A magazine for people who love good food and wine.
This is a definitely a magazine for foodies but as much as any food lover would enjoy it- the person who is going to benefit the most is a Waitrose shopper. In fact many Waitrose shoppers don't pay for it because a number of them have the in house credit card and get the magazine free. Apart from a page of special offers and money off vouchers it is about quality food and wine from cover to cover. There are articles about seasonal food, food production and food suppliers including farmers. Fabulous recipes galore. And guess what?- all the products are available for purchase at your local Waitrose. There is the standard celebrity interview included and I am sure it wont surprise you to know it is food orientated. I love it when I see a new issue has arrived in the store and look forward to getting it home and putting my feet up with a cuppa and entering gourmet heaven.
I genuinely look forward to the end of each month. Not, like most people, because it brings pay day (although that too is good) but because it heralds the next issue of Waitrose Food Illustrated.
WFI (as it is known), is the in-house magazine produced for Waitrose, part of the John Lewis Partnership. It can be picked up in-store and is free to Waitrose, John Lewis and Partnership card holders or £2.50 to non-cardholders. Its also available on subscription, delivered to your door, again with discounts if you are a card-holder. Often, there are free gifts if you decide to subscribe and these are generally of good quality (wines, hampers and books have all been seen as gifts). Personally I think its worth becoming a card-holder just for the magazine.
WFI differs from most supermarket offerings in that it actually has something to read in it rather than being just a host of advertising. In fairness, Tescos and Asdas magazines are free to all and so one should expect a heavy dose of advertising but Sainsburys magazine is not and I find it so laden with advertisements or recipes that require specialist Sainsburys ingredients that I dont even bother to consider getting a copy. WFI on the other hand is a must have.
A typical edition will contain letters (sometimes amusing, sometimes not), a seasonal food feature, arts reviews and articles on current hot topics alongside the more traditional recipes, restaurant and wine reviews and other foodie articles. What I enjoy most about the magazine though is the fact that there are always a couple (if not more) of articles to really sink your teeth into. Often no more than a couple of pages long, the reader is treated to a little bit of intellectual stimulation packed in amongst the pavlovas and stews.
The recipes that I have tried from WFI over the years have always been excellent, easy to follow and precise in terms of timings. Ive yet to try a recipe and have it not work (although I have tried a couple and not enjoyed them as much as I expected). Most of the recipes are simple, good, home-cooked food but many have a twist that one just wouldnt normally think of. For example, in this months issue (November 07) there is a recipe for ginger crème caramel (just try stopping me from cooking that!). Some recipes will require a little skill but the majority should be within the grasp of most basic cooks. That the cooking temperatures and timings are so good means that even more complex dishes can be accomplished if you follow the recipe to the letter.
Often there is a good spattering of recipes from around the world and the reader is introduced not only to the food but also to the culture from which it comes by way of an accompanying article. This really helps you to understand what you are cooking (and in some cases why).
Most recipes are accompanied by a wine recommendation. Naturally the wines recommended are stocked by Waitrose but I have often found that they are not carried by the smaller stores.
One of my pet hates with supermarket-provided recipes is the self-promotion that is inherent in the list of ingredients. Sainsburys are a particular offender here where they will include an item that only they stock (own-branded) and for which there is no obvious substitute. Waitrose on the other hand rarely include ingredients that cannot be obtained elsewhere or substituted although on occasions there will be the odd item that you just cant imagine where else you might buy it (speciality stores aside). One little peeve though is that the buyers for the stores dont seem to take into account the recipes that are contained in the magazine. On a couple of occasions I have gone into a Waitrose to obtain the ingredients for a dish only to find that they have no stock at all (this happened last Christmas when there was a recipe for turkey breasts with a chestnut and marsala wine sauce and my local store had neither chestnuts nor marsala). I was, however, able to obtain these ingredients from elsewhere.
I find the chef interviews and articles interesting without being overly self-indulgent which is refreshing. Again, theres more content than trite offering.
Of course WFI is not bereft of advertising however that which there is is fairly unobtrusive. Most adverts are for high quality food products or travel related items. There is also a directory at the back of the magazine with small box adds for all manner of things in much the same way as one might find at the back of many glossy magazines and Sunday supplements.
WFI also has a page of vouchers at the front of the magazine offering money off items and discounts to arts events (or sometimes travel). WFI has changed in this respect over the years. A couple of years ago most of the vouchers were for money off shopping items whereas no the majority are offering discounts on other things. Im not that bothered but where before it was possible to buy the magazine and then get your money back for it by way of discounts of food products now the same cannot be said. Thus, unless you are a card-holder you probably will have to spend £2.50 on the magazine!
The magazine is produced on good quality, glossy paper. Its square bound (rather than being stapled) and as such is ideal for keeping. There are often reader offers in the form of events and tastings and there are also regular competitions to keep quizzlings on their toes.
All in all I would heartily recommend this magazine if you are a bit of a foodie and I for one can never wait for the next one to come into store.