Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Infrequent Periodical

The cadence of broadcast has a wide range, whose more-frequent end has been exploited by new modes of publication. There are the more traditional rhythms like the daily paper, and weekly and monthly magazines. But with Twitter and Facebook and myriad other ways to spread one’s word on a whim, daily can seem like a snail’s pace. News gets picked up and distributed seconds after it occurs. Many people (and brands, and publishers) tweet tens and even hundreds of times a day. With the global nature of communication and the ease of home publication, the middle of the night is fair game. One of the first things I do each morning is reach for my phone to find out what I missed while I slept.
There are many benefits to this level of sharing and connectedness, but I’d like to take a minute to pay homage to the other end of the spectrum: the infrequent periodical. For the purpose of this post, let’s call it somewhere between monthly and annually. This is a frequency that I love—dependable in its consistency, yet restrained enough to allow time to anticipate, and then appreciate once it arrives.
Of course, this is true in the traditional sense, for published periodicals. In the world of food, among others, there’s Canal House Cooking, Remedy Quarterly, and the latest darling, Lucky Peach. I’ll admit that my relationship with this new rag from McSweeny’s and David Chang has been volatile, but I believe its publishing calendar played an important role in allowing me to transition from my initial, unfavorable take, to my current position of admiration.

When I first picked up Lucky Peach, I was wooed by the graphic design and investment in original illustration, but I was acutely turned off by the voice and the unnecessarily long (16 page!) and tiresome blow-by-blow of the research process. In short, I found it to be an aggressive, overly masculine, masturbatory work of drivel whose potential target audience was little more than the authors and their best friends. But I tabled it for a few weeks, and then slipped it in my bag on my way out the door to a summer getaway. I proceeded to read every article, word for word. This almost never happens. Despite the article that initially turned me off (whose format has unfortunately been repeated in the second issue), I went on to find seemingly endless unexpected treasures, like recipes for ramen and slow cooked eggs. I now find Lucky Peach to be a unique peek into “modernist cuisine” that fills a huge gap in the food magazine landscape and provides access to a culinary world that has previously been all but inaccessible to us food layfolk.  If issues had been gathering on my coffee table, I wouldn’t have had the time to reassess.

And infrequent periodical is a nice rhythm for other things too, like occasions to make fried chicken at home, or trips to a museum, or visits from a long-distance lover. What are your favorite infrequent periodicals?


James B. said...

I got the first two issues of Lucky Peach. Definitely one of the more original food magazines out there. Some of the articles are just David Chang and Anthony Bourdain after too many tequila shots, but once you get past those there is some pretty good stuff.

Pleasant Company said...

TOTALLY agree with you, James. And I subscribed.

James B. said...

You can subscribe? I thought it was just an ad hoc thing. I picked the first one up at the Book Larder and the second on Amazon.