Fast for a few days first so you’ll be good and hungry. This is a double issue, “A Readable Feast,” featuring poems, stories, essays, art, and “Real Recipes by Real Writers.” (It does make me wish, perversely, for some fake recipes by imaginary writers, I must confess.) The great eating (I mean reading) begins with the delicious cover, “Plenty,” by Billy Renkl, a splendid buffet of typically American foods. The issue is crammed with delectable art, including sweet black and white illustrations, sensuous charcoal drawings, and dreamy, surreal drawings that have the quality of papercuts.
The menu is divided into Appetizers, Small Plates, and Side Dishes; Main Courses, Entrees, and Larger Fare; and Desserts; with a palate cleanser of the “micro fiction” pieces by the winners of the magazine’s Schlafly MicroFiction Contest. Recipes do, indeed, conclude the feast. My favorite of recipes are those intended to be funny, all of which succeed in amusing and delighting me, most especially Lee Upton’s “Pineapple Thrill” (“Pineapple Thrill must never be eaten more than once a year”) and Jeffrey Allen Price’s “Recipe for Disaster + Price’s Perfect (Sacrificial) Baked Potato” (“Here is a recipe for disaster – cook a baked potato in a microwave!”)
Food isn’t just fun and games, of course. On the more serious side, there are poems that can fill you up with their good taste and flavorful images, Jacqueline Berger’s “My Mother’s Refrigerator,” for example:
My mother is smaller than ever
in her turquoise rubber clogs,
pegged pants and sleeveless shirt,
yet she looms like a heat moon
rising over the overpass in August,
legendary as the light I learned to read by.
A Goldbarth poem is typically meaty and recognizably sly. Andy Mozina’s short story of life at the Frito-Lay company is a salty satire on the snack industry. George Bilgere’s “Sunset Knoll” is a surprising reflection on what it means to serve food to others, one of those poems that at first seems too easy, and then catches you unaware. Andy Mozina concludes his recipe, “Midnight Snack,” (1 bottle of beer, 16 wheat thins, ¼ lb. sharp cheddar cheese) with these instructions: “Eat, drink, stare into space. Become slightly stupefied.” If you become slightly stupefied after chowing down on this issue of River Styx it will be from pure, unadulterated gluttony.