A couple of months ago, a slate of toxic workplace features came to light at Bon Appetit: people of colour, particularly Sohla El-Waylly, being pushed into unpaid video appearances for token “diversity,” unequal pay and support, and plenty of microaggressions. The Bon Appetit story is not exactly surprising – it falls in the tradition of white-led food media (ex. see Peter Meehan’s reign at Lucky Peach and the LA Times food section).
As I’ve been reading about these events, this passage from an article in the Atlantic stood out to me (emphasis added by me):
Regarding the industry’s whiteness, it might be tempting to dwell on questions of representation, or to wonder who ought to occupy the top positions at legacy publications. But as years of examples have shown, the work of challenging biases in food must dig deeper. After all, hiring a handful of people of color at these outlets doesn’t fundamentally alter the media landscape at large. Too often, such staffing shifts represent decisions made with optics in mind, which tends to mean that new voices are elevated but then not empowered, or that sufficient resources aren’t put toward substantive changes in coverage. Challenges to the dominant framework often come from outside legacy institutions altogether.
In this time of COVID-19, Black Uprising and economic shift, a lot of white institutions that have been gaslighting Black folks for years will fail and fall into irrelevance. Let them.
One way to eliminate discriminatory workplaces, undermine white supremacy, and to make sure we don’t miss out on various voices? Media centered around and led by members of equity seeking groups. I did a bit of poking around and have assembled a starter list of “alternative” food media below. Food is embedded in a mass of culture, politics, race, gender, class, and economics, and some of the following media I’ve highlighted explicitly explore and acknowledge those complexities. And, just as importantly, some of these media focus on centering and celebrating the voices which tend to be marginalized in the mainstream.
I first came across this podcast a few years ago, specifically the episode “What’s so political about food photography?” featuring guest Celeste Noche on the (often inaccurate) “ethnic” signalling being used in mainstream photography of “ethnic” food. This podcast is exactly what I’ve always been looking for in food media – with a focus on race, gender, class and how they are inextricable from our experiences in food. Sadly, The Racist Sandwich is no longer being produced, but there is a wealth of episodes to catch up on. I’m terrible at finding time to listen to podcasts so there’s plenty still for me too!
for the culture is a highly anticipated upcoming magazine centering the stories of Black women in food and wine. It has been crowdfunded and I can’t wait to hear more about it! Listen to an interview with founder Klancy Miller on this episode of Afros and Knives.
I first heard about Cherry Bombe magazine while flipping through their cookbook, but didn’t really put the pieces together until I came across them in my search for other food media. Cherry Bombe is a women-led organization focusing on women in food through both a magazine and podcast. Their collaboration with Afros + Knives and support for black-owned businesses and cookbook authors suggests they also have a commitment to intersectionality.
Every episode of Tiffani Rozier’s Afros + Knives features a black women involved in various areas of food, including areas I wouldn’t think of, such as Grace Ouma-Cabezas, a marketing specialist for Food52. The podcast can be supported on Patreon.
Jarry Mag celebrates queer culture in food. Both physical and digital issues of the magazine can be purchased online. Analogous to the black-owned business lists I’ve seen for my cities, they’ve also created an Eat Queer directory. It seems to be primarily the states and the UK, but I was happy to discover a listing in my hometown in Canada as well!
I’ll let their mission statement speak for itself: “RENDER is an independently published print magazine on a mission to smash oppressive systems in the food industry. We are dedicated to addressing issues of gender, race, and class in the food industry; writing praise for women-identified, trans, and non-binary people who are slaying it in the food world; critiquing + reflecting on contemporary food culture; sharing self-care tips; and empowering our community with knowledge about the food we eat and the way our food systems and industries impact us all.” RENDER stopped publishing in 2017 but back issues can still be purchased.
Peddler, created by Hetty McKinnon, is a journal which focuses on food, culture and identity. Their most recent issue centers on the experiences of being an immigrant. They also have a podcast called The House Special which features many women of colour.
Chinese food – both in mainland iterations and as adapted by the diaspora – is a vastly diverse, varying and complex topic and most of the time does not receive nuanced coverage in western media. This is the focus of the Cleaver Quarterly.
What other food media do you follow?
This ice cream was inspired by a passionfruit basil gin and tonic ice cream I had one summer from Made by Marcus. Their creative flavours are what got me interested in experimenting with ice cream in the first place! I loved that ice cream – it was creamy, but with plenty of sharpness and acidity. Lacking passionfruit, basil and tonic water and I made some not very analogous flavour substitutions for a rather less charismatic ice cream, but one that I still enjoyed! It’s like children – don’t compare them, but love them both.
An initial version of this ice cream on the blog used mint, but I’ve rejigged it with lemon verbena, for a soft herbal flavour that is lovely with the peaches. The bite of the gin makes the ice cream sharper and more refreshing. As always, the inclusion of alcohol helps keep it in such a scoopable shape, even right from the freezer.
peach, lemon verbena and gin ice cream
- 200g heavy cream
- 40g whole milk
- 1/4 c packed lemon verbena (6g), chopped
- 3 egg yolks
- 30g granulated sugar (increase as per your taste)
- 2 peaches (for about 240g peach puree)
- 45g gin of choice (or to taste)
Warm the heavy cream and milk until steaming, then remove from the heat. Add the lemon verbena, stir to combine and cover. Let cool and then transfer to the fridge to steep for about 24 hours.
Strain the infused cream from the mint, pressing down with a spoon to extract as much cream as possible. Whisk together the cream, egg yolks and sugar in a glass bowl. Set up a double boiler by setting the glass bowl over a simmering pot of water (perhaps that pot you were boiling peaches in just a moment ago! Just empty out some of the water so the level is not too high). Stir constantly with a rubber spatula, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl until the temperature is 160-165F or until it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon and hold a line drawn with a fingertip. Immediately transfer to a new dish and let cool, then chill completely.
Meanwhile, bring a saucepan of water to a boil. Have a bowl of cold water at the ready. Once boiling, add the peaches for 20 seconds. Transfer immediately to the cold water to cool down, then gently rub off the skins to peel them. Cut the flesh off the pit into large chunks and return to the saucepan. Simmer the pieces of peach until just cooked through, about 5 minutes depending on the size of your pieces. Use a slotted spoon to drain the pieces of peach. Puree until smooth- I ended up with about 230g of cooked peach puree. (You can also puree the peaches raw as well – just be sure to add some lemon juice to prevent oxidation.) Let cool and then chill the peach puree.
Combine the ice cream base and peach puree. Stir in the gin, adding to taste.
Use an ice cream maker as per manufacturers instructions to churn.