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July 04, 2007

Edible Magazines

Donald Pittenger writes:

Dear Blowhards --

Today's Seattle Times business section has an article about a group of magazines devoted to locally-grown food.

The article defines "local" as being within a day's drive (by truck, presumably) -- about 250 miles, it says.

The local food fad has been around for a while, but I hadn't realized that it had generated magazines. The magazines are franchised and each has a title starting with the word "Edible." Examples include Edible Portland, Edible Hawaiian Islands, Edible Ojai (the original version) and, coming next spring, Edible Seattle. Oh yes, there's also an Edible Brooklyn.

My take from the article is that the mags offer info fodder for foodies along with cheerleading for local family farmers and damning those eeevil corporate farms.

Apparently Edible Communities (the name of the umbrella-franchiser firm based in Santa Fe) has a good thing going. They claim average reader household income to be $110,000. New magazines are said to become profitable after the first year. And overall circulation is 2.5 million copies per year. With 30 titles at four issues per year, this comes to about 21,000 average circulation per issue. Annual subscription is $28 a year, but the magazines are give-aways at upscale food stores.

This demonstrates that there is still room for new niche magazines in this on-line, digital age.

And if they are successful, that's fine by me even though I don't much care who grows my food or where it comes from. (I'm a foodie of the Time Magazine fonder Henry Luce persuasion: "Food is fuel.")



posted by Donald at July 4, 2007


I'm a foodie of the Time Magazine fonder Henry Luce persuasion: "Food is fuel." You poor sod.

Posted by: dearieme on July 4, 2007 2:37 PM

Interesting info, tks. "Edible Brooklyn" is certainly my fave of the bunch (said without having seen any of them, of course.) I'm a little surprised that the franchise has expanded this far -- as far as I know, the "local foods" thing in its latest incarnation has only been around for a couple of years. But maybe people are faster to pounce on trends than they once were, and maybe money and technology enable them to get projects on their feet a lot faster than they once could.

Great as-yet underdone theme for someone: Foodie visuals: restaurant design, wine label design, food-mag layout and photography. Some of it strikes me as pretty great, some of it seems to me amazingly inane. Looking forward to someone taking the subject on one day, though.

I'm a huge fan of the various Slow movements, to which the local-foods movement is closely related. It can all get a bit silly (what can't?). But if it helps some people slow down a bit, pay a bit more attention to what they're doing and experiencing, become a little more knowledgeable about and interested in quality-of-life questions and possibilities, and maybe even become a bit more interested in how cultural matters (food for instance) come about, then where's the harm, sez I. I haven't run across other developments in the cultural sphere that I can root for more enthusiastically, in any case ... Sorry to hear that food isn't one of the great pleasures for you. Seems to me that, as far as all our cultural fields go, food is in the best shape. There's lots of pleasure there to be enjoyed -- amazing chefs, resourceful restaurants, interesting farmers and winemakers ... Even the Food Channel strikes me as a great thing -- it does a good job of heightening awareness and maintaining interest. It can be very rewarding to spend a little time, money, and energy in today's food culture.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on July 4, 2007 3:37 PM

dearieme & Michael -- I suppose I exaggerate for effect, at times. I'm not quite so extreme as Luce, who reportedly thought that a hot dog for lunch was just swell. My preference is for simple (uncomplicated) items carefully prepared. Odd combinations placed in a small heap on a large, square, white plate don't turn me on.

Posted by: Donald Pittenger on July 4, 2007 3:43 PM

How that tallies with someone's claiming he's a pickiest eater on Earth? OK, number 12.

Posted by: Tat on July 4, 2007 4:40 PM

They say that "hunger is the best chef" for a reason: food is fuel: those first bites when you're famished taste so great for a reason: they revivify you. So, Donald, I don't think there's anything to apologize for in the "food is fuel" approach to eating.
I can remember going through an epicurean phase when I was a very young man. In reference to this phase, my father - a doctor who put in 60 hour weeks his whole life and came from a reality checked background - gave me a look. That's all it took. No words were necessary.
Not that food shouldn't be enjoyed. It's just that the epicure...there's something not right there; something shameful.

Posted by: ricpic on July 4, 2007 5:18 PM

Yes, yes, ricpic: "Live to eat" or "Eat to live".
In my experience, though, it is not "or", but "and".
When hungry, I break 2 eggs and throw everything edible that happens to be in the fridge into the pan: pieces of kelbasa, boiled-potato leftovers, shallots and red pepper.
And sometimes I think up 5-course dinner with the help of my Belgian and French cookbooks.

No confrontation, see? perfect symbiosis.

Posted by: Tat on July 4, 2007 7:08 PM

"I don't much care who grows my food or where it comes from".

I prefer my pork from China injected with antifreeze, so I can relate to your dismissal of those bothersome regulators. I do admire your pride in not wanting to know what you're feeding your kids.

Sheesh. Really? You don't care where your food comes from,- I presume this means you're ok with 19th century standards in food production in China.

Whateverrr.. I do hope food in US supermarkets gets properly labeled "From China" so the consumer can make their own decision about how much filth and severed human body parts they're willing to accept with their meat products.

Otherwise, you free trade people against regulating that market without labels can go suck it. WHAT is your point? Let the market decide whether we'll let the Chinese poison our dog, or our toothpaste, or our cold medicine?

"I don't much care who grows my food or where it comes from".
Brilliant.- why have ANY regulation of the US food supply?

Why am I even reading stupid dreck like this? Eat up, buddy. It'll make the Darwinism work faster.

Posted by: Deschanel on July 4, 2007 9:48 PM

The food producing industry in the US is frankly fucked.

The big food producers (Cargill, ADM) have infiltrated the government to subsidize their asses and in the meantime undercut small farmers to the point where it's unprofitable to run a small scale farm. Take note of what is going to occur with the coming ethanol subsidies that are going to even more subsidize corn production.

In the meantime market prices for corn and soybeans have been so distorted that the price of soda (which uses cheap corn syrup) has plummeted, while the price of vegetables and fruit (which aren't subsidized by the gov) have drastically risen.

The unforseen effects of the annual snout in the trough festival that is the farm bill is that people are getting fatter, health costs are skyrocketing, and food that is within the reach of the regular person is getting more disgusting.

Anyone with a libertarian bone in their body should support the buy local food movement and any associated industries.

Get the government out of our food now.

Posted by: James Dudek on July 5, 2007 8:22 AM

I think of the style of cooking that favors fresh, local ingredients as the antithesis of odd combinations in a small heap on a large plate. That's part of the point--the good stuff doesn't need much embellishment.

And having spent a short, unappetizing time working in food regulatory policy, I wouldn't put too much faith in the quality and oversight of most of our mass-produced domestic food supply, let alone imports.

Posted by: Linda on July 5, 2007 9:13 AM

I think this comment thread has illustrated a difference in people that I believe is at the heart of a lot of disagreements, and not just about food. There are those who find some fulfillment in stripping things down to the essentials, and there are those who enjoy the aesthetic side of things.

I'm of the latter, although there's value in both, I suppose. At the extreme ends, you have survivalist types who can't wait for everything to break down so they can get back to the business of merely surviving, and on the other end you have shallow hedonists.

Of course, at its essence, food is simply fuel, but it's the human genius that can turn this necessity into art. It's that human genius that makes our brief lives enjoyable.

Dah. Too early in the morning to make more sense of this.

Posted by: the patriarch on July 5, 2007 10:05 AM

Now wait a minute: I'm both an Earth First!er looking forward to the imminent breakdown of civilization and a shallow hedonist. Deal with it, world.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on July 5, 2007 10:17 AM

Michael wrote:

I'm a little surprised that the franchise has expanded this far -- as far as I know, the "local foods" thing in its latest incarnation has only been around for a couple of years.

Benjamin writes:

I'm only passingly familiar with this movement, so I may be way off base about this, but here's my understanding of the history of the movement as gleened from the pages of NYC newspapers and magazines (mostly the "New York Times" and "New York" magazine). So this "history" may be somewhat parochial.

It seems that the local foods movement really began to crystalize and pick up steam in the early- and mid-1970s and that it spread outward from two epicenters that were somewhat independent of each other.

On the east coast, the creation of the Greenmarket in Union Square in 1976 (?) might be seen as the crystalizing event and, on the west coast. the opening and growing influence of that Alice Waters restaurant "Chez Panisse" in the early 1970s (?), might be seen as the crystalizing event.

In terms of the Union Square greenmarket, at the time it opened, part of the rationale that was given for its creation was that it was a way to revive local area agriculture.

Posted by: Benjamin Hemric on July 5, 2007 12:25 PM

Benjamin -- That's a good summary of its history. The current manifestation of the general thing, though, is much more recent, going back (as far as I know) to Michael Pollan's recent books and the Greenie anti-globalization, anti-Wal-Mart protests. Suddenly the granola crowd was all fired up again about how nutty it is that food products should be shipped thousands of miles and how great local farmers and neighbors can be, etc...

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on July 5, 2007 12:34 PM

This local food fad could actually be bad for the environment. Crops grow at different rates depending on many factors giving some areas an absolute or comparative advantage over others. The costs of production both economically and environmentally of local grown produce in many cases are higher than that of the imported produce.

Stick with what does well locally and import everything else.

Posted by: AP on July 5, 2007 8:49 PM

Not caring about what food you eat can lead to overeating. The fact is that your taste buds ask for stimulation, and if the food does not stimulate them enough, they eat more and more.

That's one reason why the French tend to be skinnier than US people. Their food is tastier, so they do leave the table with cravings that have nothing to do with hunger.

Less, tastier, food is one secret of keeping trim.

Also, if you wish to excersice, try to sign up with any volunteer group, like Habitat for Humanity, which actually expects you to do hard labor. You get to do the same amount of fat burning than at a gym but does not cost you anything. Plus you get invited to potlucks.

Posted by: Adriana on July 6, 2007 12:53 PM

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