Garden & Gun nearly went the way of Gourmet. Another beloved magazine done in by the recession, the digital age, you name it. And if it had, what would take its place?
When Gourmet was shuttered, Bon Appetit issues were mailed as substitutes. (Not as bad as Bird Talk subscribers who are receiving Dog Fancy instead.)
Granted, publishers of more than one title can easily substitute one magazine for another. But there’s no printing more of another title to take the place of Garden & Gun. Not just because the staff didn’t give in to a big investor or mega-publishing house to stay afloat when its financial backing dried up in 2009.
This is Garden & Gun, and there is no suitable replacement, not really. Put it on the National Register of Historic Places so we never have to worry about losing it. It’s a treasure about a treasure: the best of the South, within its confines and beyond its borders.
Where else are you as likely to read about Loretta Lynn as Widespread Panic? Willie Nelson as Morgan Freeman?
Southern staples like fried chicken, boiled peanuts and cheese straws are celebrated in its pages. When Rick Bragg sings the praises of the shrimp po’boy, don’t be surprised if you start packing your bags (only a minor detail) and your vehicle steers you towards New Orleans.
Every issue covers everything from garden to gun, if you will, though the magazine really has little to do with either. (The title originated from the name of an old club in Charleston, where the magazine is located.)
Rather it’s food, it’s music, it’s regular folks who made it big. It’s artisans, it’s Southern voices telling stories we already know in lyrical prose. It’s every quirky and wonderful thing about a region and culture so misunderstood and often so poorly portrayed (thank you, Honey Boo Boo, et. al.)
Even its comeback story is so very Scarlett O’Hara: beautiful on the outside as it fights for survival on the inside. And ultimately, Garden & Gun did what the South was supposed to do: It rose again.
Perhaps this was no more evident than when the “national magazine about a region” notched a 2011 American Society of Magazine Editors award for general excellence. Or when the five-year-old publication showed good business acumen by diversifying.
There’s the Garden & Gun Club, which grants its members access to private events and retail discounts. There’s books in the works, and there’s even merchandise—a limited edition hunting tie and a Le Creuset dish in gunmetal gray coming just in time for the holidays.
So how do you capture the meaning and significance of Garden & Gun in just a few words? The answer is you don’t. Maybe it’s only fitting that it survived because you need issues upon issues full of them.