Eating Well

Hungry for food and cooking mags? Shelves of them line bookstores. (Their subtext: hoo-boy, we love to julienne carrots and prove how hip we are by choosing the right cheese.) Dying to read pubs about health? Plenty of those, too. (Their subtext: here's our chance to bring up erectile dysfunction in polite company.) But the bimonthly Eating Well--the title translates to chowing down healthfully and deliciously--is apparently the only consumer pub with an in-depth focus on both nutrition and cooking.

Compared to its closest competitor, Cooking Light, a bland health/lifestyle journal filled with generic articles, EW is distinct. It stays true to its narrower purview, taking a clear-eyed look at the often-controversial and confusing world of nutrition.

The October/November issue has a short piece on the trendy raw-foods diet, slicing and dicing expert opinion. Bottom line: there is no clear benefit to eating uncooked food. I appreciate the takeaway info, though it's one trend I happily bypassed. (I prefer food that takes a little spin on the stove before it goes in my mouth.)

EW's excellent longer articles take a relevant, nonacademic approach. In the August/September issue, longtime EW contributor Peter Jaret thoroughly examines the question "Organics: Are They Worth It?" He argues that local produce is a more earth-friendly choice than organic--which convinced me to shop more at the farmer's market and less at Whole Foods. Other recent stories report on the intersection of food, politics and society. June/July's "Miracle Up North," for example, explains how Finland solved a scary health situation--the world's highest rate of male heart-disease mortality--through government intervention. (Which, of course, makes me want to move to Finland, yesterday.)

EW's compelling nutrition reporting is one of two reasons I've subscribed on and off since it debuted in 1990. The other big draw is the mag's appealing, usually easy-to-make recipes, which always include useful nutrition info, like calorie and sodium counts. I've tried a number of EW dishes, with generally tasty results. Some, like Tofu with Ginger-Peanut Sauce, have become staples in my house. As a test, I recently tried a weird-sounding recipe, Chicken & Blueberry Pasta Salad. Even that turned out well, the sweetness of the blueberries balancing out the slight spiciness of the cheese sauce.

But for such a good publication, EW has had to endure an awful lot of setbacks. Born in a small Vermont town, the mag was bought by Hachette Filipacchi after several years, then deep-sixed in 1999. A group of original founders brought it back in 2002, after watching their baby "run by international publishing titans in New York who tended to hash out problems over expense account lunches at Le Cirque," as founding editor James M. Lawrence wrote in a 2003 editor's note. "Today," he added, "we are again a small Vermont company where the only sit-down lunch in town is on a porch bench at the general store."

I was concerned when I learned that EWwas changing again this fall, as new editorial director Lisa Gosselin took her place at the top of the masthead. But in the transitional October/November issue, Gosselin and her staff made some good moves. They reorganized the book into several clear sections, killed a banal page of funny quotes and cartoons and added more nitty-gritty cooking and shopping info. (For example, in what supermarket sections one can find tubes of prepared polenta.) I was also happy to see one of my favorite features, the taste test of healthful products like water buffalo yogurt, set to appear more regularly. The new art director, Michael J. Balzano, improved EW's look by nixing sometimes puzzling high-concept illustrations and adding better food photos, like October/November's cover shot, which emphasizes the sexy curves of a pear.

It's also reassuring that Gosselin's background includes not just lifestyle pubs--she edited Islands and Bicycling--but also the science-minded Audubon. She recently said she wants to continue the EW tradition of "good strong science and hard-hitting stories." With that attitude, Eating Well should continue to do well.

Next story loading loading..