A while back we featured issue 22 of Lucky Peach, just after we heard the magazines was to close. I assumed that ‘Chicken’ issue was the final one, but the joy of deciding how to close, rather than being forced to, is you can plan your departure. This week the real final issue of the hugely influential San Francisco food mag, completely planned and structured as a bold farewell, has arrived in the UK.
The double issue (a typically daft sense of timing – why a double issue!?) celebrates the six year run of the magazine, its 210-pages featuring a selection of its best interviews, guides and recipes. If you don’t know the magazine, the issue will persuade you why it was so well regarded and have you searching for back issues to enjoy more.
The irony of making possibly your best issue as a farewell is not lost on the magazine team; they maintain their typically maverick and transparent attitude to the magazine process. The funereal black cover (above) features a set of the various logos they’ve used over the years, including the one hand drawn by the editor which turned out to be the most used version. This sombre cover is quite at odds with the series of 23 bright, vivacious covers that preceded it – their spines shine out of the dark on the back cover (also above).
The issue opens with various letters and notes. Ex-art director Walter Green (who returned to help with the issue) offers regrets for illustration work that got rejected; editor Peter Meehan explains the closure and decision-making behind the best of choices. He offers vague allusions to the reason for closure, expressing regret that his backers (star chef David Chang) was unable to see them through the year they were due to move into profit. He doesn’t name names here but has offered more detail elsewhere. ‘Dave and I have had a difficult but successful partnership for years, like two objects that both have intense gravitational pull,’ Meehan told the New York Times, ‘ It made interesting friction for a while, but I think we just kind of collided in the last six months.’
There’s a visual history of Lucky Peach front covers, with annotation from the primary creatives behind them; a nice overview of the magazine process that celebrates the hidden people of publishing (subscription managers, printers, distributors) and various other pieces of magaholic catnip.
And then it’s the best of – great writing, lovingly presented with all-new designs. The issue signs off with a typically throwaway image: an inset phone image of a slice of pizza stuffed into a fast food burger and the word ‘Bye’. And that’s it.
Most magazines that fail fade away; it’s great to see a favourite go out on a high. A love for making magazines jumps out of every page of this issue, and for that reason it is our Magazine of the Week.
Art director: Rob Engvall