opposite is by Paula Castro, it comes from the soon to be published TOAST
Whenever food journalists meet socially, the conversation
inevitably turns to the state of the press.
Until recently, the talk would follow the same pattern, starting with the
change in commissions – shorter articles, younger, less knowledgeable editors,
PR-fed stories, lower pay … and often ending gloomily with the conclusion that
the printed press was in terminal decline due to the rise of the web and the
power of bloggers who worked for free.
In recent months the talk has altered. It ranges from how
writing styles have changed to adapt to the new web-led content of newspapers
and magazines, to the etiquette of Twitter and Facebook. Both are deemed essential in the modern world
if you want to build your profile.
Many bloggers have now joined the ranks of journalists,
while journalists have taken up blogging.
The web has allowed a new enthusiasm to permeate throw the food
world. Chefs and writers alike are
experimenting with supper clubs, food forums and pop-up events. These can then be written about, instagrammed
and tweeted – sending out ideas into ever-wider circles around the world.
However, what I find really exciting is the emergence of new
artisan magazines and pamphlets. This
might seem counter-intuitive, but it is stimulated by the pop-up scene and fuelled
by the web-access everyone now has to writers, artists, photographers,
designers and printers.
In 2013, for example, Jojo Tulloh produced a beautiful,
illustrated pamphlet called
Aunt Liza Had
A Cat Called Squeaker, one hundred years of Elizabeth David. It is illustrated by Katherine Tulloh and
designed and printed by Chicken. The
booklet itself is an article that would never have been given the space in a
newspaper or magazine, yet is a wonderful piece of writing. Jojo Tulloh has captured tiny written and
anecdotal fragments of Elizabeth David’s life to bring her alive, before the
‘flattening effect of death’ transforms her into a one-dimensional memory.
The year before, this new cross-fertilisation of ideas had
led to the founding of TOAST by journalist and editor Miranda York and
fund-raiser Sarah Chamberlain. Its stated aim was to change the way people
think about food. Initially, this took
the form of pop-up events that explored different aspects of food culture, but
now they’re widening their remit by launching a new magazine TOAST to celebrate
food and ideas.
Food magazines are notoriously difficult to publish. They’re
expensive to produce so most publishers aim at the mass market, which is very
competitive. All of which leads both publisher and editor to commission and
design features that they know will sell, such as Nigella Lawson draped on the
cover or a tempting article on how to make gooey cakes. None of this is bad,
but it is limiting, and many food writers long to write in depth on subjects
they think their readership will find equally interesting.
TOAST has cleverly got round the first two problems. First, they’re only going to publish once a
year and second, they are self-publishing through crowd funding. This allows them to create a magazine that is
intended to be a work of art in its own right, as tactile and beautiful as a
book. It also ensures an immediate readership, who want what they’re
producing. This independence allows them
to commission work by chefs and writers such as Jeremy Lee, Bee Wilson and
Marina O’Loughlin, with the express intention of letting them voice their opinions. It also allows them to showcase the work of
artists, illustrators and photographers to create an exciting new forum. I
should add, that I too am a contributor, so obviously I am biased, but I am not
someone to add my name to something I don’t believe in.
Perhaps we are seeing the dawn of a brave new world, where
printed works are once more treasured.
After all, the written word on the web is as ephemeral as the morning