Gharib tells them her goal is to build a community cookbook, a modern take on the Junior League and church group collections of previous generations. But there’s a twist: Contributions to the food zine’s book don’t have to be recipes. They just have to deal with food, ideally with a Washington bent.
Glue stick tops pop off. Scissors start slashing through carefully composed photographs from Saveur, Martha Stewart Living and Food & Wine. In keeping with the Runcible Spoon’s freewheeling approach, there’s something subversively appropriate about cutting up such food writing mainstays to build something entirely different. (Gharib says they try to observe copyrights by avoiding illustrations and using images in new, reinterpreted contexts under fair use law.)
“We are totally irreverent,” Gharib tells me, “so if you want a real recipe, don’t come to us, because we make up half our stories.”
At a time when buffets of blogs, food magazines and television shows are competing for the hearts and stomachs of hungry Americans, Gharib’s somewhat tongue-in-cheek disclaimer about the Runcible Spoon, which she started in 2010, can sound like a bit of a head-scratcher. But peruse the pages of the diminutive, 51
2- by 81
2-inch, 16- to 24-page publication, and it begins to make sense.
We’ll start with how it looks. Gharib, 27, and co-editors Claire O’Neill, 27, and Alison Baitz, 25, make the magazine by hand. It’s a mashup of illustrations, collages, simple fonts and handwritten headlines. Imagine that an Etsy hipster sat down and got crafty with a “CSI” ransom-note writer and you might begin to approximate the funky aesthetic. Baitz, a freelance writer, says they try to walk the line between glossy and homespun.
The content of a typical issue is just as unpredictable. A recipe for Occult Jam looks legitimate until you read carefully and realize it calls for “1 tiny speck of Princess Diana’s hair.” A facetious page of “Kitchen Experiments for the Lazy But Curious Chef” illustrated by Gharib includes instructions for how to make flatbread based on your favorite bread recipe (“when you reach the step about adding yeast, skip it”) or churn butter (attach a jar filled with heavy whipping cream to your belt loop and walk around all day). But you’ll also find more straightforward features, such as a cheap coffee tour of Washington or a photo essay on vintage kitchenware.