Dinner Bell magazine: a creative take on food writing

With food as the backdrop, Dinner Bell magazine leans into the quirky side of culinary culture. Submissions are open for the 2020 issue.

by Celine Roberts
April 9, 2020

Dinner Bell, a nascent Pittsburgh-based publication, bills itself as “food writing for the weird.”

Get to Know Dinner Bell magazine

The annual magazine is a collaborative effort of co-founders Emeran Irby, a writer, storyteller and oral historian working with Chatham’s Center for Regional Agriculture, Food and Transformation (CRAFT) and Howard Parsons, a writer and the founder of the Travelin’ Appalachians Revue creative arts showcase — both have prior experience in zine-making and publishing. The team also includes co-editor Emma Honcharski and illustration editor, Annie Vaughn.

“What we hope comes out of Dinner Bell is that food is weird and you can write about it in so many different ways. The weird is often the best part,” says Irby.

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The magazine’s freshman issue dropped in October 2019 with 36 published pieces including illustrations, poetry, short stories and a comic series of musings on food superstitions. “It’s more on the creative writing spectrum; less journalistic than literary,” says Irby.

The editorial team is offering rolling submissions for contributions for the 2020 issue. As COVID-19 concerns subside, they also hope to launch a food-centric event series.

“We’ve had a couple of pieces come in about eating in the age of coronavirus,” says Irby. “I think people understand a little more of what we’re about after our first issue.”

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Off-Kilter Creativity around Food

To help inspire submissions, the editorial team maintains a robust and quirky social media presence, including short videos and daily writing prompts such as “Review the best gas station hot dog you’ve ever had” and “What would you do with 1,000 pounds of butter?” The questions are designed to make the contributor dig into off-kilter creativity around food.

“Writing about food doesn’t always have to be about food. It can be a character in a bigger story and that counts to us,” says Irby.

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In developing the idea for Dinner Bell, Irby and Parsons looked to publications such as Put An Egg on It – a Brooklyn-based literary magazine, Civil Eats – which focuses on labor and food policy, Queer Appalachia – a publication that centers on queer voices, and the defunct Lucky Peach – which often included pieces accompanied by psychedelic-seeming illustrations.

Where to Find Dinner Bell magazine

Dinner Bell’s editorial team plans to publish online and hard copies of the 2020 issue in the late summer. Copies of the 2019 issue are available online and locally at White Whale Bookstore, Pigeon Bagel and Small Mall.

Surviving Winter, by Ashley Renee Hoffman; via Dinner Bell magazine.

Header image: Pork and Cherries, by Belle-Pilar Fleming – courtesy of Dinner Bell magazine.

Celine Roberts is a food journalist living in Wilkinsburg. When she's not busy writing her next story, you can find her studying wine, hiking in Frick park or trying a new recipe.

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