Remember that awkward coffee date?

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Last Friday Graze magazine debuted its inaugural issue at the Smart Museum. Like the current exhibition at Smart, "Feast: Radical Hospitality in Contemporary Art", Graze focuses on personal, cultural, and political narratives built around food. Friday night's young crowd—who mostly came from north- and west-side neighborhoods rather than Hyde Park—was a slew of writers, artists, and friends of the publication. It was a celebratory event with live folk music, open access to the exhibit, and of course food.

The first edition of Graze has an introduction from the founders and editors, Cyndi Fecher and Brian J. Solem. The two consider food as a marker of beginnings, endings, and shifts in relationships: for example, the first time a lover makes you eggs or the last plate of food you share with someone before parting ways. Or in a broader sense, food also permeates everything from middle school cafeteria politics to larger political moments like the cup of coffee shared by Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev that ended the 1985 U.S.-Soviet summit.


The 11 essays, poems, and photographs in Graze range from an author's search for prahok, the Cambodian stinky cheese, to a poem that reveals a stilted breakfast conversation between mother and daughter. Although the pieces differ in voice, content, and quality, any reader can relate to them. For me, the publication ignited my own memories of food-related experiences. Although I enjoyed the writing, I was most struck by the conversations it sparked. After reading the magazine, I sat with friends over dinner and returned to the joy, terror, and melancholy we've all experienced over meals, drinks, or coffee shop encounters.

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