Italian food magazines, at least the four I looked at during my recent stay, are a disappointing lot and all seem to follow a pretty standard formula. First they have more recipes than anyone could conceivably explore before the next issue comes out. I counted as many as 60. Then they have a travel piece or two. Beautiful pictures accompany both the food articles and the travel ones. Then there are varying degrees of attention to drink: wine and cocktails in my issues though surely Italy’s burgeoning craft beer manufacture finds some space as well. Attention to Italian restaurants and chefs varies, more I’d say in the hip Gambero Rosso, less in the others aimed possibly at a more casalinga audience. Then of course there are the inevitable references to immutable tradition. And that is about it. The venerable La Cucina Italiana was founded in 1939, but the other three pictured here all date from the late 1980s, which is to say from about the time that growing interest in the delights of the table joined up with social and environmental concerns to create the “food movement.” Gambero Rosso indeed grew out of Slow Food (whose manifesto dates to 1989). Shouldn’t the search for local organic food necessarily lead to concern about things like the excessive use of chemicals in agriculture, the treatment of animals raised for food, or the exploitation of third world landscapes and labor to satisfy first world tastes? And surely there are few better venues than these ones for accessible articles on the environmental, economic, and social issues related to the cultivation, production, distribution, and consumption of food. Yet there seems to be none of that in these publications. Perhaps my sample was too small, but I’m a little afraid it wasn't.
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