Since launching in 2021, Edmonton's Hungry Zine has been serving up stories that are often missing in mainstream food media.
"Everyone has a relationship with food. They're all different, and they're not always positive," said Kathryn Gwun-Yeen, co-creator and co-editor of the quarterly food publication with Kyla Pascal. They aim to give space to the "negative or messy or murky feelings people have around food."
Gwun-Yeen and Pascal will be moderating Food Matters: Have You Eaten Yet?, a conversation with Cheuk Kwan about his collection of stories from Chinese restaurants around the world, which is part of LitFest on Oct. 22. Kwan's way of finding the story behind the meal resonates with Hungry Zine's aim of "getting beyond the food review," they said.
They do so with a roster of contributors that includes both seasoned writers and people who have never before seen their work in print.
"Anyone can write about food. I think that is really important to us, like breaking through that idea that only certain people have stories that are important enough to tell, or only certain people have the status to tell their stories," said Gwun-Yeen.
The unconventional works this philosophy elicits run through the most recent issue, Restaurants, where Alexis Kienlen shares a personal piece about her Chinese grandfather, Ramneek Singh gives a review of the "Punjabi OG" restaurant Pizza 99, and Gavin Doyle reflects on Red Robin in a set of three poems. Such stories hold their value beyond the rapid turnover of the daily news cycle.
"The way that we do the issues and themes, we tried to make them as timeless as possible," said Pascal. "People aren't just going to read it and toss it. We do want people to keep it on their bookshelves and hold onto it forever."
That's why Hungry Zine is on paper instead of online.
"We just love the tangible nature of books and magazines that are beautiful, that you keep around, that you want to gift to people," said Pascal. It resonated all the more in the middle of the pandemic, she added. "I think people were really excited to get something physical in the mail or give something to a friend. There's just a warmth to it."
Hungry Zine has just received a second round of funding from the Edmonton Arts Council, guaranteeing another year of quarterly issues in its non-stop production cycle. Next up is an issue on the theme of land and water.
In between planning the next issues and combing through submissions, Gwun-Yeen and Pascal said they are working with a local art gallery on a yet-to-be-announced exhibit, and they have been approached by a publishing house about doing a cookbook.
"Whenever people come to see us at markets, they always think we're cookbooks, and we're not," said Pascal, adding that it might be time to have a collection of recipes under the Hungry Zine heading.
"I mean, Kathryn and I both have a disgusting amount of cookbooks. So clearly, it's something we're into ... so I think that's something that we're keeping an eye on and have in the back of our minds as a coming thing."