Monday, October 31, 2011

Magazine Review: ACQTASTE

Over the summer and early fall, there have been a number of food themed special issues from Lapham's Quarterly, dandyhorse, Creative Nonfiction and spacing (No link available yet).  These are one offs that try to marry to varying degree of awkwardness, their niche with food in general.  Then there was a BIG launch of Lucky Peach, the McSweeney's entry into food starring David Chang followed by their first recipe book, Mission Street Food.

Food is hot right now.  Food issues are now becoming reasons for municipal debate in areas such as food regulations, food carts in Toronto and the whole Stop the MegaQuarry.  There has been a growing food literature but it all seems disjointed.  The above magazines fall into one of two types, niche magazines that are putting out a special issue that loosely cleaves to their interest (food as fuel, food as fodder for thought or a miscellany of food related facts) or very focused, hyperfocused on one topic of food (Ramen).  These have all been entertaining and eye opening to some degree.

Along comes ACQTASTE with the acqward title, (see what I did there) that is probably to be read acquired taste.  It is roughly the size of Kobo or Kindle with a distinct layout mix of photos and text.  The articles cover people cooking your food, what a chef's brunch looks like, Jen and Grant and other pieces including two thought pieces at the end.

This magazine is largely a product of Chuck Ortiz, if the published piece bylines are to be believed.  This magazine reminds me of another first issue that I read a long time ago.  It was another high concept and specific magazine that many thought could not make it.  Wired was the magazine that came along at the advent of the web and wrote about technology culture.  It was nebulous at first with a design aesthetic that eventually influenced web design and other magazines.  A good portion of the magazine was electronic and connected.  It was a San Jose Mercury for the world but told in small stories with big thoughts.

ACQTASTE could be the Wired for food.  I believe that acqtaste could be the advent of magazines for portable readers.  It is the first magazine that really gets the format and how stories need to be told for a smaller screen with limited attention.  Not the small twitter feeds but rather the blog sized pithiness with weight in few words that can be given.

Looking at their website is required for understanding acquired.  Yes, the writing can be a little clunky and quirky much like blog writing but there is one opinion piece at the end that makes me believe that there is a need for overarching stories about food.  'The Space Between' begs to be unpacked liked a McLuhan koan into its component parts.  It reminds me of a finished dish where you can taste the components but know that underneath the simplicity of sentence to sentence, paragraph to paragraph, there lives some serious technique of thought and writing.

The electronic bits are less expensive than the paper bound magazine and some thought should be given to creating a decent digital version of the magazine after the fact.  The extra content on the website follows the same design as the mag.  It fits. I am not sure how one makes this work as a business model but as a paying customer, it is immensely satisfying and I look forward to the next issue.  I will pay because I understand the worth.  Like a simple dish ordered from a good restaurant, you know good when you try it.   It is not simply an acquired taste.  (oops, see what I did again?)

No comments:

Post a Comment