By Russ Parsons
7:30 AM PST, January 12, 2013
Gather 'round children and let me tell you a story about the olden days. Once upon a time, there was no such thing as a blog. In fact, there was no such thing as the Internet. Yes, I’m serious, and no, I don’t remember what we did with cute pictures of cats.
In fact, there weren’t very many food writers back then. You practically had to work for a newspaper or magazine, or publish cookbooks if you wanted your voice to be heard. But there was this thing called a “newsletter.” It was like a blog, only it was printed on paper and mailed out to a list of “subscribers” -- which are another nearly lost concept: people who paid to read things they liked.
The king of all these newsletters was something called “Simple Cooking” and it was published by a kind of cranky guy in Maine named John Thorne. You never knew what a new issue of “Simple Cooking” was going to bring, but you could reliably count on the fact that whatever Thorne was writing about, it would be done with a piercing intelligence and a lovely, lovely writing style.
You can read what I’m talking about by picking up some of his hard-cover collections: “Outlaw Cook,” “Simple Cooking,” “Serious Pig,” “Pot on the Fire” and “Mouth Wide Open.” Or you can subscribe to “Simple Cooking,” which is still going (albeit with an Internet delivery option). Print or electrons, a subscription is $5 per issue.
But you’d better hurry. In the newest issue, No. 94, published this week, Thorne announces that he and his wife and collaborator Matt Lewis Thorne will be ceasing publication with issue No. 100. “The problem is that I’m 69 years old, and the concentration I need to write well has become harder to sustain,” he wrote.
You wouldn’t know that from the latest issue. There’s a cover story on crepes that weaves Thorne’s customary blend of personal observation, library research and kitchen testing into a terrific essay.
Crepes are so yesterday, you say? Yes, in the hands of a lesser writer, that’s probably so. But Thorne is compelling evidence that there are no trite topics, only trite writers. It shines, the work of an intelligent, quirky, serious writer satisfying his own curiosity. There’s no higher praise I can offer.
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