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Kitchen Work is a delightful food journal because it turns all the food media standards on their head. You won’t find it on most magazine racks, in fact the only place I’ve seen it is where I discovered it on the shelf at Ritual on Valencia tucked away among the rest of the merch. A cluster of plain little booklets called out to me and what a find, it’s a culinary journal produced by Heirloom Cafe’s Matt Straus not 100 feet from my office here in San Francisco’s Mission district. Things like this make you believe in the Mission as an enduring cultural face despite the radical changes in the past two decades.
The journal embraces the form. There aren’t any photos, just a stray illustration or two. It’s almost entirely focused on text, the voices of its authors and their earnest stories of the culinary world. They range all over the place from encounters with wine makers to the stray recipe wrapped in memoir, and lots of memories of working in kitchens. There’s a delightful digression on the joys of eating in museum cafes because they’re great social meals, you look at art, stop to dine and discuss art which only enhances what you saw before and will experience later at the same museum. But also a very clear headed account of how a winery loses its identity when it sells to investors. That story, and much of the identity of Kitchen Work, is such a stark reminder of how we all say that we value individuality but don’t take the trouble to really engage with the messy nature of it. There’s a reason corporations run the world. They proceed on the illusion of consistency.
There is a simple nobility in focusing on food without making too much of a fuss about it. Eating and cooking really can be that simple. And the fact that the complete absence of all the trend driven writing feels slightly subversive is a clear clue that they’re on to something. Why focus on the avocado toast when there’s a more important story about cooking and politics? There’s much more of that sort of thing here and they don’t take themselves too seriously which makes it all the more readable.
Since it’s only in print, you’ll need to subscribe today to get a look.