Why is it so difficult to decide what to have for lunch every day?
The 16th issue of Put A Egg On It starts with a piece by Oscar Wilde, from 1885, in which he accuses the English cook of being stupid. Mostly her problem (and it is always ‘her’) is seasoning: “the British cook is a foolish woman who should be turned for her iniquities into a pillar of salt which she never knows how to use”. Reading a famous Irish author bash English cooking is a playful way to begin this digest-sized New York food magazine. Over the years, Put A Egg On It has perfected a winning formula: mixing art, interviews, poetry and recipes, everything in here is beautifully written, and a little offbeat.
The editorial voice is direct, and sometimes pleasingly rude. One feature tells the story of James Hart Northridge, a screenwriter who arrived at the PAEOI office uninvited, with “his personal archive of film canisters, scripts, treatments and aborted novels”. The editors are cruel about his films but utterly captivated by the 1980s food eaten in them. So captivated, in fact, that they decided to recreate some of the dishes — like fried brain sandwich and broiled liver — and photograph them for the issue.
In his paragraph-long editor’s letter, Simon Keough reveals that the magazine was born out of the attempt to answer just one question: why is it so difficult to decide what to have for lunch every day? The legendary photography and music critic Vince Aletti is interviewed in the issue, and finds lunch a constant battle. Talking us through his day in food, this rant — about his favourite restaurant completely changing the menu — will strike a chord with any truly greedy person: “I’d have one or two things they always had on the menu until they completely changed the menu and fucked everything up… they had this really good sliced steak. And a chicken with peanut sauce… they just messed with them so badly that they didn’t taste like anything anymore. They even messed with the breakfast things. It was very stressful”.
It’s intimate — in a cosily mundane way — to read about what a person likes to eat. The best pieces in here are short-form, personal reflections of a certain dish — like Amelie Kang on her childhood addiction to watermelon seeds, or Aletti raging over a terrible lack of sliced steak.