Flesh peddlers

Pub date February 12, 2008
SectionArts & CultureSectionTrash

In the category of coolest stuff in the world, Sasha Wizansky recently sent a copy of Meatpaper (subtitled Your Journal of Meat Culture), a magazine she coedits with Amy Standen, to the Guardian offices. The magazine is a veritable cornucopia, nay, a butcher shop of fascinating articles, from an interview with meat inspectors to found meat photography and a beef heart recipe. I immediately contacted Ms. Wizansky and proposed marriage. What I got in lieu of matrimony was an interview, excerpted below.

SFBG Why did you want to do a magazine about meat?

SASHA WIZANSKY The answer that we usually give for that is we perceived that there is a meat movement going on. We call it the fleischgeist, which stands for "the meat zeitgeist." This was a cross-country trend, which apparently is global as well. People are thinking about meat in new ways. That’s partially in the context of restaurants and home cooking, but also in art and culture. So we started a magazine to report on the fleischgeist and basically collect multiple perspectives on what’s going on and publish them side by side.

SFBG Are you going to include non-meat-eating perspectives?

SW Yeah, that’s actually a huge part of what we do. My coeditor and I believe that people’s choice to not eat meat is actually a big part of the story of meat. That’s something that we’re actually extremely interested in covering. We like to cover all perspectives.

SFBG Do you think there’s been a backlash against vegetarianism and veganism in San Francisco?

SW I personally have witnessed a pretty big shift in maybe the last eight years or so. I moved to San Francisco in ’95 and I felt like most of my friends were vegetarians, and that’s not true anymore. So if my community is representative at all, I think things really have changed. I think part of it is that a lot of the reasons that people were choosing vegetarianism had to do with, you know, organic food and environmental reasons, but now a lot of those same issues are being addressed by meat production. It’s possible now to participate in a sustainable meat economy in a way that wasn’t before.

SFBG Were you ever a vegetarian?

SW I was a vegetarian for seven years. From 13 to age 20. My personal reasons I think had a lot to do with health. Sort of personal choice. There was a moment at age 20 when I decided that it was the right thing for me, healthfully, to eat meat again. And I haven’t gone back.

SFBG What is the most adventurous meat eating experience you’ve had?

SW Well, what I think is really interesting about adventurous meat eating is it’s so much to do with your head and so little to do with your palate. I think the idea of some of these extreme meats is frightening to a lot of people, but the reality is not. I suppose in terms of an extreme meat idea, Amy and I had duck fries at Incanto Restaurant.

SFBG Duck what?

SW Duck fries. Which is a euphemism for testicles. Chris Cosentino, who wrote the recipe for beef heart for [Meat Paper] — that’s his restaurant. The idea of [duck fries] is so extreme; the reality is very mild. They looked like big kidney beans, and they tasted like little sausages.

SFBG As someone who eats meat, do you feel there are moral ramifications and karmic and moral weight to eating meat?

SW This is a tough one. I’m not sure I want to go all the way there about my own choices. But I think it’s complicated. On one level it feels like an uncomfortable thing that an animal should have to die for me to eat. On the other hand, I see myself in a lineage of a species that has existed, you know, forever, eating meat. These are contradictory things, and sometimes it’s a moral tug-of-war. It’s something that I think about a lot. People assume that because I edit a magazine about meat that I’m eating bacon and sausages [all the time]. Actually, I am going to a salami tasting tonight. But I don’t eat meat three meals a day.