Eating food is one of the few experiences human beings have in common. Yet ‘foodie’ culture has long felt swathed in a degree of elitism and appropriation. Consider the world’s unquenchable appetite for quinoa and avocados. These are considered staple foods in their countries of origin. Yet, their popularity in foodie culture will have you believe they were a newly discovered phenomenon. And the surge in popularity of these foods often means higher prices that make it harder for people who once relied on them to afford to eat them.
Enter the disruptive Chips! – a new, quarterly online publication and occasional printed zine that promises to approach the subject of food through a different, more culturally valuable lens.
Published by multidisciplinary design studio Studio H, and filled with beautifully shot images that are rich in colour and texture, Chips! transcends the narrow lens of traditional food writing by using the topic to address varying aspects of life, travel and culture. “Everybody eats, everybody has a relationship with food,” Chips! editor Alix Rose-Cowie says. “To us, the story of a street food vendor running a successful hole-in-the-wall shop is just as valid as a story about a celebrated chef.”
Their first issue, which debuted this past May, imaginatively broaches the topic of religion and its inextricable link to food. By naming the issue Hol(e)y and incorporating a playful element of ‘foods with holes in it’, the team behind Chips! lent a level of unexpected tongue-in-cheek humour to what could otherwise be a very sensitive theme. “How a meal gets to the plate, how it's prepared and how it's consumed are all indicators of culture, geography, lifestyle - and often religion too, which is what our first issue is inspired by,” explains Cowie. “Each step is a clue to the story of someone's life. Conversation around the table means that sharing a meal is inevitably a sharing of minds.”
Hol(e)y truly has something for everyone. There’s a playlist to cook to that includes everything from Mariah Carey’s Christmas hits to David Bowie’s "Holy Holy", a beautifully penned recounting of one woman’s childhood and history at Goldies Kosher Deli in Sea Point, as well as an earnest, hilarious examination of what it is that makes the bagel so universally beloved. “There are long reads, short, funny anecdotes and photo stories if you just feel like looking at the pictures,” Cowie says of the debut edition's variety.
Since returning from a trip to the Food Book Fair in New York City, where Chips! was met with positivity from the independent food publishing world, Cowie and the team have been working on their second edition. Called "The Dough Issue", it will focus on food’s connection to money; a theme their editor winkingly considers an appropriate follow up to religion.
A reflection of the country that it’s made in, what Chips! ultimately hopes to do is provide readers with a glimpse into South Africa’s lesser-known food cultures while simultaneously championing local writers, photographers and stylists. From the food-obsessed and cooking fiends, to those who could never afford to splurge on fine-dining, Chips! boasts universal appeal and affirms food’s reputation as ‘the great connector.’