Alimentum publishes “the literature of food.” When I first opened this magazine, I thought I knew what that meant. Poems about sandwiches, maybe, sentimental stories about grandma’s cherry pie. I thought that, at best, this magazine would succeed in making me hungry. Boy was I wrong. Almost from the first page, reading this magazine was an educational experience. I learned all kinds of interesting things about food, but more importantly, I learned something about the power of good writing.
Literature about food has the somewhat clichéd task of making the ordinary extraordinary, and in order to do this well, the writing itself must be extraordinary. Alimentum certainly lives up to this task, infusing the subject of food with all levels of meaning. In Tzivia Gover’s recipe poem, “Lunch,” a mother only half-ironically compares her picky child to a Zen master, explaining that “her mouth is a portal of refusal; her belly a tidy receptacle of light and emptiness.” Stephen Gibson’s “Ghazal at the Hotel Ai Mori d’Oriente” contrasts a grisly scene from the Iraq war with a vacation breakfast: “I was looking at the mini-croissants and the provolone half-moon cheese slices / And cut strawberries and thinking it looked like art, when the soldier killed him.”
Of the short stories, my favorite is “Milk,” by Lisa Allen, which uses a post-funeral meal to illustrate the dynamics of a wounded family. I also enjoyed Toshiya Kamei’s translation of “Carrots,” by Ryuischiro Utsumi, a sweet story about an old woman who is rescued from loneliness by a root vegetable.
Overall, though, I enjoyed the essays the most. “Hoosh” by Jason Anthony is a long, entrancing discussion of food, or lack of it, in the Antarctic. In “Pain Americain,” Bonnie Lee Black describes her job teaching African women to cook nutrient-rich bread.
The pieces I’ve mentioned here are only a taste of the feast inside the pages of Alimentum. When I put down this magazine, I didn’t feel hungry at all. I was completely satisfied.