When I was a young girl in Alaska I ate shoes.
Beyond the word ate, not much in this image evokes food. A gangly, waif-like child grimaces as she chews methodically on a shoe—hardly a well-balanced meal. But food is more than something we eat: it increasingly defines us politically, socially, and personally.
The New School’s digest, The Inquisitive Eater, is based on this broader, more challenging, conception of food. A collaboration between the The Riggio Writing and Democracy Program and the Food Studies Program, the periodical digest explores food in relation to democracy, poverty, nationalism, and more.
“We like to publish things like [the story about the shoe]; things that are a little off,” says editor-in-chief and associate chair of the School of Writing Luis Jaramillo. “We are trying to offer something new as compared to publications like Bon Appetite.” Readers expecting romantic sonnets about the joys of freshly baked cookies are in for a surprise. These anecdotes, academic reflections, and visual components are well-written, and, well, inquisitive. The resulting collection is personal, universal, scientific, and often quirky, as Leah Iannone’s poem in the first number reflecting on the “disappointments in a mango’s innards” illustrates.
Jaramilo and his co-publisher, associate professor and coordinator of Food Studies Fabio Parasecoli, view the periodical as a challenge to traditional food writing. “When you are writing about food, you are really writing about a lot of things,” Jaramilo explains. Hence the broad scope of the Inquisitive Eater: topics have included the meaning behind a pig tattoo, ancient songs ritualizing the Sicilian cannoli, and the U.S Congress’s 2012 Farm Bill.
Parasecoli’s excitement visibly increases when discussing the rather new and multi-faceted role of food in academe. “There are many levels to food,” he says, “how can you talk about food without talking about everything else?” But of course, for Parasecoli, food is not solely a subject of research. “I think food helps me stay grounded,” he explains. “I can get all theoretical and cerebral, and then I’m hungry.”