Friday, March 15, 2013

Digestate: A Food and Eating Anthology

Anthology titles are really tricky books to read and review. It’s not like an ordinary book where you either love it or loathe it because typically it’s a mix of everything. I’ve always felt the measurement of success for an anthology was: (1) liking over 70% of the stories, (2) liking over 70% of the art, and (3) how well the theme of the anthology was maintained. In simpler terms, can the creators write and draw and did the editor do his job. This week I read Digestate: A Food and Eating Anthology, edited by JT Yost, published by Birdcage Bottom Books, 287 pgs, 8.5x11”, $20. I am happy to say that this was one of the best anthologies I’ve read in a long long time.

Digestate is about food in all its glorious forms and people’s reaction and interaction with it. I have to compliment Yost on pulling this collection off because I didn’t think it could be done. All I could think was, “seriously, a bunch of stories about food? How dull can it get? “ But Yost does an excellent job of not only getting the most out of the creators and the theme but setting up the content so that it never gets boring. There’s a story about a person with an eating disorder, then a story about talking apples, then one about raising chickens, then another about cooking so it’s never repetitious or boring. He also does a great job of balancing the veganism against the meat lovers.  Finally, he balances the art styles. The art varies widely throughout the book but each style seems to carry some small, similar element of the story before so that it all holds together visually. 

This is only one of many different
art styles you'll find!
It’s impossible to review all the artists and stories but there were some that really stood out. There was Alex Robinson’s That Peanut Butter Kid. What would a book about food be without someone talking about their weird eating disorder? To be fair, Robinson doesn’t have an eating disorder so much as a case of extreme pickiness.  He’s honest about it making the story entertaining and insightful all at the same time. Just to prove that Robinson wasn't unique, Tod C. Parkhill detailed his own pickiness in the aptly named Picky Eater. Visit Tod here.

Liz Prince turned in I like Food, Food Tastes Good. A history of eating. Liz isn’t picky but she does tell us some grand tales of her battles with junk food, both the normal kind and vegetarian. You can visit Liz here

Doggone Delectable Delights by Gary Fields is straight up gross. It’s the eating habits of a dog and if you’ve ever owned one you know what I am getting at. Even though it was gross it did make me laugh out loud. You can see a sample of Gary's art to the right.

City Chickens by Jess Ruliffson is exactly what you think it is. Living in farm country, and having to explain farm life to my kids, I really liked it. This wasn’t funny so much as real. Visit Jess here.

The Tell Tale Burger by Pranas T. Naujokaitis dealt with the guilt of trying, and failing very quickly, at being a vegetarian. There was Scrambled Eggs by Aron Nels Steinke which I am not sure I understood it but I really liked it.

One of the most thought provoking, and disturbing, was Yost’s Slaughterhouse Stories.  It’s the testimonial of an actual abattoir employee… with pictures. It’s never gory but it makes you think about how much you don’t know about the food processing business.

You can see a complete list of all artists, and links to their sites here.  I highly recommend taking the time to check it out.  It's a great way to see a whole wave of new stuff.

Let’s be honest, I didn’t love every story in the book, nor every artist in the book. There were some stories that made me want those 30 seconds of my life back but there were so many more stories that made me laugh, or remind me of my own home and life that I could never stop reading. There was some art that made my eyes bleed but there were pages upon pages of small press creators that I can’t wait to see more from.

Overall, Digestate is great big book of fun which is food for the brain. I highly recommend it, you can’t go wrong.

Visit Bird Cage Bottom books here to get your own copy. 

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