Turkey Totality: Thanksgiving Magazine Roundup Smackdown Spectacular
It's late October, which means the November issues of food magazines have hit the newsstands. It's a huge deal in American food media: Recipe testing begins in early summer and the competition to find new things to say about what is ultimately a very traditional meal is fierce (and frustratingly futile, according to Regina Schrambling). The Thanksgiving issues serve as a point of comparison on all of the different food magazines out there. Who did it well? Who called it in? Who went traditional? Who went a little bonkers? We read 11 titles in order to bring you the the best and the worst turkey talk this year, sorted worst to best:
Sandra Lee's Semi-Homemade
What can I say about Sandra Lee that hasn't already been said? The food in this magazine scares me, which may be the point, as it's another October/November issue and much of it is dedicated to spooky Halloween food.
Star Power: Sandra Lee
Technical Support: "Technical" is sort of anti-semi-homemade, don't you think? There is, however, advice on "Tablescapes."
WTF? The food, on the surface, seems totally normal. It's what goes into it that's terrifying.
Recipe to Clip: I cannot in good conscience tell you to clip any of these recipes.
Traditionalism: 9/10 (The art of taking shortcuts on Thanksgiving is pretty traditional, if you think about it.)
Worth it? 3/10
Better Homes and Gardens
There's some useful, basic information in here, but nothing you couldn't get out of The Joy of Cooking. Also, magazines with organizational tips make me itchy.
Schtick: Easy Thanksgiving, Mini-Pies, Holiday Baking.
Star Power: None.
Technical Support: Turkey roasting guide, including carving and leftover ideas.
WTF? Better Homes and Gardens isn't really a "WTF" sort of outfit.
Recipe to Clip: Step-by-step pictures on how to make classic dinner rolls
Worth it? 5/10
Food & Wine
With only about a third of its content focused on the holiday, Food & Wine may be best for those who hate the holidays (and want to just get drunk for cheap instead). Predictably, there's plenty of wine content, and much of it is helpful.
Schtick: New American, Perfecting Thanksgiving, $10 Thanksgiving Wines, David Chang/Momofuku Leftovers Recipes
Star Power: David Chang
Technical Support: Budget wine pairings.
WTF? Roast Turkey with Pickled Jalapeno-Paprika Gravy (pg. 120).
Recipe to Clip: Christina Tosi's Brown Butter Custard Pie with Cranberry Glaze and Cinnamon Toast Crumb Crust
Worth it? 6/10
Everyday with Rachael Ray
This is the first time I've ever read this magazine, and it's a lot like going into your crazy aunt's brain. For example, Ray recommends wearing fancy Crocs (they make fancy Crocs, FYI) for party-hopping, and all the food seems like it's for a family of linebackers (everything's cheesy, and with bacon). Still, the whole thing is kind of fascinating.
Schtick: Superlatives: Your Best Thanksgiving Ever, Tastiest Turkey of All Time. Recipes are split into Turkey and Not Turkey.
Star Power: Jeff Probst, "Rach's Buddies"
Technical Support: Thanksgiving shopping on a budget, a guide to basters.
WTF? Ray suggests leaving a basket of wool socks by the door for guests with cold feet. "If you're making a vegetarian meal, serve sparkling wine, which has a bready taste that veggies love." "German-style Mango Cake." "Who you Calling Turkey? Patty" for your dog.
Recipe to Clip: There are a bunch of awesome looking appetizer ideas, including Pistachios with Anise and Orange and Balsamic-Glazed Mushrooms.
Worth it? 6/10.
Martha Stewart Living
Not recommended unless crafts and place-settings are your thing; there's only one Thanksgiving menu that is footnoted with the recommendation that you look on her website for more.
Schtick: Casual Traditional, Pies for Beginners
Star Power: Martha
Technical Support: Table-setting, instructions for spatch-roasting a turkey.
WTF? Martha recommends a place setting made out of purple cabbage and purple cauliflower, which is more like "WTF, that is kind of awesome."
Recipe to Clip: Cranberry and Vanilla Pavlova. Like a bread bowl, but for cranberry sauce.
Worth it? 6/10
Not the uber-traditional menu I thought it would have going in; if you're looking for real, awesome Southern, go with Country Living. Southern Living had the most intriguing turkey recipe I saw.
Schtick: "Better-for-You" sides, new recipes to mix in with your family's traditions, cocktails, "Mama's Way or Your Way?", "Bake-n-Take" desserts,
Star Power: Mama and her recipes.
Technical Support: Make-ahead gravy guide.
WTF? Love "Better-for-You" as Southern-style bitchiness.
Recipe to Clip: Roasted Paprika-Brown Sugar Rub Turkey
Worth it? 7/10
Schtick: Mix and match recipes, best restaurants for Thanksgiving, leftovers, superfoods recipes,
Star Power: None.
Technical Support: How to cook your turkey on the grill, how to make a lattice topped pie
WTF? Mashed Potatoes with Ranch Dressing. (Gravy's not good enough?!)
Recipe to Clip: Potato and Autumn Vegetable Hash
Worth it? 8/10
The Lee Brother's Southern Thanksgiving menu look amazing from appetizer to dessert. Highly recommended.
Schtick: Southern Thanksgiving
Star Power: The Lee Brothers
Technical Support: Not much, unless you count the how-to on Fresh Buttermilk Cheese.
WTF? A place-setting project that involves 2-inch tall full body pictures of each guest held up by a pear.
Recipe to Clip: Buttermilk Fresh Cheese with Spiced Figs, Pickled Fennel or Pistachio Crust
Worth it? 9/10
Food Network Magazine
The most comprehensive Thanksgiving information out of all the magazines I read. Buy it if you're in need of ideas/inspiration.
Schtick: 4 different turkeys by Food Network staffers, a chart for different flavors of stuffing, "All-Star" sides, 50 recipes for mashed potatoes, a centerfold on cranberry sauce, desserts by Ina Garten, leftover recipes, decorative nuts.
Star Power: Alton Brown! Ina Garten! Sandra Lee! Paula Deen! Emeril Lagasse!
Technical Support: Fancy beer pairings, a chef's emergency kit planner for the cook on the go.
WTF? Applesauce-Topped Mashed Potatoes.
Recipe to Clip: The stuffing chart, as it would be helpful in making up your own flavor combinations. Also, Michael Symon's Fried Brussels Sprouts with Walnuts and Capers.
Traditionalism: 5/10 (there's traditional as well as wacky, split the difference)
Worth it? 9/10
If you're going to buy any Thanksgiving issue, you're clearly going to pick up the last issue of Gourmet, even if it's just as a simple gesture of mourning. However, with three unique (but not crazy) menus, it's would be worth it even if the magazine hadn't been shut down.
Schtick: Non-traditional Desserts, Vegetarian, "Nostalgic" Thanksgiving, Eccentric Southern
Star Power: None, unless you count Ruth Reichl.
Technical Support: Best mashing potatoes, a summary of different types of sweet potatoes.
WTF? Seven uses for turkey feathers, including Big Bird.
Recipe to Clip: Toasted Sweet Corn Pudding
Worth it? 9/10
Almost as thorough as Food Network Magazine, but slightly more sophisticated. This would be my first choice.
Schtick: New England Thanksgiving, The First Thanksgiving, Mexican Thanksgiving, Grilled Turkey, Paris-meets-New York Thanksgiving, Turkey as icon, Cooking at the Salvation Army.
Star Power: A sweet tribute to Sheila Lukins.
Technical Support: How to carve a turkey, plastic thermometers,
WTF? Tons of kimchi in an otherwise exclusively Thanksgiving issue.
Recipe to Clip: Creamed Roasted Onions
Traditionalism: 5/10 (Again, about half and half.)
Worth it? 10/10