Cut & Paste: Zines About Food

Cut & Paste is a column highlighting zines and small press publications. 

Food isn’t simple—cuisines develop and evolve based on what’s available and prized, and individual taste depends on what we were fed and how we learn to feed ourselves. The restaurants and foods that are highlighted between the glossy covers of cooking magazines can focus on the exclusivity of high-end restaurants while disregarding the common dishes that we serve each other. We don’t often consider something as simple as peanut butter to be craveworthy, but I never wanted peanut butter so bad as the year I studied abroad. Although I was surrounded by delicious food in Italy, I longed for the simple comfort that comes from spreading crunchy peanut butter and my favorite jam between two slices of bread. The following zines explore food and the meanings, memories, and relationships entangled in what we eat. A quick warning: You might want to grab a snack before digging into these zines.

Cooking With Mama: A Soul Food Recipe Zine

Patricia Jones learned to cook from her mother, who learned from her mother before her. This lineage of women traces from California to Kentucky, back to Patricia’s great-grandmother, Ola Mae Shipman, who kept the shackles that had held her during her enslavement in Alabama. Cooking With Mama collects family recipes, alongside the story behind each dish and how they’ve evolved. Patricia shares her family's history through short, vivid anecdotes: learning to cook without measuring ingredients, watching her grandmother roll out paper-thin dumplings, the sound of kids running around while adults gossip in the kitchen. The dishes are rich and hearty soul food classics: gumbo, okra, neck bones, catfish. As Patricia notes in the introduction, the main ingredient in each recipe is love, as “The flavor begins there.” The recipes are simple to follow, and I am looking forward to summer brunches with Willie Bell’s Tomato Gravy to eat with my biscuits.

Cooking With Mama is available from Patricia’s daughter Brittany through her Etsy shop.

Please Tell Me More About Myself Vol. 5

Produced by University of Washington student group MiXed, which aims to create a space for intersectional conversations about racial identity, this fifth issue of the collaborative zine Please Tell Me More About Myself focuses on food. This issue includes personal stories, recipes, and even literary analysis looking at the connections between food, culture, and intersectional identities. One piece debunks the racist claim that MSG in Chinese food makes people sick. M writes about how sharing purple ube bread builds community around their ethnicity and queerness: “Pink and purple hues figure comfortably in my gastronomic interests as much as they represent resilience and resistance.” Irang Nami writes about seeing artisanal kimchi for sale at a yuppie craft fair and being reminded of how kimchi shaped her community, but also was used to tease and exclude her. Each short piece provides an insight into the particularities of food, memory, and identity, whether through celebration or resistance. After hearing a proclamation that Filipino food will be the next big thing for foodies, Elena is skeptical that white people will dig happily into blood stews or want kidney beans in their ice cream, but “won’t be surprised when another impoverished nation’s culture is entirely consumed, tokenized, and glorified as something white folx have found, discovered and made ~*~even better!!!~*~*”

Please Tell Me More About Myself is available from Brown Recluse Zine Distro.

Wasabi Tacos: Foodie Tales From Across the River

“If you want to hear a story, make a meal.” Each of the four issues of Wasabi Tacos invites you into an eclectic assortment of stories and recipes that cross borders. Editor Violeta de León reflects on lamenting not learning to cook from her mother, capturing a wistfulness that resonates with me—there were so many foods my grandma cooked that I never learned to make. Many of the stories in Wasabi Tacos explore crossing borders, seeking adventure, and homesickness. Simple and sophisticated recipes are sprinkled throughout: fancy cocktails like a Vişmosa (prosecco and sour cherry juice), homemade tortillas for one, kouglehopf. I’m waiting on tomato season to make the Tomato Pie from issue two—cheese, spinach, and tomatoes baked in a crust sounds divine. The covers are all individually spray-painted and carefully hand-cut out of file folders, and each issue features fun food-themed parodies of some pop song lyrics spelled out in cookie dough letters, like a pop culture centerfold you didn’t realize you needed.

Wasabi Tacos is available from their online store and from Brown Recluse Zine Distro.

Women of Color #11: Food and Family History

This compilation zine by the WOC Zine Collective aims to create space for folks of color to talk about food that tend to be dominated by white people. When writing about foodie TV shows dominated by white people, the zine says, “When we are shown, it’s through a white gaze.” Through short prose, comics, and poetry, each page explores connections between family and food. Amisa Chiu’s illustration shows a lineage of gardens going back to her great-grandfather’s celery farm, and uses specific details to evoke evoking mood and memory. In this collection, family means these deep connections, but it also choosing your own kin or reconnecting with a culture you’ve been alienated from. In one of the final pieces in the collection, one writer describes speaking with her mom on the phone while she makes dinner, and notes that, “Even though I am alone, I am not lonely. My family eats with me.” 

Women of Color #11 is available from Antiquated Future distro. 

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by Kelly McElroy
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Kelly McElroy is the Student Engagement and Community Outreach Librarian at Oregon State University. You can find her elsewhere on the internet @kellymce.

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