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reading tiger

Reading Wednesday Gets Cooking, Plus Sex Is a Funny Word

The end of the month is when all my cooking magazines arrive in a bunch. So that's what I've been reading this week. I thought that this time around, I'd take a moment to discuss each of them in turn, as we enter the deep twilight of the print magazine's existence. Spoiler: it shows.

For a while, the late, lamented ecookbooks.com was giving away a free subscription to Bon Appetit with every purchase of $50 (iirc) or more. If you were already a subscriber like I was, the free year was just tacked on to the end of your subscription. As a result, I have somewhere around a five to ten year free subscription to the magazine. Which is the only reason I am still reading it today.

A couple years ago Bon Appetit got a new editor, a man, and an accompanying editorial shakeup and redesign. After a couple stumbles (see my post about the cover they did with Gwyneth Paltrow back in 2011), they settled on a tone and style for the "bold new direction" of the magazine that can basically be boiled down to "Maxim as food magazine." I am not by any means the first to complain about the bro-ification of this new incarnation. There are no long reads. Every fucking article is a set of disconnected bullet points accompanied by lots of big photos and snazzy graphics and wacky fonts and shit. The content is thin enough to spread on a piece of toast. And the recipes have definitely headed in the direction of attention-grabbing and overly simple at the same time -- the worst of American cooking, all flash and "bold flavors" and show-offishness. This is my least favorite of all the major food magazines and I as soon as my free years expire, I am out of here.

Alas, I have also started to be consistently disappointed by my heretofore-favorite food magazine, Saveur. It, too, seems to have moved away from long reads a bit, and perhaps a touch toward celebrity chefs, which I could be less interested in but only if I tried. Their "Saveur 100" issue is always great, though.

The best of the lot, these days, would be Food and Wine except for one thing, which is funny because a few years ago this is the one I was thinking of dropping. Mostly, though, because I have no interest in the "and wine" (and beer, and spirits) part of the magazine -- this is the "one thing" that keeps it from the peak. They are enamoured of celebrity chefs, it's true -- I mean, they're the "Best New Chefs" folks, after all. But their recipes are consistently excellent in terms of flavor and clearly-explained technique. Also, Food and Wine's articles are more fun to read than anyone else's.

At the top of the pile in terms of pure cooking value is Fine Cooking, whose articles are 100% practical and down-to-business, but the magazine is always full of good ideas and step-by-step pictorials teaching you not only individual recipes but processes by which you can endlessly vary a type of dish depending on your tastes and the ingredients you have on hand.

And now to change the subject completely:

My long-awaited copy of Sex is a Funny Word by Cory Silverberg arrived in the mail yesterday and I immediately read it cover to cover because I knew the kids would want to look at it immediately. This is the middle-grade successor to Silverberg's phenomenal What Makes a Baby, which explained babymaking and birth in inclusive, gender-neutral language. The book that made room for artificial insemination and C-sections for the preschool set. I love What Makes a Baby to pieces and I cannot recommend it highly enough to everybody.

Sex is a Funny Word is just as good -- although much, much longer. It's got the same artist, Fiona Smyth, and the same bright colors. And it quite thoroughly answers the question "what is sex(y)?" from a variety of perspectives and with a true cultural sensitivity that I just don't often see. It makes space for multiple perspectives and reactions. And, yes, it makes space for alternative sexualities and gender-creative folks, too. And it encourages questions.

As predicted, April grabbed it off her desk and made it about 1/4 through last night.

I think it's so cool, I'm including a buy it here link (although right now it seems to be out of stock at the publisher) and an image of the cover.


Thanks for the book rec! that looks great.

We get Cooks Illustrated and I genuinely enjoy reading it each month.
I have issues with Cook's Illustrated. Geeks love it because their explanations of why they do what they do are sound, but I find that they either go off the rails (we eliminated the cinnamon in oatmeal cookies because reasons!) or add one too-fussy step to a recipe too often for my taste. Plus their insistence on "grocery-store ingredients" is increasingly outdated even in the middle of the country and totally pointless here in the Bay Area.