Vittles Season 2
A new pitching guide, some changes, and some thank yous
Vittles is dead
As I was saying before I was rudely interrupted by a global pandemic, I find it strange that food writing in this country has become an elitist pursuit when it could and should be one of the most democratic forms of writing. When I said words to this effect in the original Vittles pitching guide, it seemed to resonate with people ─ both food writers and those yet to become food writers. Since March, Vittles has published new writing and new illustrations by almost 100 people ─ many of them BIPOC writers or artists, and some of them first time writers or writers dipping their toes into the subject. I think I have made my point. Vittles has exceeded any expectation I had of it in every single metric: in quantity (which at one point was five times a week due to the number of unturndownable pitches I was receiving), in the quality of writing, and in terms of the warm reception it has received, particularly outside of the UK.
I said from the start that Vittles is a ‘pandemic newsletter’. The pandemic isn’t over but that newsletter is now dead. It relied on a lot of people being out of work with nothing to do, it relied on people be willing to donate their work or work at a vastly reduced rate, it relied on a huge amount of good will, and it also relied on me being able to give it the attention of a full time job. Those are all things which for better or worse, have come to an end. So pour one out for Vittles.
If you want to relive some good memories, you can find everything published since March here: https://medium.com/@vittles/vittles-larder-cf21b47e99b3 ordered by the numbering system I originally thought was a good idea but literally everyone found confusing and infuriating.
Long live Vittles
So here is the next iteration of Vittles. To be honest, Vittles Season 2 looks a hell of a lot like Season 1, but there are a few crucial changes. First of all, I will be publishing slightly less ─ mostly twice a week for contributors, with a possible third if there is an timely issue to respond to. I’ve taken this decision for a few reasons: one because I have less time to edit, two because I think people have less time to read than they did before and there’s always the risk of fatigue, but third ─ and most importantly ─ by lowering the number of articles I can pay a lot better.
At the start of every month I’ve been able to increase the fee for articles from what it was before. Initially the fee was nominal. Now it is not yet at a living wage, but it’s starting to approach fees I’ve been paid by more established publications in the past. From today the baseline fee for writing is £110, with £50 as the baseline for illustrations. There are articles which will be paid more than this, not least due to the fact all of June’s subscription fees are set aside for Black contributors, and also because of a donation from Ruby Tandoh which similarly operates as a grant. I want to keep raising and raising the fee until its at a place where its competitive, but I can sleep knowing that a four month old newsletter at least pays more than a couple of your fav established British food magazines.
Payment for contributors is being almost solely funded through a voluntary donation basis, as I want to keep all newsletters by contributors free to view. If you would like to donate via Patreon on a monthly basis, you can do so here: https://www.patreon.com/user?u=32064286 . If you would like to donate as a one-off contribution then you can do so via PayPal - just email me for details.
For season 1 the loose framing of the newsletter was the pandemic, and many of the themes ─ from food shops, to recipes, to long term projects ─ relied on the assumption that many of us were cooking and had the time to work on these things.
Since the start of the pandemic, we have been forced to look at our cities in a new light ─ their fundamental inequalities, who they are working for and who they aren’t, the different ways of experiencing the city which are superimposed and layered on top of each other. This is why the overarching lens of season 2 will be cities. Here are some of the themes I’m looking for.
UK cities that aren’t London!
Honestly we’ve heard enough about London. I want to publish stories that don’t normally get the time of day in British food media about the many other cities in the UK which exist, particularly those related to class and immigration. Ideally these stories should be uniquely of their city, and could not be told anywhere else.
Global cities that aren’t American!
The biggest thing which has surprised me about Vittles is its reach outside the UK. I’ve had to turn down pitches from writers around the world because my remit has been quite local, but I would like to take on a few pieces per month covering stories on individual cities which are unexpected, or have not been told fully. As I think there are plenty of outlets in American food media, I would prefer non-American writers and non-American themes for these pieces, and I am also happy to take on translation services when necessary.
How cities are fed
One of the under-utilised strands of season 1’s remit was the link between restaurants (generally urban) and produce (generally rural) which I would still like to explore this season. The other side of this is the amazing work going on in cities themselves to keep people fed. Here I am talking about community gardens, allotments, community kitchens. There is still a pernicious strand of thought that says that poor or working class people are not interested in good food or good produce, and therefore are happy buying in to a food system controlled by corporations that centres cheap food. This is, quite simply, horseshit ─ but it can be tackled in a way that has nothing to do with the dominant strand of elitist foodie-ism that dominates British food writing. I would very much like pieces about this.
Looking back at the pandemic/looking forward to the future
The pandemic has changed many things, but I think for many of us it has changed the way we view food, cooking, restaurants and the systems which connect them, forever. I would like to run a limited number of pieces about how we have survived and adapted in our own personal ways, but also ones that look at what we’ve learnt and how this may change things ─ for better or worse ─ and solutions ─ whether realistic or utopian.
Labour issues. Unscrupulous bosses. General exploitative behaviour. We’ve seen these issues play out in American food media and restaurants, and we know they are going on here ─ they’re just more difficult to write about. I wont pretend pieces that cover these things will be easy to publish, but I would at least like to try, whether it’s through Vittles or other channels.
And just generally, I am always looking for pieces on working in restaurants which aren’t about head chefs; pieces from those considered ‘essential workers’; articles written by people with expertise and lived experience in their subjects.
I have the next month of Vittles already commissioned, so I want to be realistic about how many articles I can take on: I simply won’t be able to say yes to the majority of the pitches I receive because of space. However I will endevour to reply to every single one.
The italicised intros to each newsletter ─ or what Matt Rodbard called ‘the voice of god’ ─ have been a source of anguish for me for the last month. I know a lot of you like them, and they’ve become a part of the “aesthetic” of Vittles, but my god they are a pain to write when you’re supposed to be working full time. Writing what is essentially three columns a week has taught me a lot and I hope that you’ve enjoyed them, but I will be cutting them down to the bare basics for Season 2.
This doesn’t mean I’ll stop writing for Vittles. Instead of an intro for each newsletter, I will also send out a third, paid article every week. This is completely voluntary to sign up to, and you can do it through Substack at £4/month or £40 for the whole year. The articles will be longer than my intros and will vary in style: some weeks it will be commentary, some weeks interviews, some weeks it will be pure public service. If you’ve enjoyed my writing, either pre- or post- Vittles, then do consider signing up. Given everything on Patreon goes to contributors, this will mean I can pay myself a small salary for the time put into editing Vittles and my own writing in a way that is fair and transparent to anyone donating. The first paid article will go out next weekend, and it will be on decolonising restaurant writing ─ a topic I will be speaking about later today on Black Book.
Note: Anyone who is already contributing through Patreon, or who has donated to Vittles privately, will automatically be subscribed to this. Please contact me if you aren’t!
Vittles has been a huge collaborative effort and it wouldn’t have existed without the input of many people, some of whom have not been thanked enough. A particular thanks to Liz Tray and Frankie McCoy who sub-edited most of the second half of season 1 and who were exceptionally understanding when my own lack of organisation meant they were proofreading the evening before or, in some cases, the morning of publication.
A massive thank you to Ravneet Gill, Ruby Tandoh, Nigel Slater, Dan Lepard, Tim d’Offay, Adam Coghlan, Nigella Lawson, Virginia Hartley, Sejal Sukhadwala and the ‘indigestion’ group chat who have all been exceptionally generous with either advice, inspiration, funding, or in some cases, all three.
Ruby Tandoh was a rock of good advice when I was wavering between ‘Victuals’ and ‘Vittles’ and told me “Victuals feels like something that people who say ‘brava’ to brands on Twitter would say”. I strongly feel that this vital contribution should be on record.
And of course the biggest thanks is to everyone who has contributed so far, which when put together looks like such an incredible list of talent. Thank you so much to:
Adejoke Adeboyejo, Tim Anderson, Angry Workers, Amira Arasteh, Abbas Asaria, MiMi Aye, Jokè Bakare, Rich Baker, Marie-Anne Benavente, Adelina Bonilla, Georgia Bronte, Pamela Brunton, Matt Burgess, Caitlin Isola Caprio, Holly Catford, Nikky Catto, Jeremy Chan, Matt Chatfield, Iqra Chaudhry, Guan Chua, Felix Cohen, Loukia Constantinou, Mark Corbyn, Matthew Curtis, Madévi Dailly, Lindsey Danis, Charlene Delim, Marie-Henriette Desmoures, Sharan Dhaliwal, Isabella DiGuilio, Thom Eagle, Jack Fargher, Jack Faulkner, O.F., Emeka Frederick, Feroz Gajia, Emma Gibbins, Dan Gibbon-Walsh, Helen Graves, Scott Grummett, Lisa Haseldine, Hester van Hensbergen, Catherine Hughes, Helen Hugh-Jones, Javie Huxley, Bonita Ivie, Onyinye Iwu, Alex Jackson, Samir Jeraj, Saffina Jinnah, Max Jones, Ada Jusic, Rachel Kett, Lucie Knights, Coco Kwok, Kenn Lam, Jenny Lau, Eli Lee, Lara Lee, Georgine Leung, Jenny Linford, Travis Mager, Reena Makwana, Anna Sulan Masing, Yvonne Maxwell, Rachel McVeagh, Michelle Meagher, Devak Mehta, Tomé Morrissy-Swan, Kate Ng, Matt O'Callaghan, Leeor Ohayon, Jamie Parkinson, Adi Perkasa, Natasha Phang-Lee, The Picky Glutton, Nina Mingya Powles, Mia Rafalowicz-Campbell, George Reynolds, Keshia Sakarah, Bella Saltiel, Charley Samuelson, Molly Scanlan, Tihara Smith, Panayiota Soutis, Apoorva Sripathi, Ruby Tandoh, Tara Tate, Melissa Thompson, Hannah Thorne, Zhenya Tsenzharyk, Jessica Wang, Alia Wilhelm, Nick Wood, Mic Wright, Sam Wydymus, Mandy Yin, Mehrunnisa Yusuf, Marta Zboralska and Cai Zhang.
It has been pointed out to me that my name has not appeared anywhere on Vittles so far. This has not been due to any conscious decision or because of any lack of ego ─ I’m just really, really disorganised. See you soon for season 2.