, Middle Eastern, German, British, and even African delicacies; in this as in all things, Nero Wolfe was a man of the world, without prejudice or snobbery.
From these novels and from Gourmet we learned that an enjoyment of food, and a knowledge thereof, wasn't silly or trivial; rather, it taught patience (in waiting for dough to rise, or for asparagus to come into season); introspection (which is more precious, a handful of truffle shavings to titillate the palate for one meal, or ten pounds of good rice to make dozens of meals delicious and nutritious?), the value of a well-thought-out opinion (sturgeon caviar was more expensive than salmon roe because it was more difficult to get, not because it necessarily tasted better), and the importance of an open mind (because maybe someone's Mom in Omaha--or Canton--did have a better way with kidneys than Escoffier ever thought of).
Rex Stout departed this mortal coil back in the '70's, but Gourmet went on and kept on teaching us about more than food. Today, we know the difference between good food and great food, pretty much because of Gourmet. We know where to shop for food, not because we've memorized lists from Gourmet, but because we've read thoughtfully and taste for ourself and formed our own conclusions.
Best of all, we know what to order and how to order it, mainly because Gourmet was there to educate us about "good living". We're going to miss it like hell and we're going to hope all of its talented creators find new jobs soon.
In a world where mediocrity rules--and it still does, maybe now more than ever--Gourmet was never afraid to be great.