In November 2020, I stood in my kitchen in Durham, North Carolina, and read my collection of community cookbooks as though I intended to prepare holiday meals, but it was more of a comforting ritual. My husband and I live hours away from many of our respective families—visiting was sadly unthinkable. Since I was reading for pleasure—and it had been a while since I had allowed time to slip away in the stories of cookbooks—I noticed that the recipes in these Community Cookbooks were storied in a particular way. They read like flash.
I floated the idea of a flash community cookbook to some friends, then posted about it on Twitter. Writers responded with enthusiasm—they loved the idea of writing about intimate experiences involving food and recipes, eager to experiment with the language and structure of recipes to produce innovative narratives. This kind of writing isn’t recent by any means. The connection between the culinary and literary arts is an old, familiar one. Food writing is a sophisticated art, and writing about food, including food in your good writing, elevates and enriches it. It’s a transformational component. Important flash that includes food has been published and anthologized.
The plan initially was to publish a literary cookbook, so I reached out to friends with experience in small and independent presses, food writing, and recipe testing about how to go about publishing what is essentially an anthology with extensive recipe validation. The more I consulted, the scope of my interests expanded, and Ruby was conceived: an online literary magazine and press that publishes short-form food narratives with an online digital cookbook of writer-contributed recipes with a broad and robust disclaimer.
Months accumulated into a year of planning and hesitating as all of us involved with Ruby coped with the increasing stress and anxiety of the pandemic—and the loss of beloved family members and friends. I noticed more emotionally resonating and complex writing involving food in short-form writing, especially creative nonfiction and hybrid prose. It showed up more frequently in the submission queues where I edited for other literary magazines and in the issues of many publications.
When we opened Ruby for submissions last autumn, I offered a workshop on writing about Food and Memory in flash creative nonfiction. The work generated there surprised us with its powerful narrative intensity and depth. When we write about food, allow it to contextualize our narratives, reach for sensory experience and the emotions that attend it, we reveal deep character and identity. Ruby invites writers to “[S]end us your literary, genre-nonconforming, experimental, hybrid, surprising, tender, painful words” that “strive for voice, artistry, and character,” and writers gave lavishly. The writing in Issue One is exquisite.
Our first issue is extraordinary. It contains fifty-eight pieces of flash fiction, flash creative nonfiction, flash hybrid prose, essays about food and memory and thirty-five writer-recipes by forty-seven writers who sent Ruby some of their best work “imbued with harm and healing, grief, sorrow, and love”—and joy, laughter, fear, trauma, rage, passion, and whimsy. The staff and I engaged with these accepted submissions several times in the editorial-to-publication process, and each time, we marveled. Ruby encourages an expansive idea of food narratives. When you read the work in this issue, we think you will agree that fine food writing is fine writing; it is literature.
Everywhere I’ve gone with this project, people have been generous with their expertise, skills, time, advice, support, and kindness. The editorial staff has been nothing less than outstanding, and it shows.
Thank you for supporting and celebrating Ruby’s first issue. We are so happy to be here and hope you are inspired.