In the masthead of the literary journal, Meat for Tea, founder and editor Elizabeth MacDuffie is identified as "Impresario," an apt job title. A term from Italian opera for the person who produces extravagant entertainments, the impresario brings the spectacle to the audience, and Meat for Tea is one lit. mag. that offers a range of items to stimulate the intellect in a real "performance" presentation. Poems, fictions (long and flash), splendid artwork all combine on a loose theme issue by issue to form a unified "show." Now in its ninth year, Meat for Tea has often used different teas for its thematic bind — Rose Hips, Kukicha, English Breakfast. With such impressionistic, abstract themes, there is always bound to be a great variety of literary and artistic offerings, and yet they always hang together, not unlike the acts in a circus.
Other types of food have served as themes as well. Indeed, it was the Scrapple issue that first hooked me (Volume 7, issue 4). Volume 9, issue 3, the Fall 2015 issue is loosely based around the theme of "tripe" — edible offal. Indeed, one of Meat for Tea's submission categories is Recipes; recipes are often couched within stories or poems — such as Bill Bradley's "Variations on Mango Salsa [tripe]."
Or Anthony Westcott's story of classroom anxiety, "Erica and Morgan" ("Nice! You saw my Oscar Wilde reference and raised me a Salinger allusion."). The narrator Bartlett's student, Erica, complains: "It's just that the things Maynard attacks — that he criticizes — are the ones that just... His witty little comment about my tripe recipe, and how my whole segment was 'tripe,' was just... prosaic."
Jennifer Juneau, a frequent contributor to The Potomac, also has food–related fiction in the tripe issue — an episode from her novel, ÜberChef USA, in which reality television chef contestants are subjected to the ire and ridicule of the Gordon Ramsay–esque tyrannical show host. Juneau's reality television parody, in the spirit of David Foster Wallace, spoofs the cutthroat competition of these TV–world extravaganzas and fits in well with the fabric of the Meat for Tea tripe theme, in all of its connotations, from food to rubbish. Other excerpts from Juneau's novel can be found at The Potomac, both in this issue — Quiet on the Set and Action! — and in the previous — see here.
Immediately after Juneau's story we encounter this poem by Samantha Wood:
A Place at the Table
The dish of poison has a serving spoon.
You can take as big a portion as you like.
Meat for Tea's cover artwork is always stunning. I encourage everyone to scan them for the sheer aesthetic pleasure — see here. The tripe issue's cover is artwork by Shannon Purcell, visible at the link above, and the back cover is the equally admirable "Lord Tripe" by Rob Kimmel.
Interspersed between the covers is more gorgeous and intriguing artwork, usually full–page. Denny Marshall's "Star Skater," Bob McNeil's "The Clintons," Paul Jeter's "Demise," Saera Kochanski's "Kurki" and Anxa Robles' "I Just..." are a few that engage the eye and mind between the poetry and fiction.
Meat for Tea usually features several poems by each poet to give the reader a greater appreciation of each poet's work. Samantha Wood, Alyssa Ross, Tom Crean, B.W. Archer, Richard Horton, Wayne Burke, Jane Blanchard and Laura McCullough are some of the poets with multiple selections in the tripe issue. Many are "foodie" poems. Ross' "Language Lesson and Homemade Thai Food" is just one of hers; Jane Blanchard's "If Bread Makes You Choke" is one of hers. Michael Goldman's poems, including "Liver," are translations of Danish poets.
Linda Kraus has just one poem in the tripe issue, but it is such a fine one and representative of the tone and texture of the tripe issue that I'm going to quote "Fine Dining" in its entirety:
Tom Jones and Mrs. Waters snap
that wishbone, lasciviously gorge
themselves on oysters, crunch ripe
fruit — slowly, oh so slowly, tear
the meat from the bone;
the movie screen melts before us.
In Like Water for Chocolate, Tita
uses rose petals and quail to work
her magic with aphrodisiacs so hot
that her clothing catches fie.
The contents of a raw egg in Tampopo
become carnal when passed from
mouth to mouth, finally breaking,
the yolk spilling on a woman's face
and into our libidos; an oyster slurped
from a woman's hand by a stranger
has predictable consequences.
We crave the mouth–watering
excesses of Big Night, yearn to eat
that timpano, agree with Pascal's
advice to bite our teeth into the "ass
of life" rather than practice culinary
moderation; Babette understands —
we watch the abstemious members
of her church finally acknowledge
the fleshly pleasures of a banquet,
then raise our glasses to cinema's
refinement of our palates as well as
our modest attempts to marry
food and love.
Though I haven't mentioned every writer by name in this review, all add equally to the effect. One story I do want to mention, though, is Justo Yanez' powerful picture of Nicaraguan lives, "La Segua." Quite moving.
Elizabeth MacDuffie, doff your ringmaster's hat and take a bow!