We’ve noted before that Lucky Peach, one of the standout independent food magazines, is mopping its mouth and bowing out before the next course. So who's head of the table? Already there is Gather Journal, which in fact launched 2012, and it’s magisterial. Eat with your eyes.
A great many independent foodie magazines are focused on professional chefs, the farmers, the vegetable growers, the artisanal distilleries and brewers in sheds in backstreets. We live in a time where you can find practically anything now, from tons of varieties of apples to multi-coloured heritage carrots. We are practically spoilt for choice. There are plenty of people who don’t care where their food came from, as long as it tastes good; quite similar to those who don’t care where their clothes come from, as long as they fit. But, if you are reading this, I’m sure you are one of those who cares and hopefully cares quite deeply.
Cooking can be a kind of performance, and there’s no greater show pony than Gather. Charismatic and intriguing, its style is less eclectic and more eccentric. The immediate draw is the magazine’s unique style of food photography, which seems like a bizarre twist on the Dutch still life paintings of old, crossed with fuzzy technicolour nostalgia. Rather than dominating the plates into the background, the strange sets complement and enhance, and they are not without purpose. These tiny stages have been constructed to bring the food back into its original inspiration. From Anaïs Nin and Henry Miller’s torrid love affair, figs stuffed with walnuts are drizzled with sticky balsamic and presented in situ on a literal bed of crumpled pink linen. Even scorched Brussel sprouts and smoky cheese inhabit a grey table of dead leaves and metal. It all seems rather dreamy and over the top, but there is a definite aesthetic pleasure of seeing a thing so out of context and yet so completely defined by it. And who else has done it, and so well, too?
Gather’s creators (primarily creative director Michele Outland and editor Fiorella Valdesolo) are reliably direct with their themes, having already coherently covered the 1970s, the colour spectrum, magic, film and more, and now the senses, where each image seemed to be heightened or lacquered, ascending to an ethereal attraction. But enough cooing over its aesthetics. Its content is familial and natural, with writing from food lovers to cooks and chefs. Stories, people, films and music are all instigators for recipes and reminiscing. Food is a great commentator on our culture and expectations, our history, and the tales it inspires are weaved with our own experiences, origin and customs. Parents can bemoan the fussiness of their children and spouses can recall humorous candlelit dinners beside the description of bitter alcohols and the history of finger food. These are not heavy meals to consume, they are bitesize morsels.
Far from the monochrome portraits of tidy white plates with piles of stripy beetroot, Gatherrelishes in colour, texture, shape and, above all, flavour. Whether it is sardines on toast with peppers or roasted aubergine and lamb shank, simple does not equate to boring. Most of their recipes are achievable and cheap. One set back is you may have to rob a bank in order purchase all the spirits and liqueurs to create their marvellous sounding cocktails. But what a wonderful way to inspire your jaded meals.