Do you have a friend who likes both to cook and to get mail? Then consider a culinary newsletter as a gift: Every month or so, a chatty, sometimes funny letter arrives in the mail that also can save your friend from searching through 10 million cookbooks and glossy magazines for a dazzling dinner-party recipe.
Well, chatty-funny is just one example of the more than 60 culinary newsletters across the country. There are many other types out there. All are made possible by the wonderful world of desktop publishing. Each is different, with its own content, format and style.
Some authors offer intimate reflections on life in their town and kitchen. They tend to be quirky and homespun. Deceased relatives and their favorite holiday recipes are often recurring themes. "Readers love to hear about personal stuff. It's a known fact," says Lynn Kerrigan, who in addition to her own newsletter "The Culinary Sleuth," publishes "CulinEd," a newsletter for, believe it or not, food newsletter writers.
Some are focused on health, diet or vegetarian regimes. Others are more scholarly ruminations on various food topics or, just one. You can curl up and learn everything there is to know about, let's say,"The Potato." And with so many to choose from, there is a culinary newsletter right for just about everyone.
Here are 10 that would make great gifts. ART OF EATING' Do you think food magazines just skim the surface? Then here's an attractive newsletter for you or a friend. Each "Art of Eating" is a well-written, in-depth look at a single subject, often combining food with travel. It's like an interesting little book that runs 15 to 20 pages. Past letters have exhausted such topics as Catalan food, dark chocolate and Cheddar cheese. Published quarterly; edited by Edward Behr; $30 per year. "The Art of Eating," Box 242, Peacham, Vt. 05862 CINNAMON HEARTS' Scrooge might say: "Bah! Too cute." But others will find this health-conscious letter charming and collectible. All 16 pages are chock-full of vintage art and catalogue sources. But best of all, "Cinnamon Hearts" offers a nice variety of menu ideas and seasonal recipes from chefs and the letter's staff dietitian. Published bimonthly; edited by Marilyn Helton; $21 per year. "Cinnamon Hearts," P.O. Box 578340, Modesto, Calif. 95357-8340 CONVIVIUM' This one calls itself "a decidedly unstuffy food and cooking letter." Overall it's bright and witty. But editor Catherine S. Vodrey manages to teach her readers about the world of food without cramming it down their throats with facts and figures. Book reviews are opinionated and thorough. We like the amusing food-related excerpts from classic movies and books. Published bimonthly; edited by Catherine S. Vodrey; $23 per year. Convivium, P.O. Box 835, East Liverpool, Ohio 43920-5835 COOK/SPEAK' Editor Sharon Parquette Nimitz calls her newsletter "a seasonal narrative with recipes." We call it a well written, entertaining and friendly letter from a great cook in Vermont. The useful recipes have additional information alongside with helpful hints and clarifications. Published bimonthly; edited by Sharon Parquette Nimitz; $18 per year. "CookSpeak," P.O. Box 155, Wallingford, Vt., 05773 CULINARY SLEUTH' Here's one of the best newsletters we've ever come across. Every page is filled with good resource information, free recipe offers, cooking contests, culinary newsletter reviews and food trends. "Sleuth's" format is very professional and easy to read. Published five times a year; edited by Lynn Kerrigan and Gail Jennings; $15 per year. Page One Cooks, "The Culinary Sleuth," P.O. Box 194, Bryn Mawr, Pa., 19010-0194 FOOD HISTORY NEWS' This 10-page quarterly is designed for people fascinated with culinary history. Subscribers can expect well-researched articles, historic recipes, book reviews, an events calendar and ye-olde cooking advice. Curious as to what rations Continental soldiers were allowed in the Revolutionary War? This is where to get all the answers. Published quarterly; edited by Sandra L. Oliver; $15 per year. Food History News, HCR 60 Box 354A, Islesboro, Maine 04848 GLORIA PITZER'S SECRET RECIPES NEWSLETTER' For over 20 years, "recipe detective" Gloria Pitzer has entertained radio listeners and readers with her "discoveries." Care to know how to make the marinated chicken at Outback Steakhouse or the Canadian cheese soup on Bob's Big Boy's menu? Pitzer recreates the recipe, as close as possible to the original. Pitzer's readers don't mind the messy, pasted-together format. They like the content. They want that recipe for Bob Evans' blender gravy. Published bimonthly; edited by Gloria Pitzer; $16 per year. "Secret Recipes," P.O. Box 237, Maryville, Mich. 48040-0237 HEALTHY EXCHANGES' The fat-free crowd will appreciate this less-is-more 12-pager. It features plenty of low-sugar, fat-free and low-sodium recipes using many brand name products. And every recipe includes a nutritional analysis. Formerly overweight readers who are now "vivacious and attractive" share their reducing sagas. Published monthly; edited by JoAnna M. Lund; $22.50 per year. "Healthy Exchanges," P.O. Box 124, DeWitt, Iowa 52742-0124 JUST GOOD FOOD' Every month for five years John Ryan has published a beautifully laid-out "newsletter for people who love food, but have a life." Looking for good, seasonal recipes that rely on fresh ingredients yet aren't intimidating? Then this is your newsletter. Published monthly; edited by John Ryan; $24 per year. "Just Good Food," 1955 W. Cornelia, Chicago, Ill. 60657-1021 SIMPLE COOKING' This highly regarded, opinionated and well-written food letter of essays, recipes, book and product reviews and much more would make a great gift for anyone who likes to cook. It oozes with personality, humor and thought. Published bimonthly; edited by John and Matt Lewis Thorne; $24 per year. "Simple Cooking," P.O. Box 88, Steuben, Maine 04680-0088