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Monday, June 27, 2011

Reading David Chang's Lucky Peach, Relabeling Your Potato Chip Bag

Posted By on Mon, Jun 27, 2011 at 8:33 AM

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Today's notes on national stories, local trends, random tastes, and other bycatch dredged up from the food media.

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1. Lucky food geeks. This weekend, I had a chance to read through Lucky Peach,

the new journal from Momofuku chef David Chang, his writing collaborator Peter Meehan, and McSweeney's, which launched in San Francisco last Wednesday. It's a fat, ad-free quarterly magazine ($10 an issue, $28 an annual subscription), produced in combination with an iPad app still to be released. For the inaugural issue, dedicated to ramen, Ruth Reichl contributes an instant-noodle review, Harold McGee explains why alkaline noodles have such great bounciness, and Anthony Bourdain indulges in blatant David Chang hagiography. I'm surprised Jeffrey Steingarten and Ferran Adria didn't contribute articles. I suppose they're saving them for issue two.

It's not Every Day with Rachel Ray, that's for sure. The tone goes bro within a couple of pages, heavily laced with tales of vomiting, drunkenness, and dudely one-upmanship. It makes sense, given it's selling Chang's no-holds-barred image, but gets a little fatuous.

But Lucky Peach is also the first food magazine pitched toward a generation of modernist-cooking-loving, street-food addicts -- in short, eaters like me. And the recipes, which flow up and down the page like woozy Venn diagrams, are fantastic. Not only do they give fine-bore technical details, they explain themselves, including all the failures that led up to the success of a given technique or combination of flavors. And how can you not love a magazine that slips in a short story from the great 20th-century writer Jun'ichiro Tanizaki? Given that Lucky Peach has no advertisements and 174 pages, I have no idea how the magazine will make money, but if anyone can do it, McSweeney's will. I can't wait to see the app.

2. Best new word of the year. On Friday, a tweet from British writer James Ramsden made it into my feed: "We had the MOST hysterical loca-bore at the supper club last night.

Parodic doesn't begin ... practically wanted to know name of the pig." Locabore has immediately gone into heavy rotation in my vocabulary.

3. Relabel your food. The Bay Citizen reports that the deadline is fast approaching for "Rethink the Food Label," a design contest sponsored by the UC Berkeley School of Journalism (where Michael Pollan is a professor) and Good magazine. When you're looking at a package of food, what do you really need to know? How can you scan that information on the package quickly? If you have good ideas for how to best the FDA's labeling scheme, mock it up and submit it to the contest by Friday, July 1.

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Follow me at @JonKauffman.

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Jonathan Kauffman

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