A new month means a new Magazine of the Month, and as the London weather teases us with the possibility of spring barbeques, what better mag to celebrate than Pit, the magazine of Food & Fire?
This twelfth issue arrives with three cover options, each a different potatohead character (more of which later) announcing the issue as The Potato Special. Despite that mundane sounding theme this is a step-change issue of the magazine; more pages means perfect binding means more presence. Pit has grown up!
That’s not to say it’s lost its character. When a magazine launches into such a tight niche I sometimes wonder how long it can continue—is there enough to say about fire and food? Pit continues to prove there is, as the team of three behind it learn more about their chosen speciality.
The key thing for any creative project is to set some parameters—there’s nothing harder than a wide open brief—and we see this again and again in indie mags. Their tendency towards niche subjects gives their makers boundaries to push against, and there comes a point when those boundaries disappear.
After 12 issues the Pit team can storm those parameters. They’ve established their joint personality and tone of voice, and if they want to do a potato special, their readers trust them to deliver the Pit version of the potato (just don’t ask what the potato has to do with food and fire!).
Pit has established a strong sense of identity via its front covers (see issue eight’s sausage dog, above) and the latest set of covers perfectly sums up their approach. On the one hand, everything is treated seriously; on the other, let’s have some fun while we’re doing serious!
Potatoes are one of the least photogenic things I can imagine shooting for a cover, but give them a face and expression and they become engaging. Shoot the decorated potatoes with a certain earnestness—these are very carefully art directed Potatoheads—and the resulting image sums up Pit. These guys are having fun as they explore their world.
That fun continues inside the issue. The magazine regularly uses different headline fonts relating to its theme, and this time they created their own potato print alphabet.
‘Designer Will Mower made three prints per character,’ explains art director Holly Catford, ‘and scanned them in and made them into bitmaps. I then made them into a typeable font in photoshop using FontSelf.’ The result is deliberately rough and ready—‘ I wanted it to look a bit shonky’—and being prepared as a real font that will be available to buy on the Pit website soon.
Editorial highlights include an illustrated taxonomy of British crisp packaging by Reena Makwana (above), a peaon to the humble crisp sandwich (‘Bread is brilliant and crisps are great. But put them together and something magical happens’), and Caroline O’Donague’s tale of Irish ex-pat potato angst (below). Plus tortilla, gnocchi, Sheffield fishcakes, Bombay potatoes and a busy recipe section. All accompanied by the beautiful illustrations and structured design we’ve come to know.
What began as a side project has become a serious endeavour that is making its mark on the indie food world. The grown up fun they’re having is infectious, and means Pit is May’s Magazine of the Month.
And lastly, those three Potatoheads are named Polly, Bob and Melon. Any relationship to Holly, Robert and Helen who make the magazine is surely coincidental…
Editor Helen Graves
Art director Holly Catford
Head of photography Robert Billington