Julia Child once said, “You will never know everything about anything, especially something you love.” It’s true. I love food, but cooking and I have always had a complicated relationship.
For me, few acts instill as much creative pleasure as cooking. And what’s more intimate than enjoying a meal, with someone or just yourself? For the most part, eating nourishes us. We are satisfied by making and feeding others. Sometimes, though, food hurts us. Like anything else we interact with everyday, we learn the intricacies of our relationship with food, but there are always nuances that remain mysterious.
Last year, I founded Not French Cooking in an attempt to unpick those nuances. With design and title inspiration from my first edition of “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”, I wanted to create a publication that addressed ideas surrounding health, nourishment and culinary-based relationships. Each themed issue of the Not French Cooking online magazine, e-zine, explores diverse experiences with cuisine through storytelling, illustration and alternative recipe models.
The first issue of Not French Cooking began as an experiment that explored food through the lens of melodrama and satire. Reacting to my own health problems with food and the ‘ism’ craze (vegetarianism, veganism, pescetarianism), I created bogus recipes (raisin salad with just raisins!) and visually questioned the worth of the food-isms. Most of the Not French Cooking contributors are friends, or friends-of-friends. Content is produced in several ways: for Thanksgiving, I put out a call for entries on Facebook, and I received an unexpectedly large number of submissions — from close friends and also people I hadn’t spoken to in years. For me, as an American in London, it was exciting to reconnect with people all over the United States in that context. For the most recent issue, I asked specific writers with diverse styles and positions, who had contributed to the past issue, to write something.
I soon realized that Not French Cooking could embody more than my experiences. Since the first issue, Not French Cooking has launched a website (www.notfrenchcooking.com) and two more e-zines: “Mastering the Art of Thanksgiving” explored the food traditions of Turkey Day through more than 20 submissions — from contributors as young as nine, to American ex-pats who had moved across the world. Not French Cooking is a free publication, and contributors are unpaid. I normally print a handful of copies, but right now I’m focusing on the online presence — it’s the easiest way of sharing the content with as many people as possible, and creating a creative outlet for people.
Not French Cooking exists to illuminate the intricacies and complexities of the lifelong relationships we have with food. It’s a place to experiment with storytelling and to question what cuisine can or should be. For “Mastering the Art of the Vice” (the most recent issue), Sarah Myers, a regular contributor, produced a grocery list of guilt. Although some items on her list were food-related, she used cuisine as a way to explore what else made her feel guilty. Kiernan Maletsky, another regular contributor, used food language to write about woodworking on the vice in his father’s workshop. Both were powerful modes of storytelling that challenged the boundaries of food writing.
Images and original art are also major elements in the e-zines and on the website. Recently, I published an interview with food illustrator Katherine Verhoeven, which touched on everything from chocolate chip cookies, to how she visually captures the food she eats. The e-zine operates on the belief that storytelling and culinary activities can and should be collaborative. When I published three stories on pineapples, I commissioned Tom Loughlin to illustrate each piece as a consecutive moment in pineapple cutting. The three stories and illustrations (which are beautiful!) are examples of the many ways into a subject. Everyone eats. Everyone has stories to tell .
Stories, Q&As and art are published weekly on the Not French Cooking blog. The e-zine is published approximately every four months, depending on scheduling. I’d love to start making more issues, but since I edit, design and illustrate the entire e-zine myself, it becomes quite time-consuming.
We don’t create recipes. We don’t show pretty food pictures. Not French Cooking is at its best when the content transcends what’s on your plate. We are not really interested about the recipe you found on some super famous food blog: we want to know how you felt after you made it, why you chose to make it, or if your dish turned out as picture perfect as the photo. Not French Cooking is for more than gourmands. The stories, interviews, art and videos are published for people who engage through making, eating, feeding or otherwise, and who aren’t afraid to play a little with their food.
Follow Sarah Handelman on Twitter:@sarahhandelman
-Here is the url to view the zines online: http://notfrenchcooking.com/zine.html
-Here is the vimeo link of a video Sarah made for Easter, which was published on the blog: http://vimeo.com/22804123
-Here is a link for an interview with Katherine Verhoeven (mentioned in the 7thparagraph): http://notfrenchcooking.tumblr.com/post/5168520581/late-lunchtime-interview-drawn-and-devoured-part-1
-Here is a link to one of the stories about pineapples, which include a commissioned illustration: http://notfrenchcooking.tumblr.com/post/4817269311/three-stories-about-pineapples-eating-alone-again