Thanksgiving Magazine Roundup

If you've waited in a supermarket checkout line lately, chances are you've caught up on the dedicated-to-Thanksgiving special issues from food magazines. I rounded up six of them during a recent checkout, and have since leafed through, scribbled notes and made an assessment: Not one stands above the rest or inspires me to take this year's Thanksgiving feast to a new level. Thank goodness for my back issues from years past, which seem to cover the basics and have more of an instructional focus. I know, it must be challenging for mag editors to come up with a new Thanksgiving theme year after year, but I gotta say, I'm left feeling un-wowed. Below, my notes; please weigh in and offer thoughts on additional magazines that have either helped or hindered this year's preparation.


BON APPETIT

Can you judge a magazine by its cover?

Focus on the contents of the plate rather than the table. Readily identifiable save one item - which turns out to be cipolline onions (they looked like button mushrooms to me). Looks like Thanksgiving, but it doesn't feel particularly festive or special.

Theme: "Thanksgiving: Dish by Dish," a 50-page, ad-free section with a menu guide of six different scenarios, including vegetarian.

Number of relevant recipes: 36

How much how-to? Turkey stock

Vegetarian friendly? Yes and no. There's an emphasis on butter, cheese and cream among the meatless offering. Savvy vegetarians will know how to adjust, but first-timers may not.

Trimmings: A list of suggested whites that don't break the bank (tasty); a playlist of "all -American songs for Thanksgiving" (not so tasty).

Grade: B+

Web site: Bon Appetit at epicurious


EVERYDAY WITH RACHAEL RAY

Can you judge a magazine by its cover?
It's not about the food, it's all about Miss "Yummo" who's looking right atcha, standing in front of a log cabin, which may or may not make you feel like it's Thanksgiving. Aside from the scarf that she's wearing, not the most autumnal cover; in fact, isn't that a red bell pepper I see at the top of her basket?

Theme: "Fast and Easy Thanksgiving," a mish-mash of features scattered throughout the magazine, a challenge if you're trying to get organized; "Big Bird, Small Price" is the one article that maintains its focus, offering six recipes that keep the meal at $10 a head.

Number of relevant recipes: About 12.

How much how-to? A play-by-play of saltine-based stuffing squares; carving a turkey

Vegetarian friendly? You could probably cobble together a meatless feast from the recipe index, but vegetarians are left to their own devices.

Trimmings
Yummo: Four cocktails playing up fall flavors and the feature on a Puerto Rican pumpkin dish called cazuelas; list of Thanskgiving Day hotlines
Yucko: Feature on pre-fabbed Thanksgiving sides out of a box, including instant mashed potatoes.

Grade: C

Web site: Everyday With Rachael Ray


FOOD & WINE

Can you judge a magazine by its cover? The classic turkey shot, beautifully garnished and stuffed. Of the six magazines, this is the only cover to include wine in the photo.

Theme: "Best Menus: From Exotic to Classic" is what the cover tells you, but when you get to page 87, you'll discover the weird theme of age as the defining element in your holiday menu. The intro states: "Fashion magazines tell you how to dress your age; here we tell you how to cook your age." For you whippersnappers in your 20s, there's an Indian-spiced menu, complete with Indian popcorn and chai-spiced caramel fondue, and if you've arrived in your 60s, then of course, only a mature menu will do. My only question is: Why?

Skip this and go to the Dean Fearing article, with recipes from this Dallas chef.

Number of relevant recipes: 32

How much how-to? None. As in zilch.

Vegetarian friendly? Let's say not unfriendly. Choices are many, and the color-coded recipe index will help to create a menu.

Trimmings: Wine coverage more extensive than the rest. Menu guide, which includes eight scenarios. Strong instructional feature on putting together an artisanal cheese plate.

Grade: C-

Web site: Food & Wine


GOURMET

Can you judge a magazine by its cover?
Minimalist head shot of roasted turkey. The color scheme is moody, a bit dark.

Theme: "Four Fabulous Thanksgiving Menus," which are easily identified in the table of contents as Thanksgiving features.

Number of relevant recipes: 43

How much how-to? Turkey roasting tricks, with temperatures and doneness in mind. Lots of planning, do-ahead tips for each menu, plus general stuff to make life easier.

Vegetarian friendly? The most friendly of all the magazines sampled. One of the four menu features is dedicated to the meatless, with wine recommendations.

Trimmings: The photography is stellar, as usual. "Good Living" intro page offers fun Thanksgiving factoids for all kinds of chowhounds.

Grade: B

Web site: Gourmet at epicurious


MARTHA STEWART LIVING

Can you judge a magazine by its cover?
In classic Martha mode, the cover is not just about the food, it's about the table motif.

Theme: "Thanksgiving's New Traditions" - "where turkey is grilled, dinner is served outdoors and dessert is spiced with chiles."

Number of relevant recipes: 40

How much how-to? Getting fancy with piecrusts - lattice and other fancy doughwork; basics of roasting, making a turkey brine, gravy and giblet stock.

Vegetarian friendly? There are a number that would work, but there's no effort to package them as meatless.

Trimmings: Table settings, decorations, the sea of gravy boats. A nice feature on "mashes, beyond the basics," which include broccoli, roasted beets and celeriac. Stunning cranberry bog photography.

Grade: B +

Web site: Martha Stewart


SAVEUR

Can you judge a magazine by its cover?
Similar to Bon Appetit's cover, with focus on the plate rather than table. It looks a bit untidy. Where's the knife? Thinner than all the others - at 116 pages, about half the size.

Theme: "A Splendid Feast" -- which plays off the feature written by "The Splendid Table" radio host Lynn Rosetto Kasper and her producer, about their annual live call-in show on Thanksgiving.

Number of Relevant Recipes: 13

How much how-to? Roasting a bird and making gravy.

Vegetarian friendly? Not really, given the small number of recipes, but with work, you could cobble together a meal.

Trimmings: Nice feature on organic cranberries. Feature on cavolo nero kale, a seasonal leafy green that fits in well at the holiday table. The "second acts" feature on what to do with leftover turkey.

Grade: B -

Web site: Saveur

By Kim ODonnel |  October 29, 2007; 11:32 AM ET Cook's Library , Food Media , Thanksgiving
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Comments

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My favorite Thanksgiving magazine is Fine Cooking. My old standby is an issue from a few years ago, but each November issue is full of inspiring ideas, practical advice and great recipes.

Posted by: Jive Turkey | October 29, 2007 12:05 PM

Real Simple's November edition is my go-to for Thanksgiving -- the recipes tend to be twists on the usual favorites -- not too far afield to traditionalists, though. The magazine repeats basic turkey roasting instructions every year as well.

Posted by: tntkate | October 29, 2007 12:14 PM

If you do vegan or vegatarian for Thanksgiving you should be sent to a reeducation camp. You are Un American and a threat to this nation's security. Come we have to contribute to global warming by eating meat and poultry. Dont want the farting livestock and poultry going to waste.

Dont forget to fire up the Weber with real hardwood charcoal and no gas fireplaces just the real thing for Thanskgiving. More Co2 please! Wait, wait I have to fart! Uhhh. Thanks

Posted by: Offsetting your carbon offsets | October 29, 2007 12:28 PM

Kim,
Thanks for the reviews. You may save a lot of your loyal readers a good bit of money on magazines. Perhaps we'll just have to use our OWN creativity instead of magazine creativity.

One question: you concluded the intro by saying you were left "non-plussed." Was that a pun (as in there were few "plusses") or were you, in fact, bewildered by the lack of creativity (nonplussed means to be filled with bewilderment) or were you trying to say you were unimpressed? I don't intend to pick nits here -- trying to understand what was meant.

Thanks for the blog! You are more creative than all the magazines!

Posted by: fan | October 29, 2007 12:35 PM

Fan: You are not picking nits at all -- I am prompty changing the word to 'unimpressed' because that's what I meant to say.

Offsetting: Ew. Gross. Please don't.

Posted by: Kim O'Donnel | October 29, 2007 12:49 PM

My favorite for recipes is Cooking Light. Lots of great recipes and not loaded with fat and calories ...

Posted by: peapod | October 29, 2007 1:07 PM

Holy heck - I'm new-ish to your column, but I can only hope that this is a service you provide on a regular basis. My fave this year? Chile Pepper Magazine's Thangiving issue. Not so much with the traditional, but that's okay, 'cause I can get whatever baseline stuff I need from Cooks Illustrated's website. This has a few innovations I'll actually incorporate. Eating Well's December issue is pretty handy w/ the Holiday meals coverage, too.

Posted by: Kat K. | October 29, 2007 3:15 PM

Thanks for the rundown on all the magazines. I agree with you an all except for Gourmet; that magazine tries really hard but never seems to quite hit the mark for me. I do love Fine Cooking though. especially their Thanksgiving/Holiday issues.

Posted by: PickyEater | October 29, 2007 3:21 PM

Kim,

As a vegetarian, I really appreciate that you look at whether these Thanksgiving issues address that. Many of us who are vegetarians are kind of left to our own devices for Thanksgiving because most people do not even consider us.

By the way, isn't 11/3 the day that you come to the Courthouse Farmer's Market with your cookbook? Look forward to meeting you!

Posted by: Dede | October 29, 2007 3:27 PM

Vegetarian Times has a lot of lovely recipes that both meat-eaters and vegetarians would love.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 29, 2007 5:26 PM

Our go-to for the turkey & gravy is an old (10yrs., maybe) Williams Sonoma book appropriately entitled "Thanksgiving". The herb-roasted turkey and mushroom gravy ROCK the house.

I make my own cranberry sauce (so easy and so good), we do a sweet potato casserole with toasted pecans on top (no marshmallows), homemade yukon golds, yes, the mushroom-soup green bean casserole (Kim, any ideas for an update that still pays homage to the classic?), and apple crisp (Joy of Cooking). Plus salad, green veggie, sometimes hollandaise.

Mmmm.

Posted by: WS | October 30, 2007 5:04 AM

WS- I found a great recipe for Green Bean Casserole that basically replaces the canned or frozen ingredients with fresh and made-from- scratch. There's a lot of prep steps, but putting together the final dish is a snap. I find most recipes that have Martha Stewart's name attached to it result in more bust than boon given the amount of work involved- but this is one is a keeper. Try searching her name with the recipe and see if it pans out (pun intended!)

Posted by: gorilla56 | October 30, 2007 8:31 AM

I, too, find Gourmet to be consistently subpar. In part, it's because they insist on printing recipes on both sides of a page. What if I want to clip a recipe from each side? Makes me crazy! Use those bazillions of adverts for something useful...the back of the recipe pages!!!

Off the insane soapbox now...I may just have to pop out and get Martha's mag (which I don't ordinarily look at at all). I think I've got my T'day menu planned, but a fresh look wouldn't hurt. Thanks, Kim!

Posted by: librarylady | October 30, 2007 9:31 AM

Kim -- what about Cook's Illustrated?

Posted by: WorkingMomX | October 30, 2007 9:40 AM

Gorilla 56, thank you - that recipe from Martha looks awesome! I'm trying to get an attending relative to make it :-)

I haven't tried any of Martha's recipes, but always wanted to. Bummed to see you not like them. Any others you do that you can share?

TIA

Posted by: WS | October 30, 2007 9:44 AM

Is it just me or do I feel that, by choosing to be a "veggie-tarian", you pretty much chose to forego your right to whine about Thanksgiving? Sorry, but eat the sides and just learn to deal with the fact that the holiday menu centers around MEAT. There's all SORTS of stuff for you: mashed taters, sweet po-taters, greens, green beans, hell, whatever YOU want...get over it :P

Posted by: ChickieBaby | October 30, 2007 12:36 PM

For those of you who like Italian cooking, you might want to check out the November/December La Cucina Italiana.

They have some great Christmas ideas that are veggie friendly, including a toretllini in broth (you can just swap the chicken/beef broth combo with a good veggie broth) and a leek quiche. The meat options (duck canapes, filet mignon in pastry) are nice as well. Probably not for those who aren't comfy in the kitchen since they aren't overly explained.

But they also have some ideas for Thanksgiving leftovers - including a vegetable strudel which could easily be made vegetarian friendly (despite the name, it does contain leftover turkey).

And since it's La Cucina, the photography is always nice.

Posted by: Chasmosaur | October 30, 2007 1:20 PM

Thanks for providing information about vegetarian-friedly Thanksgiving recipes. The Internet has tons of healthy and veg-friendly recipes that are great for Thanksgiving and other holidays. I've been celebrating Thanksgiving with vegan food for six years now, and never have a problem feeling stuffed on delicious recipes. Check out

http://www.pcrm.org/health/recipes/thanksgiving.html
and http://veganyumyum.com/ and http://www.theppk.com/ Enjoy!

Posted by: BlueSkies | October 30, 2007 1:34 PM

Here's a second vote for Cook's Illustrated.

Posted by: plc7c | October 30, 2007 2:01 PM

I love Gourmet--I buy it more for the articles and photography then the recipes though. I do think they should get suport since they are the only mainstream food mag devoting a regular column to vegetarians.

Cook's Illustrated and Fine Cooking really should have been reviewed here too since you were evaluating "how-tos." For the practical, those two are tops.

* Note you can get all of the recipes for free from the Bon Appetit, Gourmet, and Food and Wine websites. BA and F&W had many vegetarian recipes that I have saved.

Posted by: Veglover | October 30, 2007 2:01 PM

i thought the reviewer was very nice to the gourmet cover. it looked more like halloween than thanksgiving in mood. Looked ominously dark and accentuated so much of the negative looking greasy and unevenly colored skin. There was another turkey shot inside of the same issue that was light and pretty. oh well. who knows. I eat with my eyes.

Posted by: chowhound | October 30, 2007 3:13 PM

I'm not a real vegitarian, but I find turkey bland and uninteresting so I think of TGving as a veggi lover's holiday. I get most creative with as many veggis as I can find at the farmer's market and beyond for this meal. Yeay, stuffed acorns! Yeay brussels sprouts! Yeay cippolinis! and Yeay oven roasted beets!

Posted by: Baltimore | October 30, 2007 3:48 PM

I have subscribed to BA for at least 5 years, and I thought this year's Thanksgiving issue was a real dud. There was really nothing inspirational in it.

That said, has anyone looked at Cooking Light's Thanksgiving issue? Is it worth buying? thanks!

Posted by: Arlington, VA | October 30, 2007 4:04 PM

An easy replacement for the mushroom-soup green-bean casserole (not vegan or low-fat though!):
2 10 oz. packages frozen french-cut green beans
2 tbsp. butter
3 tbsp. grated onion
2 tbsp. flour
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. sugar
1 cup sour cream
4 oz. swiss cheese, shredded or chopped into little chunks (you can use gruyere, cheddar, monterey jack, brie, or almost any other cheese that melts well)
1 small can B&B sliced mushrooms, drained
1 cup cornflake crumbs or durkee's french-fried onions, crumbled
3 tbsp. butter, melted

Cook green beans according to package directions. Drain and put into greased 2-quart pyrex casserole. In the top of a double boiler over boiling water, melt 2 tbsp. butter. Add onion and cook for 1 minute. Whisk in flour, salt, and sugar and cook for 2 minutes to make a roux. Stir in sour cream and cheese and stir constantly until cheese melts and sauce is smooth. Stir in drained sliced mushrooms, if using. Pour sauce over green beans in casserole dish and mix well. Mix cornflake crumbs/french fried onions with 3 tbsp melted butter and sprinkle over green-bean mixture. Bake for 35-40 minutes in a preheated 350-degree oven. YUM!

Posted by: dcgirl1899 | October 30, 2007 4:21 PM

actually, Chickie Baby, it is about GIVING THANKS and THE HARVEST. The wild turkey the Native Americans might have brought to the table was not the point of the holiday. And may I ask why you need to run down the choices others make about their diets? How does my vegetarianism affect you? I do not "complain". I bring several side dishes that everyone enjoys.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 30, 2007 4:30 PM

Too bad these mags didn't do very well for the vegetarians and vegans. There's plenty of good holiday veg recipes online though - VegCooking.com is my favorite. Good eating while saving animals - very nice.

Posted by: Chris | October 30, 2007 4:40 PM

http://www.silksoymilk.com/AppetiteAppeal/RecipeDetails.aspx?category=9&recipe=77

This is the recipe I use now for green bean casserole. It's vegan if you use olive oil and a vegan soy sauce alternative.

Posted by: Veg/Vegan Green Bean Casserole | October 31, 2007 8:58 AM

Thanks so much for pointing out the magazines with the most veg-friendly offerings. Though I'll probably stick to the internet and my cookbooks for now, I hope coverage like this might convince magazines to be a little more veg-friendly!

Posted by: happy vegan | October 31, 2007 1:11 PM

Kim, thank you for always acknowledging vegetarians in your posts and chats. It made these magazine reviews much more useful!

I have to admit that my vegetarian Thanksgiving dinner doesn't look toooooo much different from your traditional turkey, mashed potatoes & pumpkin pie - just minus the turkey. Salad, green beans, potatoes, cranberry sauce/relish, olives, fresh bread... makes for a pretty good meal! I've also supplemented with a cauliflower pie adapted from a Moosewood recipe, but I definitely don't go hungry on Turkey Day, even without a veggie entree.

Posted by: Julia | October 31, 2007 3:53 PM

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