I am trying to taper down my Mad Men reading. The moment I finished watching season 2, I went berserk reading every scrap of intelligent writing on the show. To switch from one addiction to another I have started reading Mark Bittman and Gael Greene. Both feed my delusions. One, that I some day will think and plan meals at least an hour ahead and cook healthy, wonderful food that is ethical and environmentally sound. The other that some day I will be able to write about anything with such lush certainty. Imagine reviewing Italian restaurents in New York using the Mafia as your guide or declaring that you are sleeping with the chef in the review of the restaurant or announcing that this was the best meal you have eaten from among 18,000 meals reviewed. Currently I love food writing but I can read any trade writing quite happily. Car magazines, sports magazines, interior decor magazines, what feasts they can be so far from the banalities of the generalist.

I think my love for magazines came from summers stuck in rural Kerala and rural Oman. In the former I read every ‘ma’ magazine meant for adults or children (‘Ma’ stands for Mangalam, Manorama, Mathrubhoomi…) It was not common to swing into someone’s backyard and find the household discussing with gravity and intimacy what sounded like enormous catastrophe in someone’s life but was actually the latest episode in one of Mangalam magazine’s many serialised novels. Much like we discuss television shows today.

Malayalam children’s magazines were excellent but I don’t remember individual style or particular writers. For that I had to slowly navigate through the serialised novels and figure that this writer wrote crime, this writer’s heroines had enormous breasts, this writer’s heroines would get raped in the big city, this writer’s heroine would get trapped by an evil magician, this writer’s heroines would suffer but eventually marry their kindly bosses.

Summer in Kerala offered entertainment other than the weeklies but in Bidaya (a small town in coastal Oman), my brother and I were entirely dependent on each other, television and the magazines for fun. We adored the Khaleej Times‘ children’s magazine, filled with brilliant writing, teeny-bopper gossip and activities. It was less smart than lovely old Target but just as cool. During the years that we read it, I saw 14 year olds write cover stories, a smart little 16 year old who got her own column. I wonder what some of them are doing now

Again the magazines for adults were broader, more obvious guides for taste and style. Philip something or the other, a food critic for the Khaleej Times, was so wonderful I remember entire reviews. A couple of years ago I was talking about him to the lovely Sonia. I looked him up but unfortunately, he (along with one of my ex-boyfriends) manage to be the last people not on board the Good Ship Internet. Anyway Philip something wrote reviews in mad verse, reviews about an all-asparagus meal, a review of the Dubai Golf Club restaurant as conversation between a golf lover and a food lover (‘ The choux is wonderful’/'This old shoe?’), an EM Forster themed review … oh so many more.

I love you Philip wherever you are. You may have led me (along with a hundred other unknowing people) to my current life.