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Troubled Conde Nast Cuts 'Gourmet' Magazine

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

Now to another victim of financial troubles. Before there was the Food Network or Julia Child or Martha Stewart, there was "Gourmet" magazine. But after inspiring generations of chefs and home cooks alike, "Gourmet's" nearly 70-year run is coming to an end. Today, Conde Nast announced that it's shutting down "Gourmet" as well as three other magazines - "Modern Bride," "Elegant Bride" and the parenting magazine "Cookie" - because of declining ad revenue.

The loss of the country's oldest food magazine is a bitter thing indeed for many cooks, among them Lynne Rossetto Kasper, host of the public radio program "The Splendid Table." Lynne, are you brandishing a whisk in anger right now?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. LYNNE ROSSETTO KASPER (Host, "The Splendid Table"): I'm brandishing much more than a whisk right now. Yes.

BLOCK: Well, this is an upsetting thing for you.

Ms. KASPER: It is because first of all, these are my colleagues. And a lot of talented people are now out of work. Secondly, this was the mother of all American food magazines. I mean, "Gourmet" began back in the early 1940s by coincidence at the start of World War II. And I remember, I mean, I was a kid. I think I was reading "Gourmet" when I was 13.

BLOCK: No kidding.

Ms. KASPER: Yeah. And it was hysterical because when I think about it, it was about this world that was so unobtainable, but you loved hearing about it. It was sort of the "Harper's Bazaar," you know, of food. But the way that it's evolved is the thing that I find so interesting because back in the '40s, it was talking to the people who were essentially very interested in food. Most of them had traveled. They had money. But, and I should tell you, right now in front of me is the November 1944 issue of "Gourmet."

BLOCK: Oh, you brought in with you.

Ms. KASPER: Yeah, I brought it in with me. I collect everything. This is…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. KASPER: Yes, I know, what is this woman doing whipping this out? But the reality is that this is interesting. This is the Thanksgiving issue, right? This is during World War II. The cover is - they drew the covers then; there were no, there wasn't photography - it's a picture of maple syrup with a pile of pancakes.

And the only, I mean, there are Thanksgiving references, but there were stuffing recipes. That's the specific recipe at the time. And they're talking about Texas barbecue. It's so interesting. And the magazine evolved over the years. It became very much a Francophile publication with a lot of visits to the Far East, etc. And I think it went through what I think of as a dumb period, where you kept reading the same stories done by the same people.

But about 10 years ago, when Ruth Reichl took over "Gourmet," she took this magazine and she took an opportunity to redo a classic, and I think she did a bang-up job.

BLOCK: Well, it's interesting. I'm looking at a Twitter post from her. She says, I'm sorry not to be posting, she says, but I'm packing. We're all stunned, sad. Do you, though, do you think really need a printed magazine like "Gourmet"? Think about how people are using recipes online. You can get all of "Gourmet's" recipes online.

Ms. KASPER: But food isn't just recipes. Food is far more than recipes. Food is stories. Food is stories about people. Food's politics. Food's history. And "Gourmet" was bringing that all in and embracing it. And I loved the fact that I could open "Gourmet" today and/or, you know, a year ago and read about beach shacks selling fried fish in Rio, or about a great place in Wisconsin where I could get smoked mutton, or about something that, you know, you're looking at spending two bucks to make dinner. So, I miss the magazine.

BLOCK: You miss it already.

Ms. KASPER: I want to hold it in my hands. I want to drool over those pages.

BLOCK: Lynne, thanks very much for talking with us.

Ms. KASPER: You're welcome.

BLOCK: That's Lynne Rossetto Kasper, who hosts the public radio program "The Splendid Table." We were talking about the end of "Gourmet" magazine, announced today by Conde Nast. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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