If people still got magazine subscriptions anymore, I’d subscribe to Saveur. Delicious food and non-astronomically expensive travel—this magazine was made for me. And with essays and recipes from Italy, Turkey and Vietnam, this issue was extra made for me, which is why I got it. Actually, being a paper-loving Luddite, I might subscribe anyway, but I recently sent an email asking their circ dept to hook me up with a hard copy of October’s breakfast issue, and no reply. So we’re fighting.
My favourite piece was probably “Soul of a City”—I’m desperate to visit Istanbul, and so this culinary and political history was a big draw. Being somewhat geographically challenged, I never actually knew that the Bosporus strait physically divided Europe and Asia—so that’s what the whole EU debate is about. Writer Anya von Bremzen really did a good job of describing the city’s she’s transplanted herself into, affectionately and successfully invoking the way its past pushes into its present, with a jumble of architectural styles, inhabitants, and, of course, food. One day, I’ll visit the churches and mosques, eat halal kebobs and then drink at a meyhane, and between now and then I’ll be making the stuffed eggplant at home. One thing I’m wary of: pastries that mix savoury and sweet flavours. I recently tried b’stilla at the north African spot Walima, on the Danforth. It’s a phyllo pastry, in this case filled with chicken and…topped with icing sugar. It was too c-razy for me. Bremzen’s article include a photo of sheep’s milk pastry “drenched in sugar syrup” and cultured cream. I’m thinking I’m too boring to appreciate it.
I really appreciate that, unlike many high-class food and travel mags, Saveur caters to an audience of non-millionaires. Of course I’d love to eat in Italy, but I’ve mentally written off any country that uses Euros as unaffordable for me to travel right now. But the cover story on Matera, in south central Italy, has a sidebar listing hotels and restaurants, and their “moderate” price category for a meal tops out at $50 for two people, including drinks. That, the photo of the dude with the world’s curliest mustache and the promise of fresh sausages and warm braided mozzarella has put the boot back onto my must-visit list. Everything looks delicious and the pasta with fried peppers dish is scheduled to feed us this week, stay tuned.
Andrea Nguyen’s piece “Coming Home,” about returning to Vietnam after decades as an American, obviously stirred deep emotions for the writer. I was especially touched by the line “Everyone looks like us; everyone has hair like ours, eyes like ours.” It’s a bit of cross-continental experience that has nothing to do with food, and everything to do with travelling as a person of colour in the 21st century. It matters. Having just been to Thailand, I also appreciate her comparing fresh southeast ingredients to the pickled and imported stuff we get at home—obviously, it’s not even close to similar, but she still attempts to suggest substitutions for those making these recipes at home.
Aside from quality content, I also enjoy Saveur’s packaging: I’m a longtime fan of good theme issues, so I like that the Italy cover didn’t preclude the how-to on OG, all-butter fettucine alfredo (which I am totally making next time my arteries feel especially clean), and that Nguyen’s story instigated editor James Oseland’s sidebar on shopping in southern Cali’s Little Saigon. My favourite theme issue of late was, like I said, the October breakfast roundup—I’d love to spend years cooking from it and wrinkling the pages, but I guess the Saveur subscription department is hoping for a buyout or something.