Why would anyone pay $14 a year for four 8-page newsletters printed on cream-colored 8-by-11-inch paper? You can get 12 Bon Appetit magazines for $15.
Because, "it is personal," says Edward Behr of Peacham, Vermont, creator and writer of "The Art of Eating," the quarterly newsletter in mind. "You end up paying more for each paragraph but hopefully that is the advantage.
"And while it might be a little rich for Peacham," he adds, "it is in line with the other newsletters, whether they are about food or the 8 other million subjects they have."
Along with well-written recipes for a variety of dishes, he offers explanations of topics usually dismissed as too elementary by the slick magazines . But they're subjects you realize you never understood the first time around.
In the second edition, Behr shows us how to make fresh cheese from milk or cream, describes the intricate technique of making a smooth orange custard and tells you exactly how to buy a camembert or brie so that it runs tantalizingly over your cracker.
He expounds on sorrel and includes recipes for a toasty warm winter meal: chicken legs braised in red wine and an almond tart with prunes and apricots.
"My aim" he writes, "is to give a deeper understanding to my readers than publications usually offer ... "
To date, he has 101 subscribers, most of which went ahead and asked for the two-year deal of $24. And what he doesn't have in quantity he makes up for in quality.
Julia Child and Marion Cummingham sent along their subscriptions with a batch each of encouraging and praising letters.
"The subscribers are certainly of very high quality," he says, "I just wish I had more of them. Especially more everyday home cooks."
Behr, who grew up here, worked with historic preservation and was a carpenter before forging into a newsletter career. His decision evolved, he says, because he yearned to do something more intellectual.
"I wanted to do something more with my head. I've always liked to cook. I first thought about opening a restaurant, but it's not a very good idea, it's very risky."
So he combined the studies in cooking that he had undertaken when considering a restaurant with the free-lance writing experience he had received while working with historic preservation and came up with the idea for "The Art of Eating."
He conducts most of the research for the newsletter at the University of Vermont library and the New York Public Library, which he says has a enormous collection of vintage food books.
And though he illustrates the pages, he doesn't sign his name; he is not completely confident about his artistic ability.
For the moment he is content with writing a newsletter. "It's a full-time job learning to run a small publishing business, so right now this is it.
"But later, when I get it down, I'd like to branch out into other food-related fields."
If you would like to subscribe, write Art of Eating, HCR 30, Box 3, Peacham, Vt. 05860.
And if you have salt, pepper and butter, try this recipe that Behr created.
It will take just a short jaunt through the express lane. Express Lane List: sorrel, whipping cream, red snapper fillets BAKED RED SNAPPER WITH SORREL SAUCE (4 servings)
1/4 pound sorrel
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup whipping cream
Salt and pepper to taste
4 fillets (about 2 pounds) of red snapper or other white-fleshed fish
Wash the sorrel carefully and remove the stems.
Take a small pile at a time with the leaves laid roughly parallel.
Roll them into a crude fat cigar, and shred them crosswise with a knife.
Put the shredded leaves into a saucepan with 1/2 tablespoon butter.
Over low heat, with an occasional stirring, they will melt into a pure'e in about 15 minutes. (If the leaves are coarse, put the pure'e through a sieve and return it to a pan.)
Add the whipping cream to the pure'e and reduce it slightly over medium heat to thicken.
Season the sauce with salt and pepper.
Rub 1/2 teaspoon butter over a gratin dish or a roasting pan large enough to hold the fish.
Lightly salt both sides of the fillets and put them in the pan.
If necessary, fold the tails under.
Arrange thin slices of the remaining butter over the surface.
Bake the fish in a 500-degree oven for about 10 minutes, until the flesh has barely lost it translucence.
Accompany the fish with the sorrel sauce.