April 5, 2015

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Flavor by Sofie Sherman-Burton


This zine from Portland micro-publisher 2 Plums Press is a bit of a strange duck, but in a good way. It focuses on cooking, but without any specific recipes. It's a personal zine, but does not go into depth, just memory. It's a literary zine, but it's still non-fiction. Ms. Sherman-Burton doesn't allow herself to be tied down to one type of writing, and the result is a work that really shows how food can shape a person's life.

"Flavor" is a record of a time period in the author's life. She transferred to Benninington College in 2011, and says that "most of my best moments at Bennington were spent eating or drinking with people I came to love."  She wrote this to evoke her feelings from the time, and I think she did the job quite well.

Across thirty-eight 4 by 7 pages, many only partially filled, Ms. Sherman-Burton talks about the foods she either ate or made herself, the drinks she shared, and what they recall for her. It might be as simple as how they crafted pickled onions or a more elaborate explanation of how she kept eating homemade butter on bread when working to create a food co-op.

The prose is very expressive, almost a prose poetry, but not quite, because it's not trying to be overly literary. The visuals we get are from plain language and knowing the foods ourselves (like the dill in a pickle or the need for coffee). Ms. Sherman-Burton's experiences, too, are ones we can relate to, like how pizza is a universal memory, with hers being about college life, meeting friends, and bonding.

It's a really sweet collection of tales, no pun intended, and a true joy to read, even if it's a brief stay before the small chapbook zine is finished. If you like how objects create memory, and want to enjoy short prose that isn't trying to be on a prize shortlist somewhere, this is definitely something for food fans--and those who enjoy good writing--to look up.