Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

Observer Food Monthly


Recommended Posts

I used to love OFM. I was genuinely thrilled when my favourite Sunday paper decided to do a special supplement about something that I care about. In the beginning they deserved the 'Newspaper supplement of the year' accolade they print on the banner.

I've been finding it increasingly unreadable. Here's why...

Nigel Slater's Meaty Supper 4 pages recipes

The best stress-free Christmas recipes 15 pages recipes

The chef test (best and worst Xmas food) 4 pages product review

I'll have what he's having (comedy celebrities plug restaurants) 11 pages celebrity

So why are pineapples leaving a bitter taste 6 pages food feature

What's in my basket? 2 pages celebrity

How Alex James became a very big cheese in the country 6 pages celebrity

Battery chickens, patio heaters etc - (John Humphrys opines on all things green accompanied by 'Hello' style shots) 4 pages celebrity

The truffle is out there 5 pages food feature

Poppadums and pomegranates 6 pages food feature/recipes

Last word (Indira Sen writes about visiting her Mum) 1 page celebrity

That's 40 pages of food and 19 of celebrity.

Of these, it's worth noting that both the pineapple and the truffle pieces - the only ones that really qualify as readable and intelligent features about food, look like they've either been published elsewhere or are written with syndication in mind.

The stress-free recipes chunk is an inutterably uninspired collection of rehashed recipes none of which look tested enough to risk or inspiring enough to bother with.

Poppadums and pomegranates is a puff for Reza Mahammad's book with some recipes lifted from it.

Both Humphrys and Sen are, to be fair, writing about food they clearly wouldn't be in OFM if they weren't already famous for something else.

I understand the dynamics of newspaper sales. I understand that, if they can popularise a subject to appeal to a more general audience they can increase sales. I understand that, these days, that means 'celebrity'.

The presence of mass market food supplements and magazines means that general newspapers no longer feel the need to run food columns. Good food writing is being further marginalised every month. But I'm genuinely at a loss. What the hell am I supposed to read?

Tim Hayward

"Anyone who wants to write about food would do well to stay away from

similes and metaphors, because if you're not careful, expressions like

'light as a feather' make their way into your sentences and then where are you?"

Nora Ephron

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I tend to agree with you Tim, it used to be brilliant and I also looked forward to it but in particular I am getting tired of the restaurant bookings column which is becoming very purile and must irritate the restaurants no end. It was funny to start with but enough is enough. The Independent (I think) did a good food issue recently and so did Stella in the Sunday Telegraph recently.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Agree wholeheartedly, Tim. I flipped through it, and then abandoned it - not a single thing to draw me in, I really couldn't care less where some comedian eats (unless it's damn good food, and then just tell me about the food, please).

Abandon the pretence, just call it OCFM - celebrity food monthly.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Agreed.

Even all the celebrity restaurant plugs are also plugs for some new work the celeb has going at the moment.

And Nigel Slater's writing style makes me want to puke. Why is everything the'tastiest' or the 'juciest' for gods sake.

Load of crap.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Agreed.

Even all the celebrity restaurant plugs are also plugs for some new work the celeb has going at the moment.

And Nigel Slater's writing style makes me want to puke. Why is everything the'tastiest' or the 'juciest' for gods sake.

Load of crap.

But sometimes he can be priceless

In yesterday's Observer supplement (not OFM), under the headline 'Tickled pink' the following sub,

Roll-around-the-mouth juices, marbled fat, the meat folding like a velvet curtain - roast beef makes the best supper this side of Christmas, says Nigel Slater.

Purple prose, even for Nige, but curtains? And, more particularly, beef ones?

:shock:

Tim Hayward

"Anyone who wants to write about food would do well to stay away from

similes and metaphors, because if you're not careful, expressions like

'light as a feather' make their way into your sentences and then where are you?"

Nora Ephron

Link to comment
Share on other sites

For obvious reasons I won't get into a long one on this save for two points. I do believe that a food magazine that appealed hugely to the people on this site would be death in the market place, love it as I do here.

And Tim, I have absolutely no idea what you mean by:

Of these, it's worth noting that both the pineapple and the truffle pieces - the only ones that really qualify as readable and intelligent features about food, look like they've either been published elsewhere or are written with syndication in mind.

Both were commissioned solely for our magazine by two of the Observer's key writers. They can only look like they've been published elsewhere if they carry a copyright mark from elsewhere. We also don't commission anything for syndication purposes, because it's imporsisble to do so. What I think you're really saying is 'There were two pieces in the mag that appealed to me but if I say that it would undermine my whinge about the rest of the mag.'

I think the fact someone like you found two features - about 12 pages of OFM - they approved of means we're doing the right thing.

Jay

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Does that mean that a political piece that runs in Foreign Affairs or New Statesman or The Economist would be death in the market place if instead printed as an opinion piece in the Observer?

Read but a page or two of egullet and you'll see it's hardly the most serious place on earth. Make it to the second paragraph of OFM and you'll figure out the same.

Next issue: What does Paris Hilton like between two baps?

"Gimme a pig's foot, and a bottle of beer..." Bessie Smith

Flickr Food

"111,111,111 x 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321" Bruce Frigard 'Winesonoma' - RIP

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Does that mean that a political piece that runs in Foreign Affairs or New Statesman or The Economist would be death in the market place if instead printed as an opinion piece in the Observer?

Read but a page or two of egullet and you'll see it's hardly the most serious place on earth. Make it to the second paragraph of OFM and you'll figure out the same.

Next issue: What does Paris Hilton like between two baps?

It's not about individual pieces. It's about the whole package. A piece from the New Statesman would be (and has been) fine. The New Statesman itself sells just 30,000 copies. We sell over half a million.

Jay

Link to comment
Share on other sites

And Tim, I have absolutely no idea what you mean by:

Of these, it's worth noting that both the pineapple and the truffle pieces - the only ones that really qualify as readable and intelligent features about food, look like they've either been published elsewhere or are written with syndication in mind.

Both were commissioned solely for our magazine by two of the Observer's key writers. They can only look like they've been published elsewhere if they carry a copyright mark from elsewhere. We also don't commission anything for syndication purposes, because it's imporsisble to do so. What I think you're really saying is 'There were two pieces in the mag that appealed to me but if I say that it would undermine my whinge about the rest of the mag.'

I stand, of course, corrected - though, to be fair, I didn't say that either of the pieces actually appealed to me. They didn't.

But my point stands. Though I can see that the Observer deserves a huge pat on the back for commissioning two food pieces for a 100 pg monthly food section, if there's budget to be spent on producing such a magazine it seems fairly lamentable to be spending it sending photographers to LA to shoot comedians in restaurants.

It also seems fairly lamentable that the people who are commissioning intelligent articles about food - take Gourmet magazine as an example :wink: - are outside the UK.

Tim Hayward

"Anyone who wants to write about food would do well to stay away from

similes and metaphors, because if you're not careful, expressions like

'light as a feather' make their way into your sentences and then where are you?"

Nora Ephron

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I see the observer food monthly as an extra and so am glad when it has a few good things in it - it's more than I would have otherwise. That means I can skip pass the purple prose, celebrity waffle and the endless promise of easy, quick receipes. If there is something good, that's good enough.

The only bit that truly grates is the restaurant booking column, as mentioned, where people pretend to be calling on behalf of celebrities. I can't help but imagine the work experience person, or new graduate with flaming cheeks and shaking hands, making another embarassing call to waste people's time - and how is the end result truly different from one week to another?

My reading highlight comes on Wednesdays, when the LA Times food pages are updated on the internet. Russ Parsons and his team almost always have something new to write about, and something for me to cook on Saturday. Midweek is when a lift is needed most, especially Wednesday, the saggiest day of the week.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It's not about individual pieces. It's about the whole package. A piece from the New Statesman would be (and has been) fine. The New Statesman itself sells just 30,000 copies. We sell over half a million.

Undeniably true.

So I suppose what I'm saying is that it's a rotten shame the UK doesn't deserve a publication that's the foodie equivalent of the New Statesman - small circulation special interest

Maybe there aren't enough of us to make it worthwhile.

But, in the meantime, the Spectator and Private Eye seem to have dropped their food columns altogether and increasingly, I can't find anything to read.

Tim Hayward

"Anyone who wants to write about food would do well to stay away from

similes and metaphors, because if you're not careful, expressions like

'light as a feather' make their way into your sentences and then where are you?"

Nora Ephron

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It's not about individual pieces. It's about the whole package. A piece from the New Statesman would be (and has been) fine. The New Statesman itself sells just 30,000 copies. We sell over half a million.

Undeniably true.

So I suppose what I'm saying is that it's a rotten shame the UK doesn't deserve a publication that's the foodie equivalent of the New Statesman - small circulation special interest

Maybe there aren't enough of us to make it worthwhile.

But, in the meantime, the Spectator and Private Eye seem to have dropped their food columns altogether and increasingly, I can't find anything to read.

yes you can. It's here.

Seriously. Certain elements of niche high end old media are being replaced by the online opportunities. I suspect you now read far more about food here than you ever did in any of the mags that were ever available.

Jay

Link to comment
Share on other sites

yes you can. It's here.

Seriously. Certain elements of  niche high end old media are being replaced by the online opportunities. I suspect you now read far more about food here than you ever did in any of the mags that were ever available.

Granted. But where will quality papers go if 'niche high end' stuff goes on-line? Surely it's almost the definition of a broadsheet (particularly, the larger and more leisurely Sunday edition) that it takes the time to analyse specialist areas.

And, as nobody gets paid for it online, will we come to regard you and your colleagues as 'the last generation of professionals? :smile:

This would be a pity. Online communities are commonly characterised as a bunch of dangerously opinionated amateurs, whaffling and ranting with no 'professional' rigour... if we're the future of the 'High-end', Christ help us.

'Rigour' takes time, effort, will and a paycheque.

Besides which, if online is the future for food, are we seriously saying we've seen the last Elizabeth David? Is the next Jane Grigson running a blog off a superannuated 386 in her bedroom? Should I be looking out for a poster like 'St33ngarten'? None of those people could have survived to write about food without someone paying enough for them to live.

Edited by Tim Hayward (log)

Tim Hayward

"Anyone who wants to write about food would do well to stay away from

similes and metaphors, because if you're not careful, expressions like

'light as a feather' make their way into your sentences and then where are you?"

Nora Ephron

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I agree with just about all that has been said.

I find the magazine far too celebrity obsessed and it isn't enough any more to persuade me to buy the (celebrity obsessed) Observer. But it's not just a problem with the magazine but with the British newspaper industry in general. IMO one reason why paper sales are declining in the UK.

You're right, Jay, that I get much more of my information online but I've been known to hunt out magazines or journals when I hear about a good article.

I also know a lot of people who are not as obsessed with food as I am but have more than a passing interest. These should be the people that the OFM should be targeting but they are not interested in a food-orientated Hello magazine. Having said that, it's easy to criticise and I don't have any answers - it's just frustrating to see what could be such a good opportunity wasted.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The participants may change, but the debates never do...

Perceptive and direct as always Jon.

Plus ca change eh?

So, Jay....

At the Observer two out of the three most senior people have been sports editors of one kind or another. They know how to do sport. They understand it. They don't understand food and so the only way they feel they can approach it is through the prism of celebrity. As a hack of old I would accept we need some of that. But we could also be a little more lush, a little more adoring of food for food's sake: the Steingarten approach if you like.

...does this still pertain?

Tim Hayward

"Anyone who wants to write about food would do well to stay away from

similes and metaphors, because if you're not careful, expressions like

'light as a feather' make their way into your sentences and then where are you?"

Nora Ephron

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The participants may change, but the debates never do...

Perceptive and direct as always Jon.

Plus ca change eh?

So, Jay....

At the Observer two out of the three most senior people have been sports editors of one kind or another. They know how to do sport. They understand it. They don't understand food and so the only way they feel they can approach it is through the prism of celebrity. As a hack of old I would accept we need some of that. But we could also be a little more lush, a little more adoring of food for food's sake: the Steingarten approach if you like.

...does this still pertain?

Up to a point. The editors all know my views. I am after all a regular on this site which means I am more obsessed than most with the subject which, given my job is exactly as it should be.

But... five years on, circulation boyant and with a mantlepiece full of awards for the mag (it is no longer early days) I am more than willing to accept that the team knows exactly what it's doing and has got the mix generally right. That is a very different thing from whether you guys approve. And I stick with my very first comment in this thread: that the kind of mag you would like would not be the sort of thing that would prosper in the market place.

Jay

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It's not about individual pieces. It's about the whole package. A piece from the New Statesman would be (and has been) fine. The New Statesman itself sells just 30,000 copies. We sell over half a million.

So I suppose what I'm saying is that it's a rotten shame the UK doesn't deserve a publication that's the foodie equivalent of the New Statesman - small circulation special interest

Is this more what you're thinking of?

link to Petit Propos Culinaire

Think I have a collection of articles and writings from this somewhere - found it interesting but ultimately too clever for me.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

A specialist food magazine might not *prosper* in the marketplace, but I'm surprised that one does not at least *exist*. They do in other specialised areas. An old chum of mine used to be editor of "Popular Wood Routing Monthly" or some such, and he had to be really on the ball to fend off the competition from two other, similar titles!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
×
×
  • Create New...