Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Magazine Review: The Gourmand

Since the Cookbook Store has closed, I've been looking at less likely places to pick up food magazines. I picked up this periodical at room 2046, near Summerhill subway station. The store has hints of food with their bowls, plates, napkins, cookbooks and food magazines. A design shop that is tight and focused. Like Cibo Matto, food isn't central. In a more pretentious place, this would be called curated due to its relation to art and design but it is more eccentric and deliberate; candle with scents like thyme and lemon and of course, they serve coffee and sweets.

The Gourmand is a magazine that tries to marry this same type of focused eclecticism. The look is somewhere between 70's naturist mags and museum guide book. It says on the spine that it is Issue 3 but inside the editor's not states that it is the fourth issue. Far from being an error, it reminds me of the joke of the person standing in the express line; wondering if the person ahead of them is a math major that can't read or an arts major that can't count. They may be channeling the comics industry where Issue #0 is the origin issue but then that isn't counted as part of the number system.

The strange thing is that in this internet age, you can be a polymath and find all the information you need. This means that a periodical has to bring more to the table than more of the same. Either specialized knowledge or a point of view that no one else has. The general interest mag is dead. Now you have to be a part of a community of interest or geography, or have a unique collection of goods that are put together in an interesting way. Design has become a reason to read.

Due to the eclectic nature, a few bits were impressive to me:

  • photos of pasta
  • Teenage Little Chef - a view into Britannia that I had only seen on Food Television with Heston Blumenthal.
  • Sunday specials about a synaesthete, who experiences sounds as tastes. The interesting bit was that they tried doing it backwards by presenting a dish and asking what sound would give you this taste and photographing the representation of sounds. For me, it is like trying to deconstruct a restaurant dish with a pantry of items with mixed familiarity. The photos generated are oddly cohesive and disjointed.

The strongest two pieces together bring what this mag can be at its best. Driving Light about a roving food truck in Jerusalem and The Living Archive about sourdough as an art installation. Smak Polski a description of the Polish influx into Britain tries to define Eastern European and locate the impact through Lituanica, a Lithuanian wholesale company who imports much of this 'ethnic' food.

There are a number of articles that have been covered elsewhere and I would consider them close to their expiry date. This magasine is written for a British audience and maybe the coverage of these things are more North American but I'm not so sure. These topics include; an article on Milton Glaser, coverage of the ortolan, and Les Blank coverage. With a little more exposition and focus, the last piece could have been a great piece. Maybe part of the issue is with publishing in general where more of the effort of editing has been pushed back onto the writers. Not all writers are good editors or have a good eye on how to make a single article fit into a whole mag.

It is an expensive proposition to buy this publication due to the exchange rate. It provided jumping off points for my own explorations but it was the gentle nudging of wistfulness rather than the spark of ardor. It didn't drive curiosity like a well selected mag would. I will try another issue or two to see if I can understand the accolades and awards but it doesn't offer much for the hardcore connected foodie.

No comments:

Post a Comment