50 best Mags

The Chicago Tribune has published one of those lists that gives you pause–the top 50 magazines. You always think these would not be the ones you’d pick but somehow someone has picked them and it’s just fascinating to figure out why and who and in what state of mind? And then you figure, hey, they must make sense in terms of “the way the world works.” In particular, I dislike that the magazine Real Simple is listed as number 2 (above The Economist and below Wired). This magazine is one of those infuriating magazines aimed at women which implies that you can do, make, buy, be, transform into anything if you just tried, you lazy good-for-nothing, all within a small budget and in natural fibers. I was pleased to see, however, that Cooks Illustrated as number 4 (except for the fact that it’s behind RS). This magazine is a true find a great gift for a friend, truly. It makes a science out of cooking (as it should). The layout is no-frills with little advertising with that kind of paper that still feels like paper, dry and not glossy. It feels like someone has given you a manual with your groceries and covers REALLY useful things like who makes the cheapest and best tasting vanilla extract (turns out that CVS makes a tasty imitation that is cheap, cheap, cheap) or which blender is the best buy–affordable without completely falling apart. Most impressive are its articles on some of the recipes. The chef usually approaches a classic dish (or not so classic dish) like scones and goes through, step-by-step the different things the chef did (more butter) did not (less cream) do to make sure that darn scone was the crisipiest, most moist yet least difficult to make scone you’ve ever encountered. The chef wil go through the different temps he or she tried, the different amounts of butter, cream, salt, etc. and the different outcomes. The point of the magazine is to teach you how to think about the process of cooking, why some ingredients produce this miraculous or that disastrous outcome and why not. If you have the time to read it, it’s great. Unfortunately, CI has one added disadvantage that other mags don’t incur: when it piles up on the floor alongside your much coveted RS, you are not only missing out on fascinating cooking science, you’re missing out on a crispy, yet moist, scone.

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