Monday, August 20, 2012

Lucky Peach Loves Maryland

Does anyone else read Lucky Peach?

It's David Chang's (of Momofuku fame) quarterly food magazine. My friend Oliver recommended I order it - almost a year ago now - and I'm so glad I did.

While some of the writing is overly Portland-hipster-twee, there's a lot of super high quality reporting. And since Chang is such a well-respected chef in his own right, he has a sort of access to people in the food world that you're just not going to find in other publications.

It's not glossy, like Food and Wine, or full of accessible recipes, like Bon Appetit, or highbrow or serious like Cook's Illustrated or Saveur. I can't imagine any of those publications dedicating a hefty portion of an issue to a Choose Your Own Adventure-style story about tacos. (That story was incredible, BTW.)

But the purpose of this post isn't to extoll the general virtues of the magazine. It's to talk about Maryland.

When Chang and company put together their fourth issue, dubbed "The American Food Issue," they probably didn't realize it, but they were building a loving tribute to my home state.

Though we've recently gotten some (long overdue) attention for our food scene, for a long time, Maryland has been a culinary afterthought. Oh, everybody knows about the crabs. They're as much a part of the place as The Wire. But what about everything else that makes this a great state for eating?

Well, it's in the magazine - or a lot of it is, anyway.

Like the huge section of the magazine about the movie Diner, Barry Levinson's classic story set in Baltimore. There's admiration, especially from Brian Koppelman, and derision (of sorts) from Bourdain, who discusses the movie - and the role of food in film - with movie critic Elvis Mitchell. David Chang, apparently, loves Diner.

There's an article by Mark Ibold that's all about central Pennsylvanian corn. No, that's not Maryland. But it's close and Ibold's sentiments are familiar. His dedication to local corn? I get it.

In a conversation between the food writers Jonathan Gold (from LA) and Robert Sietsema (NYC), the duo discusses food that's genuinely American. Gold makes the observation that beyond a handful of nationally-recognized items - pies, hamburgers, steak + salad, chili - American food is really regional vs. national. It's an interesting observation - something I've thought (and written) about before. Talking about the regions, Gold says this:
"The cooking of the Atlantic Seaboard is really different than the cooking of the South. There are a few overlaps - Maryland is where they sort of meet in the middle."
In the article, it's a throwaway line - not connected to much else. But it's true, and it makes Maryland, as a culinary destination, even more interesting. (It's also something I've said before.)

Then there's the article by David Simon. It's not even about drugs, or Corners! It's about his dad and it includes little gems like this:
"By the time I was born, my parents had moved to Maryland and the shores of that great protein factory, the Chesapeake Bay."
He admits, too, that he didn't try raw oysters until he was 13 and didn't start picking crabs until 15(!!).

And even though it's not about Maryland, Richard Parks' article about Cambodian doughut-eers in California (and the lack of doughnuts in Cambodia itself) is worth the price of the book. Well-researched and just such an interesting topic - totally new to me.

So thanks, David Chang. Even if you didn't realize you were doing it, this Maryland girl appreciates you noticing that what we eat around here? It's kind of great.


theminx said...

I read Lucky Peach and have the first four issues. I'm only about 1/3 of the way through the second one though. Now I want to skip to issue 4. :)

Kit Pollard said...

They take me a while, too.

I have to admit, I didn't love issue 3. But issue 4 totally made up for it.


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