Interview with Jill Lightner, Editor of Edible Seattle Magazine (But Keep Reading if you Live Elsewhere!)

Cover Edible Seattle magazine first caught my eye at our co-op last year, and I subscribed right away. How cool is it that we have a local magazine devoted to the farmers, chefs and artisan food creators around Puget Sound? I knew I was hooked when I found the Icebox, a regular article by Bethany Jean Clement in which she visits a local chef’s abode, rummages through their refrigerator and subjects them to an entertaining grilling.

Better still, Edible Seattle is part of a network of dozens of Edible Communities magazines from Queens, NY to Ojai, CA. These folks are doing yeoman work in getting out the word about great local food.

Jill Lightner, the editor of Edible Seattle, was gracious enough to answer a few questions:

MN: So how did you land such a plum job, editing a magazine all about the amazing local farmers, chefs and food artisans around Seattle?

JL: I’m the luckiest food writer in town. I started freelance writing about 10 years ago and it didn’t take too long to feel limited by being primarily a restaurant critic; I think it’s a lot more fun (and interesting) to get the extended story behind food, rather than simply describe what I ate. Alex Corcoran, the publisher, and I connected a couple years ago over Craigslist (he was also publishing Edible Rhody at the time) and I had seen Edible Brooklyn. We worked together for about eight months before publishing the first issue of Edible Seattle.

MN: What is the magazine’s mission?

JL: I like to say that I want farmers to be as famous as rock stars. But it’s not just farmers—it’s also fishers, food artisans, wine makers and brewers, bakers, cheese makers…you get the idea. The real mission is to promote sustainable food at all levels of our local economy: healthy farmland, rivers and oceans, lower use of fossil fuel, a living wage and safe working conditions for those in the food industry, and keeping as many dollars within the community as is feasible.

MN: I see you have already gone from quarterly to bi-monthly after just a year of publication. Are you finding a receptive audience in Seattle?

JL: It’s so satisfying, we really do feel appreciated. One of my favorite parts of the job is meeting folks who don’t normally feel a connection to any media, and hearing them talk about how they love the magazine. When we ran a story about FFA, it gave a voice to teachers and students in tiny towns all over Washington, and I was getting emails from grandmothers sharing their pride. At the same time, urban shoppers love it, too—and nobody seems to miss restaurant reviews. I hear constantly how fun it is to go ‘behind the scenes’ into the kitchens of the chefs we write about. Being embraced by people across the political spectrum means a lot; the opportunity for urban Green Party members to find they agree on politics with a small-town rancher is really remarkable.

MN: How is Edible Seattle connected to all of the other Edible publications, from San Francisco to Rhode Island?

JL: Officially, there are somewhere around 50 publications affiliated with Edible Communities. While some share a publisher, most operate independently. The national connection is a way to access a number of benefits, some financial (group advertisements) and some editorial (book excerpts from Barbara Kingsolver, for one example). Each publication makes individual decisions about which national programs they want to participate in, and each publication precisely tailors their content to their region. Ours covers all of Puget Sound; another covers all of Chesapeake Bay, but some are quite small—just two counties. A new one in New Mexico will be the first bilingual Edible Communities magazine; there are also two published in Canada.

MN: What is your favorite story that you’ve published so far?

JL: My favorites are the ones where I learn something, and the ones that cover a topic not typically seen. Heidi Broadhead wrote a three-part series looking at different levels of agricultural education, that series stands out for me. The “Field and Forest” department is a favorite, too—wild foods give such insight into the natural history of our region, and the cultures tied to the land.

MN: What is the best thing you’ve gotten to eat on the job?

JL: I am getting completely spoiled. Farmers love to feed people, and honestly whatever I’m eating at the moment is probably my favorite. If I had to pick one thing, it’s a homemade apple pie from Jon Rowley and Kate McDermott. They spent about four years developing their pie recipe, testing everything from the type of butter in the crust to the baking/tasting qualities of apple varieties. It’s the best pie I’ve ever eaten—I was picking up the edge of the crust and eating it like a biscuit.

MN: What changes can we look forward to in this second year?

Some of the changes will be subtle. The price of food has become more of an issue, so we’re looking at ways of communicating that farmers’ markets are real bargains. Because of budget cuts relating to social services and increased demand at food banks, we’ll be continuing our work at promoting food-related nonprofits, including the King County Fair, which nearly disappeared this year thanks to county cuts. Lastly, I have tremendous concern about our salmon populations, and feel the need to more actively discuss the broad environmental and social concerns that relate to effective fishery management. It’s a fine line between being an active voice and being the nut on a soapbox—we want to encourage folks, not anger them, but there are urgent issues our fisheries face.

MN: What are you featuring in the May/June issue?

JL: The May/June issues has some of my favorite recipes yet, by the way—including a gluten-free brownie topped with ricotta and sweet cherries. It’s delicious. I can’t wait for cherry season. To paraphrase Emma Goldman, if I can’t eat it, it’s not my revolution.

Thanks Jill! I hope all of you will take the opportunity to subscribe to the Edible Communities publication in your area. They are well worth supporting and I think you will find the magazines, informative, inspirational, and appetite inducing.

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Posted by Michael Natkin on Monday, April 13th, 2009 in Seattle.

2 Responses to “Interview with Jill Lightner, Editor of Edible Seattle Magazine (But Keep Reading if you Live Elsewhere!)”

  1. Reply
    May 12, 2017 at 3:53 am #

    I am currently reading her book; Mason Bee Revolution, and would love to email her. Can you provide any contact information?

    • Reply
      May 12, 2017 at 5:41 am #

      Sorry to say I don’t have a current email for Jill.

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