For the last six years, the covers and stories of the magazine Lucky Peach — brightly colored as candy and just as addictive — have likely graced your coffee tables, your kitchen counters, your bedstands, your bathroom sinks. The quarterly food journal, launched in 2011 by Momofuku’s David Chang, former New York Times journalist Peter Meehan and McSweeny’s alum Chris Ying, has been one of the best places for food writing since it began, garnering many James Beard Awards and other accolades. So when news came on Tuesday that Lucky Peach was shuttering, you could hear the forks dropping.
“I think it’s important for you to know that Lucky Peach loves you,” Meehan wrote on the Lucky Peach website yesterday, confirming the news in a piece called, ironically, “We need to talk.” The staff at the magazine, which was told about the end of their employment on Monday, has until May 1 to put out the last issue, themed around the suburbs, as well as a retrospective double issue that will come out in the fall. The fourth and final of the Lucky Peach cookbooks, “All About Eggs,” comes out April 4. We were unable to confirm the status of an in-the-works eight-part Netflix documentary series. As for the future of the beloved magazine, it is currently up for sale.
The timing of this, for all of us as well as, obviously, the folks who’ve just lost their jobs, isn’t great. We’re about to lose the best food magazine in the country at a time when many of us desperately need a good read, good food and good journalism. And these days, whenever another print publication stops, it feels like the end of something bigger, more evidence that we’ve lost meaningful, accurate words on paper to the pinball machine of social media and aggregated content.
It was not an accident that the tone of Meehan’s note was that of a fond-but-depressed divorce conversation. (You shut up, divide the furniture, do what’s best for the children.) Sometimes publications, like marriages, end because the people inside them change, rewire, migrate — not because what they’ve produced isn’t pretty fantastic. Or that the rest of us didn’t thoroughly support what they were doing. Lucky Peach was nominated for yet another James Beard award yesterday. Subscriptions were up by 20%, doubtless helped by the fact that you can find copies of the magazine under jars of pickles at half of the hippest restaurants in Los Angeles.
So read your back issues, cook from your cookbooks, wait for the last issues to come out. Pick up a copy of this spring’s chicken issue, if you haven’t already; it’s something to read while you wait in line with the rest of us at Night + Market or Tokyo Fried Chicken. Turbulent times should occasion introspection, hopefulness rather than despair, even a good appetite. As Meehan put it by phone yesterday:
“What am I going to do? I have no idea. I've always wanted to learn how to fish."