It's All About the FoodChristmas Baking with SusieJ

November publications

With Saucy out of commission (over a year and I still mourn), I'll take it upon myself to review a few of November's periodic offerings.

BBC Good Food: It's regularly featured in my fabulous local magazine store (Avril 50) but my innate frugalness keeps me from buying it. I couldn't resist the November issue, featuring do-ahead recipes for Christmas (Christmas cake, Christmas pudding). I might not be able to resist future issues now that I've had my first taste. Published by the BBC, it's heavy on BBC celebrity chefs and programs. However, it had three articles on weeknight meals, two articles with each five unusual but appetizing recipes featuring a specific ingredient (walnuts in one case, frozen puff pastry in another), a high percentage of vegetarian recipes, a one-page "what's fresh now" article, a five-person readers' tasting panel, and, of course, some early Christmas recipes. American publishers take note: steal some ideas!

Saveur: Seeing the cover, I knew immediately Saveur had changed editors. Last Thanksgiving issue, Coleman Andrews proudly wrote that the magazine had never featured a turkey on the cover in nearly ten years of publishing. This trend came to a screeching end with this Thanksgiving's issue, featuring not only a turkey as the cover shot but "four fine ways to cook it." The other regular features are preserved -- for how long? -- but I'd already noticed a decline in the essay writing in October's issue; it had become more a travelogue of what-I-saw and what-I-ate than real storytelling, reaction and even analysis. In November, they return to the storytelling, but also include that idiotic, fake, $250 cookie recipe.

Bon Appetit: This month must be both a blessing and curse for the editors of cooking magazines. They know the subject, but they've done it so often. (This is why I resist any traditions in our own meal; I want a meal that is still fun to cook.) Bon Appetit has managed some small updates to the traditional, with an article on dishes to bring so that the hostess can avoid another green bean casserole. The make-it/buy-it meal is a needed modernization of the usual Thaksgiving Four Ways! coverage. BA also features a dinner party featuring pork tenderloin, cookies from Dorie Greenspan's new book, olives, and interviews with Amy Sedaris and Candice Bergan. The recipes didn't make me want to cook like BBC Good Food did, although the roasted cauliflower recipe is quite good (had it with steak one night). The "Food & Entertainment Awards" seem thrown in from nowhere. I miss Jinx and Jefferson Morgan, but they still have the Menu Guide, alternate menus featuring the recipes in the issue; someone needs to tell them that anyone with a full-time job not in food service will not be making "Cranberry Granita with Orange Whipped Cream" for a weeknight dinner.

Cooks Illustrated: With it's focus on the traditional, Cook's tackles green bean casserole. They also find yet another method for cooking turkey (salt-roasted), coq au vin and penne alla vodka. The back page features varieties of oysters, but they all look the same to me, wiggly, squishy things on ugly shells. This isn't an issue that tempts me to cook everything in its pages, but the pots de creme were inviting enough to be considered for our bi-weekly cooking with friends night (I got sane and made steak instead). I may even get to the multi-grain pancakes and arugula salad. More likely, I'll buy the recommended knife sharpener to replace my ceramic rods. And it should have been "Olive Oil World Cup." (One thing that aggravates me is that web site access is available only to web site subscribers, and for a limited time to magazine subscribers.)

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