When you spill milk on thick paper, large droplets of it form a waxy film in puddle-like shapes. I think it’s beautiful; certainly nothing worth crying over.
I learned this when I spilled half a mug’s worth of whole milk on the cover of my Winter 2015 issue of Lucky Peach, a quarterly food journal associated with Momofuku. Yes, that’s Momofuku as in David Chang. Momofuku as in what you daydream about when you decide to go to college in NYC. Momofuku as in the jaw-dropper. And yes, I splurged on a subscription.
This is the seventeenth issue of Lucky Peach, and it’s the breakfast issue. Each one has a theme, but don’t be deceived by the straightforwardness of breakfast. Some themes of past issues have been street food, the apocalypse, fantasy, even gender.
But breakfast does not disappoint. In “It’s 8 a.m. Somewhere,” the mag presents normal breakfasts from twenty-two different corners of the world. Breakfast is often an aspect of routine, which makes it a very personal meal. Lucky Peach validated what I always thought was true: it’s OK to eat almost anything for breakfast, be it tacos (Texas), fish fillets (Alaska), hot coffee from a vending machine (Japan), or even sheep placenta (China). Most of these segments are written by people who live or grew up in the specified place, and this makes it feel less like a magazine and more like what it actually is––a food journal.
However, there is some magazine-like reporting. Adam Leith Gollner’s “Dim Sum Democracy” tells the story of Mak Kwai Pui, the man behind the most democratized chain of Michelin-starred restaurants. He reports on Hong Kong’s Umbrella Revolution, drawing parallels between the protest and Mak Kwai Pui’s philosophy as a chef and restauranteur.
Sam Dean’s “The Roast of George Howell” is not actually a roast, but a celebration of Howell’s weirdness and importance as a coffee king. He details Howell’s unorthodox path to gurudom, his expertise on all things coffee and coffee agriculture, and his obsession with Huichol yarn paintings. I actually grew up eyeing these yarn paintings at George Howell Coffee in Newtonville, MA. Little did I know they were a fixation of Howell’s––specially hung and lit all over his home. I sipped the same coffee and looked at the same paintings as George Howell himself. What does that make me?
Lucky Peach is a weird magazine. By weird, I mean funky. The design choices culminate in a specific vibe––one that implies playfulness and deep knowledge simultaneously. The illustrations have more swagger than you’d expect for a serious food magazine, while some of the photographs are downright sexy (I’m talking to you, spread of Russ & Daughters salmon cuts).
It’s a read I couldn’t help but savor. I look at the milk-stained cover and curled-corners of my Winter 2015 issue of Lucky Peach and I feel comforted. I remember the nights I blew off studying to read about avocado toast or coffee cuppings or to enjoy a comic about egg opinions. I know there will be many more to come.