What It Takes to Start Your Own Food Zine

By M. Elizabeth Sheldon |

© Maud Pryor

Zines—handmade, independently produced magazines that rose to prominence in the '90s—are making a huge comeback. This month, the Brooklyn Historical Society hosted their fourth annual Brooklyn Zine Fest, featuring more than 150 authors and illustrators. One of the highlights for us was a panel discussion exploring food and drink culture in zines. We talked with the panel's moderator, Maud Pryor, author of a vegan zine called Marmalade Umlaut, to find out everything you need to know about starting your own food zine. 

Why did you decide to start a zine focused around food? Did you feel like there was a void where vegan cooking was concerned? 
I've made other zines in the past—my first was a queer, feminist, art and music zine called Vag Mag—and I've made a few other one-offs for friends, but this is the longest-running and consistently themed zine. I started it sort of as a challenge to my manager at the time, who I'd talk to about food and veganism.

The first issue of Marmalade Umlaut came out in 2007, so veganism was a little less mainstream than it is now, but it was mostly a project I gave myself to give some positive focus to my food obsession/disordered eating. I didn't deliberately think of it as having an audience or a void that needed a voice.

 What are the benefits of having a zine in a time when there's so many digital platforms out there?
I have a food blog as well as the zine, but there is little overlap in material. Food blogs these days are very heavy on food photography and presentation and are more consumerist-driven. That's not entirely my thing. Zines are a better medium for political rants, silly jokes and lewd doodles. It's much more freeing to write for or produce a zine because I feel like fewer people will see the end product. I see the zines as letters to my friends and the blog as something that my mom could potentially Google.

 Could you describe the process and tools you use to produce your zine? 
My method is so old-school! Tools are pens, White-Out, scissors, glue and tape. Really basic stuff.

Essays, recipes or more serious pieces I will type just to make them easier to edit, but almost everything else is written by hand, shrunk down on a photocopier if necessary and glued in. 

What inspires the stories and recipes in Marmalade Umlaut? 
There are actually very few recipes in Marmalade Umlaut, usually only one or two per issue. That's something I'd like to change. I'm always asking my family or friends for recipes to include. For the most part, unless I am following someone else's recipe, I just eat random ingredients thrown in a bowl and call it a salad. The recipes I do have are amalgams of ones I find online or in cookbooks. I’ll combine my favorite parts and tweak that until it's edible.

The stories are usually personal stuff that's happened to me or musings on politics, feminism or food. Sometimes there are creative pieces: poems or made-up scenarios when my brain decides to go that way.

Do you have any tips for someone who wants to start their own food zine? 
Be honest with your voice and do it! Despite veganism becoming more mainstream, I'm still not sure that what I'm doing really has an audience. Luckily, I don't care that much because I have a lot of fun making the zines. Pursue all the wacky non-sequiturs and dumb inside jokes with yourself. Admit the embarrassing stuff! Don't censor yourself, and don't worry about being perfect.

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