"Much More Intimate Than A Recipe In A Cook Book": Talking with Lauren Jordan About Food Zine!

Last week, I shared my conversation with Tony Breed about his upcoming food minicomic Foodwise, which debuts this weekend at SPX. Breed's work, however, isn't the only thing that cooks and comics fans should be looking out for in Bethesda; also available will be the compilation Food Zine! put together by cartoonist Lauren Jordan. For those of you, like me, who can't make it to Maryland this weekend, Jordan is also selling the book via a crowdfunding campaign. Below, she and I talk about why she wanted to put Food Zine! together and about the advantages and disadvantages of comics cook books. 

JK: Where did you get the idea for Food Zine!? Why did you decide to put together a book like this?

LJ: I have very strong positive associations with food and art, and in my experience, artists tend to be wonderful cooks. 

In college my friends and I would get together and do weekly potlucks. We were a bunch of (mostly) art majors and were incredibly busy but always made time to cook and eat together once a week. I think those meals were what got most of us through the semester.

Earlier this year, I went to Montreal for a New Years bash along with a bunch of other artists, mostly illustrators and cartoonists. Almost every meal we ate over the course of that trip was homemade and eaten at a table like a family. It was incredibly special for me, because many of my friends live across the country (or in other countries) and comic conventions tend to be one of the few times I get to see them. And conventions aren’t the ideal environment for cooking large family dinners.

There’s just something about sharing food with others that resonates very strongly with me. Making food for people I care about is one of my main forms of expressing love. So Food Zine! came out of a desire to recreate the experience of sharing meals with loved ones, but in a form that could reach as many people as possible.

JK: Can you give me a sense of the breadth of material in Food Zine!?

LJ: Food Zine! ended up being quite a bit bigger than I had anticipated when I first started the project, with 60 pages of content from 32 artists. Entries range from illustrations and pin-ups of food to recipe comics featuring everything from breakfast foods to spicy dinner meals to favorite cookie recipes from childhood.

It’s a book with a lot of heart, and there’s some jokes in there too.

JK: What were you looking for in submissions? How did you go about putting together the book?

I was mostly looking for cohesion and clarity. When you’re curating, you have to find a common theme among all the work that’s presented to you, which can be tough! When I put out a call for submissions on tumblr and twitter I wanted to keep an open mind, because ultimately the work submitted would be what dictated what the book was about.

But most of the submissions I received were very in-line with my personal vision for the book, which was comics and illustrations that celebrate food. It was really exciting to see how well all of it came together and how cohesive all of the submissions were despite how open-ended the prompt was.

JK: Is there something that you think comics and illustration based comic books might do better than prose ones? Conversely, do you think there are things that prose recipes might do better?

LJ: The advantage that comics have over prose recipes is that you’re able to explain a lot of steps simply with images. But comics also take longer to explain a recipe, and take up more space in a book than a standard prose recipe does.

However, comics allow you to use characters and narrative to your advantage, to build a relationship with the reader. It’s more much more intimate than a recipe in a cookbook.

JK: Do you find that recipe comics are often somehow different from what a casual reader might recognize as "comics"? If so, in what ways?

LJ: I suppose the biggest difference is that recipe comics typically don’t follow a traditional narrative structure, and they tend to focus more on relaying information than on establishing plot and developing characters. But there are usually still characters (even just the artist themselves) and they usually have some kind of emotional rational for sharing a recipe.

So recipe comics are kind of… narrative infographics?

But even then, just in Food Zine!, there’s so many different ways people approach recipe comics. Some have narratives followed by a recipe while some use the recipe as the narrative. There’s some comics have no recipe at all, and there’s some comics that show how to make a dish visually but have no written instructions.

JK: Is there a recipe in the zine that you're particularly excited to try?

LJ: There’s a lot of them! I’m more of a baker so the cookie recipes first come to mind, but there’s a pancake recipe I’m looking to try, as well (because I am terrible at making pancakes).

JK: I know that Food Zine will be available at SPX and is also currently available via IndieGoGo. Once that ends, will there be a way to obtain the book?

LJ: Extra copies left over after SPX (and after all the contributing artists get their books) will go up in a Big Cartel store. Depending on how things go, I may print a second run of books. And the PDF of the book will be available for purchase online, as well.

JK: Is there anything else you would like to add?

LJ: Please consider ordering Food Zine! through the IndieGoGo campaign. If you’re unable to donate but still want to help, you can tweet or blog about the zine!

And I want to give a huge thanks to all of the artists who contributed to Food Zine!, and to everyone who has donated to the indiegogo campaign or spread the word. This project wouldn’t have been possible without all of the support! 

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