Yesterday on Grub Street, Josh Ozersky called Bon Appétit magazine “the most boring” of the food rags, “an ad-packed Nembutal calling to mind the ‘women’s pages’ where newspapers used to publish their party recipes.”
It was his ultimate conclusion, though, that really caught my attention: “Once a magazine is a repository for recipes, it stops being exciting, unless someone figures out a way to attach it to the outside world. Bon Appétit is for people who eat in. No new typeface is going to fix that problem.”
Ozersky’s statement is certainly incendiary–the comments on his post reveal a spark of outrage. Personally, I see some truth to what he’s saying: cooking at home isn’t as exciting as going out. Sure, there’s the excitement of “oh, I almost burnt my house down” but you’re not engaged with the outside world the way you are when you wait two hours in the cold for your table at The Spotted Pig. I rarely spot celebrities at my kitchen table, but today at Brooklyn Fish Camp I saw Maggie Gyllenhaal eating with her mother. At home, you can sink into complacency–why sit at the table when you can eat in front of the TV? Out to dine, you’re on your game: chatting with the host, charming the waitress, discussing the dessert options with the next table. I get why going out is exciting.
And yet it’s not nearly as rewarding as cooking at home. Given a choice–home cooked meals forever, or only dinner out–I’d absolutely choose the former. There’s nothing that beats the joy of removing a slow braised pork shoulder from the oven while your friends await it, forks aloft (even if there’s melted plastic in it). Home cooked food at its best is infinitely more intimate, infinitely more loving than anything you can get at a restaurant and that’s as it should be: at the end of the day restaurants are businesses, they want your money. A home cook, on the other hand, just wants to make you happy.
And that’s why the recipe blogs I read, which comprise 90% of the food blogs out there, feel so sunny and warm and why the restaurant industry blogs that I read often feel so hostile and snarky. These are two worlds: the world of eating in, and the world of eating out. These worlds aren’t mutually exclusive and I certainly straddle both. But as my blog moves away from restaurant reviews and focuses more on cooking, it’s grown less exciting, sure, but it’s also grown more happy. I used to get the nastiest comments when I reviewed restaurants, now that I don’t the comments are almost entirely positive and constructive. And that’s a key word, “constructive”: cooking is a constructive act, eating out is passive. It’s easier to be reactive than proactive and that’s why, I think, food industry blogs are so sensational whereas home cooking blogs are often more honest, feeling, thoughtful and, ultimately, more human.
Which isn’t to say that industry blogs aren’t fun (double negative!). I love me the snark, I love me the gossip the same way that I love sneaking a peek at the People and the Us Weekly at the checkout. I simply wanted to offer a retort to Ozersky’s dig at “people who eat in.” You may not find us in the glossy pages of New York Magazine, but you will find us at our kitchen table, laughing with friends, and digging into a slice of homemade apple pie. I don’t know where you’d rather be, but I know where I’ll be tomorrow night.
I’ll get my recipe from “Bon Appétit.”