After previous editions centered on Los Angeles and New York writers, the focus for this summer’s TASTE fiction issue is more diverse, with two writers from northern California, another from Illinois, and one from Nigeria. It’s a fitting time for a break from tradition, as I can think of no other phrase that best describes this assemblage of stories. Particularly with the MSG-devotee mother of Yang Huang’s “The Gourmet” and the helpless farm boy of Jason Lee Brown’s “Chicken Without a Head,” the characters in this issue navigate new inclusions and exclusions to their customary lives—naturally with varying levels of acceptance. As these changes, welcome or not, are expressed through what’s on their dinner tables, it’s also occasion for some remarkable and sensory food writing. Elsewhere, themes of alienation, inquiry, and assimilation also pervade the narratives.
In E.C. Osondu’s unsettling “Alien Feast,” food is used to reconcile the characters’ dedication to a cruel custom, and in Vanessa Hua’s “The Older the Ginger,” an old man’s reconnection to his heritage dilates unforeseen and ostensibly unwelcome possibilities. Food reappears not just as a symbol of commitment, but as an enticement and palliative, inviting the reader to wonder just how these characters will be able to further digest what they’ve done. —J. Ryan Stradal, TASTE Fiction Editor