Cookbooks have been enjoying record sales for a protracted period of time, and it’s not the pedestrian everyday meals peddled by Jamie and Nigella that I am referring to, but rather the highbrow gastronomic literature issued by the likes of the French Laundry, Heston Blumenthal et al. Granted, most are bought more for the aesthetic value gleaned from their artful design and apparently irreproachable photography, as well as the bragging rights associated with the book owner’s discerning proclivities, than for their actual practical application, because, really, have you ever tried to make one of The French Laundry’s dinners at home? And while I would have expected gastronomic magazines to ipso facto enjoy their moment in the sun-being cheaper to produce and buy, and having the appeal of easier-to-make recipes-has not really been the case, that is, until now.
because, really, have you ever tried to make one of The French Laundry’s dinners at home?
Don’t get me wrong. Gourmet Traveller, Vogue Entertaining, and a handful of other long-established titles have always enjoyed the patronage of their loyal readers. But as to the hip young things who are now buying KitchenAid appliances in droves, what would they feast their well-groomed eyes upon as precursor to their five-star meals? Enter a stable of independent food magazines, sharing as common denominators well-curated content, and all as-I might as well be describing gourmet coffee here-“small-batch, handmade with love, and artisanal” as the last.
Cult Melbourne magazine store Mag Nation’s Vali Valibhoy concedes to Jill Dupleix in the Australian Financial Review magazine (no slouch in the well-designed, beautifully-photographed departments themselves) that such magazines might be ‘niche’ but hastens to add that “you would never throw them out, but keep and collect them.” Ergo, of the 4,000 titles that are sold at Mag Nation, 200 are gastro-centric, of which Cherry Bombe, a biannual NYC publication that has as its raison d‘etre women and food, is one of the more prominent. Despite being priced at a not-inconsiderable tag of AUD45 each-that’s 140 of our rapidly downward-sliding ringgit, thank you very much-they are nevertheless more often than not sold out.
However, the star of this stage, niche or not, belongs firmly to Lucky Peach, which was founded by David Chang of Momofuku, boasts a circulation of 100,000, and although I’ve thumbed through its pages many times, I could never bring myself to cough out hard-earned cash for it. It’s not because it’s vapid – in fact, the content is incisive, thoughtful, exceedingly well-written, and has been described as “a reminder of print’s true wingspan” by The New York Times. Rather, my reluctance stems from a (well-founded) fear that once I plunge back into the cesspool of magazine-land, I know I may never emerge unscathed again.
Imagine then: niche magazines that you want to collect, and of food, no less?
As any child of the ’80s will tell you, we spent our youth embroiled in The Face, Arena, Vogue, and any number of foreign magazines because they were our enthralling link to a much cooler universe. A rather more unfortunate byproduct of that obsession was a gargantuan collection of magazines, which almost tore parental-child relations asunder when I refused to throw them out even after I had moved out of home. Imagine then: niche magazines that you want to collect, and of food, no less? That’s akin to offering heroin to a junkie who hasn’t had a fix for two days!
But I digress. Lucky Peach isn’t the solitary voice in a forager’s wilderness, because nestled cheek by (well-fed) jowl with them is the Swedish magazine FOOL, whose tagline “food, insanity, brilliance and love” may actually do the publication a disservice. Far from the food Pinterest of print-style publishing that many of its peers are guilty of, FOOL may have no recipes, but its inspirational content, like that of Lucky Peach, will doubtless ensnare many readers, food lovers or not, into a web that shows every sign of magnifying, Hulk-like, into a mainstream obsession.
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