EDIBLE EDITORIAL: Joy Manning is heading up the newly released Edible Philly magazine.
With reviews from a certain anonymous bell-giver, plenty of blog action and a few free weeklies covering the restaurant scene, Philadelphia is certainly not at a loss for food coverage. But if you’ve ever ventured to another city and picked up a copy of one of the truly beautiful (and free) Edible Communities magazines, you’ve probably wondered when the Philly version of Edible was going to hit the streets. Well, folks, after a five-year wait, Edible Philly is debuting next week.
Back in 2008, when publisher Nancy Brannigan Painter bought the franchise, local food writer Joy Manning approached her about the editor position. With stints as dining editor for Philadelphia Style and restaurant critic for Philadelphia magazine under her belt, Manning was hardly a novice to the Philly food scene. But the magazine was put on hold because of setbacks from an unpredictable economy.
When the project finally got rolling earlier this year, Manning was more than thrilled. “I’m excited to bring all of my experience — to bring everything that makes local food in Philadelphia interesting, delicious and exciting — to Edible Philly four times a year,” she said.
Edible began in 2002 in Ojai, Calif., and has blossomed into a franchise that now boasts 81 publications. Independent magazines are published and tailored to suit the hyper-local communities they serve. “Every Edible has a high level of autonomy,” Manning says, adding that it’s that innovation that led to a James Beard award in 2011.
Although the focus is local, Edible Philly’s regional coverage is going to be wide-ranging, she says. “Edible Communities publications has a mission to celebrate local food, and that can take on a lot of different meanings. Every single thing that we cover in the magazine does not have to be grown within 100 miles. It covers local food personalities, restaurants. Even if every single thing they serve isn’t grown right here in Southeastern Pennsylvania, it’s still of interest to us under the umbrella of local food,” Manning says.
And when it came to choosing writers to contribute to the premiere issue, the obvious choices were equally local. Manning has long been an avid reader of everything food-related that is published in town. “I’ve made it my business to get to know the people whose work I really like. Over the years, I’ve become friendly and colleagues with people like Marisa McClellen [author and canner extraordinaire behind the Food In Jars blog], Adam [Erace, City Paper food critic] and Drew [Lazor, former City Paper food editor] and Tenaya Darlington [the cheese-loving lady behind the Madame Fromage blog and author of the Di Bruno Bros. cookbook]. I reached out to those people with whom I’ve worked before, people whose work I was familiar with.”
And as you might imagine, these local writers have come up with a full issue of intriguing stories. When asked for some intel as to what the debut issue of Edible Philly has to offer, Manning was more than happy to share some of the holiday-ready features.
She sent Lazor to spend a day behind the cheese counter at the Ninth Street Di Bruno Bros., a place that fits into the holiday traditions of so many South Philly families. Erace was sent on a hunt to discover the hidden, off-the-menu tamales of area taquerias. “A lot of the taquerias are well-known for their tacos, but they make tamales as well, which is a very typical celebratory dish for holidays and birthdays in Mexico,” Manning explains. “But they’re not on the menu, so we’re helping readers find where to seek them out.”
Pennsylvania food history is tackled in pieces covering the long history and resurgence of co-ops in the area (Swarthmore and Weaver’s Way are two of the country’s oldest), along with a look at locally-brewed hard cider, a potable that’s hardly new around these parts.
One might wonder about the decision to launch a magazine at a time when “the death of print” is borderline cliché.
“People still love books and magazines, including myself,” Manning says. “People are starting to reject things like the Evite in favor of paper invitations. Digital publishing is great, and there’s a place for it. Lots of places do it exceptionally well. But there’s something great about having a paper magazine, especially for longform features and recipes. Even if you have a tablet, it’s not the same. You don’t want to splatter stuff on your tablet. It’s natural to take a magazine into the kitchen or even into your bed.”
While culinary adventures involving transatlantic travel aren’t feasible for many these days, Manning says, food and cooking have become an affordable luxury for many, and that has helped the world of food publishing remain sustainable.
The current issue of Edible Philly includes plenty of recipes, ranging from the ambitious, like tamales from Los Gallos that will take readers to Puebla, Mexico, during Christmastime, to a simple beet dip. All printed, of course, on heavy stock: perfect for taking into the kitchen and more than capable of handling a little splatter.
Copies of Edible Philly are going to be available this week at destinations for food enthusiasts, including Whole Foods, Reading Terminal Market, Southwark restaurant and Weaver’s Way Co-op.
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