If 2020 brought us anything good, it was a new crop of DIY projects, from email newsletters to sourdough pop-ups to sweatshirts tie-dyed with onion skins and turmeric. One of the projects I’ve especially enjoyed following are food zines. I’m talking lo-fi, 1970s punk slash 1990s riot grrrl types of publications, with hand-drawn illustrations and amateur printing (extra points if they’re black-and-white only!). For this article, we’re defining a zine as a very do-it-yourself publication, put together by a small team, with little (if any!) funding.
Clarence Kwan launched his zine with three goals: to support the Black Lives Matter movement, to raise awareness about racism and white supremacy (in the context of the pandemic and in general), and to resist through Chinese food.
Launched as a website with downloadable recipes from New York restaurant chefs brought to life by local illustrators and designers, Family Meal is now available to purchase as a book. Profits are donated to New York restaurants and their employees through ROAR.
A collection of East African and Indian recipes by writer Zaynab Issa, Let’s Eat hopes to inspire conversation over a shared meal. “I went to the people that fed me—my mother and grandmother—and asked them to feed my mind instead,” writes Issa in the introduction. “To teach me what they knew so well, so I could convert their dashes-of-this and mugs-of-that…into quantifiable recipes that could actually be shared.”
As the creators’ lives began to “revolve around our tiny apartment kitchens,” Nonperishables, which features essays, poems, paintings, and photographs, was launched as an exploration of “food and isolation in the midst of the apocalypse.” All proceeds from the zine are donated to the Okra Project.
A print and digital zine “made by and for 2020 and beyond,” features essays, poetry, art, interviews, and recipes. Originally created to support COVID-19 relief efforts, profits from the Pandemic Post are now donated to the Audre Lorde Project.
As I sheltered in place, tired of novels and trying my best not to doom-scroll Twitter, I found even more zines published prior to this year. I also read a lot of indie magazines—those with a slightly higher production value than zines: professionally printed, published regularly, and with paid contributors (some of which feature ads in order to do so). These publications are a breath of fresh air when it comes to print magazines, compared with their glossy-paged “mainstream” counterparts.
Because we can’t get enough of them, here are 18 more incredible zines and stellar indie publications that weren’t new this year, but still published issues that we, ahem, ate up:
Rebecca Firkser is the assigning editor at Food52. She used to wear many hats in the food media world: food writer, editor, assistant food stylist, recipe tester (sometimes in the F52 test kitchen!), recipe developer. Her writing has appeared in TASTE, The Strategist, Eater, and Bon Appetit’s Healthyish and Basically. She contributed recipes and words to the book “Breakfast: The Most Important Book About the Best Meal of the Day.” Once upon a time, she studied theatre design and art history at Smith College, so if you need a last-minute avocado costume or want to talk about Wayne Thiebaud’s cakes, she’s your girl. You can follow her on Instagram @rebeccafirkser.