Gestalt Mash have my latest column on John Layman and Rob Guillory’s Chew.
The comic uses two different devices to pursue its themes. The first is that, following an outbreak of avian flu, the US government has made it illegal to raise and eat chickens. However, because people still crave the flesh of the bird, an underworld of poultry-based speakeasies has emerged forcing the government to crack down on civil liberties. The second device the comic uses is that its primary protagonist has a rare psychic power that allows him to learn about things by eating them. The comic uses these two genre elements to investigate our increasingly problematic relationship with food and how we simply do not want to know how stuff arrive on our plates:
The uneasiness we feel about food is such that many of us have turned to superstition as a means of making sense of it. Our money flows into the pockets of charlatans and quacks who claim that all of our problems arise from spurious allergies and a failure to eat like a caveman, a pharaoh or a 17th Century Italian peasant. Many of us even go so far as to define ourselves in terms of our dietary problems, broadcasting them to the world as though they were sources of empowerment. Nascent ethnicities birthed in diarrhoea and unsightly rashes. Tomorrow’s politicians will take pride in the words “Ich habe ein lactose intolerance”.
Chew is still appearing in monthly form and has, thus far, been collected in three trade paperbacks with a fourth due out soon. Weird, grotesque, smart and occasionally very very funny, Chew provides a fascinating insight into our love-hate relationship with food.