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A Download of Thornes

September 27, 2000|RUSS PARSONS

It may seem a little like fitting out an old Volkswagen van with the latest electric engine, but Simple Cooking, husband and wife team John and Matt Lewis Thorne's cranky, highly personal, utterly irresistible food newsletter, is now available online.

The last three issues, which include such varied pieces as the cultural significance of falafel, a couple of chicken soup recipes and a (clenched) fistful of book reviews, can be found at their long-running Web site, http://www.outlawcook.com, for free download. Further issues will require an electronic subscription, $24 for 6 issues.

Although the material is the same spiky, opinionated mix as always, there are some rough spots in the conversion to the cyber world.

First and foremost, the newsletter is available only in PDF format, which means that you must download the entire newsletter in its original form; in essence, what you're getting is photos of the newsletter pages.

This is not that much of a problem, given a reasonably speedy modem, but it does mean that, because an entire page does not fit on a single screen, navigating within the newsletter is cumbersome. The Thornes have retained their two-column layout, and skipping from the bottom of one column to the top of the next on the same page calls for some careful computer mouse work.

On the other hand, being online also means that color is available; the print newsletter is only black and white. But given that most of the art in these issues is book jackets, at this point it's not that much of a gain.

And as of yet, the Thornes have taken little advantage of the wonders available through hypertext linking or the other technologies available on the Internet. Eventually, though, they're bound to, and watching these cantankerous old dogs learn these new tricks should be worth the price of admission.

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