I must confess that I never particularly liked the German gastronomic magazines. A huge number of these fall either in the recipe collection or lifestyle groups: neither interest me much. I would have enough recipe to test to keep me busy for the next 15-20 years if I wanted to. The lifestyle magazines IMO aim at those who would want to be there – with the cool cars, perfect designed homes and clothes, drinking incredibly expensive wines – but are not rich and or sophisticated enough to live that life.
The only "real" food magazine to my eyes (at least among those widely available), Feinschmecker, always gave me the impression of being a food for show-offs kind of publication. I do occasionally buy it, but I have never went through a single issue without feeling terribly pissed off with one article or the other. Especially when people like Wolfram Siebeck, one of Germany's finest gourmets pens, go on with their spiel about how German haute cuisine is superior to others, even the French. Having read the same things in Italian magazines for ages, I know all too well what prejudiced and delusional culinary national pride hides behind this chest thumping, and I cannot avoid getting mad about it.
Last week my attention was grabbed by a new addition to the usual suspect on the cooking shelf of my newsagent: the bi-monthly German Gault Millau magazine. Had I missed this in the past five years all the time? No, GM magazine is a new publication. I grabbed one with the secret hope of having finally found what I had searched for. I have long had a greater sympathy for Gault Millau guides than the haughty Michelin ones with their stars falling from the heavens without a word of explanation, so I was favourably inclined to this magazine.
All in all, GM magazine is off to an interesting start, with some pretty good content and a fresher approach to gastronomy than most of its opponents, but it also has a few flaws. Since usually the 1st issue of any magazine tries to impress with a bang, I am afraid these are there to stay, but I can always hope. Here's the things that are...
- The educational articles. There is plenty to learn for both the beginners and the more travelled gourmets, be it describing the growth cycle of asparagus or how chefs shop at the market.
- The travel section: refreshing, well written (I loved the article on Barcelona a la Manuel Vasquez Montalban) and cosmopolitan.
- The cover interview with chefs Thomas Bühner and Peter Maria Schnurr. Chef interviews can at times be as boring as watching paint dry, but the interviewer managed to come up with a well planned series of question which evolved organically. The chefs, especially Bühner, also contributed with some intriguing answers that give plenty of between the lines reading opportunities. Too bad the interview was not interactive, because I would have had a few question of my own to ask.
... and those that are not
- No prices. I simply don't get why no price indication is given for any of the restaurants mentioned in the articles. The GM guide does, so why not here? Editorial policy? Or is money to vulgar to mention? Who knows. A silly decision through and through.
- The book reviews are actually OK, but given the numbers of those published by Christian Verlag (publisher of the GM Germany guide) under review it all seems rather like an infomercial. Still, this is the one thing I am optimistic will change as time goes on.
- There is only one thing that beats the self celebrating interviews some chefs give: the VIP interviews. Sure, they can be occasionally interesting, like the one with journalist and former TV manager Hans Mahr, but in general they're just boring PR nonsense. The lowest point in this category comes with the extract from the book of German TV personality Nina Ruge. Why anyone who self-admittedly cannot cook and eats only vegetables would want to write a book on famous chefs is beyond me. But when their writing is sprinkled with exclamatory points (eleven in one and a half pages) like that of a teenager in lurve, you just know you're never EVER going to buy that book. NEVER.
... and to think the pro-writers complain about blog writing... tsk!