Good Reads

2 Nov

Do you love magazines? I do. A lot. And I subscribe to a large handful of them, all on paper (Santa hasn’t brought me an iPad yet–sniff). Lots of those are food magazines, and I thought we’d chat about them this morning.

My all-time favorite and the one I’ve subscribed to the longest is Cooking Light. I like this one because, for the most part, the recipes are made with real ingredients–things your grocery store carries and things you’re likely to already have in the house. They don’t taste diet, they’re easy to follow, and they’re very nicely photographed. I also like the product tips, the fitness advice, and the lifestyle articles in this one, and it’s the only one I read cover to cover as soon as it arrives at my house. Lots and lots of ideas in this one, and as a bonus, their website is easy to search and navigate for specific ingredients or meals. Love, love, love.

Second on my list is Bon Appetit. There is nothing diet about this one–it’s all about amazing food, butter and cream and sugar and all. That’s not to say you won’t find roasted chicken and vegetables in here, because you will. This is the magazine I page through slowly, drooling at the gorgeous photos and dreaming up elaborate dinner parties (that I never throw–ah well) in my head. These also stick around my house the longest because the magazine is beautiful and a delight to peruse. The recipes are well-tested, and there’s a fantastic technique school section in the back that explains basic tricks to those who are new to the whole cooking-from-scratch thing.

Third? Food Network Magazine. Seriously. Super fun to read, with a light, happy tone and lovely photography. The recipes are easy to follow and run the gamut from healthy to dietary disaster, and most are very easy to make using regular ingredients and the pans you already have. There are photo spreads on celebrity chef home kitchens (droooooool, but it’s interesting to see where lots of them have the same basic stuff as the rest of us), really interesting interviews and features, and they have a fantastic website that’s easy to navigate. I adore this relative newcomer.

Real Simple has some lovely recipes, and it’s a great magazine for general reading as well. I’ll be honest–their ideas of clothing bargains are not the same as mine and once in awhile I shake my head at the liberal use of convenience foods (sodium, anyone?), but I get some great ideas for family meals in here, and their organizational tips are first-rate. Great gift ideas inside as well, and every so often there are unbeatable kitchen bargains to be had in their special offers. While it’s not a cooking magazine per se, it is among my favorites, and my copies are well-worn by the time they hit my recycling bin several months after publication.

I subscribed to Food & Wine last year to fill a void (more on that in a second), and I have to say, it’s just not me. It’s a lovely magazine, don’t get me wrong, but it’s a bit high-brow for this working mom of two. Ingredients aren’t always standard grocery store fare, and rare are the days I have an hour to stand over a pot, tho it’s a nice fantasy. I’ve never made a recipe out of it and don’t intend to renew my subscription. Nothing personal–they do a great job at what they do. It’s just that what they do doesn’t fit in with what I do, you know? Perhaps after retirement.

I subscribe to Martha Stewart Living thanks to a deal I got through one of those bargain email lists–I think I paid $3 per year for three years or something. It’s fun to read and beautiful, but let’s be totally honest: nobody cares how my fitted sheets look in the linen closet and I’m not going to spend three hours making them Ritz Carlton perfect. I don’t starch (who are we kidding–I don’t iron), I don’t crochet my own lace, I don’t raise farm animals, and I don’t make my own pie dough (shocked? Seriously, gang, the rolled dough from Pillsbury is among the greatest inventions of our time, and we should all bow down to it). It’s a lovely magazine in theory but, again, doesn’t fit my life so much. That said, I do enjoy reading it and I get a lot of ideas that I scale down to fit our family, so it’s worth the cost and the paper.

Martha has another magazine too–Everyday Food–that’s nice enough. I got it for a year and always flipped through it. But I never cooked anything from it. I also didn’t like the little format of it, which was too hard to open on a countertop if you did want to cook from it. This one’s probably worth picking up in the checkout line, though, because the problems between it and me are largely on my end, I’m sure.

The great food magazine void, as far as I’m concerned, happened when Gourmet ceased paper publication awhile back. I loved Gourmet. Loved it like I love few publications. It was gorgeous and lived up to its title in the quality of its recipes, but it was also accessible to the kitchen hobbyist and very do-able on a layman’s stovetop and budget. At the moment, archives are available on the website and they have an e-magazine that’s available on the iPad (elitist much, guys? Sheesh.), but that’s not an option for me or lots of other people. And so I look at my final, unopened issue in my magazine basket and sigh heavily, unable to mar its plastic over-wrap, and hope some deep-pocketed foodie will resurrect it for the masses someday. Sooner rather than later, please.

That brings us to the magazine I cancelled this morning. (Rant ahead–you’ve been warned). And that is Every Day with Rachael Ray. It’s a pretty magazine, in a dizzying, too-much-on-the-page kind of way. I don’t think I’m the target demographic judging by its design, which is clearly more for 20-somethings than those of us a decade or two beyond that stage. The recipes are simple enough, albeit not always what one would call healthy. But what killed me on this one was a letter they sent with their November issue. I quote:

“This edition is so big, in fact, that we are treating it as a special issue that will count as two of your subscriber issues, so the duration of your subscription will be adjusted accordingly.”

Did you get that? They made a big magazine and decided their subscribers could eat the cost and be docked a full issue as a result. Lucky lucky us!

Sorry, kids, but that’s shoddy business. If I paid for 12, I get 12, even if you went to town on Thanksgiving with your Biggest Issue Ever! You can’t come in after the fact and subtract stuff that we already paid for. And I, for one, am offended that they’d try to pull this over with an upbeat, exclamation-point-laden letter that tells us how totally awesome this rip-off is. Thumbs way down on this one, and I am done. Subscription canceled.

So that’s my list of food magazines. If you read one you love, I’m all ears–tell us in the comments!

5 Responses to “Good Reads”

  1. jodiemo November 2, 2011 at 9:21 am #

    I love this post!! I too was lost after the end of Gourmet. I still cherish every single issue I ever got and still look through that last Thanksgiving issue every year, wishing it was a new issue. The online version just isn’t the same. Bon Appetit comes close, but still not the same. I love your opinions of the rest of these mags and I agree with all of them. I can’t believe the Rachel Ray mag wanted to jip you out of an issue! I would be pissed too.
    I might add Taste of Home magazine to the list of good magazines. I’ve been reading them for over 15 years and while the recipes aren’t cutting edge, I haven’t had a bad one yet and I can always find the ingredients I need, even in my rinky dink small town.

  2. Jenni November 2, 2011 at 9:21 am #

    I have most of these subscriptions and canceled Everyday with Rachael Ray a while back as well. Something about it just didn’t click with me. Thank you for your editorial on food magazines, I love it!

  3. Judy November 2, 2011 at 10:20 am #

    Ruth Reichl was the only editor whose letter I read every month in Gourmet. I miss Gourmet immensely–its beauty, relativity–I read it cover to cover. When Bon Appetit was sent as its substitute, there was no consoling me, it is just NOT the same. Neither is GourmetLive. A couple of months ago they revamped Bon Appetit, got a new editor (who writes readable letters), and has earned a renewal from me for now.

    I know what you mean about Food & Wine, a little snooty, but there is wine involved, so there you go (few people believe their own press more than wine snobs).

    For me, Cooks Illustrated is still hold the place of most practical, but not the most fun read. Fine Cooking is my new favorite, the only one close to filling the gaping void left by Gourmet’s exit. Beautiful, practical, inspiring, and challenging — if you are looking for something to replace Rachael Ray’s, I highly recommend it.

    Great post!

  4. juliesaysyay November 2, 2011 at 12:25 pm #

    Another magazine addict, love this post.

    I’m rather stunned at that move by Everyday W/ RR. Especially with the suffering going on in the mag industry, it just seems monumentally stupid.

    I had to laugh at your take on Everyday Food. The size gets me as well! They don’t stack or store properly and they almost need their own little space. Such a distraction. But leave it to Martha, as a reuse idea I made her magazine Christmas trees last year and the Food mags were perfect for making staggered sizes:

    I did one of those 3 for 1 deals when I got MSL and Food, and I will say her Whole Living isn’t bad either, especially for healthy recipes. Probably won’t renew, but I did make a few dishes from it.


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