But the energy and passion rippled off the folded pages, decorated with hand drawings, fiery opinion pieces and interviews. Out of the 'zines, Sniffin' glue' by Mark P. was probably the most well known. I also remember that heady moment, imaginary fists punched in the air, a feeling of having won the war, when zine ZigZag banished long haired whiskery hippies from it's front page and embraced the new wave with it's first punk cover.
Along with the punk style roots of do-it-yourself home restaurants, the 'zine scene has spread to food.
How do we read about food at the moment? The newspapers carry articles, but they tend to be rather short, lacking the space to explore food writing in detail. The Guardian Word of Mouth blog, one of the most popular food blogs in the world, is carrying the banner for lively up-to-the-minute democratic food writing, sometimes even plucking talented and regular commenters from anonymity and urging them to write articles. There are glossy magazines which publish luscious photographs, wonderfully styled and detailed recipes but confusingly will carry ads for junk food on the next page. And of course there are blogs, new ones starting every day, covering every aspect of food from the cup of coffee at your local caff, the dinner they made last night, the restaurant they started in their front room, to Michelin starred restaurants and trips to El Bulli.
But there is something to be said for the tactile pleasure of holding a work in your hand. Otherwise why do books still sell? In terms of comprehension, we read differently on the net. Even with books it is said that we retain only 10 percent of what we read (1). I'm sure this proportion is even less when reading off a screen.
So I am excited about the emergence of two new food zines (what to call them? chow-zines?nutri-zines? No, that sounds like a sweetener). Guardian writer Tim Hayward has started a zine, a rather upmarket one, called Fire&Knives, the first issue due out in November. He describes it as giving
"established writers a place for work that would not be published elsewhere; new writers a place to show themselves and experts in other fields an opportunity to write about our favourite subject"
On Monday night I attended the launch of Galleyslave, a stylish and witty pirate-themed 'zine from food journalist and broadcaster Joe Warwick, it's strapline 'putting the wind up the London restaurant scene'. Printed on folded broadsheet size recycled paper, Galleyslave carries articles on new restaurant openings, gossip from the restaurant world, and classified job ads, a section entitled 'Slave Auction'.
The launch was held at Hix, Mark Hix's new restaurant and bar in Soho. We were served fantastic cocktails, cleverly based on the pirate theme, a rum punch and a gin punch. There were bowls of pirate eyepatches on the bar. You could tell that the food was pretty stunning, even though we only got to try the canape version.
In particular I loved the goujons of battered fish served on a bed of sweet mushy peas. The chips, and readers will know how important chips are to me, were out of this world, served on huge platters with a bowl of mayonnaise in the middle. Standing with some food bloggers, positioned accidentally by the kitchen where the wait staff emerged with the plates of food (2), I noticed that one of these large trays of chips had been left casually on a table of four thin girls. I can't abide waste of that nature, so quickly relieved them of the platter.
Mark Hix, who I tried to talk to, explained that the chips were blanched in water, then in oil, then given a final fry.
Your intrepidly scoffing reporter here, however, got rather upset on this evening. Why? I was introduced to a food writer, Sharp by name, sharp by nature, who snorted with derision when she found out that I was a blogger.
"I NEVER read blogs" she harrumphed. "NOT interested AT all"
"How very 20th century of you! " I quipped lightly, thinking her overreaction was in good spirit, joshing like.
I can't remember exactly what she replied, as I was too busy reeling backwards from the venom spurting from her tongue, but it was something along the lines of
"Go away you nasty blogger, I'm trying to talk to my friend Joe and you are interrupting".
Thinking, well perhaps that was a bit rude of me, I took a step back and went up to her a little while later, apologising... Jesus, I never learn do I?
" I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to be nasty. I do understand how you feel as a print journalist. My dad's a journalist and I'm a photographer, I have exactly the same problems getting paid. Things have changed, but I think we have to adapt..." I gabbled, the words tumbling out in my attempt to appease her.
She eyed me steadily, I thought I was being given another chance. How wrong I was, she was merely gearing up for another mauling. One of the best of the food bloggers, an aspiring journalist, came up to us
"Oh you two have met, oh you will get on soo well, she's amazing this lady she..."
"Er well we've already had a bit of a spat" I venturedI then go on to explain the dispute when this lady spears me with a look saying
"EXCUSE ME, I think (this food blogger) knows me quite well enough and my views on the subject and doesn't need it repeated by you. Now I'M HERE to speak to my friends"and swivelled on her heel, turning her back to me.
The young food blogger was pulled away to talk to somebody who'd just come in and I was left on my own, feeling stupid. I hardly knew anybody there.
I'm always going to places on my own, thinking it will be fine, I'm a brave lass like that. I have social skills, I can talk to pretty much anybody. But suddenly I was projected back into the nightclub scene of the 80s when I used to feel like the loser at fashionable clubs. I didn't realise then that much of the arrogant behaviour was fuelled by cocaine and other drugs. The atmosphere of this launch reminded me of the 'greed is good' selfishness of the 80s. I stood back stung by the sight and sound of professional networkers using their metaphorical stilettos (heels and knives) clawing over each other's backs to talk to someone higher up the food chain. So I cried. Yes, that bad lady made MsMarmitelover cry. Hot humiliated tears spilled onto my pink dress with it's peekaboo cleavage.
I was going to leave but Joe Warwick and his lovely kind girlfriend offered therapy by way of more cocktails.
The whole food blogging scene has become quite cliquey, there are practically gangs; not so much the 'crips and the bloods' but the 'chips and bloods'. Food writers lurk in restaurant doorways, spit in each other's food and turn the knife slowly. It's surf and turf wars. Thrusting new bloggers are giddy with perceived power the result of PR emails inviting them to tastings and desperate for the recognition that getting into print will give them. Older established bloggers are bothered by young upstarts ...
"Some of these young bloggers in their 20s, know very little about food..."
Whereas print journalists are threatened by all bloggers, young and old, as evidenced in Nick Davies book 'Flat Earth News' and his talk which I blogged about last year. Murdoch is trying to think of a way to make online journalism pay. You can download everything, music, film, tv, photographs, your latest school essay, for free off the net.
But how is the 'talent', the people who make the content, going to live when nobody will pay ?
(1) I found this quote.. "Memory: We retain: 10 percent of what we read; 20 percent of what we hear; 30 percent of what we see ?50 percent of what we hear and see; 70 percent of what we say; 90 percent of what we say and do "
(2) Standing by the exit hatch is always the best place to position yourself at parties, in order to avoid that terrible condition known as 'canape stress', where you see a platter tantalisingly bobbing through the crowd, invariably empty by the time it gets to you. It's even worse for veggies I can tell you. Coming up to the Christmas season, you'd be surprised how many hosts and caterers don't think of those that don't eat meat. Shut up at the back, you. Vegetarians do count.