My long-standing love of food and cooking means that I’ve always been an avid reader of food / cooking magazines . At one time or another I’ve subscribed to every one of them or got them from the library. Some of them are no longer published and it’s a source of wonder to me that they’ve fallen by the wayside while others that I consider inferior are still going strong.
The first magazine that I subscribed to was Cuisine ( not Cuisine at Home )This was in the early eighties and, until recently, I had saved up about two years worth of issues before I finally decided to junk most of them . I still have two issues and looking at them , I see that the photographs, (such an important element in a food magazine ) were not as distinct or sophisticated as we are accustomed to today … cameras have improved a lot since the eighties .In every other respect , Cuisine fulfilled all my expectations . It didn’t focus exclusively on recipes but had interesting well-written articles about food history and exotic destinations and restaurants . I still remember an article about the Indonesian fried chicken at an obscure roadside restaurant in Java. The chicken was flattened out before frying and the author it looked as if it had been run over by a truck!
Unfortunately, Cuisine ceased publication in 1982 or thereabouts . There is a magazine of the same name in New Zealand , and it is apparently is very successful , but doesn’t seem to have any connection with my Cuisine .
Since then , I have read and subscribed to Bon Appetit , Food and Wine , Gourmet and Saveur at one time or another . Of the lot , I loved Gourmet the most and was surprised and disappointed when it ceased publication in 2009 or thereabouts, though a digital online version still exists . I particularly enjoyed it when Ruth Reichl took over as editor. Prior to that , I used to like the writing , particularly the columns by Jay Jacobs (New York restaurants ) and Caroline Bates ( California ) and the articles by Lillian Langseth – Christiansen , Mimi Sheraton , Geri Trotta , Madhur Jaffrey and others . Under Reichl, however , the quality of the writing went to another level altogether. A couple of the columnists I’ve mentioned were getting a little long in the tooth and their enthusiasms had become a little dated . With Reichl’s ascension , the articles became less Euro- centric , more global and more about food history and travel ( to places one might actually have been to , and not luxe’ hotels and restaurants ). The magazine became more literary even as the photographs ( always good) became even better.
Saveur was a close second favorite , very similar in content to Gourmet . The writing may not have been as good but there were even more , top quality photographs and in its early years it was truly global . I last read it about four years ago and, it seemed to me, that it focused more on Europe and America and was not nearly as global as it had been . I still have most of the first 50 issues and they are a delight .
Bon Appetit and Food and Wine did not have nearly the same attraction for me . Bon Appetit seemed to focus more on lifestyle than on food . One of its regular features was an article about a party thrown by some upper crust family ; much was made of the beauty of the house , the dinner service and the guests. The magazine was , in a word , snobbish. The focus was more on food and food presentation ; there was little about food history . Also, few of the articles ,( fewer anyway than Gourmet) were about Asian food , a particular interest of mine . Food and Wine , in my estimation , was like Bon Appetit and an added drawback for me was that I am not interested in wine ; a good part of the magazine , therefore , was only to be skimmed over.
Three other magazines that I have sampled are Cooks Illustrated , Cuisine at Home and Food Network magazine . All of these focus on recipes rather than food and those I can get off the internet. Cooks Illustrated is very good in the way it dissects recipes and provides a scientific explanation for the best cooking methods but it reads more like a scientific how-to magazine . Besides , its monochrome format is not appealing . For me , sharp colorful photographs are a must for any good food magazine . Cuisine at Home has much the same drawbacks though it does beautiful photographs. As for the Food Network magazine , I have already seen too much of these celebrity chefs on TV ; I don’t need to read about them too.
Two other magazines that I like , though not as much as Gourmet, are Taunton’s Fine Cooking and the Indian magazine Upper Crust . The latter tells me about places in India that I have never been to and regional specialties that I’ve never tried . What I don’t like about it is the way it fawns on the so-called upper crust , with each issue containing pages and pages of photographs showing the editor mingling with the rich and the uber-rich.
Right now , I only have a subscription to Bon Appetit , courtesy of my daughter’s airline mileage . When it expires , I will not renew because , these days, one can get all the information one wants about food and recipes from the blogosphere .