The Carton - Jazz Manouche - Spring 2014
The Carton is an independent quarterly magazine that tells the story of Middle Eastern culture through its food. Founded by Jade George and Rawan Gebran, the magazine was launched in July 2011 and has been gaining a following and earning a reputation for its unique insight into Middle Eastern food and culture.
I first featured The Carton last summer to promote an event they were hosting to launch their ice cream issue. The Carton does not see itself as a “reviews and recipes magazine”,
The idea behind The Carton was to capture the essence of our complex, hot-topic culture through something that makes up the foundation of its every tradition. We wanted to tackle aspects of this culture be it sociopolitical or anthropological from a lighter angle. And to do this, we chose food.
In The Carton, you’ll find memoirs, tales and even poems of food culture in the Middle East or from the Middle East.
You’ll realise that we make it a point not to have titles on the cover to leave room for the reader to make what they want out of the issue, making it a timeless collectible. The only place you’ll see our internal theme stated is on the spine (have a lookie!).
And the theme for their latest Spring 2014 issue is "jazz manouche".
This issue isn't about how simsmiyyeh is both a gooey sesame treat and an awkward Middle Eastern musical instrument to which most of us were oblivious. Spring can really hang you up the most as Fitzgerald once said, so we felt that things could use a little jazzing up. No matter where you're spending your April and whether chestnuts are in blossom or not, it's time you've turned your players back on. Shall we listen to our grumblings now?
The cover story for this issue by Razan Al Zayani is set in Cairo where she interviewed and photographed food historian Anny Gaulwho conducted a Masters research at Georgetown about a shopping list that appears in one of the first few stories of One Thousand and One Nights.
I was fascinated when I heard about this shopping list and bought the magazine right away.
An extract from the cover story:
By cross-referencing the items, she (Anna Gaul) discovered their medicinal uses in Greek pharmacology textbook written in the 13th century by Ibn Al-Baitar. The Material Medica was on the herbal and medicinal uses of food. And when Gaul glanced at the food items in the text, she found an incredibly rich history within one of Shahrazad's enchanging bedtime fables:
"...The story supposedly takes place in a market in Baghdad, so you see the convergence of these trade toutes and people, and it really brings the story to life... A woman goes to one shop and buys like 10 flowers. At the next place she buys fruits and vegetables, and from the next she buys all the pickled things, then all the nuts, then goes to the buthcher... Part of why I liked this is that I've lived in a couple of places in the Arab world and this is how I do my shopping. It's really fun to read the parts in the stories that I can visualise in my own life. I love being in a place where I can shop for food that way."
Here's a lovely animated version of the cover by Tulip Hazbar inspired by Shahrazad's shopping list in One Thousand and One Nights.
And here are photos I took of some of the pages from the same issue. Get yourself a copy now, to "experience, read, touch and smell it".
Every issue of The Carton can be ordered online for worldwide delivery. If you are a foodie, or just interested in an alternative look at food, especially from the Middle East region, then this magazine is for you.