It started the way many good things start. I went to a dinner party at a friend’s house. Somebody there asked me what I was working on at the time and I described the food-as-a-metaphor-for-life novel I was preparing to publish. My companion mentioned this anthology in the works where writers from around BC write about food. “Nah! they are not going to accept my submission” I thought to myself. But then I made a submission any way. The first surprised came when I received an email telling me I was accepted into the anthology.
Sustenance :: Writers from BC and beyond on the subject of food edited by Rachel Rose.
Vancouver’s poet laureate (Rachel Rose) decided to put together a work of art that provides sustenance in both practical and metaphysical ways. All proceeds from the book will go to support a program that provides recent refugees coupons to buy fresh produce from local farmer’s markets. In the forward, Rachel Rose talks about her intention for this work, here is a short excerpt:
When neighbouring politicians insisted that we must build walls to keep out Mexicans and Muslims, I wanted, as a Poet Laureate, to do the opposite. I wanted to build a table. When we build walls, we exclude. But when we build tables, we sit eye to eye in the sacred relationship of guest and host, mutually obligated and interdependent.
Reading the forward made me decide to read the whole book from cover to cover. The surprises unfurled before my eyes in a quick succession. The entry that is hand written and illustrated with hand drawn delicate images. The poem that is accompanied with a video so minimalistic, so simple … it made me sigh. I challenge you to watch that video and not sigh at the end. The Safeway piece that is both hilarious yet terrifying. All the contribution that deal with the subject matter of revulsion: force feeding, degusting food, pressured breast feeding and failed kitchen experiment. That one explaining why poets need, yes need, to steal cheese from upscale supermarkets. Yay! another Iraqi writer. I don’t feel so lonely in this anthology. The 5 line haiku, so short, yet delivering meaning with razor sharp precision. The story about a mother who excelled at cooking dinner on top of a car engine during long family road trips. All the entries written by children and teenagers. The diversity of the writers and poets, some well known, others I never heard of. Recipes from highly respected chefs and chocolatiers. A poet laureate that learns to make kubeh from Syrian refugees and then the poem is translated to Arabic. Cool surprise. And finally, towards the end of a book, there is an essay about Project Chef. A program that teaches children in elementary school to cook. The who ran the program in hundreds and maybe thousands of school recall one memorable group of children who decided to recreate a meal from the Roman times and eat dressed in togas. That was my son’s grade that did that. I have fond memories from about 5 years ago of my son getting all excited about dining like an ancient roman. What a lovely surprise to encounter it in this book. What a lovely succession of surprises this whole book is. I laughed, cried and sighed while reading it.
Yes! I realize that I am biased. This anthology left a magical tingly feeling in my fingers by the time I was finished with it. I feel so honored to have participated in a small way.
Oh! One more thing. Sustenance is nominated for this literary prize.