On the Shelf: Render Magazine and the Feminist Politics of Food (and Music)

It’s always struck me as such hypocrisy that stereotypical gender rolls teach us that a woman’s place is in the kitchen… unless it happens to be a commercial kitchen, especially in a fine dining restaurant. Like any industry, there’s a fair bit of sexism in the food world (but, like most other industries, women are also routinely smashing through kitchens’ glass ceilings) and the crew at the Portland-based Render Magazine are taking those issues head-on.

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Now three issues in, Render has written about things like women who focus on meat and butchery, how the politics of food affect the way that women approach eating, questions of cultural authenticity when it comes to cooking, the challenges of being a woman bartender, and much, much more. It’s great stuff — Render is available in some book and magazine stores, or you can order either print or digital copies at their website (they also have a blog if you need some quick hits).

I caught up with Render’s founder and creative and editorial director Gabi de Leon to chat about music and food (the brand new issue of Render also comes with an accompanying playlist!). Here’s what she had to say:

Rolling Spoon: First up, can you tell me a little bit about Render and why you felt that food writing needed a feminist voice?

Gabi de Leon: I developed anorexia in my first semester of college, and then spent the rest of my four years there recovering from it. So every project I did in college (I was an illustration major) was focused on food, and a lot of my inspiration was coming from the mountains of food magazines and cookbooks I read. As a woman with an eating disorder, looking for inspiration in all of this reading material, I noticed that women were severely underrepresented, and that the majority of material that I read that was about women and food was not body-positive. Living in Portland, though, I saw some awesome ladies doing awesome things in our local food culture. So when it came time to do my senior thesis, I had a lot of inspiration coming from awesome women in food culture and I knew there was a niche in food journalism that was still unoccupied. So I made Render.

Do you see connections between music and food? I’m finding that there’s a certain rock ‘n’ roll attitude creeping into food, which I like.

Absolutely. The connections are endless. With a lot of my friends who cook, their taste in music and their cooking styles go hand in hand.

Do you listen to music when you’re cooking (if you cook — I suppose you may be more of a restaurant eater)? If so, what?

I would love to say that I’m more of a “restaurant eater,” but I do cook—I do it for a living. And I absolutely listen to music while I cook, but mostly when I’m cooking at home or doing prep. I need music while I’m cooking at home to relax, and I need music while doing prep because prep is so repetitive sometimes. But while I’m cooking on the line, I’d rather not have music in the foreground of my hearing. I gotta listen to my calls, and I need to be able to communicate with my team.

Render, feminist food magazine

When you’re in a restaurant, what do you like the music situation to be like?

I don’t like the music to be so loud that I can’t hear the people I’m dining with, and I don’t like it when they’re playing the same stuff I hear everywhere else. You know, the top forty hits, the eighties station, the Ray Charles station on Pandora…other than that, though, I don’t have much to say about my preferences on musical situations in restaurants. Maybe I need to go out for dinner more often!

What musicians would you like to invite over for a dinner party?

Kendrick Lamar, Annie Clark, Beyonce, M.I.A, Janis Joplin.

I love that your new issue comes with a playlist. Where does that idea come from?

We had the folks at Bear Sign reach out to us about collaborating on a playlist, so it wasn’t really our idea, but we were really into it. We actually published a playlist in our first issue, though. We thought we’d make it a continuing column, we named it Sound Bites, but we didn’t keep it going, for some reason. I’m going to make a point to bring it back.

I used to be a music journalist and found that industry to be rife with misogyny and now I write about food and I know that many people see a lot of male dominance in the restaurant industry too. Who are some of your favourite women who are smashing the patriarchy in either music or food?

I don’t think she’s in it to smash the patriarchy, but Camas Davis of the Portland Meat Collective was really inspiring to me in the couple years leading up to the birth of Render. She was the first female butcher I’d ever heard of, and there she was, teaching butchery classes in Portland. I interviewed her for the first issue!

What is your favourite kind of pie?

PIE. Peach. And pumpkin.

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Pie, feminism, and butchery. Sounds like an ideal world to me. So, to celebrate Render’s beautiful new issue, let’s play a little bit of Beyonce for Gabi: