Thursday, July 27, 2006

Australian Food Magazines

When I was living in Australia (I lived in Melbourne for a year in 2003), I got really quite addicted to a few of the food magazines there - mainly because the quality of the produce, the meats, the seafood; they were outstandingly good, regardless of where you were. Not to mention the seasonality of produce. Grapes, for instance, were only available for a certain amount of time before they just were no longer there. Pumpkin (squash, basically) was available all year round and eaten just as much. The Queen Vic market in Melbourne was a favourite destination, but even better was my roommate Kat who would bring me home huge bunches of fresh basil and parmesan to be pounded into the freshest pesto I could ever imagine being made outside of Italy. Not to mention the little green grocer tucked up between Ikea and Kmart and a HUGE grocery store - but sold the most variety of fresh produce I'd ever seen in one little store. Melbourne, and Australia, really are a foodies dream destination - and hopefully through these magazines you'll come to understand why I simply must put it in your head that you have to experience it at least once in your life.

The four magazines that I fell in love with were Donna Hay, Australian Table, Gourmet Traveller and delicious. I also have been reading the North American version of delicious. now called "dazzling delightful delicious." (stupid title, but I'm sure it has something to do with copyright or some such thing).

dazzling delightful delicious. is a pretty little magazine and although its a smaller format and more appropriately compared to Everyday Food than the larger magazines on the market, its target demographic is clearly the Gourmet set. Having a roster of celebrity chefs (only some of whom will be known to anyone outside of the UK/Australia food circuit) with both stories and recipes is surely going to target the Batali/Bourdain crowd with a few fresh faces. While Nigella Lawson and Jamie Oliver are readily recognized from their shows on The Food Network, Jill Dupleix and Bill Granger come to mind as two celebrities who have yet to truly crack the celebrity/household name in the States. Which is not to say that they are not worthy of it (they are) but they really will need a bit more support to get there. Stay tuned to see how this lil' wonder of a magazine (you've simply GOT to see the photography to see why I stay in this industry even when I'm frustrated beyond belief with the politics - its THAT good) turns out over the next few issues.

By way of contrast, the actual full-size delicious. magazine published by the ABC (Australian Broadcast Corporation) has an established pedigree that seems to work well in its target market. It has been voted the world's best food magazine (by whom, I'm not entirely sure) and I can actually see why. Its not just the recipes. Its not just the restaurant reviews, the travel information, the wide availability around the globe of the ingredients, the exotic made everyday and the everyday made extraordinary. This is a magazine that is truly more than the sum of its parts. Its clearly the stylistic inspiration for the new edition both for photography and content (it does rankle me a little bit that the little guy is a recycled version for which I'm paying, not really original content - but I could be wrong and stand to be corrected). This magazine targets the Bon Appetit crowd but with upper-middle class aspirations. A delightful read, to be sure.

I used to love getting Australian Table magazine for a few reasons. One, they would nearly always pack in some kind of foodie freebie with the magazine (and for a $3.95 price, it was a HUGE bargain). I remember getting a miniature rolling pin and tart case once; another time it was a cloth shopping bag and yet another was a set of plastic cookie cutters. Very cool. Even cooler was the cross marketing promotions that one would see between the magazine, the advertisers and the market that actual sponsored and published the magazine, Coles. Being a large grocer, they had the money to back it up, naturally - but it was still very intruiging from a marketing standpoint. It was so cleverly done that it actually took me about 3 months to realize the connection, so smooth was the execution. If you ever come across this magazine, I defy you to NOT like its simplicity of design, boldness of inspiration to home cooks across the country and its clever charm and seasonal suggestions.

Donna Hay. turn simple into special. And that they do - very well. This magazine has become the inspiration for countless packages I've worked on - both the photography and set design. This is clearly one of the best designed magazines in the world, as far as I'm concerned, food related or otherwise. This is Martha Stewart Living for real people. Real people who don't have the funds to buy a Range Rover or Jaguar - but DO have the funds to buy a few old pieces of china from the flea market on the weekend to make thier chicken pie (from the issue pictured). The inspirational is truly made aspirational at Donna Hay and no one is left behind. This magazine truly demonstrates the Aussie ideal of the fair go - that everyone should have the same opportunity to succeed without bias or judgement - but dammit we're gonna eat some pretty lookin' and tasty food while we're at it. Oh, and the recipes really work.

Okay, I admit it. This was NOT one of the magazines that I fell in love with in Australia. I've fallen in love with it since my return. The recent Italy issue was one that particularly made me fall head over heels. The photographic standard is high end, the recipes suitably fall in line. The travel destinations are certainly not for the budget traveller - but this is about fantasy. This magazine is for those of us without six figure incomes to remind us of that one perfect four star meal we experienced years ago but wish we could recreate at will. Gourmet Traveller goes to the resorts and the spas and the destinations we'd all love to pack our Louis Vuitton cases and call the car service to get us to the airport on time so our first class ticket doesn't go to waste. This truly is a gilded truffle of a magazine, meant first to be sensed and then devoured with a restrained gusto.


At 3:42 p.m., Anonymous Grant said...

I picked up a copy of the Austrailian version of Delcious when I was in Big Sur last summer and fell in love with it. The US version seems cute but I've not yet made anything from it, although there is a recipe for something with chickpeas and chorizo that I've been wanting to make. I've not ever heard of Table, but I love Donna Hay. Absolutely LOVE her. So simple and beautiful.

At 3:54 p.m., Blogger Eric said...

You're right - the US version is just a nice little copy. Its an amuse bouche in the world of food magazines whereas the Aussie version is the proper entree. Donna Hay is just the most perfect confection dreamt up in the Paris our dreams.


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