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Which Food Magazine Wins Thanksgiving?

Eater editors rank (and maybe get a little obsessive about) this month's magazine covers

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This Thanksgiving, food magazine publishers are most thankful for Thanksgiving. America's most food-obsessed holiday causes hundreds of thousands of people to read food magazines they might not look at any other time of year, and a publication that plays it right can see a major, major upswing in sales. For a food magazine, the November issue is — well, it's the September issue. The issue that matters. At least, if readers are buying what the magazine is selling. And that means the cover is everything.

So who nailed it? We spent entirely too much time in deep contemplation of the covers of all the major food mags, and found a lot to love — and a lot to feel sort of weird about. Odds are good these magazines are all full of useful recipes, lovely photos, and gorgeous prose, but we didn't crack any of them open to find out — when it comes to Cover Wars, it's what's on the outside that counts.


The image: An aggressively burnished turkey in profile, on a plain white platter, in front of a minimalist pale blue backdrop, garnished with two leafy apples and some pears still on the branch. There are also two line drawings of confusingly hipster pilgrims, which one paranoid Eater editor hypothesized might be "a dark commentary on the vapid gentrification of our current cultural moment," but seems more likely to be an admirable attempt to break the Thanksgiving cover mold.

The words: The centerpiece of the cover is the central headline: Questions? We've Got Answers, with lots of speech bubbles asking some of the questions the issue apparently answers. Smart money on the answers being your choices of yes; why would you want to?; hire a food stylist; and I don't know, call them? (If the answer to "Does my pumpkin pie need pumpkin?" isn't "yes," it's not a pumpkin pie anymore.)

Eater Editor Analysis: "Really feeling the 1970s inspired typeface! (That's Denver Serial, nerds.)" "Mostly just confused by the weird illustrated pilgrims." "Award to Bon Appetit for recognizing how good the illustrated covers of Lucky Peach are." "Are the pears fake? The pears look fake." "Halloween pants!" "Doesn't that turkey look really small?" "This is seriously, seriously pretty." "I just really like looking at this."

Apparent Turkey Deliciousness rating: 7/10. It's almost too perfect, sort of uncanny-valley adjacent.

Does it mention pie? Yes.
Does it show pie? No.

Overall conclusion: They're clearly having fun here. Into it.


The image: A top-down shot of three key Thanksgiving staples: a turkey (also aggressively burnished!), a bowl of creamed spinach, and a bowl of what might be sliced roasted yams (?) arrayed in charmingly mismatched service pieces. Of course the cracked wood bowl goes next to the heirloom turkey platter on top of the galvanized metal tabletop.

The words: You can't really go wrong with "Thanksgiving" in really, really big letters. Unclear if the "Ahh..." above it is supposed to be a sigh of pleasure, or a cry of fear. Other coverlines promise to reveal the secrets of a tamarind-glazed turkey (burnished color explained!), "Perfect Biscuits" (yes please), "A Pie Primer," and those two Thanksgiving classics: duck gumbo and the Republic of Slovenia.

Eater Editor Analysis: "This turkey looks like Peking duck, which reminds me that would be an awesome addition to any Thanksgiving table." "That typeface on the bottom looks SUPER Bon App-esque." "This cover is by far the most inviting." "The coverline feels like they gave up." "Doesn't quite sell me on anything. It's not a bad cover." "It’s gorgeous and I want this to be my Thanksgiving dinner." "A+ putting Slovenia in its own little sauce dish." "I mean, I could put that photo up on my wall." "I'm into aspirational dishware." "Just pick some branches! You know, casual theft from your neighbor with the olive tree." (Note: Extensive arguments ensued about whether the turkey platter is garnished with bay leaves or olive branches.)

Apparent Turkey Deliciousness rating: 8/10. Tamarind glaze!

Does it mention pie? Yes.
Does it show pie? No.

Overall conclusion: Congratulations, Saveur, you have the best Thanksgiving cover of 2015.


The image: An overloaded plate: Slices of turkey, cranberry sauce, stuffing, glazed yams, and a green bean situation with hazelnuts and what might be craisins?

The words: The main coverline is "Holiday Cookbook," which is a meaningless phrase that nevertheless is pretty alluring. Also promised: Starters, Turkeys, Desserts, Leftovers, and a whopping 54 "Fresh & Seasonal Sides." The word "double" appears on the cover three times, which is distracting. "Cozy Fall Stews & Frosty Brews" sounds pretty great, though "The Smart Cook's Guide to Fat" is joyless enough to undo that entirely.

Eater Editor Analysis: "This looks the most like actual Thanksgiving." "Those sweet potatoes look like apricots." "Reminds me that I'm very competitive when it comes to plating the perfect turkey dinner." "White wine? In a profoundly plain glass? There is zero aspiration here." "I don't care if they're Cooking Light, I can't believe they went for white meat." "It looks like a really, really, really good Instagram." "It’s a little basic, even for Cooking Light." "I wish I actually had dishware that nice." "This looks a little too much like I could actually achieve it."

Apparent Turkey Deliciousness rating: 4/10. If you're going to do white meat at least be less parsimonious with the gravy.

Does it mention pie? No.
Does it show pie? No.

Overall conclusion: For people who've given up on their Thanksgiving aspirations.


The image: A moody overhead shot of a surgically perfect carved turkey on a white platter strewn with herbs and roasted lemon halves, a small bowl of cranberry sauce nestled alongside. A pile of roasted vegetables ominously rises up from the inky black background like an autumnal Cthulhu.

The words: How many ways can you have the best Thanksgiving? At least 179, according to this issue, subdivided into 69 recipes, 22 techniques and shortcuts, 41 wines, and 47 leftover ideas. Because it's Food & Wine, there's also a roundup of "America's best new bakeries."

Eater Editor Analysis: "Counting each bottle of wine as its own discrete way to have the best Thanksgiving is cheating." "Turkey is gorgeous." "I want to eat this turkey." "Too many WAYS." "I think it's bold to have the turkey sliced when everyone else is doing lacquered burnt sienna whole birds." "I like the leg peeking off the plate, a little saucy." "'179 ways to' is such a late 90's teen girl magazine construction. It's like an issue of Cosmo." "The neon green is not my favorite." "I like how that line for the callout is parallel with that copper spoon in the cranberries."

Apparent Turkey Deliciousness rating: 9/10. We all want to eat this turkey.

Does it mention pie? Yes, but it gets equal billing with cakes and cookies.
Does it show pie? No.

Overall conclusion: We want to be invited to this Thanksgiving.


The image: An herb-flecked turkey, its legs modestly crossed in front of its gaping cavity, on an oval platter garnished with Concord grapes. Circular headshots of Ina, Alex, Geoffrey, Ree, Bobby, and Katie.

The words: "All-Star Thanksgiving!" is pretty logical under those headshots of stars. 138 recipes! Stepping to Cooking Light's "Holiday Cookbook" with promises of an ultimate version thereof. "Easy cheesy crescent rolls" seems pretty low-stakes for a type size that large. They're giving away a vacation in Napa!

Eater Editor Analysis: "I looked at this and fell asleep." "I am stressed out by these grapes tbh. They're gonna burst and stain everything." "Grapes are either gonna burst OR they are fake." "I guess I would make cheesy crescent rolls though." "This 'holiday' type is diving me insane." "Minus points for not having Giada on the cover." "Why isn't this just an Ina magazine? Ina did not sign off on this cover."

Apparent Turkey Deliciousness rating: 5/10. This is not an attractive turkey.

Does it mention pie? Yes.
Does it show pie? No, but it explicitly promises pictures of pie if you "lift this cover."

Overall conclusion: The Dockers™ wrinkle-resistant slacks of Thanksgiving covers.


The image: An intensely auburn turkey on a platter barely visible under an exquisite bounty of fruit and herb garnishes, including pomegranates.

The words: A lot of patriotism going on here: Thanksgiving is "The great American holiday," the words wrapping around the turkey are "from sea to shining sea," a line from "America the beautiful." There are "2 tasty turkeys" on offer, "17 super sides," "12 delectable desserts," plus a section on table-setting, because Martha.

Eater Editor Analysis: "It took 12 people to arrange this but it looks GORGEOUS." "How dismissive of Canadian Thanksgiving!" "How much do all those garnishes cost? That is an investment in fresh fruit." "I feel like every magazine should skip putting 'Thanksgiving' on the cover if there's a giant turkey on it." "No one buys a Thanksgiving magazine for the one vegan, gluten-free dessert. Just stop it." "It's like this turkey is running for the Republican ticket!" "Do you garnish the turkey, trot it out, let everyone Instagram, and then go back and carve it? You don't carve this turkey on the table, right?" "From a design POV this is my fav cover. It's modern and understated." "Oh holy shit the 'from sea to shining sea' part is EMBROIDERED! That is so Martha to just embroider her coverline right onto her Thanksgiving table."

Apparent Turkey Deliciousness rating: n/a, too dazzled by its beauty to feel hunger.

Does it mention pie? No.
Does it show pie? No.

Overall conclusion: The most jaw-droppingly beautiful of the Thanksgiving covers, but too perfect to even aspire to.


The image: Rachael, what are you doing?

The words: These are hamburgers. Hamburgers the size of living room ottomans. In a stack. You have a tiny step stool so you can plant a flag on them. Seriously, what is going on?

Eater Editor Analysis: It's November, you know that right?

Apparent Turkey Deliciousness rating: You're supposed to do a November cover in November, not a July cover.

Does it mention pie? The burgers don't even look that good!?
Does it show pie? You're doing it wrong.

Overall conclusion: Kind of into your sequined moto jacket.


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