What are food magazines for?
In an age when every recipe in the world is just a Google search away, and you can instantly download almost any cookbook that's ever been printed, what exactly is the role that food magazines play?
What's the point of them?
Well, for one thing, they can still open your eyes to new food traditions, unfamiliar ingredients, and exciting new chefs. They're a monthly way to curate the world of food and cut through some of the noise. And that is a wonderful, valuable thing.
But sometimes they can do more.
Food magazines can convey vital stories that need to be told. They can shine a spotlight on the defining issues of the moment — even troubling, controversial ones — that are reshaping the world of food. This was a hallmark of the Ruth Reichl era at Gourmet, with stories like Barry Estabrook's award-winning 2011 exposé on the plight of people working in the Florida tomato industry. With Gourmet becoming a more and more distant memory, important coverage like this seems to have become less frequent.
The One Food Magazine You Should Buy in March
Which brings us to the March issue of Rachael Ray Every Day. It's devoted to women chefs who are taking over the culinary scene. And if you only read one food magazine this month, this should be the one.
The cover story, #LIKEABOSS, profiles eight female chefs who, as author Sarah Wexler writes, "have carved out their own space in the bro-y food world and are pulling up other ladies with them." Some of these chefs, such as Anita Lo and Carla Hall, are well-known names you're probably familiar with. Others, like Katlin Smith, the CEO of Simple Mills, and Kerry Diamond, the co-founder and editorial director of Cherry Bombe, are women who are changing the current culinary scene in other exciting ways.
In addition to the profiles, the feature also includes mini-writeups on other female kitchen moguls, advice from women who run successful food companies, and a chronological timeline of female pioneers in food. And we love the call-out at the front of the issue about how Rachael Ray is an almost entirely female-produced magazine.
But the best part of this feature is how explicitly it confronts the fact that women are underrepresented in executive chef positions and significantly underpaid compared to their male counterparts. And it includes an unflinching write-up about sexual harassment in the restaurant world, and workplace guidelines that should be implemented in every professional kitchen.
The #MeToo movement and the broader topic of gender equity have been one of the most important issues in the world of food over the past six months. We know it takes a long time to produce a food magazine, and that issues are planned out months and months in advance. We hope Rachael Ray is merely the first food magazine to tackle this topic in such a direct and forthright way, and others will follow. At any rate, this issue is a must-read.
Where to Buy the Issue
You can buy this issue of Rachael Ray Every Day at Barnes & Noble, or digitally on Texture, Zinio, Flipster, and eMagazine digital newsstands. Be sure to tune into Rachael Ray on Facebook on March 1, for a special Facebook Live on women in food.
Other Magazines We Recommend This Month
But Rachael Ray isn't the only food magazine tackling tough issues this month.
Bon Appétit has a riveting in-depth feature on what it's like to be a line cook at one of the finest restaurants in New York, serving $44 fish entrees to wealthy diners while you're struggling to make rent. (The median national wage for a line cook is just over $24,000 a year.)
Specifically the piece, by Amanda Shapiro, profiles a day in the life of Nana Araba Wilmot, a line cook at Stephen Starr's renowned French restaurant, Le Coucou. In addition to low wages, the story also explores issues of healthcare access, racial discrimination in the kitchen, and, yes, sexual harassment and gender inequality. It's a sobering look at the workers toiling behind the scenes at fine-dining restaurants, and it's well worth your attention.
Finally this month, we absolutely loved the Photography Issue of Food & Wine. It's a gorgeous collection of some absolutely stunning food photography, including 40 Photographs That Changed the Way We Eat. It's also got a nice discussion with food photographers and stylists about how food photos have changed over the years, and what food photography means in the age of Instagram. And the rest of the issue is filled with lovely stories and memories from photographers and a whole host of jaw-droppingly beautiful food imagery. You'll never look at a head of chicory the same way again.
All three of these issues are wonderful reminders that food magazines can be about so much more than yummy recipes. They can challenge you and expand the entire way you think about food.
Pick up a copy of Rachael Ray — and Bon Appétit and Food & Wine! — and let us know what you think.