I just finished reading a recent magazine. It featured a significant food section, with decadent recipes and attractive food photography.
I flipped past those pages in record time to get to something more interesting.
Why? These recipes had no story.
Most of my recipes today come from blogs and from cookbooks written by those bloggers that I’ve purchased. Admittedly, since adopting a plant-based diet, I’ve found that most magazines’ recipes don’t work for me — but I’m still intrigued by unique concoctions and, more importantly, the stories of chefs and home cooks who have developed fun food. I will loiter on even the meatiest magazine recipe when something more is provided — something that helps me see the human experience of the food that is being shared with me in the magazine’s pages. After all, we love sharing food with each other as a social occasion and as an opportunity to bond. Sitting down with a magazine and reading about food within it ought to be a chance to get to know the people behind the recipes, to hear their voices and stories.
Food bloggers offer the stories of their recipes all the time, which is part of what makes them so popular — so much so that publishers go to them in order to capitalize on their existing audiences and brands. (Food bloggers even have their own conference!)
Sharing recipes online with friends is now another way we bond through food. Finding a friend’s post of a recipe with the comment “Here’s what we made for dinner!” opens up conversations and new possibilities. In 2011, 49 percent of adults in one study said they’d learned about food and recipes from social media. I certainly have, and when I do, I get to thank my friends for leading me to great new tastes. Magazines can’t offer that direct social interaction, but they can do it through good storytelling around food and recipes.
Even the most beautifully photographed recipe in a magazine can’t build a sense of emotional connection with another human, if the story of the recipe is missing. Without a story, the recipe is a commodity, interchangeable with any other.
And, alas, the same is true for some other categories of magazine content these days.