The HeavyTable.com is using crowdfunding site Kickstarter to try to fund a new book focused on Upper Midwestern food.
MPR's Tom Crann spoke with Heavy Table food writer James Norton about the project.
Tom Crann: Tell us about the book you're working on.
James Norton: The Secret Atlas of North Coast Food is a pretty straightforward idea. We want to get together a group of illustrators, a designer, a cartographer, and some writers, and create a book that brings together 20 maps — some hand drawn, some computer created — and 20 journalistic essays, with each pair telling some aspect of the story of Upper Midwestern food. It's going to be a funny book, an observant book, a quirky book. It'll be a real blast, whether you're from the Upper Midwest, living here, or just curious about it.
Tom Crann: What was your initial impetus for the project?
Norton: I was in Seattle on vacation last summer — a good move as it turned out, it's a lot cooler out there — and I stumbled upon a book called "Infinite City," by Rebecca Solnit. It's a collection of maps and journalistic essays that unravel a lot of the cultural and social geography of San Francisco, with a serious map-geek spin to it. I thought: What if we turned that sort of a format on the burgeoning world of Upper Midwestern food?
Crann: If the idea was viable, why not go through traditional publishing channels?
Norton: There's a lot to like about traditional publishing: the professional editing, the dedicated marketing department, and the years of experience. I'm working on a book about the food of Lake Superior with the University of Minnesota Press and I'm really excited about how it's going to turn out.
But more and more particularly regional presses have been cut to the bone, and the deals they offer to authors are worse and worse. Writers and artists end up bearing the majority of the risk for a tiny sliver of potential profits, surrendering creative control at the same time. At a certain point, and aided by technology like Kickstarter, it makes sense to strike out on your own and see how the market works close up.
Crann: What kind of stories will you be publishing?
Norton: Well, we've got a lot floating around in terms of proposals, but I can tell you about a few of the ideas that look really likely.
We want to do a map of some of the "ghost restaurants" of Minneapolis — not haunted restaurants, but rather big restaurants that had a serious influence on food around here and, like so many restaurants, eventually went out of business.
We're going to do a map connecting Minnesota and Wisconsin restaurants and bars to the songs, movies and books they inspired or are featured in — making all those connections between food and art.
And I know we want to do a map of farms in Minnesota where people can visit and take a tour, to make that urban-rural connection.
Crann: How can people get involved and support the book?
Norton: The books page on HeavyTable.com, or just look us up on Kickstarter. We've got a bunch of rewards, some of which are delicious and almost all of which involved pre-ordered copies of the book, for people who help us get this thing funded.
Crann: How close are you to getting fully funded — because if you don't get fully funded, you don't get a cent from Kickstarter, right?
Norton: Exactly. We're a bit north of $8,000 out of $16,000 as of May 22. History suggests that we're doing well for a Kickstarter, but I won't believe it until it's actually funded. We welcome anyone who loves Minnesota and Wisconsin food to jump in and get involved.