We’ve all received them as gifts: prettily packaged cookbooks with titles proclaiming the excellence of the food you’d be able to devour if only your pantry could store all of the items on each recipe's page-long ingredient list. Finally, someone’s calling them what they are—useless tabletop decor. Writing for British current affairs weekly the New Statesman, Nicholas Clee suggests that independent publishers (specifically the UK houses Grub Street and Prospect Books) are more apt to deliver food writing and recipes "that [are] intended to be of more than ephemeral interest."
Clee's food column sits with the magazine's hefty arts and culture section, a phenomenal collection of criticism and discussion that earned the newsweekly a 2007 Utne Independent Press Awards nomination for arts coverage. Well into 2008, the New Statesman remains a breath of fresh air on both the cultural and political fronts. The June 23 issue includes commentary on master sitar-player Salil Tripathi's farewell concert, and a review of the 1988 documentary Afghantsi, lamenting the lost art of television documentaries.
In the same issue is a discussion of Barack Obama’s "first presidency," his editorship at the Harvard Law Review back in 1990. The writer digs through some back issues of the journal and speculates that perhaps his legal career never took off because “Obama, despite being a lawyer, is a really good person.”