Eaten is a self-published one person undertaking by Emelyn Rude. We chew the fat in her company.
What triggered the idea to set up a magazine on food history?
I sort of fell into starting my own publication. After graduating from university, I immediately starting working for restaurants in New York and would freelance write on the side for a little extra cash. Even when pitching these dumb little pieces for the internet, I always found myself drawn to the more historical sides of stories.
The problem with this is that modern media outlets obviously try to be relevant to the current historical moment and it’s hard to always make history immediately relevant, largely because it takes so long to produce and you never really know when its pop culture “moment” will appear. I just found myself eternally frustrated, that I could never find the right place to pitch the stories I was interested in, so I decided on day to just try to start my own publication. A terrifying Kickstarter and 13 editions later, here we are with Eaten!
Your current edition looks at the breakfast, with fascinating takes on everything from Jamaica’s national breakfast of ackee and sailfish, owing its roots to slavery, to how the Free Breakfast program inaugurated by the Black Panther Party provided a template for the current National School Breakfast program in the US which feeds 15 million children every day. Do you reach out to a pool of contributors for input, or zone in on concepts which fascinate you? How does your editorial process work?
My editorial process is really just centered on what sparks my interest in a random moment in time. I generally decide on a theme about a day before I send out my call for pitches (if a theme has multiple culinary interpretations, even better) and then I send out an email to my editorial newsletter list and wait for the ideas to roll in. From there, I sift through all the submissions and try to see what seems interesting.
Sometimes I know there are certain subjects that I want covered, so if I don’t have a pitch related to that I will email a writer or scholar I admire to ask if they might be interested. But, generally, I just let the universe send me fabulously wild ideas. If a story makes me sit up and go “wow, didn’t know that” I am very inclined to publish it.
How rewarding/challenging has the process of self-publishing been?
I am an editorial (and design and accounting and PR and marketing and customer relations) team of one so I’ve been through all of the ups and downs of self-publishing. It is super rewarding to know that this is all me and there’s nothing quite like walking by a bookstore and seeing my baby proudly displayed on the shelf. At the same time, it’s been a test of my mental fortitude going at the many challenges of publishing alone.
No one quite understands the terror of seeing your bank account bottoming out or about the repercussions of a printing error or getting an email about how everything I’ve put in the magazine is shit (yes, I’ve received these). This project has really forced me to trust myself and my decision making ability and taught me to celebrate the fact that, at the end of the day, holy moly I’m publishing my own magazine.
Is there any particular story you have published which has resonated with you or provoked lingering considerations?
There are quite a few actually. One was on atomic gardening, which is basically the practice of irradiating seeds to create “useful mutants.” I honestly had no idea this was and still is practiced. Another was on the fish pepper, which was this pepper variety that was once super important in African American cooking in the eastern US in the 19th century and was thought to be lost until it was found again in the freezer of a famous painter.
I try to only choose stories that I find personally interesting so hopefully this translates to other people finding them interesting too.
What sort of offshoots has publishing Eaten led to?
Not many offshoots – just focusing on Eaten!
How has the publication fed into your doctoral research which you are undertaking in Cambridge?
My PhD is also on food history but focuses instead on much more academic concepts of food systems and supply chain shifts. Eaten is the exact opposite; I try to make it light-hearted and fun and as minimally academic as I can. They don’t inform each other directly besides obviously both being about food, but I do take a lot of inspiration from what I learn in the process of putting each edition together.
I’m a firm believer in forging random connections, so I think the more I know about wheat gluten cookery in ancient China or café touba in western Africa, the more I can understand how the world of food works more broadly.
What other magazines currently inspire you?
I drink a lot of wine and regularly read Noble Rot. I realize it’s not a magazine but I’m also really enjoying the newsletter Vittles at the moment. Definitely worth the read if you have interest in more off-beat food coverage.
No 13 Breakfast is out now, $20 (inc. worldwide shipping)