Next to an in-law’s sneer, nothing brings out a cook’s insecurities more than a perfectly designed food magazine cover — and that’s most obvious in food mags’ November issues, calibrated for the stressful time of year when Americans are expected to put a perfect roast turkey on the table. Every year, these glossies attempt to convince readers to step up their Thanksgiving game with previously unheard-of brining techniques, Instagram-friendly pies (gotta get that latticing just so), and centerpieces brimming with flora and fauna — because how can you gather and give thanks if your table looks like you didn’t spend five hours setting it?
So who wins Thanksgiving 2017? Four Eater editors got together on Slack one afternoon to suss out the best of the best — when judging the books only by their covers. Hold onto your pomegranates:
Rachael Ray Every Day
Erin DeJesus: I really like this cover.
Daniela Galarza: This is very up close and personal compared to other covers I’ve seen.
Greg Morabito: We are knee-deep in turkey. I like this cover too EXCEPT for the weird placement of the story text, and the way that Rachael’s head bubble perfectly fits in the curvature of the breast.
DG: I hate the way the text is curved around the legs.
Hillary Dixler Canavan: I weirdly feel that this is Too Personal, and too focused on the turkey cavity. It makes me uncomfortable.
GM: Cavity is the worst part of the turkey; you don’t want to think too much about it.
HDC: Bonus points though for a turkey prep that I think is nice and simple: rosemary and roasted garlic heads — or is that not a garlic head in the cavity? Now I can’t tell, and don’t want to look at the cavity any more.
DG: Why does it say “Open here!” pointing to the cavity?
ED: Ugh okay great points on the text placement (the “Open here!” was the only one I really gave thought to at first). But I like the in-your-faceness of this turkey, cavity and all.
DG: No one wants to be that close to a roasted bird.
ED: The turkey is glazed in pomegranate... is that a thing?
DG: Yep that’s pretty popular, Martha did that in 2015.
GM: Can you imagine being Martha Stewart and having everyone steal your whole brand? I mean, she’s got to compete with people who are just doing various shades of what she started doing in the 1980s.
DG: Martha is all, “Rachael who?”
HDC: But I would eat this turkey.
ED: Same, I still love this turkey.
Food & Wine
DG: Nothing about this catches my eye, except: Are those grapes in the cranberries? Because no. Also why does the table (?) this was shot on look like a cracked plaster wall?
GM: I like this one. It looks like something from the late ’90s except all those earth-toned veggies would’ve been like, buttered sprouts and green beans or something and there would be a tea candle in the bottom left-hand corner.
DG: F&W is trying too hard with the Anthropologie-esque, faux-artisanal aesthetic.
GM: Yeah, this turkey plate was shot in the husk of the old Noma space right when the Danish morning light is most piercing.
ED: But that’s a positive thing, Greg?
GM: I think so, yeah. I’m here for it. F&W definitely wins the guest star of the year award with Ayesha. Everyone loves Ayesha Curry.
DG: Whoa, I missed that star-power headliner. Yeah, I want to know how the Currys have Thanksgiving.
GM: I bet they eat Thanksgiving on a well-appointed patio, perhaps with a trellis above the table.
ED: I could see Martha enjoying Thanksgiving with the Currys.
DG: But Martha would be the one hosting. No way Martha would go to Ayesha’s house.
HDC: Agree that I would rather see Ayesha on the cover. More Ayesha. More Ayesha's adorable precocious child. Put them all on the cover.
DG: This cover needs 100 percent more Ayesha. Also is that Ayesha’s Thanksgiving plate, I wonder? Reads NorCal from the grapes in the cranberry sauce.
GM: NorCal Thanksgiving with the Currys is a special I’d watch... I’m going to say that her Thanksgiving plate is maybe a little more exciting than this one.
HDC: I agree. Some sort of fun exciting twist. I roast brussels sprouts and carrots a lot in my regular life, I’m looking for something a little more inspirational/aspirational from my Thanksgiving covers.
HDC: Why yes, this is a Thanksgiving plate. It is nothing more and nothing less.
DG: I like all of the orange and black. Those mashed potatoes look good, too.
GM: It looks like a Thanksgiving plate for someone on a diet to me.
HDC: The best part about this is the background. This plate is a snooze. And this gravy looks too healthy and clear.
DG: Do I want to know 30 Ways to Become a Healthier Cook right before Thanksgiving? I guess I’m not Cooking Light’s target audience.
HDC: I am, though — I like the magazine! I’ve cooked its recipes many times! But even as a target reader, I feel like this has no aspiration.
GM: I think it’s effective in the sense that the turkey and mashed potatoes look delicious, and the rest looks like interesting low-calorie sides, to me at least.
DG: Yeah agree with Greg; that balance is going to be wildly different for different people.
HDC: Absolutely: My feeling is that the ideal Thanksgiving magazine cover is aspirational enough to make me want to try to do more, but approachable enough not to scare me off from actually doing it. I’m just saying this doesn’t really excite me.
DG: This is definitely more approachable than aspirational.
HDC: But I’d eat this. And to be honest, this is a more accurate reflection of what my typical plate ends up looking like, minus the generous portion of Stove Top stuffing and Jiffy cornbread muffins. My Thanksgiving is a celebration of classic American processed foods! COME AT ME.
GM: What I would like to see on this plate is, as you mention Hillary, something that looks aspirational... like what about some charred broccoli or smashed cukes or some other trendy veg.
HDC: Just to jazz it up; maybe inspire me to not make Stove Top.
ED: What is a smashed cuke?
DG: Erin! It’s the new kale.
HDC: But like — if someone could give me a cuke side dish I absolutely must make this Thanksgiving I’d be into it! Hell, even a 2013 quick pickle would jazz this up.
GM: A quick pickle would be just the thing.
Food Network Magazine
HDC: THIS FONT. I can’t with this cursive.
DG: This, the most widely distributed mag or most successful in terms of ad sales, consistently makes terrible font and graphic choices.
HDC: I like the sage halo: very Medieval painting.
GM: Yeah, it’s very Game of Thrones.
DG: Sage wilts so fast under a hot turkey.
GM: I really wish this didn’t have the Brady Bunch-style celebrity chef heads, but that is unavoidable, I suppose.
ED: I do love how a pie is one of the heads.
HDC: I feel like we say this every year, but did they get Ina [Garten]’s direct input on this? I feel they didn’t and she could have really improved this. Ina knows how a roast bird should be treated, both in terms of recipes and photography.
DG: She contributed pumpkin spice cupcakes? Which is more basic than I want from Ina this time of year.
HDC: You know what, I would eat anything Ina made me, including pumpkin spice cupcakes.
GM: Also, when I think of Bobby Flay, I don’t immediately also think of... pumpkin pie?
DG: Bobby Flay makes pie?
HDC: Bobby Flay! He can really cook, okay?! He’s really in the kitchen at his restaurant!
GM: Does Bobby Flay’s pumpkin pie have like mesquite habanero crust and ancho-chili creme anglaise?
HDC: I want to know more about what Bobby Flay’s cat is up to for Thanksgiving.
DG: This cover needs 100 percent more Bobby Flay’s cat, and 100 percent less Flay.
GM: At the end of Thanksgiving dinner he’s going to rip open his shirt to reveal a sign that says, “And I’m not doing the dishes!”
DG: If this pumpkin pie isn’t grilled, I don’t know how it’s Bobby’s pumpkin pie.
GM: I’m inclined to say that this mag is designed to catch people who are actually scared about making Thanksgiving dinner, or who really need some hand-holding.
HDC: I will say this turkey does look achievable. But since it’s the whole bird with no untorn skin atop a Medieval sage halo, it’s also aspirational.
DG: The turkey’s uneven coloring is convincing — it looks like it was roasted in a regular home oven with hot spots and such.
GM: Minus points for no Fieri. At least give Guy a pie. You know he’s got a recommendation for Slammajamma apple-banana cream pie with Jack Daniels dulce de leche whipped cream.
ED: Actually, remove the apple and I would eat that.
ED: I feel like BA is always going with the whitespace, but this year it’s extreme.
HDC: I kind of like the overall concept of lessons/rules. It’s very internet speak, and feels perhaps like a commentary on the state of all media: You subscribe to a print magazine, they deliver a homepage. You subscribe to a print magazine, they deliver a listicle of clickbaity rules. Clickbaity is relative. I’m not sure how much rage engagement (enragement?) you’ll get by declaring cranberries should never be cooked, but it feels internet-y to me.
GM: It’s too clinical for me.
DG: I like how design-y it is.
HDC: Yeah, I like this white space, and I love this weirdo candlestick.
DG: It looks like a cb2 catalog. This is very aspirational for me.
ED: YES thank you Daniela, all I see is Crate and Barrel catalog.
GM: This is what Julia Louis-Dreyfuss and her husband would use to make Thanksgiving in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.
HDC: This actually feels very Game of Thrones-y: With the charred onion decor and the turkey platter, it’s very feast-on-this-and-hope-we-don’t-betray-your-house-and-murder-all-of-you. But also modern.
GM: When you come over to dinner at Patrick Bateman’s house, this is what’s on the table.
DG: I will just say that the bowl of cranberries ON THE EDGE OF THE TABLE is driving me crazy.
HDC: Is this the first we’ve seen that isn’t a top-down shot????
DG: Also the typeface choices and graphic elements are perfect.
HDC: I’m going to go ahead and say this feels like the most original. It certainly stands out and doesn’t have some of the classic Thanksgiving cover elements: top down, mashed potato stylings, herb sprinklings.
GM: Personally, I feel like this is taking Thanksgiving into an austere hipsterish place that Thanksgiving should never go.
HDC: I am torn on that aspect. I agree this is not warm and friendly, but it’s also refreshing and different from all the other covers.
GM: It’s making everything an object d’art, which is impressive from a design perspective certainly, but it just feels cold to me.
GM: SL went full pie — can’t argue with this strategy. To paraphrase Danny Meyer, "Who wrote the rule that all Thanksgiving issues need a turkey on the cover?"
DG: I love this cover so much, though it’s a little too brown. But pecan pie is the unsung true hero of Thanksgiving; macaroni and cheese is at the top of the “sides and desserts everyone will love.” That’s so on brand and also I want that life.
ED: I feel mostly ambivalent about this cover, but it really does read HOLIDAY to me in a nice way.
HDC: It’s very brown-yellow-gold, but this pie looks delicious. I like the whole strategy of this cover: sides and desserts everyone will love. Sides and desserts are the best part.
GM: I mean, I want to eat everything that’s pictured or mentioned on here except for maybe “Angel Biscuits," whatever those are.
DG: I kind of hate how the “to” in “A Thanksgiving to Remember” is in another font. I don’t like how it looks. But that is the only thing I really don’t like about this cover in addition to all the brown.
HDC: The first few letters of “Tha” in Thanksgiving get lost.
DG: Plate should have been a blue pattern to offset, rather than the on-trend gold.
HDC: But I repeat my admiration for the content strategy of focusing on the truly good parts of Thanksgiving meal: sides and desserts. The truth is, nobody will remember your turkey. Never going to happen. At best, Thanksgiving turkey is Not Bad.
GM: I like that it’s not trying too hard. It’s the polar opposite of that Bon App fantasia: city mouse v. country mouse.
ED: Is this possibly our favorite cover so far?
GM: It’s mine so far. Well also, it’s focusing on an undeniably pleasant part of the Thanksgiving meal: coffee and pie. All the business is out of the way.
DG: Yes, so far I love this one. But I am waiting for Martha’s cover because :nails-fire:
HDC: I mayyyyybe like the BA better because I still find the text on this a little tricky to read.
DG: It’s a little better if you enlarge it, but I agree Hillary, not the best graphic design.
HDC: Design better @ BA, but overall ~idea~ better in this one, because SIDES AND DESSERTS.
GM: The best parts of the meal. It’s like when the previews are better than the movie.
Martha Stewart Living
HDC: This is nice looking turkey for sure, probably the most delicious looking turkey of the bunch. Yes, pomegranates and citrus again, but this looks great.
DG: Ugh so lovely. It’s just so perfect.
HDC: This is a good mix of realistic and aspirational. The plating is sooo picture perfect, but the turkey itself actually looks like real food.
ED: That’s a great way to put it, Hillary.
GM: Really nice colors on this one. Definitely agree that it’s the most delicious looking turkey and that really means a lot — part of the problem with Thanksgiving dinner is that turkey can be pretty meh. It’s sometimes hard to muster up too much enthusiasm.
DG: Also flowering bay > sage.
GM: I also love how you would never, ever be able to arrange the stuff on the plate like in this photo. It’s definitely aspirational, but there’s no messiness about it. Not like any drops of whatever on the table or berries askew or whatnot.
DG: I like all of the font choices. Wish the turkey leg was in front of the “G” in “Living” instead of behind it.
GM: I actually think this one takes the cake for me.
DG: Yeah I love how Martha doesn’t do messy chic. It’s perfect or get out of town.
ED: This is my personal fave.
GM: I’d be most inclined to buy this one if all of them were lined up at the checkout aisle because it’s the most sophisticated and the prettiest.
HDC: Yeah I think this ALSO really gets at some of the clean minimalism we responded positively to with BA, while also looking more appetizing/delicious.
DG: It also doesn’t really sell each thing that hard.
HD: It’s what, a stainless steel or poured concrete counter background? That’s cool. Very Chip and Joanna, but it’s not over the top. I think of all the turkeys, I’d most want to be served this one, but I would not object to a meal of Southern Living pie, either. I still really like that BA and Southern Living didn’t do top-down.
DG: Martha is perfect. The end.
HDC: I think pasta is a wonderful, rich topic to devote an entire magazine issue to. I kind of think it's cool not do a Thanksgiving holiday issue. 2017 is a garbage year. America hasn't proven worthy of celebrating, let’s just focus on some pasta.
GM: Looks like a good mushroom pasta FWIW.
HDC: Like objectively, pasta is better than roast turkey.
DG: I don’t buy that it’s not a good idea to have a Thanksgiving issue because it was a garbage year.
HDC: I don’t think that’s the logic; I’m being slightly tongue in cheek. But I also do have some Feelings about America, its founding, and the Thanksgiving mythology, so I kinda get opting out.
DG: You think they thoughtfully opted out?
HDC: idk! I’m doing a ~textual analysis~.
DG: I just think it’s like, we don't have enough money to print a holiday issue so we have to figure out how to appeal to the widest possible audience.
HDC: This is a cover that has opted out, regardless of the intention.
GM: Yeah, they’re like Jimmy Fallon not doing political jokes: Everyone else does it really well, and sometimes people want a break, so why not do something else? I will say, though, this doesn't strike me as a particularly fall-forward cover.
HDC: Saveur concedes that when it's time to figure out what to do Thanksgiving, go to Martha... the mushrooms make it feel fall-y to me.
DG: I don't think Saveur thoughtfully opted out. I think Saveur knew pasta was an easy sell.
ED: Smart way to stick out on a newsstand for sure.
GM: When I first saw this I thought it was just like an omnibus edition of their best pasta stories and recipe, not like the Oct/Nov issue. So I guess it kind of works both ways.
DG: Yep, same, Greg.
GM: And that's actually a very Lucky Peach approach, I suppose. LP would be like: CORN, or LITTLE ITALY, or whatever.
ED: RIP Lucky Peach.
GM: RIP forever.
Correction, Wednesday: November 8: The title of Rachael Ray’s magazine is Rachael Ray Every Day, not Everyday With Rachael Ray. We deeply regret this error.