Like a still life painting, the fiction pieces, poetry, nonfiction, artwork, interviews, and illustrations gathered in this issue are artfully placed to bring each piece into the best light. With no distinct sections, the flow of one genre into the next allows us to savor the changing role of food from work to work. Beginning with the cover art, “Pie Wrangler” by Marilyn Murphy, which depicts a cowboy of sorts struggles to keep the massive piece of pie he has roped from carrying him skyward, this issue is interested in the everyday and sometimes playful mixture of food and experience, the various forms of appetite and consumption, and food memories we attach to the senses.
Paulette Licitra asks us in the preface to “sample the entire menu” of artwork and words spread before us, and since the journal itself is, dare I say, bite sized, that request seems manageable. The first piece of fiction, “Sacrifice in Fukuoka” by Paul Silverman, is a strong beginning, one that counters the playful recollections of bakery counters and cake boxes from the preface, and grounds us in the complicated relationship we have to the living meat of animals and people. Other fiction and nonfiction pieces spread throughout the journal have a similar feel. “Chestnut” by Katherine A. Gleason, though only a page in length, is a fictional rumination of one man’s strained marital relationship told through his love of chestnuts and his daughter’s artwork.
Interspersed through the issue are two poem groupings by various poets. One of these sections by Molly Fessler is particularly good. Her first poem “Tomatoes” parallels the images of a pregnant mother and the tomatoes she loves growing as told from the perspective of an adoring child. But when the mother “comes home with no baby” and the tomatoes she grew are traded for “dead and canned” ones, the child seeks to bring back the loving mother by growing the tomato plants in her closet. The final line expresses the loss of connection the child feels to the once growing child and the plants she has nurtured. Even with all this effort, “they don’t grow. But neither will the baby.”
One of my favorite poems is “The Origin of Fruitcakes” by F.J. Bergmann. This is partially due to the illustration (one of many) by Claudia Carlson, of two jitterbugging fruitcakes with strawberry eyes. The poem itself is equally animated in its attempt to understand the genesis of such an unusual food. Bergmann explains, “Fruitcakes have moms just like everything else; you know how aliens aren’t really aliens, they’re a cross between humans and dolphins, that’s why they’re grey and slimy; well fruitcakes are from mating Jell-O salads and leftover pizza with sufficient friction.” It seems the mystery has been solved.
Alimentum is full of excellent examples of prose and poetry, fiction, and artwork for the general reader. As a lover of food and literature, I was satisfied by the representations and reminiscences of the widespread connections we have to the things we eat. As a compliment to the journal, the webpage offers even more treats to nibble. Their menu offers reviews of cookbooks, food travel logs, winning menupoem submissions of the journal’s poetry contest, and even a forum for subscribers to confess the secret foods they eat after midnight. As Alimentum’s name suggests, after reading and browsing I was nourished in mind and memory, now I think I want a cookie.