June is Pride Month in the U.S. It’s a time to celebrate the impact the LGBTQIA+ community has made on culture, as well as reflect on the history (and ongoing experience) of what it means to be queer in this country. Though there’s no formal definition of "queer food," food—and spaces where food is shared—are often inextricably linked to community and personal explorations of identity. It’s only natural that for many, their queer identity and food are deeply connected.
A number of Food52 contributors have shared their thoughts on how food shaped their coming-out experiences, written tributes to their favorite queer spaces, and explored the history of dishes linked to the LGBTQIA+ community. Some of these pieces are joyful; others revisit the pain inherent in a marginalized community—all are worth a read. Of course, we’ve barely scratched the surface when it comes to highlighting intersectional queer food writing, and we’re looking forward to sharing more. In the meantime, join us in reading these stories, and let us know what queer food means to you.
"Julius', a bar located on West 10th Street, was a staple of my walking tour, but I was always a bit dismissive of it. 'I think that’s the oldest gay bar in the world,' I’d say. 'I think they serve food. It’s fun on Sundays!' Turns out, Julius' played an enormous role in LGBTQ history, and if it were reported in textbooks like it should be, the bar’s citation would come before Stonewall’s."
"As much as Jude’s story is about unmentionable horrors, it is also about unimaginable resilience. If A Little Life is, truly, as Garth Greenwell dubbed it, the Great Gay Novel of the 21st Century, it is so because it takes issues of shame, self-loathing, and same-sex desire and turns them into melancholy archetypes on which to hang a story as beautiful as it is appalling. Jude thinks of his fears, anxieties, and terrors as hyenas chomping at the bit, waiting for the chance when he’ll slow down or let down his guard and be swallowed whole."
"Baking itself may not be gay, but it can certainly serve as a healing act in queer narratives. In many ways, my decision to lean into baking at 13, in spite of my cousin’s homophobic words, was the first step to leaning into my queerness and saying to the world, 'Yes, I like to bake—so what?'"
"A little history lesson: The kitchen has always been a great place for gay men, a place for them to use the things that made them unique to their advantage. Across cultures, it's a place where we've often hidden ourselves in plain sight."
"I wish I could find more ways to celebrate my Indian heritage in a queer context. I still crave representation of queer desis, or specifically queer half-desis. I see the float of South Asians at Pride and wonder what their stories are. How many of them also opt to just say 'no' when asked about prospective partners? How many other boys on that float had to conceal their childhood fascination with Madhuri Dixit as a 'crush' and not early-onset gay idolization?"
"Therein lies the strength of the rainbow as a queer symbol: It’s a vision of plural unity. While waving a Pride flag in June in certain cities feels almost quaint today, the sheer effort of baking a rainbow cake and posting it on Instagram may be the closest to what it must have felt like for Baker and his volunteers to hand-dye those very first banners in the attic of the Gay Community Center in San Francisco. Within their six stripes, rainbow cakes idealize a community in ways that make them—quite literally—palatable to those who admire them."
"During a time when HIV and AIDS patients were pathologized as victims of an incurable gay cancer, kombucha was a folk remedy that presented an ideal sanctuary from the snare of Western medicine. Baker and Pryor offered hope, a scarce and valuable commodity, in a time of uncertainty."
"It meant something to me that in the midst of my mother's grave disappointment, during a time in her life when everything had seemed to change, the rug pulled out from under her, somehow she and I could seek refuge in this one thing that would never change. I was still her son and she was still my mom, and kimchi fried rice—something only she could make—was still my favorite thing to eat in the entire world."
"Everything happening feels like an accident, my younger self seems to say, raising his hand to speak. Even my premeditated veering. Like I keep stubbing my toe on the truth of myself. Then I’m walking around all funny, limping almost, pretending that I’m not."
"Food is important to me, and all I want to do is create and share the food I love but simultaneously remind myself that the recipes, photographs, and writing are essentially forged by my experiences in life and it is important for me to speak about these things no matter how uncomfortable it might be, with the hope that it gets the conversation started."
"The original dinners of 12 grew to a 50-person feast that we had to move to the lounge in my mother’s building to accommodate. There were Jews, queers, queer Jews, and those that just love someone who identifies with any of the aforementioned categories. We had those bursting with pride in their Jewish culture, those eager to reignite their practice of a long-abandoned childhood tradition, and those curious about something they’ve never experienced before."
"My chosen method of survival was not neutering these aspects of myself that had attracted such attention, but instead, accenting them in bold colors. I intensified my queer drawl; I wore tighter jeans. The history of my queer forefathers who sucked a fruit for Anita did not reach me in suburban New Jersey, but I would somehow enact this trajectory in my own life through harnessing the word 'fruitcake' into something of an armor. Any shame and loathing that could come from being attached to this word was eclipsed by my desire to compose myself with fortitude and grit, and, in turn, not let the word 'fruitcake' faze me."
"Cooking together became one of our go-to dates. Dinner was our way of slowing down after work, opening up to each other over a bottle of wine and getting to know the rhythms of our separate lives. On nights like these, we never had to spell anything out because we had all the time in the world. To talk, to make dinner, to express ourselves through food. I don’t think I was ready to come to terms with those feelings of comfort, but with each meal we shared, there it was."