03 February 2015

Idea of a cooking magazine

Ever since a friend brought me a copy of the Food Network Magazine to read in the hospital following Little Bear's birth, we've been subscribers. Matt and I both studied design in college, and have enjoyed discussing/debating the layout and visual choices of FNM's editors. How colors are used to influence the viewer's perception, why a page was arranged the way it was, what added meaning that wood-grain background gives the image of a particular dish. I can't tell you how publication design and graphic design vary, exactly, but they definitely do or we wouldn't have so many times where one of us is just sure that they did something wrong, and the other thinks it's the most logical thing they could possibly have come up with. It's fun.

We didn't just read it for the design, of course; we both enjoy cooking, and several recipes we found in FNM have made it into my index card recipe file. But as much fun as we have reading it, we've realized that by and large, we've stopped cooking from it. Stopped finding any recipes that we wanted to try, or that didn't have exotic or expensive ingredients that we couldn't justify buying. It's seemed, too, that there is a focus on "new," "unique," "innovative" types of recipes, which generally isn't our style—give me good old-fashioned classic recipes any day. The kale-centric latest issue was the breaking point; I read all the way through without finding a single recipe that I even considered making.

The same day, a free sample issue of Cook's Country magazine showed up in the mailbox.

Clean lines, earth tones, modular layout. Classic foods, feature articles that really interested us, an in-depth explanation of the how's and why's of many of the recipes. They even had 16 removable recipe cards for 30-minute suppers—full suppers!—a concept I remember and miss from the Taste of Home magazines my mom subscribed to when I was a kid. The removable recipe cards, that is. And pretty much all of them were exactly the type of foods we enjoy. I was sold.

Cook's Country is much shorter than Food Network Magazine; the CC trial issue had 32 pages (not counting the removable cards), compared to the 122 pages of the current (Jan-Feb) FNM, which was itself a lightweight after the roughly 250-page Dec issue. CC does not have any ads, though, which make up a substantial amount of FNM's bulk. FNM also uses a larger typeface than CC, and employs much more white space. Both magazines are comparably priced for a year's subscription, although CC prints 6 issues a year to FNM's 10.

After reading through Cook's Country, and looking back at the recent issues of Food Network Magazine, we've decided that Cook's Country is a better fit for our interests and cooking style. I switched our subscription today, and look forward to making many of the recipes in this issue shortly!

A few other things we like about Cook's Country
• Their test kitchen makes each recipe a minimum of 20 times, to be sure that it really works—and with many of the recipes, they'll tell you what shortcuts or alterations didn't work and why.
• Each issue, they review and rank several varieties of a food you'd buy at a grocery store, using only common brands everyone can find—this issue it was mayonnaise—talking about healthfulness, taste, quality, and other factors.
• There's a pictorial recipe index on the back cover, so you can find whatever recipe you're looking for without first having to find the table of contents!
• The focus is all on food and cooking.

If I was the layout editor of a cooking magazine, it would pretty much look like this. (And I would probably be told that it's very technically correct, but a little boring, and to go try again ;-)  If I was in charge of content, so far I haven't seen anything I'd change. It's definitely not what everyone is looking for, is certainly on the old-fashioned side, but I am exactly their target audience and I'm so happy to have discovered this magazine.

[This post was not sponsored in any way; I'm just excited about finding this new-to-us magazine, and thought we probably weren't the only ones who had never heard of it before and might enjoy it.]

No comments:

Post a Comment