There are over 7 billion people on this planet, many with worthwhile stories that will never be told. The Southwest region is one of those untapped areas that Edible Southwest Colorado was able to dip into over its eight-year run.
Whether singing the praises of unsung heroes in the restaurant industry or capturing a spectrum of personalities at the county fair through photographs, Edible Southwest found overlooked stories off the beaten path.
But that void returns. Owner, editor and photographer Rick Scibelli, who lives in Santa Fe, announced the quarterly foodie magazine’s end in December 2018.
“There is a story everywhere,” Scibelli said. “(Many) are just not sellable, so unless you are the publisher, (they) may never get told.”
Edible Communities is an independent network of over 90 local food magazines that span the U.S. and Canada. Anyone can purchase a license and launch their own Edible if that territory isn’t already taken. The general guideline is all Edibles are local-food related, but owners control the content, website, images, design and all other aspects.
“The only thing that we get from the Edible Community is the font, and that gives us some credibility,” said Managing Editor Rachel Turiel.
The first Edible Southwest Colorado printed in early 2010. Scibelli admits in the magazine’s sendoff, “A Goodbye, a Why and a Thank You,” that his creative personality was not a good fit for schlepping ads.
“I am not a salesman. This could very easily be problem number one,” Scibelli wrote. ”The publishing business isn’t writing or shooting (photos). It’s selling. It’s brand development. It’s public relations.”
Scibelli wasn’t made to hawk advertisements, but his photographs and stories shine – especially through humor in his editor letters. Many writers would agree that humor is one of the hardest effects to convey with the written word. It can often come off corny or forced.
“I am self-deprecating by nature so maybe there is a little bit of that. I come to from a sarcastic family,” Scibelli said. “I find writing to be difficult but conveying humor was easy. (But) there is the fine line of being relatable and too entertained with yourself.”
In his last letter from the editor, Scibelli writes about his discomfort with specialty diets and high-brow bites:
“I am strongly considering creating a new dietary category that shuns all things high end:
“No, no. I am sorry, I don’t eat caviar.”
“You don’t eat caviar? Even Beluga Sturgeon?”
“No, oooh, it’s fantastic … especially wrapped in a warm crêpe with melted European-style butter, but I am a Non-Gourmand, and I would appreciate it if you would respect that. It’s OK. I brought my own hot dogs.”
One of Turiel’s favorite photo essays of Scibelli’s was on back-of-house restaurant workers, many of whom were immigrants. Scibelli said Edible’s editors and contributors aimed to “stay above the fray” and not broadcast their own opinions.
“I knew (Southwest Colorado) was very diverse, very politically diverse, but I was surprised to learn how accepting (the community is) of everybody,” Scibelli said.
The quality of black and white portraits has largely disappeared in local publications. Journalists who are trained to compose sentences – not images – are mostly responsible to shoot their best shot on whatever outdated, cracked smartphone they own. Or worse, they search stock images on Creative Commons.
With professional imagery, the time dedicated to storytelling is shrinking, too. Deadlines have always been a journalist’s foe, but investing the necessary time to properly tell a story is even more of a luxury. Writers are forced to do more – social media, design, online posting, respond to comments – with less support and fewer colleagues.
The time spent is apparent in many Edible Southwest stories, such as Turiel’s profile on Mama Bea, a gregarious hostess at Lone Spur Cafe who has been a fixture of Durango for 45 years. Without Turiel’s shoe-leather reporting, the story wouldn’t have captured Mama Bea in her natural habitat, topping off coffees and telling dirty jokes to her fans and customers.
The same went for editing. Katie Klingsporn was a contributor who worked on a handful or stories including her favorite, a profile of sheep shearer, Sonnie Gustamantes.
“One thing I would say about Rick and Rachel is they maintain really high standards for what constituted good storytelling,” Klingsporn said. “They were good editors; they wouldn’t accept it as is. I really had to work for it.”
Scibelli and Turiel both say one of the stand-out stories, which was also a reader favorite, was Turiel’s feature on Dove Creek bean farmers about six years ago.
“It felt very important to be on the land. I followed them to do their chores. It wasn’t just about their words, but their actions,” Turiel said. “You could just smell the bean farmer on them. It was in their blood. It was in there circulatory system. There was nothing sexy about them or their operation.”
Being un-sexy was Edible Southwest’s strategy in a way. (Although the images were often romantic.) It could be another reason for its demise.
“It was so lucky because (Rick and I) had the same vision. Maybe it wasn’t compatible with making money,” Turiel said. “Our vision was telling the story of interesting people doing interesting things. We weren’t interested in writing about trendy food.”
But listicles on the Top Ten Burgers or Best Breakfast Burritos have replaced stories of the bean farmer and the sheep shearer. That doesn’t seem to be changing any time soon.
“It makes me so sad. I love storytelling. I love journalism, but I don’t know what it’s become,” Scibelli said. “The craft isn’t to be found.”