iSana libuyele kunina by Buhlebezwe Siwani - Images courtesy of Chips!

Chips! // An alternative voice on food culture

Editor of the new online publication and occasional printed zine Chips! Alix-Rose Cowie chats to me about how conversations about food open up an avenue for sharing how we live our lives.

Tell our readers about the thinking behind Chips! Elaborate on why you think writing about food is the perfect way to think through other topics?

The food world can sometimes feel pretentious which is ridiculous because everybody eats! Everybody has a relationship with food and we’re interested in what it says about their lives. Like we say in the intro to our first zine: nowhere is culture more apparent than at the table. Through food, our first issue touches on (however lightly) converting to Islam, parenting, adoption, travel, pop culture, history, immigration and gender roles.

Tell our readers who is part of the Chips! team? 

Chips! is published by Studio H, designed by Kinsmen, and edited by me (I also shoot a lot of our photo stories).

Could you tell our readers a bit more about Studio H?

Studio H is a culinary-minded, multi-disciplinary design studio specialising in experience design. They run food conferences, workshops, installations and experimental dinners that play with sensorial perception or imagine future foods.

Studio H is also the team behind the annual Street Food Festivals in Johannesburg and Cape Town. Chips! was born out of the firm belief that every creative team should have a side project that they are super passionate about. Studio H had been dreaming, plotting and planning a food magazine for years.

For those readers who do not know, would you like to share something about you and what you do? 

We’re a quarterly publication meaning we release a new issue every 3 months online and occasionally as a printed zine. We use food as a broad theme to talk about other things like culture, life, travel. We’re South African-made but globally conscious

Tell our readers about the thinking behind the first issue, Hol(e)y, where you discuss food and religion?

Our initial first theme idea was ‘The chicken or the egg?’ which was apt for a beginning. We liked the idea of going beyond the food (chicken or eggs), using the theme to talk about origins, or an unsolved argument, or choosing sides. But then Lucky Peach (RIP) came out with their chicken issue and their cook book All About Eggs.

We liked the idea of Hol(e)y because religion is something you’re not supposed to talk about at the dinner table which creates a great tension to play with. Religion has been a major factor determining what people eat or don’t eat around the world since forever, so much so that it has become cultural or behavioural. We also liked the playfulness of food with holes in it. As Matthew Freemantle writes in Issue #1’s ‘Holey Bagel’: “You don’t look at a slice of rye bread or a rusk and feel the same way you do about a bagel, for instance. Round things are fun and, when they have a hole in the middle, they’re more than that – they’re funny.”

With its duality, the theme Hol(e)y allows us to be sometimes serious and other times tongue in cheek.

You feature stories from South Africa and other countries in this issue. You also combine writing with videos and styled shoots of food. Could you please elaborate on how you have curated this issue?

Food is multi-sensory so we wanted to recreate this experience as far as we could through using different mediums. We hoped to create texture through publishing stories from different places in a range of voices and deliveries.

Would you like to share something about the contributors for this issue?

We have big love for all the contributors of our first issue for believing in the vision and saying yes to something that didn’t exist yet. They wrote and sent images from as far as Prague, Bangkok and Visakhapatnam, India and as close as Johannesburg and Cape Town. We see all our contributors as part of a Chips! club that will grow with each new issue. You don’t have to be a food writer to contribute to Chips!, we welcome art writers, fashion photographers, novelists – food affects everyone.

Can you let us in on what you have planned for the next issue?

We can only give you this one $mall hint.

What is the vision you have for Chips!

We want to be an alternative voice on food culture through the writers that we publish and we want to present food in an exciting new way through our photography. We want to give the world a taste of South Africa through Chips!. We want to keep things fun.

Be sure to check out their first issue to get a taste of this multi-sensory menu.

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