The holy American holiday that is Thanksgiving is swiftly approaching, and food magazines fall over themselves throwing out tips and recipes. What, you haven't started planning yet? That's downright un-American. Don't worry, food magazines are at the ready with their annual November Thanksgiving issues, totally prepared to overwhelm you with recipes and panic attack-inducing tips for rearranging your entire kitchen in honor of one single meal. Below, an exploration of the mutant beasts that make up the world of print food media at this super-hyped time of year.
So what's in this year's crop? The big news is that numerous publications chose not to put a turkey on the cover: Cooking Light, Southern Living, Martha Stewart Living, Cooking With Paula Deen, Saveur and Better Homes & Gardens all strayed from the norm. While most of the magazines that went this route replaced the bird with everyone's actual favorite Thanksgiving food — pie — Saveur made the brave choice of putting green beans on the cover. Aren't green beans just part of the Thanksgiving meal for color?
Speaking of pie, this year's magazines are chock full of them: Martha Stewart Living has a feature on tall pies, Food & Wine offers up several recipes alongside "piekus," and the heroes at Food Network Magazine have a 50-pie recipe pullout booklet. Also common? Gigantic photos of leftovers sandwiches. Here now, Eater goes into the Thanksgiving magazine trenches so you don't have to.
Eater's Unscientific Thanksgiving Magazine Awards, 2011
- Pie Porn of the Year: Pumpkin Meringue Pie, Martha Stewart Living
- Craziest Serving Idea: chocolate painted cabbage leaves for ice cream bowls, Martha Stewart Living
- The Things That Don't Exist Listicle Award: Thanksgiving Dieter Types, Cooking Light
- Most Useful Sidebar: Utensil Drawer Substitutions, Martha Stewart Living
- The Most Appropriately Titled Thanksgiving Section Award: the cocktails in the Crowd-Pleaser feature, Cooking Light
- The Boldly Going Where No Other Magazine Dared to Go Award: Does High Tech Cooking Have a Soul?, the only attempt at a molecular Thanksgiving, Food & Wine
- The Nitpicker Award: Alton Brown's Perfect Popovers, Food Network Magazine
- The ZOMG Pie Award: a 50 pie recipe booklet, Food Network Magazine
- The Paula Deen Award: the Ultimate Guide to Butter centerfold, Food Network Magazine
- The Boldest Claim Award: the Ultimate Southern Thanksgiving Cookbook, Southern Living (tied with Saveur)
- The Gutsiest Non-Turkey Cover: the green beans with tomato photo, Saveur
- Boldest Claim Award: "The Perfect Bird" fail-proof turkey method, Saveur (tied with Southern Living.)
- The Special Guest Star Award: comedian John Hodgman as a pilgrim, Bon Appetit
- Poorest Choice of Words in a Recipe Name: Cherry-Pineapple Congealed Salad, Cooking With Paula Deen
- The "Uh-huh, Sure" Award: the section which suggest one rearrange the whole kitchen for Thanksgiving, Better Homes & Gardens
- WTF Leftovers Award: Mashed Potato Pizza, Every Day With Rachael Ray
- Panic Attack-Inducing Article of the Year: Black Friday Survival Guide, Every Day With Rachael Ray
Magazine by Magazine
Food Network Magazine
Total Thanksgiving Recipes: 6,440 (As stated earlier, the mix-n-match recipes for turkey, mashed potatoes, and stuffing really amped up their numbers.)
Awards: The Nitpicker Award for Alton Brown's Perfect Popovers, the ZOMG Pie Award for their 50 Pie recipe booklet, The Paula Deen Award for the centerfold, "Ultimate Guide to Butter."
Cover: Turkey. With figs!
WTF: The Neelys' his and hers dueling Thanksgiving menus, just in case you wanted to cook the biggest meal of the year twice.
Food Porn: Food Network Magazine is very, very serious about their leftovers sandwich shots, with five full-page closeups and accompanying recipes.
Every Day With Rachael Ray
Total Thanksgiving Recipes: 70, most of which were for leftovers.
Awards: WTF Leftovers Award for her Mashed Potato Pizza recipe, the Panic Attack-Inducing Feature of the Year for her Black Friday Survival Guide.
Cover: Huge photo of a turkey, tiny photo of Ray.
WTF: The magazine is one gigantic WTF — and that is meant in the nicest possible way. It's glorious. There is a feature on how to make goodies for dogs out of leftovers and the sides are separated into white, orange and green categories. But perhaps the biggest WTF of them all is the fact that the magazine's publishers decided to slap an extra 40ish pages onto the thing, call it a double issue, and give subscribers one issue fewer this year. The New York Times called it "a bit stingy."
Food Porn: There are some crazy glistening shots in the official Thanksgiving parts, but the best food porn are the huge craggy closeups in the cheese plate section.
Total Thanksgiving Recipes: 58
Awards: The Things That Don't Exist Listicle Award for Thanksgiving Dieter Types, The Most Appropriately Titled Thanksgiving Section Award for the Crowd-Pleaser feature, which contains a multitude of cocktail recipes for every taste.
Cover: Pies: pumpkin and pecan, sliced not whole, with ice cream and whipped cream.
WTF: Seriously, who diets at Thanksgiving?
Food Porn: There's an entire section devoted to beautiful desserts.
Total Thanksgiving Recipes: 55
Awards: The Boldest Claim Award for their "Ultimate Southern Thanksgiving Cookbook" (tied with Saveur).
Cover: Cheesecake; pear dumplings.
WTF: More non-pie desserts than pie recipes. Isn't the South to be all about pie?
Food Porn: Nothing like a classic sweet potato casserole covered in mini-marshmallows.
Total Thanksgiving Recipes: 38
Awards: The Special Guest Star award for comedian John Hodgman as a pilgrim.
Cover: A turkey by Anita Lo.
WTF: Andrew Knowlton decides 99% of people actually prefer General Tso's chicken to turkey. If you say so.
Food Porn: Anita Lo's carved turkey is a stunner; as a bonus, the magazine explains how to carve your turkey in exactly the same way.
Martha Stewart Living
Total Thanksgiving Recipes: 27
Awards: Pie Porn for the Pumpkin Meringue Pie, Most Useful Sidebar for Utensil Drawer Substitutions, Craziest Serving Idea for chocolate painted cabbage leaves for ice cream bowls.
Cover: Martha, naturally, and pie, and the promise that the magazine will "Make It Your Best Thanksgiving Ever," which is quite the claim.
WTF: It's Martha Stewart, so there's a general air of perfectionist WTFery, but the epitome of such has to be the inedible turkey-shaped centerpieces made out of brown sugar.
Food Porn: There's a section on tall desserts. See the pie porn award, above.
Food & Wine
Total Thanksgiving Recipes: 20
Awards: The Boldly Going Where No Other Magazine Dared to Go Award for their Does High Tech Cooking Have a Soul? piece, the only piece that attempted a molecular gastronomy Thanksgiving this year.
Cover: A turkey by Michael Symon.
WTF: No recipes to go with the molecular gastronomy piece.
Food Porn: Tough call, but it has to be the pie section. Who doesn't love pie?
Cooking With Paula Deen
Total Thanksgiving Recipes: 17
Awards: Poorest Choice of Words in a Recipe Name for Paula Deen's Cherry-Pineapple Congealed Salad.
Cover: Paula Deen with a cake. (It seems that the majority of Cooking With Paula Deen covers feature the Butter Queen posing with cake. Really, check it out.)
WTF: Suprise! Cooking With Paula Deen has an "On the Lighter Side" column. This issue's recipe: Chocolate Angel Food Cake With Mocha Sauce.
Food Porn: The bake-and-take host gifts section is full of chocolate porn.
Total Thanksgiving Recipes: 16
Awards: The Gutsiest Non-Turkey Cover for their green beans with tomato photo, the Boldest Claim Award for "The Perfect Bird" fail-proof turkey method (tied with Southern Living.)
Cover: Green beans with tomatoes.
WTF: Saveur went a little light on the Thanksgiving recipes this year, although many dishes from the non-Thanksgiving sections could be contenders for turkey day. The only full menu offered happens to be vegetarian.
Food Porn: Gorgeous turkey on page 29.
Better Homes & Gardens
Total Thanksgiving Recipes: 15
Awards: The "Uh-huh, Sure" Award for their section which suggest one rearrange the whole damn kitchen for Thanksgiving. The "Meh, Thanksgiving" award for having the fewest Thanksgiving recipes out of any of the magazines examined here.
Cover: An autumnal layer cake with walnuts and cranberries.
WTF: Two words: monogrammed pies, with letters made out of pie dough.
Food Porn: A section on holiday cakes gives your standard Thanksgiving pie porn a serious challenge.
*There may be some discrepancy between the Eater's Thanksgiving numbers and each magazine's; this is largely due to the fact that each magazine was held to the same standards. Those are: recipes must be expressly stated as intended for a holiday or Thanksgiving meal, and also must look like a Thanksgiving meal. (Sorry, no breakfasts, Southern Living.) Also, tarts were not counted as pies.