13 Sep Fare – Lisbon
Surprise Subscription #21
Let’s be clear: summer is overrated. The sun glares down from the sky, insects swarm in the air, the beaches heave with crowds; everywhere you go there is the palpable feeling that you should be out “having fun” and “making memories”–which is honestly a tall order to fill when stuck on a crammed train or plane with 100 kilos of luggage in tow. And to top it all off, it is too hot to enjoy our favorite foods! No soups or hearty stews or thick steaks or quiches or deep red wines; far from that, we find ourselves cornered and subjected to the humble pleasure of…salad. So now, as September makes its grand appearance after months of estival inferno, it is time to fire up our stoves and get cracking on the good stuff.
Which brings us to Fare–this month’s Surprise Subscription choice.
For eleven issues now, Fare has operated on a simple but fail-proof formula: select a city and then present its history, culture, and communities through the lens of food. After having explored cities as diverse and far-ranging as Istanbul, Kyoto and Tbilisi, the magazine has set its sights on Lisbon; and honestly, with its pasteis de nata and bacalhau and exceptional coffee culture, a better choice of city could not have been made.
But Fare is not your average food publication; and rather than just pummeling the reader with a series of salted cod recipes, it instead presents a rich panoply of all sorts of unusual and remarkable stories linked to Lisbon’s culinary traditions. Whether they concern the city’s Cape Verdean community from the perspective of the alcoholic drink grogue; or the history behind why the city’s best baked sweets come from its convents; or the fact that everyone passing through town needs to stop at the legendary Cervejaria Ramiro, Fare’s thoughtfully written (and lushly printed) articles will make the urge for seafood or bifana impossible to resist.
We were equally not able to resist to ask Kenzie Yoshimura of Fare a few questions about the making of the magazine:
Hi Kenzie! Can you tell us a bit about your role at Fare magazine?
As the Managing Editor at Fare, I’m able to get involved with just about every step of the process – from initial conversations about content with our Editor in Chief, Ben, to finding and managing local contributors, to copyediting the text… as well as necessary tasks like handling orders of the magazines and relationships with the stockists who carry Fare. As an independent mag, we have a very small team and we all wear many different hats.
How do you and the rest of the editorial team choose which city you want to feature?
The process for choosing the cities varies from issue to issue. Sometimes, it’s a city where we have a contact or contacts who are able to connect us with other local contributors and give us an initial “in” to understanding the city culture on an intimate level. Sometimes, it’s a city we have in mind because of the stories we want to tell there and the way we feel it could fit in or balance out the series, so we search out ways to make it work.
When you leaf through an issue of Fare, it very quickly becomes obvious that this isn’t just a foodie mag. You’re also dealing with history, politics, serious reporting, family stories. How do you approach the stories you decide to tell? Does the food come first, or is it the other way around?
We try to go into each issue with a deep understanding of the city and its history, so at the outset we have a big list of possible stories, bigger themes, and, of course, specific dishes in mind. But where we really start is with our local contributors: we connect with as many people we can from the city and try not to limit it to only professional writers or people in the food industry, but rather cast a very wide net for experts in different fields and anyone who might be willing to share a bit of their city with us. We ask them about the stories they want to tell and the issues that are important to them. That’s how our Table of Contents starts to take shape.
Given the ever-increasing concerns of world hunger linked to war and climate change, we know that food is never just about food. What role can food writing, especially a magazine like Fare where the historical and social context is so important, play in the face of such calamities?
We know that it’s impossible to unlink food from its historical and sociopolitical contexts. Food and the many joys and struggles related to it sit at the core of human existence. For me, food writing – especially the kind of food writing we do with Fare – is crucial, because we ask peoplefrom different walks of life to share their stories instead of speculating as outsiders. This anecdotal information helps us understand how food systems affect real people’s lives. And we’re lucky enough to connect with incredible individuals – it’s no coincidence that the leaders in each city’s food scene have an eye on sustainability issues and food history, and are actively working to make changes. It’s important to share those stories.
Now for a silly question. What’s the weirdest eating experience you’ve had in the name of Fare magazine?
When Liz Seabrook, one of our photographers, shot the convent sweets in Lisbon, it was a race against time to catch the golden hour light before the sun went down. We literally ran around the city with boxes and bags of sweets, trying to find the best place to shoot. We found a big, marble-like surface on a street with bars and convenience stores, and so I went from door to door asking the owners to borrow plates and cutlery, trying to convince them in my very limited Portuguese that I would return everything.
And finally: your favourite place to eat in Lisbon?
That’s a hard one! Batata Doce is a place I could imagine going to over and over again. We happened to go on an uncharacteristically rainy day in Lisbon and the Brazilian and Angolan dishes felt like the best warm comfort food I can imagine. Tati is another place I loved. It’s a small natural wine bar with really simple, really delicious food and a very neighborhood feel, far from the busy city center.
Thank you, Kenzie, it was a pleasure!
We hope the stories of food and drink and travel in Fare will inspire you in the colder months ahead; and that they will help you to remember that, as Virginia Woolf once said, “one cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well”.