Here you’ll find merch, Issue #23 story excerpts, and the issue’s Spotify playlist. So take a look, and make sure you haven’t missed anything!
Artwork by Kai Robinson
Every half-eaten plate sliced at Daddy’s soul.
And the nearly empty restaurant would kill him.
Jayde dumped the contents of the plate into the re-use bin, watching the tasteless red gravy and rice slide over the skinless, pale chicken wings. What did that customer say? It tastes like boiled water. Probably does.
The lid snapped shut. A giant sucking sound signaled that the leftover waste was on its way to the compost cells where it would be turned into NutriBars: the chewy, tasteless sticks of recycled food waste that the Coastals devoured.
They ate anything that screamed beneficial or natural.
Jayde hated those words. Natural was why she had to cook chicken without seasoning. Beneficial was why she had to simmer a pot of red beans and rice without the fixings.
“How much did we make today?” Jayde leaned against the doorframe to the office, resting her head on the faded Backatown Café Crew Only sign.
Word passed around from mouth to mouth between bites of lunchtime meals; mumbled around bones of sticky jerk chicken across Port Royal; spat around flaky pieces of ackee and saltfish across Montego Bay; whispered around crispy nibbles of fried plantain across Kingston.
By the time the news reached Zhade Garvey’s door, she could pick out the scent of all of her nation’s dishes on the messenger’s breath:
“Dem come. An dem hungry.”
She gave the boy a slice of ginger cake for his troubles, then shut the door and went to turn on her screen. But her daughter had already beat her to it. She sat with her eyes glued to the screen as she gently bounced Zhade’s granddaughter on her knee.
“Mummy, yuh seen?” Requiem asked.
Zhade didn’t answer, pulling the remote from where it was lodged under Requiem’s leg to turn the screen’s volume way up.
“One sausage roll.” I hand the pastry to the older man across the counter. The sausage is a homemade pork one, with my sage, thyme, white pepper, and bird pepper seasoning ground into it. The seasonings are all from my garden or gifts from Malachai. The pig, hand-slaughtered and sausage sack hand-filled in the old machine used by my mother, her mother, and her mother before us. The pastry is my own recipe — flaky, buttery, and coated with finely ground, dried gotu kola that I had gotten from the Chinese supermarket on my last trip to town. It was finished off with a Ndyukan chant taught to me by my grandmother; one that kept the Maroons from ever being lost and from eating poisonous berries that resembled sweet cherries.
He takes it into leathery hands with a grateful smile, inhales the steam before speaking. “Memory. Right, Asest?”
When the auntie up the street started teaching Danae how to make her mama’s signature chocolate cake, Danae was so young she could barely hold a whisk right. Her little hands wouldn’t close around the handle and she needed both of them to stir, but they made do, and Auntie Tracy taught her anyway.
The girl made a mess of her auntie’s kitchen over and over through the next few years, showing up once every couple months to wreak havoc on the pretty blue and white tiles, scattering flour across the slowly yellowing countertops, the floral tile floor, and all down the front of her apron in the process of trying to get the batter to come together right.
Instead of joining her friends at dance class or band practice, Danae used her free time to make lemon bars, coconut cream pies, and cookies that gave the local Girl Scouts a run for their money.
My name is Hercules, and the name nearly lived up to me. Or perhaps I, it. Time, I suppose, will tell.
I have been called many things in my life, and alone, none have done me justice. Titles never do. The children of the home I served called me Uncle Harkness, a name I could not fathom how they conceived out of my birth name. They thought their familiarity was a kindness. The Chief of the Kitchen because of my profession and my possessor. Mister Lee called me cook, the closest thing to disrespectful as he was able. I imagine that I could be grating and being told what to do by someone like me must have irritated him greatly. Boy, I have not been called in many years, but we all remember the keen sting of the first time.
Poem: The Recipe for Time Travel by Monique Collins
Poem: lingua franca in diaspora by Whitney French