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Editors Ruined Magazine w/New Format
on July 10, 2009
I agree with every single review here that gives Fine Cooking five stars. It was always my favorite food magazine -- with the focus on proper technique, rather than upon fancy pictures put together by food "stylists," rather than cooks.
"Was" is the operative word though. This year Fine Cooking felt it had to "fix" something that was nowhere near "broke" and they turned FC into exactly the "food stylist" type of magazine that had sent me into the arms of Fine Cooking to begin with. The new format is all style over substance; indeed, there are so many "pretty" stylized pictures that it is now difficult to read -- the text gets lost.
FC also lost the unique personal style from the original FC -- the old format had these simple articles, oftentimes with a cook giving you the take on a single technique or ingredient. The cook was right there with you, with their hands on the food, and their smiling face beaming at you the beginning of the article. It looked like real food being cooked in front of you by a real person, rather than stylized food being glossed up with shellac before a hot camera.
Alas, that is all gone now. There are still a few good recipes, such as the excellent "Grill Braising" article by Bruce Aidells (my guess is that Bruce was under contract before they changed the format). But why wasn't Bruce in the shots, instead of these picture-perfect creations? And why did the text have to be so difficult to read?
I can say I am not alone in my disdain; others I know here were also heartbroken when the format changed, and the online blogs and FC's own blog included many angered by the change. Some did like it -- but then there are lots of people who do like these "stylized" publications, I'm just not one of them. Its just not what I looked for in Fine Cooking. My subscription has now lapsed, although I hope they bring back the old format (my guess is that they lost many subscribers).
In any event -- I thought that this review was necessary to give fair warning to those reading the OLD reviews about the OLD FC format. "New" is not always necessarily "improved."
UPDATE: Alas, FC remains ruined, but I found a great way to stoke my old flame: I started buying back issues of FC on eBay starting from February 1994. I had only started reading FC in 2000, so now I have 6 years of back issues. What a joy, they still pop with timeless articles showcasing fine food and techniques. But here is the real reason for my upgraded post. In the very first issue, the Publisher Jan Wahlin set out the "mission statement" of Fine Cooking and it is telling:
"[A]s you can see from this first issue, Fine Cooking is not just another food magazine. Its about the _hows_, and more importantly, the _whys_ of cooking. Its written by cooks, for cooks like you. The photos are not just pretty pictures taken on a set, using props to accent finished dishes. These are photos of real cooks in real kitchen." FC, No. 1, Feb/March 1994, at 4 (emphasis in original)
If only the present editors would read that mission statement and return to FC's roots. I really wish Alice Waters, or someone else, would buy the franchise and bring it back to its old glory. Bengoshi