"Magazines that celebrate life and food and all the rest of it should be given our full support," wrote Tali in response to "Misogynistic Grazia". Well, while other mags suck the fun out of food to help us fit into fashion, I think it's timely we had a chat about Jamie magazine, the eponymous title published by the cheeky TV chef now into its third issue.
Launched in December last year and printed on thick, matte card stock derived from sustainable managed forests (brand values, man), this bi-monthly brand extension of the Jamie Oliver empire (TV shows, cookbooks, restaurants, DVDs, homewares, food products) mixes food with travel, first-person essays, profile pieces and, of course, recipes.
Some have derided the magazine as nothing more than a catalogue for Oliver's Jme Collection products (endorsements slipping, as if by accident, into editorial pieces and all – this issue, there's a skincare feature pimping Jme Cooks & Gardeners' Lavender Hand Cream, a product page showing off his range of garden tools, a five-page profile of designer David Queensberry, whose Coco dinnerwear range is available exclusively to jme/jmecollection.com, and much, much more).
It's also been accused of being blatantly nepotistic and wanky (good mate Brad Pitt dropped into the first issue, and wife Jools had a column). But I'm prepared to let it all slide because, well, it's his magazine. It says so on the cover. And Oliver and his editor Andy Harris only have themselves to blame if the parochialism/nepotism/product creep starts to detract from a good read. Commercialism is like a dirty word in this post-eco-movement/GFC world, after all.
Australia is having a love affair with food right now, if MasterChef ratings are anything to go by. And if they're craving authenticity from their magazines, as much as from their cuisine, mags like Jamie are right for the picking. Plus, unlike other magazines which peddle "food porn" (as Catherine Deveny put it so deliciously) alongside diet stories, the Jamie experience is to the true epicurean what Vogue is to serious fashionistas (okay, it's high-class food porn).
What's on the, erm, menu this month? My pick of the crop (oh, stop it!) includes:
- the Q&A with journalist Wolf Blitzer whose time in the Middle East has given him a love for hummus, falafel, chopped salad and pita bread but would happily eat his breakfast cereal concoction of Special K, raisins, nuts, bananas, blueberries and skimmed milk if he had to choose one dish to eat for the rest of his life.
-The short (advertorial) piece on Recipease; a fabulous concept in food education (attend an Easy To Make session to learn how to follow a recipe!). Brought to us than none other than Jamie Oliver.
- 'The F Word' by Peter Begg. Like Mills & Boon for foodies, the feature begins: "The key to perfect fish and chips, the smoothest chicken liver parfait, a shiny jus or the ultimate roast potato is not a mysterious technique or gadget up a chef's sleeve, it's the judicious use of a certain ingredient...". Guess what it is! Lick those chops.
- The 'Bloggers' profile of Dave Barker, former printer turned chef, which plugs jamieoliver.com as a great way to get yourself a food gig (this feature comes with a side recipe of Leek, Wild Mushroom & Spinach Lasagne).
- The Asparagus Frittata recipe on page 41, which I made to impress friends. Worked a treat! See evidence in below picture.
- Danny Moynihan's essay on growing up in Southern France in the 1960s. Epicurean heaven. I had to contend with variations on chops and three veg.
- Restauranteur Mourad Mazouz's review of Beirut restaurant Fadel. Rich with description, it left me salivating.
- '3 Tenors', a tale of friendships broken and repaired, it features Jamie and his mentors-cum-mates Gennaro Contaldo and Antonio Carluccio. Very Sopranos. A sprawling 18 page feature which features recipes by all three men ("cooking is a great way to bring people together").
- The story by Lebanese-Australian chef Greg Malouf of MoMo (Grand Hyatt, Melbourne) who travels to Turkey. "For me, when it comes to food and travel, it's all about the little discoveries you make and the connections between ingredients, techniques and recipes," he writes. Accompanied by fantastic food photography.
- 11 pages of Italian dishes by Jamie and co.
- The Damascus travel feature by Fiona Dunlop resplendent with illustration, travel photography and tips on where to eat.
- The expandable, pull-out Monthly Menu (above right and as modelled by Husband below).
- Paul Dring's account of attending 21 tapas bars in two nights. The foodie equivalent of a pub crawl.
- The quirky 'Make Me' comic by Emma Tissler that closes the issue. This month: Rice Paper Rolls for 12!
Jamie is a rich magazine "experience". Beautifully designed, with gorgeous photography, prose crafted with description, anecdotes and notable quotes, and typography and layouts that are easy on the eyes, it's the kind of magazine to be shared with friends. At $14.95, it's not cheap for us Aussies (about as much as a takeaway Pad Thai), and the advertorial can be annoying, but if you're looking for a tasty distraction from those insidious diet stories, this is the mag to sate your cravings.