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Make everyday special, Edmonton Journal

Posted on July 20th, 2010 by ANNA Magazine

Making everyday special; New food magazine captures the beauty of the simple gesture

By Liane Faulder | Edmonton Journal
April 25th, 2009

I couldn’t say that most cooking magazines inspire me. In fact, many are terrifying. But a new food magazine out of Winnipeg has caught my attention, and I want to tell you about it.

The magazine is called Anna and it’s the brainchild of Mari Loewen. The signature sentiment of the magazine is this phrase: make everyday special. The catch phrase is not a saccharine advertising gimmick (although, granted, it may serve the same purpose). It’s words for living that Loewen adopted after a devastating divorce — an event that helped launch both the magazine and a new chapter of her own life.

“I realized that making every day special was up to me and no one else. I can’t help the decision another person makes. And as I pulled myself together, I inspired a lot of people and it came from that,” says Loewen, 44.

“I wondered, ‘how can we get the message across of making everyday special and linking it to food?’ ”

The result of her musing is a product that combines exquisite design with straightforward recipes and entertaining guidance. I wanted to lick the cover of the most recent issue, an homage to the Parisian esthetic that makes me catch my breath every time I see it. The reason I like this perspective so much is that it values the beauty of the simple gesture — in food or in fashion — that is executed with time and care.

Launched in 2006, Anna comes out quarterly. Loewen, who runs the magazine with a full-time staff of five from her home, says it hasn’t been easy to get the publication off the ground. She used to be in the grain industry and was hardly trained to be a publisher. But she had always been a creative person who loved cooking and having friends over. The magazine is named after Loewen’s mother, a first-rate home cook, who was into organics and frugality in the kitchen long before it became fashionable.

“I have reconnected with my childhood, and what my mother did suddenly became glamorous to me,” she says with a bit of a chuckle. “An egg sandwich wrapped in wax paper and tied with string. She did it because she was frugal and we do it because it’s beautiful.”

Anna, with a mere 6,000 subscribers, is sold in Barnes and Noble in the United States, and at Chapters, Indigo and Coles in Canada, as well as specialty food markets such as Whole Foods in Vancouver and Toronto. Loewen relies heavily on premium brand advertisers and sells back issues as if they were collectors’ items. Which they are.

“It has such a homey feel, and people want to share it with their friends,” says Loewen.

Each issue has four components, including a section devoted to foods that are traditional, and those that are every day easy, such as one-skillet suppers. But though not over-challenging to the average homemaker, Anna emphasizes the use of quality ingredients, such as homemade chicken stock (for which there is a step-by-step recipe, with pictures).

The magazine, with a minimalist style, has the air of possibility. That may have something to do with the fact that Loewen created it, practically out of the air, when her marriage ended, and with it, not only cherished relationships, but her sense of her place in the world.

“You lose your friends and your circle and you’re a single parent and you want to be part of something,” she recalls. “I thought, ‘I have to create that myself.’ Instead of waiting for an invitation, I had to put that out. You need to knock on your neighbour’s door and invite them for dinner, and that’s how you get to be part of a group.”

Loewen wants her magazine to be a way for people to feel connected to each other through food and entertaining.

“We are all looking for something. Maybe it’s a quote to get you through the day and make you feel better,” she says. “Everyone is walking around with something going on.”

Here is a recipe from the latest Anna magazine.

BANANA CAKE WITH MANGO AND STRAWBERRIES

  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) unsalted butter, room temperature, addition for pan
  • 3/4 cup (175 mL) firmly packed brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup (75 mL) sour cream
  • 11/2 (375 mL) cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons (10 mL) baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2 mL) baking soda
  • 1/8 teaspoon (.5 mL) salt
  • 1 cup (125 mL) mashed bananas (2 large)

FILLING

  • 2 cups (500 mL) 35 per cent cream
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) icing sugar
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) vanilla
  • 2 cups (500 mL) sliced strawberries
  • 2 mangoes, peeled, pitted and sliced

Preheat oven to 350 F (180 C). Grease two 9-inch (22 centimetre) round cake pans. Line bottoms with parchment paper.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Mix in sour cream. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add to butter mixture and beat on low speed for 1 minute. Stir in bananas until combined. Spread batter evenly into prepared pans. Bake for 50 to 55 minutes, or until skewer inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool completely.

For filling, in a large bowl, whip cream until soft peaks form. Beat in sugar and vanilla; set aside.

To assemble cake, cut each cake into two layers. Place one layer on a serving plate and spread with whipped cream and top with 1/2 cup (125 mL) strawberries and mango slices. Repeat with remaining layers. Spread top layer with whipped cream, strawberries and mango slices. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Serves 8 to 10.

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