Friday, 29 January 2010

Magazine Review: The Art of Eating

Edward Behr's quarterly magazine The Art of Eating has built up a solid following over the last 24 years and has gained the reputation as the most serious and well researched food quarterly around.  The Financial Times has written glowingly about it, but its main market is still America, where it hails from.  Here it is said to be read by anyone who is anyone in the food industry.  Despite this the Europhile nature of the writers means at least as much focus, if not more, is given to Europe.  Not only will you find interesting, relevant articles to read, you will also not find any adverts between the well researched pieces.

Well researched is right when it comes to this magazine.  The articles border on the academic.  Though the authors include some personal details about their own connection to the issue, or some anecdotal sentences about the events they describe, the writing definitely tends towards the dense.  So dense and highly informative.  Its certainly not a light read and though it's elegantly written, AOE is not entertaining in the lifestyle way that newspaper food writing is, nor is it witty in the way that fire and knives is.  It is, however, incredibly interesting and informative.

Articles include a description of the beef auction in a village in Piedmont, with classic regional recipes following, one on French style sour dough, then duck hunting in California which aims to find if the type of wetland a duck lives in effects the taste, and so on.  The article on pan du levain (sourdough to you and me), focussing on the Polaine bakery in Paris, starts normally enough with the writers (who is a baker) first memories of eating this bread.  From there, however, it discusses the scientific paper that first described how pan du levain actually worked, and the chemical process.  It then goes through the career of Lionel Polaine and then takes a very detailed look at the techniques the bakers use every day, going through each stage step by step.  Then it discusses the different types of flour used, the difference between stone vs machine milled flours, and the laws governing the making of this kind of bread in France.  Then the author goes to a tasting and visits one final small collective bakery, again going through the process exhaustively.  So as you can see detail, detail, detail.  And whilst it may not be the most fun read, it certainly is one of the most edifying on the subjects it discusses.

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