It’s a long way from Russian language and literature to the world of artisan cheese and sausage that help distinguish Milwaukee’s food scene.
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But in returning home to establish a new quarterly food magazine, Edible Milwaukee, 29-year-old Jen Ede got exactly what she was looking for. She just didn’t know that she had been looking.
The West Allis native was led to the idea of establishing the magazine – one of 80 Edible publications across the country – through her work in Boston with Chefs Collaborative, a nonprofit national network of chefs committed to local, sustainable foods.
Until she got that job, Ede’s life had been focused on languages – Russian in particular. A self-described Russophile, she graduated in 2005 from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a B.A. in Russian language and literature. A master’s in linguistics from Belaruski Dziarzhauny Universitet in Belarus followed in 2008.
When she returned to the states, she worked for a language-learning website, but that job fizzled along with its funding.
That’s when she had a “come-to-Jesus moment,” she said, when she asked herself, what other constant besides languages had been in her life? The answer was food.
“I had always been looking at culture, language, literature and everything through the lens of food,” Ede said in a recent interview over a plate of charcuterie at a downtown restaurant. “It was the way I connected. Food really is the way to learn about a place. You can boil everything down to food – economy, society, health.”
From her home in Boston, Ede started a Twitter account (@vintageeats) and began writing about food – in particular, the importance of eating locally and sustainably.
Then she got an internship at Chefs Collaborative, and soon after was hired as its development and marketing director. She was there 2 ½ years.
She knew from that job that chefs and restaurants are a “huge driver for local and sustainable food,” she said, “but my own interest was with the consumer. I also knew from living some time in Boston that I missed home.”
She inquired of the Edible Communities publishing group whether an Edible Milwaukee magazine existed, and it did not.
“I realized this was exactly what I’d been waiting for,” she recalled. After a decade away, Ede moved back to Milwaukee last October.
As the sole staff member, Ede has spent the last five months contacting local food leaders and chefs, seeking out advertisers, securing writers and planning the first issue – in addition to doing full-time temp work. The first issue of Edible Milwaukee will publish in mid-May.
The Edible magazines, founded in 2002, are locally owned but part of a national network. By licensing agreement, they all sport a similar look and feel – showcasing beautiful photography on uncoated paper stock, roughly 8 ½ by 11; they publish at least quarterly, and they share a common mission.
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