I dislike magazines like Seventeen and Cosmopolitan. Their undesirable portrayals of women and sex do little for me; they’re conducive to the kind of read-throughs in which you can barely get by making fun of an awkward condom graphic or an obviously fake write-in story without boring yourself into a coma.
Even so, these magazines don’t offend my delicate sensibilities nearly to the extent that the magnificent atrocity Cooking Light does.
What does the Ultimate Move Finder, an interactive web article that allows you to surf through cutesy, repetitive exercise after exercise, “find[ing] moves to shape and tone your body from top to bottom,” have to do with cooking food? None of these “moves” leave a free hand for tending to a wok full of stir fry. And oh, wow, who knew you could roll around on an exercise ball. As anyone could in the entire world could tell you, that shit’s fun.
The point is, Cooking Light used to be pretty alright. My parents subscribed to it at the behest of my grandma many years ago, and enjoyed recipe after recipe filled with vegetables and interesting ways to cut calories out of delicious food. Once they made a chocolate cake with pumpkin instead of eggs and oil. Pumpkin’s a vegetable, didn’t you know? Good stuff. It tasted great.
My parents began complaining about the publication years later, when it began introducing ridiculous content about quick and forgettable workout routines. My family has always been big believers in traditional exercise like running, biking and walking so maybe I’m a bit biased. To their credit, though, it’s difficult to find recipes with fake sweeteners like Splenda on the website.
Not to mention, Cooking Light takes all the fun out of making food. One exemplary article’s title even depresses me: “Restaurant Dishes Made Healthy.” What if you could have that delicious lava cake at Chili’s, but way shittier and less satisfying? Sounds amazing. In the article, they take the “classic” philly cheesesteak and magically suck out almost two thirds of the calories: it makes a jump from 1,151 to 397. That’s because it isn’t the greasy, buttery, melty cheesesteak you pick up at 3 a.m. without a second thought; it’s a farcified version without half a stick of butter injected into the sides. In other words, it’s no good.
Cooking Light’s shtick is to take things I find delicious and exciting, and ruin them. I personally can’t handle it. But on a bigger scale, Cooking Light masquerades as a one-stop-shop place to drop all your pounds, but it isn’t. It might have some small-scale solutions and healthy choices imbedded into its demonic pages, but a magazine whose revolutionary “12 Healthy Habits” include vague nothings like “get cooking,” “ease up on salt” and “get stronger” (which only encourage you to just buy more issues of Cooking Light) can’t create a healthy society all on its own.
But the thing that infuriates me the most is that there’s a clear market for the new Cooking Light. These publishers are very slick about it. Only so many mildly health-conscious middle-age couples who love cooking will waste the money on a magazine that isn’t Bon Appetit. The hipper-and-still-health-conscious market of young singles who go bonkers for stories like “Throw a Taco Party” and “Superfast Cooking” along with tips for losing all of the pounds in none of the time don’t have to get two magazines anymore. It’s all in one. Devilishly brilliant. I’ll forget my pride for a second and commend you, Cooking Light. Well done.