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Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Gastronomica turns 10

Gastronomica is where food meets culture and the arts. It is not a cooking magazine and it might not even make you hungry, but it will certainly feed your brain and your senses. It's deep and provocative, not something mindless to skim through in a waiting room. It's an expensive journal at $13 an issue, but the production values are high and each edition is something you'll most likely keep.

Harold McGee and Blake Edgar
Last week there was a program celebrating the 10th anniversary of Gastronomica, featuring introductory remarks from founder and editor-in-chief Darra Goldstein and a conversation between Harold McGee, celebrated author and contributing editor at Gastronomica and University of California Press' Senior Sponsoring Editor, Blake Edgar. Here are some highlights:

• In the past people who worked in food science weren't necessarily food lovers. That seems to be changing. As a result, food science today is looking more at taste as opposed to just issues of safety.

• He shared details of the International Workshops on Molecular and Physical Gastronomy that took place in in Italy in the 1990's. He was disappointed more chefs, especially non-French chefs were not invited to attend and participate.

• As someone revered by the molecular gastronomy community, it was interesting to hear him say that he "experienced some of the worst dishes of my life in those (molecular gastronomy) restaurants."

• The reason why he doesn't take a public stand on political issues like GMO's is that he doesn't feel comfortable in that role and that the issues are very complicated or as he put it, "there's a lot more to the story."

• He also shared details about visiting Nathan Myrhvold's world class lab/kitchen and his role as a reviewer in an upcoming series of books that Myrhvold is working on.

• His next book comes out in October, The Keys to Good Cooking, and it will help answer the questions home cooks have about the practical side of kitchen science.

Gastronomica Winter 2010
Everyone who attended the event got a copy of the Winter 2010 edition of Gastronomica. It has a fascinating piece on how cherries were marketed using teen idols and music videos in Taiwan, a discussion on food porn, a look at the phenomenon of "no great women chefs" an investigation of chocolate and terroir, historical essays on food in art and art in food, a moving personal memoir about the food proclivities of one man's mother, a poem, photographs of Portuguese pastries, and so much more. In fact it even comes bundled with a little booklet of photography artfully arranged.

The Gastronomica Reader
If you are more of a book sort of person, then you should really check out The Gastronomica Reader a compendium of over 40 essays, poems, art, memoirs and everything that makes the journal so compelling. It's the only resource on food that I can think of that is at times sexy, shocking, smart, disturbing and beautiful. It's a handsome coffee table book and timeless in a way that food magazines rarely ever are. Buy it and savor it for years to come.