My love affair with (print) cooking magazines has come to an end. As it is with all endings, I feel many things: sad, nostalgic, resolved and, most significantly, deliciously unburdened. Don't get me wrong. I still love cooking magazines, and even plan on indulging in a spontaneously purchased issue every now and then (airports, sick days, maybe even a rogue holiday issue.) But we are no longer going to live together on a day-to-day basis; I will no longer allow dusty, teetering piles to accumulate at my bedside or partake in a subscription, no matter how low the offer ($9.99 for three years!).
At its height, my cooking magazine affair was quite intense. Initially, it was just a Gourmet subscription but before I knew it I had added Saveur and Bon Appétit to the list. I always picked up my local Edible (both SF and East Bay and occasionally Marin and Wine Country) and a friend supplied me with his old Food & Wine and Martha Stewart Living (clever fellow, pawning off his discards!). Soon I discovered the more substantial offerings of The Art of Eating and Gastronomica and added them to my pile.
But eventually all this excess wore away at my infatuation and I began to get clear on some basic, unavoidable problems with magazine collections, especially as a renter who moves with some frequency. Magazines are heavy, they collect dust, and they're not a very practical way to store knowledge. Although I swore I was going to read them again, how often did I actually do this? (Never.) Oh, and that project involving clipping favorite recipes and placing them in an indexed binder? Had I done it yet? And when's the last time I reached in to the archives and actually cooked from an issue? Really? With Epicurious (and The Kitchn!) right there at my fingertips?
So I stoically turned away the free castoffs, whittled my subscription down to Gourmet only (just like the old days!) and treated my Edibles like a newspaper, not collectible art. When Gourmet failed and they started sending Bon Appétit instead, I knew it was just a matter of time. The final straw came when I started packing up for a move a few weeks ago and I realized that I did not want to drag cartons of magazines across the city. I stood there and considered all the natural resources that go into manufacturing and shipping magazines and the giant dump pile where they would eventually end up. Ugh.
So there it was: the combination of dust, weight, dwindling quality, internet access and environmental impact all came together and I decided to call it off. No more magazines, no more subscriptions, no more dusty piles! Immediately I felt lighter, almost sensible. Yeah, I can do this! This is no big deal!
Ultimately, though, I'm a romantic, not a pragmatist. I know I will miss the thrill of a fresh new issue arriving in the mail, the languid hours spent lounging in a hot bath, paging through glossy articles. I completely relate to those who say they prefer the tactile quality of ink on paper — there have been times in my life when leafing through a shiny magazine has been the perfect medicine. I'm old school enough (or maybe just plain old enough) for all this to be important. But in the end, for me and my particular circumstance, it was time to move on.
(Image: Dana Velden)