content note: food, pandemic, food poverty *
I completed my MA in Poetry at UEA back in 2016. During my two years there I also worked three food-related jobs. Firstly, I was a cook at a local bowling alley, flipping burgers and microwaving chicken wings. Then, I sold ice creams on a stall outside a bookshop near the town market. And finally I was in a retail shop, where my main duties included tagging sandwiches with reduced-price stickers. While I’ve always had an interest in food, it was during these times that I began to focus more intently on the various ways that food is used in society, from the transactional to the public to the private and beyond. So when Kat asked if I’d like to guest edit a collaborative issue of SPOONFEED with New Writing, celebrating 50 years of UEA Creative Writing alumni, it was honestly a no-brainer.
It must be said that 2020 has also been a particularly different year for food. The pandemic has shone a light on the food chain, be that through queues at the supermarket, an increase in home-baking, or governmental arguments over what may or may not count as ‘essential’. But SPOONFEED is not only a reaction to the pandemic. And don’t worry, you’ll be relieved to know that COVID doesn’t prominently feature in any of the poems in the issue either!
One of the things I love about food-poetry is that it can encapsulate so much of the human experience. Family and culture, place and time, the page becomes a dough of immeasurable diameter and these are just some of the toppings that can go atop it. Of course, food in general often does this as well. A quattro stagioni pizza represents a year's-worth of seasons on a plate, even if it only takes ten minutes to bake. And so it is with the poems in this issue. Through foodie happenings including festivals, viral videos, and traditional recipes, we are treated to explorations and interrogations of connection – be that of the self to the body, the body to a community, a community to its surroundings, or even just the gradual fading of a memory between friends. We have poems of celebration, of uncertainty, and of documentation. Poems that revel in the opulence of food as well as those inspired by a single ingredient, or a smell, or a stain.
As a final thought, I was recently talking with an Edinburgh-based chef about the latest UK Government debacle surrounding free school meals. The chef made the point that free school meals should be the very least a society should provide, and that ideally we should have something similar for adults as well. The chef asked me to imagine a world where nobody had to go hungry – how much faster the injured or sick might heal and how much more productive people might be in terms of following their passions. This dream world may still be a long way off, but I hope that through food-poems, including those within this issue, we can challenge ourselves to think more about topics including food poverty and universal access to healthy food. If 2020 has brightened the light on how we treat food within our communities, then let’s do everything we can to make sure that light doesn’t dim again.
Thank you to everyone who submitted, and thank you to everyone who reads this.
Food matters. Let’s talk about it more. Bon appétit.
sean wai keung
* Please be aware that due to the focus of the magazine, the 'food' note applies to the whole issue
Copyright for all work remains with the author thereof and any requests to reprint should be made directly.
Issue 1 © SPOONFEED Magazine
SPOONFEED x New Writing © Caitlin Allen