Last week, I was down with a monster of a cold, one that made me too sleepy to read for much more than ten or fifteen minutes at a time. That was a real shame, because I’d just started reading *The Revenge of the Radioactive Lady* by Elizabeth Stuckey-French (so fun, so satisfying) and longed to get back into its pages. Thank God for magazines. Not only did a new issue of Southern Living and Hobby Farms land in my mailbox–along with a mountain of catalogs, packed full of summer clothes I probably don’t need–but a lovely little booklet, Gravy, published by The Southern Foodways Alliance. A booklet! Just the right size for holding in my hands as I lay propped up in bed on about 17 pillows, the articles only two or three pages long and exactly the right length for a girl liquored up on Nyquil. “Booklet” is such a lovely word and one too often replaced by the more literary chapbook (though my husband holds that “chapbook” sounds like some awful skin condition that happens to you in winter). It’s a surprise, really, how much I like this abbreviated format of writing. Generally speaking, I ascribe to the idea that if a little of something is good, then a lot of it is even better. You can’t have too much cake, too many gorgeous dresses, too long a trip to the beach. And on the writing front, I’ve become an adamant opponent of flash fiction, especially its mini-cupcake version, micro fiction. For me, there’s nothing that can compare with the long, messy version of the short story or the novel. There just isn’t. I get plenty of small images delivered to me each and every moment of my life, but it’s the culmination of experiences, of days running into years and into decades, that delivers to me the fuller picture, the meaning behind the scenes. Stories and novels weave together ideas and scenes in much the same way, leaving me as satisfied as I would be at the end of a finely prepared meal.
Still, Gravy hit the spot. With articles about lemon chess pie and Mexican ice cream and a woman who dreams of leaving her job at a television station to make fried pies full-time, these small articles were enough to make me stop feeling so sorry for myself. Though only a couple pages long, each little article was complete, giving a small history of the person interviewed, while remaining focused on the central purpose of the article: to explain how a really awesome scoop of ice cream, or a sno-ball laced over with sweetened condensed milk and a crumbled praline, or a well-made fried pie can change the course of a life. The articles are an extended look at a single detail, the micro and the macro all in one–the perfect short read.
(As a side note, The Southern Foodways Alliance is a wonderful organization dedicated to the preservation of food traditions all through the American south. Gravy and a super cool bumper sticker are just two perks of membership. Check them out at http://www.southernfoodways.org for more information.)