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Is it a food magazine or a fan magazine?

jillp Feb 13, 2007 04:02 PM

This week I received the latest issues of issues of Food & Wine and Bon Appetit. I was dismayed to see that Food & Wine has "Secrets of the Hottest TV Chefs" on the cover and Bon Appetit has a Giada di Laurentiis cover story.

Now, I had decided some time ago not to renew my subscription to either of these magazines, but I am really astonished at the speed with which these publications are morphing into a sort of Tiger Beat for TV hosts.

I read food magazines to learn about food. I don't really care about the chefs.

  1. s
    shannoninstlouis Mar 8, 2007 11:27 AM

    When I began my subscription to BA it was mainly for the recipes. But, with epicurious, you can get them for free. I'm not really a visual person so I don't need all the lush photographs. No more BA for me!

    1. Withnail42 Mar 8, 2007 07:51 AM

      The March issue of Food and wine was quite simply LAME. Perhaps the reason for the ‘sellout’ had something to do with the ‘festival’ they co hosted with the Food Network in late February. I just don’t see how they can honestly be happy with the content.

      I am curious as to what the letters to the editor will have to say assuming they pick an honest cross-section. I know that not every issue can be a winner but this was simply something with which to line the bottom of the bird cage.

      1. w
        winebarb Mar 3, 2007 07:24 PM

        once again "hollywood" has taken over, it's not about the "meat and potatoes" of things, just what sells. these so called "chefs" are ridiculous. i guess it's all up to chow.com to keep it real.

        1. Andiereid Mar 1, 2007 07:07 AM

          I subscribe to Saveur, Food and Wine, Bon Appetit and Fine Cooking. The only one I look forward to getting is Fine Cooking. Saveur has recipes from all over creation that don't impress me much, with ingredients that are hard to find (heck am I going to get thistles, for example?) It seems to be more travel-oriented than cooking to me. Food and Wine is just dull - I can glean a few decent recipes out of it, but I don't find it terribly compelling. Bon Appetit seems to lean more and more toward lifestyles of the rich and famous and advertisements, and their recipes are often rehashes of the same stuff they've been doing for the past 15 years I've subscribed. I gave up on Cook's Illustrated a long time ago. It absolutely bores me to tears, and I never found the recipes to be any better than anywhere else, despite their exhaustive testing.

          Fine Cooking, however, I love. The pictures are inspirational, they do a lot of food item ideas that aren't straight recipes (here are five things you can do with cauliflower, etc.), and I find most of their recipes to be good, reasonably imaginative, and reliable.

          I'm letting all the other subscriptions lapse. Most of them I have because of friends' kids who are selling magazines to raise money for school stuff. I suppose most of these beat "People", but it's a lot of recycling.

          1. Candy Feb 28, 2007 04:03 PM

            Picked up the newest Bon Appetite this afternoon. Did not want to go to MDs office without something to read. Seemed to be mainly about advertising with a little food and Giada on pizza thrown in, I know how to make good pizza. I told my DH it is just not worth $12/year. He looked at the cover price and pointed out I paid a quarter of that anyway. I did point out that I was only sendinng 1/4 of the amount of paper to recycling, tomorrow.

            1. Carrie 218 Feb 28, 2007 02:37 PM

              There were two huge things that started happening at F&W that got me miffed. For starters, Lettie Teague's wine articles for the bulk of last year had her visiting spots all over Europe with some wine guru named Scott Manlin. Then she has this lamenting article about how she is getting a divorce and has to research wine storage. I mean, I want to read about WINE, not their writers' personal problems!

              Second, there was this poorly written piece by Julie of the Julia/Julie blog about how she is trying to learn how to made video blogs. Why? Well, F&W has recently announced they are promoting video blogs! Gosh, what a surprise!!! Julie has never impressed me much and their constant internal promotion really gets me.

              I do, however, enjoy the articles written by Paula Wolfert. While I have a subscription, I am now thinking of just waiting for her articles to show up and buy them off the stand. She always does a ton of research and I love her recipes.

              6 Replies
              1. re: Carrie 218
                s
                Scott Manlin Mar 4, 2007 08:06 AM

                He is no "guru' but a guy who likes wine and has fun travelling to various regions. As for the storage article, that was just a hook to make it relevant. I actually enjoyed that piece. There is ton wine coverage in F&W for those that care, Lettie's column is about things she thinks is relevant...I can't see how that would not be influeneced by one's personal perspectives and circumstances..

                For the record (we went to Europe twice, Chablis and Tuscany)...she had at least 11 columns last year... so "bulk" is a bit exaggerated. Hope it improves for you....

                1. re: Scott Manlin
                  Carrie 218 Mar 4, 2007 05:19 PM

                  Fascinating. And thanks for responding, Scott. Speaking for myself alone, it just seems that the "hook" of a divorce is a bit personal for a national magazine -- I could understand if she were writing that perspective for a local newspaper, but the entire tone seemed ill-placed for her current venue. For information about wine, I find her articles to often be a bit too self-possessed in general. I find I have to trudge through much banality before getting insightful information. And, in reviewing many of her past year's articles, her writing style is rather odd with many disjointed comments (read: too many commas and parenthesis as though she has difficulty getting a cohesive thought together). But perhaps that is the English teacher in me just being a tad critical of her writing style...

                  1. re: Carrie 218
                    s
                    Scott Manlin Mar 5, 2007 06:29 AM

                    You have to know Lettie to understand, but I can understand why you might think it is different to talk so openly about oneself. But she is "ok" with it, so I don't understand why others wouldn't be. Not to mention, the need for storage was real, so the timing was apt.

                    She does have a different style, but one that I think (and many others as well) is funny and clever and I think she does and excellent job of capturing the experience and personalities involved, even if it is a bit of a caricature of the person.

                    The magazine has a lot of wine coverage which is more factual and specific to wines and tasting notes, however her column is an opinion piece that is related to, but not entirely about, wine. Since it is "her" column and about "her" viewpoints, you cannot escape having some level of "self-possession" reflected therein. I am sorry you don't enjoy them, but from my perspective, having been a participant, I find the trips and the stories very entertaining. As for the "style," it is indeed different, but too much sameness is incredibly boring as well. Let me know what you think of the April and May columns..

                    1. re: Scott Manlin
                      Carrie 218 Mar 22, 2007 05:06 PM

                      Scott, because you asked, I have read Lettie's April column with great interest. I'm assuming you will be interested since, once again, as you have been specifically named within the article.

                      I believe I have finally determined exactly what I believe the problem to be with Lettie's writing style. While you have undoubtedly spent time with her in person, I believe there is something inherently disjointed in the way she speaks. This may not come across when she is physically speaking as she can add fluctuation to her voice for emphasis and there is the fact that the flow of words from one's mouth can come across far more pleasant that if those words are exactly transcribed onto a page.

                      However, when she writes, what comes across is a series of disjointed thoughts -- or simply, after thoughts. In her April article, there were no less than 22 (TWENTY TWO!) parenthetical statements! Granted, a few of those were vintage years of wines she was writing about, but to me it shows an immense lack of organization.

                      From insight, I know that most feature articles in magazines are roughly 5,000 words and if I went to any college-level professor with an article that contained 22 parenthesis, it would be red-marked to kingdom come. Well, my last statement would be red-marked for usage of a colloquialism, but that is beside the point. Some of her parenthetical comments refer to WalMart and soccer stars - for what purpose? They demean the reader.

                      Here is an example. On page 140, the second paragraph of the second section, Lettie writes:
                      "David and his partner, Karen Williams, have their own allocations of such hard-to-get wines thanks to their friendships with producers (they specialize in finding future California superstars), but they don't necessarily sell all these wines."

                      Here is how I would re-write that sentence:
                      "David and his partner, Karen Williams, who specialize in finding future California superstars, have their own allocations of such hard-to-get wines thanks to their long friendships with producers. But they don't necessarily sell all these wines."

                      By separating the two statements, the emphasis is put on the fact that the Williams' specialize in scoping out superstars and don't that they don't necessarily sell all the wines they get. In her sentence, their specialty appears to be an after-thought.

                      I hope I have adequately explained why I feel her articles are sub-standard. Yes, the information she is providing is useful. But since you know her, perhaps you can tell her to lessen the amount of after-thoughts she interjects or re-structure her sentences to be more cohesive.

                      Cheers.

                      1. re: Carrie 218
                        h
                        Hungry Celeste Mar 26, 2007 06:54 AM

                        Thanks, Carrie, for pointing out that some magazine readers do still care about writing!

                        1. re: Carrie 218
                          s
                          Scott Manlin Mar 26, 2007 07:55 AM

                          Carrie

                          While I understand your point from a literature or more formal perspective, her style is one of fun and certainly ingrained with her personal perspective on things. While I can understand that you find her over use of parentheses as problematic from a grading perspective, from a market perspective it had quite the opposite effect. Her column is one of the many features that is constantly praised by readers and winos alike. I was a big fan of Lettie long before I met her. In fact, her column on the fun of Magnums still resonates with me. I find her style quirky, witty and a change of pace from traditional journalism and its conversational tone a joy to read (regardless of whether I am in the column).

                          As for the parentheses, both she and I would agree with you that she tends to be generous with their use, but it provides, at least to me, an interesting interjection into the statement. While your correction is technically correct, I feel it lacks a personality of style. That isn't to say it is not effective, it just is so normal. I don't turn to Food & Wine for journalism, but for interesting takes on things that interest me. I think more formality in this context might border on boring (but that is just me). I think her interjections serve two purposes; they provide a bridge to past ideas or column and they provide a link to current events, as it was in the case of the footballer. There is an element of flow to her style, which you call disjointed, whereas I might call it free-form. I don't think it comes from a lack of organization or effort, because I know how much time she puts into her work, but rather it is just a pure reflection of her style. I totally understand your points, perhaps I am guilty of just not caring that much about formal writing. I have always been a numbers guy. :)

                          Thanks for taking the time to read it and comment. I look forward to your thoughts on the May column as that one has already been put to bed. There may still be hope for June that some of her parentheticals can be reduced, but it may, as well, be too late for that column. Let's hope for progress in July (if you can call it that). I don't make use of parentheses all that often, but attempted to for your sake, however I will admit, I am an unabashed abuser of elipses...

                2. j
                  JudiAU Feb 17, 2007 08:18 PM

                  "Tiger Beat for TV hosts" that is very funny!

                  1. c
                    ClaireWalter Feb 16, 2007 10:54 AM

                    If you let a subscription lapse because the magazine has changed in ways you do not like, and would renew if if returned to the old format/content, drop a note to the editor and/or publisher to that effect. Otherwise, they have no idea why renewals are dropping off.

                    1. d
                      dinwiddie Feb 15, 2007 05:14 AM

                      They are in the business of selling magazines. They change as the tastes of the readers change. If you don't like the direction they are going, then by all means don't renew (I'm letting my BA subscription lapse) but don't think that it will affect the way they go, they go with what sells. Right now, personalities sell. Consider how much buzz that stupid show Top Chef got on this board.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: dinwiddie
                        Robert Lauriston Feb 15, 2007 11:31 AM

                        Actually, magazines are in the business of selling advertisements, or more specifically of delivering specific reader demographics to advertisers.

                        If you look at the ads, you can tell what the magazine is really about. If the ads are for ingredients, wine, appliances, and kitchen equipment, they're aimed at cooks. If they're for travel, they're aimed at gastronome travelers.

                        Food & Wine is an exception to the rule, since its publisher is in the credit card business. Selling ads might be secondary to promoting use of the AmEx card.

                      2. Tee Feb 15, 2007 05:04 AM

                        If I am not mistaken F&W had Al Roker's (!!!) chili recipe on the cover.
                        Now that is disturbing as he seriously gives me the willies.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Tee
                          c
                          cooknKate Feb 19, 2007 03:32 PM

                          yeah i was a little surprised by that, and the fact that F&W considers him a Hot TV chef.

                          He's a weatherman, for cryin' out loud!

                        2. pikawicca Feb 14, 2007 01:11 PM

                          I continue to find many, many recipes in Food and Wine that are first-rate. I never read any of the rest of it, except for an occasional "best wine buys" type of article.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: pikawicca
                            s
                            sianyoga Mar 7, 2007 03:51 PM

                            I have a huge file of past "Food and Wine" magazines - some have been sincere keepers- others... well I'm with you on this latest month's issue...

                          2. Candy Feb 14, 2007 01:09 PM

                            I dropped BA over a year ago but will buy an issue off of the stand if I find something appealing. My Food and Wine is expiring and won't be renewed it is simply not worth the cost. I have Saveur and still find it appealing and occasionally inspiring. I thought Gourmet had turned the corner and fianlly renewed I won't next time 'round, ugh!

                            1. Quine Feb 14, 2007 11:42 AM

                              I personally like Saveur and Cook's Illustrated. I consider both of these "serious" cooking publications.

                              9 Replies
                              1. re: Quine
                                f
                                foodfan Feb 14, 2007 12:23 PM

                                I haven't been as impressed with Saveur since Colman Andrews left and have decided to let my subscription expire. I gave up BA & Gourmet a couple of years ago in protest to the endless recycling ~ The Thanksgiving Issue! The Grilling Issue! Holiday Baking! etc.

                                1. re: foodfan
                                  Robert Lauriston Feb 14, 2007 01:04 PM

                                  The cooking magazines just reflect people's habits in that.

                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                    f
                                    foodfan Feb 14, 2007 02:09 PM

                                    When my mother died, I went through her recipe clippings and found an easy dozen newspaper sections and articles on how to cook turkey for Thanksgiving ~ maybe that is who they are geared for ~ serial collectors.

                                    1. re: foodfan
                                      Robert Lauriston Feb 14, 2007 02:23 PM

                                      The cover themes are geared toward newsstand sales.

                                      The annually recurring features don't account for more than maybe 15% of any one issue.

                                  2. re: foodfan
                                    h
                                    Hungry Celeste Feb 28, 2007 10:43 AM

                                    I feel the same way about Saveur these days. The latest issue held promise: all about wild-caught shrimp! Terrific! Then I read the article, which was a disappointment. The accompanying recipes weren't ground-breaking, either. Saveur used to go beyond the obvious, but I haven't seen much evidence of that in recent issues.

                                    1. re: Hungry Celeste
                                      pikawicca Feb 28, 2007 01:08 PM

                                      I plan to make the Peruvian Chickpea Porridge on pg. 67, the Red-Cooked Pork Belly on pg.75, and the Chocolate Babka on pg. 82.

                                      1. re: pikawicca
                                        Carb Lover Feb 28, 2007 02:25 PM

                                        Oh, please report to the HC board after you try those! I'm tempted to try making the babka, but got a little deterred by the sponge cake crumbs needed.

                                        My opinion on this thread topic is that all food mags seem to have gone downhill over the years, including Saveur. While there are good recipes every now and then, the content, articles, and photos just don't seem as inspiring as they once were. Maybe my expectations have also increased w/ more food experience. I imagine it's also more challenging to compete w/ the online world of blogs, message boards, recipe sites, etc.

                                        Speaking of the Web, Saveur has introduced a new, improved look to their website which I noticed a couple weeks back. I'm hoping they will have more recipes in their database (like epicurious) than they used to...

                                        http://www.saveur.com/

                                        1. re: pikawicca
                                          h
                                          Hungry Celeste Mar 1, 2007 06:32 AM

                                          I thought the babka was an overly fussy recipe compared to others I've used. Pls report on the texture--

                                          1. re: pikawicca
                                            flourgirl Mar 8, 2007 09:43 AM

                                            I want to try those recipes too. Except for the chocolate babka. I feel the same way as CL and HC - when I saw that the recipe required sponge cake crumbs I decided if I wanted to make chocolate babka I'd use on eo f the dozens of other recedipes I have for it. But I'd love to hear what you thought of it and if you thought it was worth all the trouble.

                                    2. g
                                      gloriousfood Feb 14, 2007 11:37 AM

                                      Giada di Laurentis was recently on the cover of Town and Country. With chefs becoming such mega celebrities, it seems like anything goes.

                                      1. Robert Lauriston Feb 14, 2007 10:54 AM

                                        Food & Wine is published by American Express. Not a quality publication. I'm amazed they can get anybody to pay for it.

                                        Bon Appetit's a serious cooking magazine with many good recipes. Giada di Laurentis is a serious, well-trained, experienced cook and cookbook author with a lot of great recipes to share.

                                        http://www.epicurious.com/bonappetit/...

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                          w
                                          wak Feb 15, 2007 01:27 PM

                                          I have honestly found some very good cooking ideas and recipies in Food and Wine. Sometimes its fluff, but I usually find something worthwhile - and all I buy food mags for are the recipies and ideas.

                                          Otherwise, I get Cooks Illustrated which can be a little didactic but is usually a good read. Gourmet, Saveur are just food porn and trend spotting to me. I'll take a look at Bon Apetit.

                                          1. re: wak
                                            c
                                            cooknKate Feb 19, 2007 03:30 PM

                                            I get F&W also, and have found many good recipes in the issues, and plenty of inspiration to use for my own creations.

                                            I find their stories to be much too fluffy; too many pictures of superbly smiling people in impossibly beautiful locations, all dressed very chic with tons of gorgeous foods.

                                            For good food writing that's much more readable, I stick with Saveur.

                                          2. re: Robert Lauriston
                                            e
                                            embee Mar 8, 2007 11:17 AM

                                            I recall that, at one time, Food & Wine was a free perk that came with an American Express card. Somewhere along the way, they discovered that people WERE willing to pay for it. Go figure...

                                          3. Katie Nell Feb 14, 2007 07:37 AM

                                            I can't remember specifics, but I remember being more disappointed in the abundance of pre-made ingredients, aka semi-homemade stuff. I had decided a while ago not to renew also.

                                            6 Replies
                                            1. re: Katie Nell
                                              Katie Nell Feb 14, 2007 10:59 AM

                                              I didn't make it clear obviously, but I was referring to Bon Appetit.

                                              1. re: Katie Nell
                                                NYchowcook Feb 18, 2007 06:10 AM

                                                I find Gourmet and Bon Appetit to be similar, but I do not subscribe to BA 'cause where Gourmet starts with ingredients, BA starts w/ pre-made (e.g., canned goods, frozen concentrates, etc.)
                                                When I search on epicurious, I know that when it's a BA recipe it will start half-way through home-made.

                                                1. re: NYchowcook
                                                  pikawicca Feb 18, 2007 07:34 AM

                                                  I can't imagine what you're talking about in reference to BA: I just pulled up 20 random recipes from BA on epicurious, and there wasn't 1 pre-made ingredients in the bunch!

                                                  1. re: NYchowcook
                                                    Robert Lauriston Feb 18, 2007 09:00 AM

                                                    I just flipped through a recent Bon Appetit, and all of the recipes were completely from scratch. Same experience as pikawicca on epicurious.com.

                                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                      Katie Nell Mar 3, 2007 07:08 PM

                                                      Obviously you didn't flip hard enough...

                                                      - page 42: For dessert, purchased brownies
                                                      - page 111: chocolate wafer cookies, not as an ingredient, but as a cookie with a filling
                                                      - page 124: refrigerated pizza dough in a tube

                                                      While I don't have a problem with occasionally using store-bought items, it's not why I pick up or subscribe to a cooking magazine. I even would rather see someone following Sandra Lee's lead than eating at Pizza Hut every night, but if Bon Appetit is considered a serious cooking magazine, I don't want to see it there.

                                                    2. re: NYchowcook
                                                      j
                                                      JudiAU Mar 1, 2007 07:57 AM

                                                      In my experience, BA does include lots of crummy ingredients including the reason I cancelled my sub last year-- chopped frozen onions. Pathetic. This is a fairly new practice in the last five years. The recipes are also simplier and less exotic as a whole.

                                                      I receive almost all of the them and each month most have something that interests me. The F&W issue was ridiculous and I did right them an email to complain.

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