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Vittles Season 3
You and I Eat Differently
In 2018, a compilation of essays entitled You and I Eat The Same was released by MAD Dispatches, a collaboration between the food world’s most exciting ‘alts’ ─ the Noma-adjacent alt-food symposium called MAD and the former editor of the alt-food magazine Lucky Peach Chris Ying. The compilation is a fine grouping of essays which on the whole, purely on a writing level, is better, broader and more politically engaged than the few Lucky Peaches that have come my way. Yet there was something about it that bothered me. While You and I Eat The Same is subtitled On the Countless Ways Food and Cooking Connect Us to One Another, the essays often inadvertently made the opposite point ─ that if there are similarities in the way we eat they were brought about by very different circumstances that have shaped the context in which those foods are consumed. I left the compilation thinking instead about the ways in which we all eat differently.
You and I Eat Differently
You and I Eat The Same was a much needed progression from Lucky Peach and had laudable aims ─ to show how, in an America and a Europe that was becoming increasingly intolerant of immigrants, that food could act as a connector. But to say we all eat the same seems to me to be flip, and on a very basic level, untrue. We all eat differently. We all eat differently based along multiple axes of difference: race, religion, gender, nationality, class, land ownership, disability. We all eat differently based on the individual circumstances of our privileges and non-privileges, based on our personal and cultural histories and our aspirations. To say we can be reconciled because we all wrap meat in bread is a comforting lie, but the converse, that our differences mean we cannot be reconciled and come to a mutual understanding, is also untrue.
I would like to bury the soft liberalism of Lucky Peach and its copycats. We should not be ashamed to say we eat differently. It is only by talking about our differences that we can come to some understanding about why those differences exist. To talk about difference is not an act of division, rather the start of a conversation, and perhaps a first step to reconciliation.
The third season of Vittles will be titled, in homage and in riposte, You and I Eat Differently. Each newsletter will cover one axis of how and why we eat differently, but like with Season 2’s remit of cities, there is a lot of freedom within this subject for each writer to tackle what this means in their own way. Aside from this change in focus, the pitching guide is very similar to Season 2 ─ I want to publish more new writers, I want to publish more British food writing that doesn’t have London as its focus, I want to publish more international food writing that doesn’t revolve around the United States. And I’m still looking for more pieces which investigate labour. Perhaps the most helpful thing I can add for those pitching is that I am always looking for things, counter-intuitively, that unexpectedly connect to something else.
For the time being I am limiting this announcement to those who are subscribed to Vittles, although if you think you know someone who would like to pitch please send this email on (or if you agree/disagree with the season feel free to screenshot this and promote it/flame me). The email for pitches is firstname.lastname@example.org. Please be aware, for reasons I’m about to detail, I cannot accept the vast majority of pitches I receive, but I will endeavour to reply to every single one.
We need to be less shy when it comes to talking about money in journalism. In the conversations about different types of food media that we have had this year, the one thing which hasn’t come up is the unarguable fact that legacy media pays more than alternative media. For many writers, particularly those who are freelancing, this is the bottom line. Why spend time writing about a subject you care about for a publication who pays mainly in ideals? I am always very aware of the fact that some people write for Vittles because they see it as ‘a good cause’, and that they accept rates they wouldn’t accept anywhere else because of this. I also slightly shudder when people talk about Vittles as being the ‘alternative’ to British food media. Not just because we all too often see how those ‘alternatives’ quickly become subsumed into the mainstream, but that to be a true alternative means to offer people a meaningful choice. And if I want to offer writers a meaningful choice, I have to pay them more.
The base rate for every newsletter from today will be £450. This breaks down as £350 for the writer and £100 for the illustrator or photographer. This means every newsletter, including those I have already agreed Season 2 based fees for. My aim for this year is that by the time Season 3 finishes, Vittles will have grown enough to be able to pay £500 for each writer which I think will offer writers a meaningful financial choice as to whether to publish with Vittles or not.
To get to this point in nine months is much more than I expected, and to do it solely on funding from subscribers without any advertising or grants is something I am very proud of and I am endlessly thankful to you for. Currently all payment is funded through Patreon donations, but I am working on rejigging how subscription works so that every subscriber will be partially funding the payment of writers, whether they’re subscribed through Patreon or Substack. And I’ll also be working on some options for one time donations as well, so people can contribute without having to take out a monthly subscription. And as ever, please feel free to email with any feedback or suggestions.
I mentioned at the start of Season 2.5 that the inbox is a very intimate space, and I wanted to fill it with some things which brought some joy. I’m also aware that the inbox is a very stressful place too, increasingly so as our life and work becomes virtualised. I could feel towards the tail end of last year that having three emails a week from Vittles, even though it was a decrease from five, was still too much. This gradual realisation, combined with the need to pay more, means that I have decided to limit Vittles to one contributor post each week and one paid post. I think this will ultimately be to the benefit of the writing, to my sanity, and to you, the reader, as well. And despite me declaring otherwise all those months ago, I will keep the intros as they are!
I have not decided which days to send out yet, but they will be regular and I will let you all know in due course. I’d also like to foster some more interaction and discussion in the comments ─ I’m unsure if this means sending out a discussion newsletter or just reminding you that the comment section exists! But it seems a shame for all the discussion that each newsletter generates to be limited to the ephemeral realm of Twitter and Instagram stories.
I also have not decided when exactly Season 3 will start. I need a bit of a rest and Christmas has not provided it. Therefore all subscriptions and payments on Substack will now be paused while I take a relative breather and focus on newsletters in edits and replying to pitches. I will most likely pause for two weeks and come back to you in late January with the first article of Season 3.
Thanks and credits
Thank you, first of all, to Liz Tray, Frankie McCoy and Sophie Whitehead who have sub-edited all the newsletters in spite of my shambolic scheduling.
Thank you to Dan Lepard who has advertised Vittles on Twitter more effectively than I have (Dan, how are you generating those templates?)
Thank you to all my interviewees, Joké Bakare, Feroz Gajia, Faye Gomes, James Hansen and Pam Yung, plus Penny Andrews for their interview with Manjit Kaur and Adrienne Katz Kennedy for her interview with Brian Yazzie.
A big thanks to Free Word whick co-commissioned and co-funded two newsletters during Season 2.
Thank you to all the chefs and writers who contributed to the cookbook mini-season: Nick Bramham, Thom Eagle, Feroz Gajia, Hester van Hensbergen, Fozia Ismail, Alex Jackson, Simran Hans, Yvonne Maxwell, Rebecca May Johnson, and Vaughn Tan.
Thank you to every writer, illustrator and photographer who has contributed to Season 2:
Kareem Arthur, Jessica Beckitt, Camilla Bell-Davies, Louise Benson, Abdul Boudiaf, Ysabelle Cheung, Despina Christodoulou, Ross Clarke, Mark Comerford, Tommy Corns, Leah Cowan, Gemma Croffie, Paul Crowther, Sharanya Deepak, Marie-Henriette Desmoures, Sarah Doorley, Rose Dymock, Elainea Emmott, Jess Fagin, Clare Finney, Joanna Fuertes, Matthew Hancock, Joshua Harrison, Hester van Hensbergen, Helen Hugh-Jones, Angela Hui, Onyinye Iwu, Yasmin Jaunbocus, Ada Jusic, Lucie Knights, Kenn Lam, Emma Lawrie, Georgine Leung, Christabel Lobo, Kat Lopez, Annie Lord, Olga Loza, Nathan Mahendra, Kirsty Major, Reena Makwana, Elphas Masanga, Holly Nash, Emmanuella Ngimbi, Isabelle O'Carroll, Vanessa Peterson, Natasha Phang-Lee, Gabrielle de la Puente, Mia Rafalowicz-Campbell, Zinara Rathnayake, Supriya Roychoudhury, Richard Scott, Waithera Sebatindira, Tihara Smith, Jonathan Swain, Faria Tabassum, Ruby Tandoh, Melissa Thompson, James Unson, Vincent Vichit-Vadakan, Sean Wai Keung, Seonath Wakrambam, Max Walker, Siobhan Watters, Tom Whyman and Steven Young
And a massive thanks to you for reading so generously and for putting up with my interminable tea writing. See you soon.
You can pitch to Vittles at email@example.com or send Jonathan commissions/feedback/hate mail at firstname.lastname@example.org