Friday, May 27, 2011

Do You Like The New Bon Appétit Cover With Gwyneth Paltrow On It?

Frankly, I'm just trying to stir up trouble. I don't mind Gwynnie...that much. She’s a decent cook and, apparently, enough people think her recipes are good enough to put her on the The New York Times Best Seller list for 6 weeks.

Plus I don’t think it's fair to hate her just because there doesn't seem to be an area of life at which she doesn't excel. But do I want her mug on the cover of the 2nd new Adam Rapoport-edited Bon Appétit? No, not particularly.

They could put her FOOD on the cover if they wanted to, and have a few shots of her in her kitchen on the inside. But I don’t need to reminded of her perfection (not that there’s anything wrong with being perfect – not that I would know) on the cover. Also look at the portion size of her spaghetti and meatballs. 

That’s just plain annoying. AND those look like cherry tomatoes, not meatballs, in that midget-sized portion of pasta. (Oh, they actually are cherry tomatoes.)

Anyway, this is all just an aside to a discussion of the new Bon Appétit magazine. My buddy Tom wondered how I liked it.

First I have to say (and I'm finding this more and more) that I hate change. Don't you feel sometimes that NOTHING, which is supposedly improved, is ever as good as it was before? I’m really trying to think of something that's better and I can't. 

My old original Oster blender worked so much better than the three I've had since then. My original Robot Coupe food processor was the best I ever had until I had to get a new one, because I was moving to America and the plug didn’t fit. Raspberry Dannon yogurt has NEVER been as good as it was 20 years ago (not to mention being downsized in amount and upsized in price).

Totally new inventions are okay - my wireless mouse is better than my corded one and I guess flavored vodkas beat the plain ones every time and Twitter is cool. But when old things change, they often seem disappointing.

Now that I'm totally depressed, let's get on with it. So how do Bon Appétit fans feel about the new Bon Appétit? Do you like it as much as the old one? Or maybe you haven’t even noticed a difference…

The first issue looked suspiciously like something else I've had in my kitchen for a while now. It had the look of...sorry to say...The Food Network Magazine. That's not really fair, because I actually LIKE the FN Magazine, except for the feature about "cooking" from packaged, processed ingredients - like how can we make the best thing from a boxed angel food mix or whatever...(The best thing you can do with THAT is to leave it on the shelf!)

Anyway, the new Bon Appétit has perky new graphics and lots of white space on the cover. I actually had a marketing expert look at two covers - one old and one new.


He had a surprisingly strong reaction. He HATED the new cover (on the right). He said it was boring and unoriginal and it didn’t do the job of stimulating interest in what was on the inside of the magazine. He said the old cover took your eye from the upper left down to the lower right in a more organic way. And it peaked your curiosity.

Gosh! All I would have said was that the new cover looked a bit leaner, but I get what he meant. I guess it's Bon Appétit trying to be more Google than Yahoo, visually. (I AM the last person on the planet to use Yahoo, so you know I prefer a bit of clutter.) 

Also, THIS is weird. Here’s the first new cover again and then the next month’s with Gwynnie.


The size of the font is completely different. I know one is “The Italy Issue”, but why have the font so much smaller than the one with Gwyneth? If they’re trying to get me to adjust to a new style, then they shouldn’t change it in the second month!

The table of contents is kind of annoying, also. It’s in skinny letters against the background of a dramatic food picture, which makes it difficult to read. Arrgghh! 

But what about the nitty gritty of the magazine? The content.  

There seems to be a few more numbered lists – 30 Reasons We Like Italy; Top Ten Places Chefs Like To Go In Copenhagen. Those are better than the pull-out list in the latest FN Magazine of 50 Condiments. There ARE some good ideas in there, but mayonnaise with Old Bay seasoning is not one of them.

What I have always loved about Bon Appétit is very simple - the recipes. There seems to be more writing in the magazine now about food topics and people and places. That’s okay, but long time subscribers are going to be looking for what we could always depend on – great recipes that are possible (and not always easy) to make at home and that wow our family and friends. No list of favorite places can compete with that. 


The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

I would not have given two singing fish about the cover, would have totally ignored it (I really don't read BA, so it would barely be in my consciousness) if I hadn't read this article just before it came out.

This just happens to list her daily diet. There isn't much there that a foodie would eat (kale juice anyone) and requires shaolin monk level discipline. The upshot is it's not even good for you as Gwynnie is suffering from brittle bones. My thought now when I see that cover is "Screw you Gwyneth Paltrow. You know diddlysquat about good eating - poser!"

Anonymous said...

A very discerning opening to this post, Sue -- I don't remember Bon Appetit putting a person on the cover before either. It says a lot about the direction the magazine is taking now. If she weren't holding a plate of food it could be the cover of any current glossy magazine. I was disappointed with the Italy issue -- anyone who has ever watched a single one of Lidia Bastianich's TV shows knows more about cooking pasta than was in the article. So if that's the audience they're aiming at, I'm afraid that the things you and I like about the magazine -- the recipes that aren't always quick and easy -- will start to disappear.

Emily said...

The covers look completely different! That's crazy.

Yeahhh, I definitely don't know about Gwyneth being on the cover. I know she's a foodie, and that's fine, but she's not a famous, professional chef. I don't think she deserves the cover.

I watched a news story on how no one likes Gwyneth Paltrow. That she's not likeable. That made me feel bad for her, and I liked her a little more.

I really want to try the older Dannon raspberry yogurt! It sounds good to me. I had my first coconut milk-based yogurt today, and it was delicious! Okay, now I'm rambling

Kristen said...

I'm kind of ambivalent about the Gwyneth cover (was a little weirded out at first, but mostly because I couldn't remember ever having seen a human on the cover during my 3-year subscribership), but what really chapped me was the change in overall voice of the magazine. The "old" Bon Apetit felt classy and timeless. This version seems...less about the actual food and more about what hipster celebrities are doing. Not to mention a little heavy-handed with the Top 10 lists. The "21 rules of summer cooking" segment from this issue illicited several eye-rolls, namely when the readership was "banned" from ever again grilling portobello mushrooms!

I hope this beloved magazine doesn't turn into a watered down version of it's former self.

Sue said...

Hey Rach,
The best thing in that article you read was this line, “Seriously – the only thing this diet is not lacking in is kale.” He was talking about Gwynnie’s diet which comes from her trainer Tracey Anderson. Funny.

And, yeah, her whole bone health issue is a bit worrying as far as her diet goes, but hopefully, judging from the well-rounded recipes in her cookbook, she is cooking and eating a few more food groups than when she was training for Iron Man 2 over a year ago.

Gosh, I have so much more to say about this. You’re making me add another post about GP and BA. It’s YOUR fault.

Thanks Tom. And this IS such an excellent point. That cover could have been any magazine from Ladies Home Journal to Instyle.

You’re right about the recipes too. I’m getting more disappointed by the minute.

You’re nice to feel bad for Gwyneth. I feel bad for you since you’re too young to remember Bon Appétit AND Dannon Yogurt in their heydays.

Rambling is good, especially when it’s about coconut milk yogurt. YUM!

Hi Kristen, Welcome!
That is absolutely true about the timeless feel of the old Bon Appétit and the “hipper” approach now. I think it’s a bit early to completely damn the new version, but it’s not looking good. Lists and celebrities do not a great food magazine make. Let’s hope they change up the recipe a bit in future issues.