The comment in my recent NYTs Op Ed piece on Gourmet that has raised the most ire was the one about abandoning the “ship of fools,” referring to the mass of unregulated internet chat about food and every other topic. So let me go back and make a few things a wee bit clearer:
1) Yes, I do believe that most of the food chatter on the internet is less than thoughtful, rarely inspired, and lacking the depth and expertise that, given a very busy day, I would like from a good food writer or blogger. But, yes, I have made many friends on Twitter and found many of the voices there better informed on coffee-making and similar topics that I am. Plus, some of you are actually quite funny.
2) However, this is a free marketplace, and anyone who can punch through the white noise of the web and actually get his or her voice heard is fine by me. This challenge to traditional media can be a good thing. These days, magazine editors are going to have to be much more responsive to their readers since ad dollars are scarcer.
3) What scares me the most, however, is that in a world without editors — just the unfiltered voices of millions — it can be harder to find insightful commentary and get at the truth. I am reminded of the legion of radio talk shows where the listeners are almost universally polemical and uniquely uninformed. In other words, I still miss Walter Cronkite. I also have zero interest in reading the public’s opinion regarding Iran, global warming, or the economy., For that, I will stick to the New York Times and a handful of folks who have spent a lifetime investigating these issues.
4) In terms of recipes, no, I do not believe in a Wiki website, with a community opining on recipes as a means of creating a valuable database. Making a recipe 75 times in a test kitchen under controlled circumstances (yes, this is deeply self-serving) is vastly better than the voices of millions under less the ideal circumstances, with kitchens with a host of different problems/equipment/etc. Go ahead and make that broccoli casserole off your Google search and see how you like it! In cooking, as in all things, there is a right way and a wrong way. Very little in life is truly relative.
Finally, the world changes as does media and every magazine has its run and its time. Gourmet provided a great deal of joy for many of us middle-aged cooks and it is still a sad passing, even if its day had come. Besides, we have good friends who worked there and are now out of a job. So, our best wishes to them, especially to Ruth and Doc Willoughby, my old comrade from the early days of Cook’s. And to those of you trying to get your voice heard on the web, you also have my best wishes but now you are going to have to compete in a crowded marketplace and win on the merits. What is good for the goose is, as they say, is good for the gander. (Boy, that makes me sound old!)