How Many Food Magazines Are There?

That’s a rhetorical question.

I really don’t know the answer.

But I do know this–there are a whole bunch of them.

Big ones.

Small ones.

Thick ones.

Thin ones.

This one has a shiny car,
This one has a cookie star,
What a lot of ‘zines there are!

(Okay, Dr. Seuss, I am truly sorry for bunging up your brilliant poetry. But the number of food magazines has boggled my mind, and so I plead temporary insanity.)

For reasons which I cannot now disclose, I have been haunting bookstores, newstands and grocery stores, picking up food magazines, and reading them.

And I have come to a few conclusions.

One–just as soon as I think I have found all the food magazines that there are in the United States, I find one or two more I have never heard of. And I sigh, and pick those up, too.

Two–They fall into several categories, of which there are three main ones. Food & Lifestyle magazines appear to be the largest category; these are the publications that not only talk about food, but also travel, place settings, alcoholic beverages, music and entertainment. In addition to beguiling the reader with beautiful food and recipes, they try to sell an image–a fantasty of a way of life the reader can aspire to. (I tend to get irritated by these magazines eventually.) Straight up Food and Cooking Magazines are the ones I tend to like the most, though there is one particular title that I am sure is my own personal kryptonite. When I look at it, I get weak in the knees, nausea strikes, and dizziness nearly overwhelms me. But most of this category I really like and they tend to be the ones I go out of my way to read every month. The third category, which is Everything Else, is a concatenation of speciatly magazines which cover one food-related topic, health-related cooking magazines, seasonal magazines and journals which cover food and culture.

Three–There is bound to be at least one or two food magazines that appeal to every foodie in the world. I don’t know this for certain, but the odds are with me. With fifty-plus titles in English, a double handful of which originating outside the US, there is bound to be something for everyone.

Four–There is bound to be at least one or two food magazines that make any given foodie want to hurl. If my theory that there is bound to be one or two magazines that will appeal to any given foodie, the opposite is likely to be the case.

So–I pose a question to my readers–what food magazines do you read? Which ones do you particularly like?

And which ones do you utterly abhor?

And finally, why?

18 Comments

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  1. Hi Barbara – I currently only subscribe to one, it’s a very lightweight publication called; CHOW – actually my Wife enjoys it alot more then I do – easy recipes, lifestyle oriented, trying to be hip (which I am not), kinda thing. Pretty fun; I’ll read it after I’m done with my Sports Illustrated, and it doesn’t come every month, so I’m not innundated with recipes I’ll never make. I used to subscribe to Cooks Illustrated – pretty good but very uptight, and self important, like the show on PBS – I feel like I should speak of myself in the Third Person while reading it. I also used to subscribe to Fine Cooking, just mostly for the pictures of dishes that are made by much better cooks (chefs) then I, I’m a pretty mediocre cook. This, for me is about as far as I get into “Food Porn” – other then watching Great Chefs on Discovery Home. I’m out of touch as a whole when it comes to cooking mags – the reason I subscribed to Chow – I saw it while waiting to get my hair cut. Oh, and I used to get one called Saveur…..but I just felt I was not worthy enough to subscribe! I’m waiting for an Asian Cooking Mag – do you know of one? Sorry to be so long winded.

    Comment by Kirk — November 21, 2005 #

  2. Currently we’re subscribing to two cooking magazines. I like Cooks Illustrated for exploring the whys behind the how tos and I like Cooking Light for tempting me with beautiful pictures of the dishes and offering a fairly wide variety of dishes to choose from each month. But once these run out, I think I’ll want to get Cuisine at Home. Very similar to Cooks Illustrated in that there are no ads and lots of explanations of why the recipes tell you to do the various steps but also with more step-by-step photos.

    Comment by FitFool — November 21, 2005 #

  3. I mean to say this in the nicest way possible, Kirk: I love that you capitalized “Wife.”

    Ok, I get no cooking magazines at home. I have at one time or another been a subcriber to Gourmet, Cooking Light, and Saveur and when I was a kid my mom got Bon App. These days I sometimes buy Cook’s Ill on the newstand. I recently bought the Rachael Ray mag and an issue of Chow, because I was curious about these new additions to the world of cooking magazines. They’re cool given what they are.

    The glossies that are all about lifestyle and fantasy don’t appeal to me. Cook’s is nice because of the illustrations and the lack of ads, but I’m annoyed by the notion that there’s a right way to make something and that they reliably discover it through their quasi-scientific process of recipe development. For one thing, every cook and every kitchen is different and I could follow their instructions to a T and still come out with something less than perfect. A cook should be encouraged to vary and compensate as needed when making a dish to adapt to taste and contingency, not slavishly follow every little tweak the writers come up with. And for another, there are lots of different ways of making any given dish and I’m against the notion that one is the right way. I don’t care for Chris Kimball’s folksy essays at the front of the mag and I really don’t care for their readers’ clever little solutions to non-problems in the kitchen, like muffling a coffee grinder with an oven mitt. For that you need a magazine? One more thing: why is it not a monthly? Can’t they get it out once a month? (This reminds me of the old Jewish joke: “the food there is terrible…and such small portions!”)

    Thanks for asking this question. I’ve been saving these thougths for a good occasion to air them.

    Comment by mzn — November 21, 2005 #

  4. Hm. Never subscribed to any, but I do peruse the racks in bookstores. I used to buy Cooking Light fairly frequently, but half the magazine seems taken up with lifestyle things, and I’m just not into the lifestyle stuff. Also, I find the recipes take on a certain … sameness, after a while.

    I do get some of the vegetarian mags now and again (Veggie Life, Vegetarian Times, Vegetarian Journal), although I am not a vegetarian. I usually take a browse through Cook’s Illustrated.

    But what do I reliably buy? BBC Good Food and delicious. Must be my Anglophile tendencies (although delicious. is Australian, not British).

    It’s pretty much all just food porn to me, though — I read about cooking way more often than I actually use the techniques or recipes I’ve read. I generally just enjoy learning about different ideas and different flavors, and I don’t get too picky about tone or style, as long as it delivers on the food.

    Comment by Laura — November 21, 2005 #

  5. First off, no apologies for length of responses–remember I asked “why?”

    Kirk–you identified a great lack in the food magazine world–reliable coverage of Asian cuisines and culinary arts. There is “Flavor and Fortune,” a quarterly magazine that covers Chinese food and culture, but it isn’t what one would think of as a typical food magazine. Other than that–and a magazine I remember seeing once, years ago–that was English language, but from Hong Kong–I can think of no magazines specifically covering Asian cookery.

    And, of the more generalized food magazines–very few cover Asian cookery well.

    Some of them, like Cook’s Illustrated, do a hideous job and present thier bastardized versions of Chinese or Thai restaurant dishes as “the best recipe.” They are always substituting genuine ingredients with weird American things and seem to think that Americans are afraid to go to Asian markets. (Actually, they seem to bugger up Mexican dishes too–perhaps they should leave the ethnic dishes alone and do what they do best–bland American classics.)

    Fitfool–I do appreciate Cook’s Illustrated’s attention to detail, and I think that Cooking Light does a really good job of presenting healthy but flavorful food, which is a great thing to do in the US these days.

    MZN–Chris Kimball’s folksy essays work my very last nerve, and I am a country girl. Every now and then I read one and I just want him to get trampled by a cow. That is an uncharitable thought, and I usually regret it, but geez–could he possibly slather on the “salt of the earthiness” in his prose any heavier? (If you cannot tell, I have a love/hate relationship with Cook’s Illustrated Magazine.)

    Laura–I only subscribe to one magazine–Fine Cooking. All the others, I peruse at the newsstand, where in recent months I have noticed a plethora of new titles–or at least, new to me titles. I am fond of being able to see the new Aussie and UK magazines and I think that it is interesting to be able to read what cooks elsewhere than the US are up to.

    The “lifestyle” part of the “Food & Lifestyle” magazines has always been irksome and boring to me; none of the values presented therein really attract me. A lot of what is presented is what gives the terms “foodie” and “gourmet” the pejorative “snob” connotation that those words have accrued over the years.

    Comment by Barbara Fisher — November 21, 2005 #

  6. I read Cooks’ Illustrated, Fine Cooking, The Art of Eating, and Simple Cooking regularly. I’m actually a fan of the Cooks’ Illustrated method, though I wish they’d replace Christopher Kimball’s editorials with something useful or interesting. Fine Cooking used to be good, in particular publishing articles on hard projects which benefited from the large color photographs. These days, they’re pretty dull; I probably won’t renew my subscription.

    Simple Cooking is a really thought-provoking food letter.

    I’ve pretty much given up on Saveur, Gourmet, and the like — too many ads and not enough content. I am considering a subscription to Vogue, however, to get Jeffrey Steingarten’s columns. At one relevant page in 600, though, it’s hard to justify.

    Comment by Victor — November 21, 2005 #

  7. I don’t think it is mere parochial pride or anything, but I’ve seen quite a few foodie mags from the UK and Australia (although not so many from the USA), and my favourite continues to be a local New Zealand magazine, Cuisine. Sure, they go a little OTT when they do their monthly story from some foreign cooking destination many of us will find inaccessible, but the mix is pretty much spot on. There is a heavy emphasis on recipes and cooking, normally built around a monthly theme as well as around full dinner menus. In addition, there is a good wine section, stories about happenings in the food and restaurant trade, book reviews, restaurant reviews and a little about kitchen design.

    Comment by Barry — November 22, 2005 #

  8. I really, really like Food & Wine. The essays tend to be well-written and there’s always new gadgets and products for me to look up on the internet. I also really like CHOW, I always skip the wine article in F&W but read CHOW cover-to-cover. I also used their appetizers from the current issue in my first catering venture, with much success.
    I agree with the opinions about Cooking Light, they need to get rid of the (large) lifestyle section or change the name of the mag!

    Comment by emily — November 22, 2005 #

  9. I subscribe to SAVEUR. (I know, I know, Barbara, I believe you find SAVEUR to be pretentious.) I pretty much read it cover to cover. I very much like the articles on other countries and lifestyles. The photos are great and there are a lot of good recipe ideas.

    We haven’t made very many things exactly from their recipes but we have certainly made things based on things described in the magazine.

    Comment by ejm — November 22, 2005 #

  10. oops… forgot to add:

    I would like Cooks Illustrated and often look at it longingly on the stands, but I just can’t justify the expense. It’s really really pricey! I’m not sure that I would read TWO food magazines.

    (My parents-in-law gave me the subscription to SAVEUR)

    -Elizabeth

    Comment by ejm — November 22, 2005 #

  11. I got a free subscription (airline miles offer) to some magazines and I chose ‘Eating Well’ magazine, last year.Have you heard about this magazine, Barbara?
    I really liked it and this year I renewed my subscription. I love the way they present their recipes with seasonal ingredients and they are very practical to follow and make. I also find recipes from other cuisines, including Indian.
    My hate list.. well it’s very long:)

    Comment by Indira — November 22, 2005 #

  12. Hi, Victor–it is good to see you here again!

    I am with you on the Christopher Kimball editorials–which is no surprise, considering the cow comment I made above.

    Fine Cooking–I still subscribe to it, though I am noticing what you note–some of the spark seems to have gone out of the stories. I don’t know if I have zoomed past them or what–but I do know that I appreciate their emphasis on technique and their great illustrations of same in their photography. That magazine has done more to inspire my photography of food in the process of being made than anything else.

    I just found a couple of really great articles in Gourmet–which surprises me because I gave up on that mag years ago.

    Barry–welcome! We are seeing more UK, Aussie and New Zealand mags here in the US–I will look for the one you mention. Thanks for telling me a bit about it–I am always on the lookout for a new read.

    Emily–welcome–thanks for posting. I just looked through the December issue of F&W–and found some really fun articles and essays. And–some recipes that piqued my interest. Pretty cool–though I still think there are way too many ads.

    Chow’s first issue didn’t impress me–I have the current one and will give it another look.

    Elizabeth–as I said in my post–there are bound to be magazines for everyone–and what I like, someone else is bound to hate and what I dislike, someone will love. And likely, those folks are going to be friends of mine…because I don’t believe that folks have to agree on everything in order to be good friends.

    I haven’t looked at Saveur in years, but I suspect that I will be taking another gander soon. Maybe–it has changed over time and I was too stubborn to notice. (And yes–their photography is utterly fantastic–I will give you that.)

    Indira–I love Eating Well! I get it every month and should probably subscribe. I used to get it years ago before it went defunct in the mid 1990′s–and I was very sad. Because I loved their recipes–they were fantastic. Needless to say I was thrilled when they came back–with gorgeous design and the same committment to great recipes.

    I get a lot of health news from that publication.

    Your hate list is too long to share, I guess. Well…maybe later.

    Maybe you can answer me–are there any food magazines in India?

    Comment by Barbara Fisher — November 23, 2005 #

  13. Hi Barbara,
    There’s a few so-called Asian food magazines here. I used to buy copies of these two but have not found them interesting enough to buy them lately. Flavour is ok. Published in Malaysia:

    http://www.kuali.com/flavours/list.asp

    This is a Chinese food mag published in Singapore called Se Xiang Wei (translated literally to: Colour, Fragrance and Taste)
    http://www.sunbusinessnetwork.com/singapore/print/sexiangwei_pg.asp

    Others include Halal Foods, Home Cooking and I heard there is this new one called Appetite Female.

    A few years ago there was this magazine called Stir, which I really like. There were detailed reports on Asian foods like tofu, soy sauces etc. Sadly, it was discontinued. I am reading and re-reading the few copies I managed to buy.

    There is another Australian food magazine here called Table.
    http://www.isubscribe.com.au/title_info.cfm?prodID=5506
    I used to buy it but not anymore because I found that they use quite a bit of ready-made sauces and prepared packages – not really my cup of tea.

    I love Eating Well! The customer service people at Cook’s are so unfriendly. I probably won’t continue my subscription next year.

    Shirley

    Comment by Anonymous — November 23, 2005 #

  14. Oh, what a good debate. I subscribe to too many food magazines, but just when my ardor for a title starts to fade, the next issue will have something interesting. Let’s see. Gourmet, Bon Appetit, Vegetarian Times (can get preachy), Cook’s Illustrated, Saveur (not so fond of this one right now — I always feel unworthy when reading it), Food & Wine, Cooking Light (I skip the entire lifestyle half of the magazine to get to the recipes), the King Arthur Flour newsletter, Eating Well…wow. No wonder my magazine basket is always overflowing.

    Actually, while not a food magazine, Shape often has excellent and healthful recipes. And they work, which is more than I can say for some offerings from Gourmet and Bon Appetit.

    Comment by BNA — November 23, 2005 #

  15. Nice discussion here. I subscribe to Cooking Light but I like to read Vegetarian times, Bon Appetit, MS Living and Cook’s illustrated. I do not like Gourmet much in terms of recipes (too simple or too complicated) but love their photos, though they do not have too many.

    I have to read an Eating well magazine- seems like a good one. As far as Indian food magazines, I know only Tarla dalal magazine and that is a blatant lift out of MS Living in terms of design. Most recipes in Indian magazines appear in Women’s magazines like Femina and Women’s era.

    Comment by Mika — November 23, 2005 #

  16. Hello Shirley–it is great to hear from you again! Thanks for posting! I knew that there had to be food magazines in Asia–but unfortunately, there are none that cover Asian foods exclusively here in the US, which is a shame.

    But the magazines you are talking about sound interesting.

    Welcome, BNA! Have you had trouble with Bon Appetit and Gourmet recipes working? Hrm. I will have to investigate that. One thing I have become very picky about is how recipes are written. I think it comes of having written recipes for cooking classes, where I taught folks fairly difficult techniques, and so I had to translate what I did in the class onto paper so they could take it home and recreate it. And now that I blog, I am writing recipes all the time, and so I refine my methods of conveying cooking information.

    One thing I noticed in a few magazines was that some recipe writers are very sparse in their directions–such that novice cooks would have a very hard time getting the recipe to come out.

    I think that there is no excuse for that.

    I will definately try some recipes out of Gourmet and Bon Appetit and see what happens….

    Mika–welcome! I am glad to see you here–I really think you would like Eating Well if you like Cooking Light.

    I am very interested in the Indian magazines–I wonder if any are available in the US? I shall have to do some research and see….

    Comment by Barbara Fisher — November 23, 2005 #

  17. Of course, one can’t agree on everything. Wouldn’t life be dull if we did?

    One of the problems that my husband has with SAVEUR is that their recipes often call for special ingredients. There is a reference at the back of the magazine offering places that sell the ingredients but there is rarely a suggestion for substitution. The only times I’ve seen suggestions is for cuts of meat or fish that are not at all available in the US. (For instance: a recipe in the November issue calls for self-rising white corn meal – it seems like a simple thing for them to offer a substitute as well as a place to buy the actual thing)

    In re: Indian magazines: did you see this site?
    http://in.dir.yahoo.com/Society_and_Culture/Food_and_Drink/Magazines/

    Comment by ejm — November 26, 2005 #

  18. Someone asked about an Asian cooking magazine. At our site, http://www.magsampler.com, we offer samples copies of hundreds of smaller magazines, including food magazines. One of our newest is Flavor & Fortune, devoted to Chinese cooking. Take a look!

    Comment by Ed Rust — December 11, 2005 #

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