Cook’s Illustrated dissed by NY Times

Word count: 350 words

Reading time: About 1.5 minutes

I read widely, watch movies and listen to the radio. Here, catch an interesting piece of figurative language I’ve encountered recently.

For many years, I subscribed to the magazine Cook’s Illustrated. I liked its old-fashioned appearance, complete with botanic drawings and the kind of fonts you might see in a 16th century novel. I enjoyed reading a publication utterly free of advertisers and their frequently confounding influence. I relished knowing I was going to learn how to make the best possible version of a particular recipe that had been tested many times on home equipment. (Having edited several cookbooks myself, I knew that the typical “testing” process is often rife with sloppiness.)

After several years, however, I grew weary of the tone of the articles in Cook’s Illustrated. The writing seemed formulaic. The miracle of each writer’s discovery of how repair any recipe suddenly became inevitable instead of inspired. As well, I tired of the magazine’s apparent reluctance to include what might be considered “ethnic” food. So, I let my subscription lapse. Albeit with some regret.

But after reading a recent New York Times Sunday Magazine article about magazine owner and publisher Christopher Kimball, my regret is fading. I had always found Kimball’s editorials — I guess that’s the correct term although somehow my fingers are reaching for the word sermons — to be a a bit stern. It turns out, according to the Times, he’s an original Mr. Grumpy-Pants.

The piece, penned by Moscow-born American writer Alex Halberstadt has many very funny bits, but I found the following metaphor the most perfect:

It’s true that he [Kimball] appears out of place amid the restaurant’s boardroom-in-space décor; with his bow tie, suspenders and severely parted hair, Kimball looks like someone who might’ve sold homeowners’ insurance to Calvin Coolidge. 

To understand the perfection of this metaphor, you must look at the photo of Kimball that ran alongside the article in the Times. And while you’re there, be sure to check out Halberstadt’s article, too. I mean no disrespect to Christopher Kimball when I say this. I think Cook’s Illustrated is a fine magazine. It’s just not for me anymore.

My thanks to friend Colleen Wainwright for posting a link to the article on her Facebook feed.

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