[published: January 16, 2008]
What caused the “recent explosion of meaty debate and innovation” you’ve dubbed the fleischgeist?
Amy: I think it’s a confluence of a lot of things, particularly environmental awareness and the interest in knowing the origins of our food, the return to traditional, lost ways of doing things like salumi making and offal appreciation and specialized providers, like small butcher shops and family ranch operations. And as people learn more about where their meat comes from, more people choose to eat less meat, or no meat at all, or only so-called “sustainable” meat. And the more we consider meat, the more potent it becomes as a metaphor to artists, whose work makes up a big part of our magazine.
Sasha: We’ve also seen a subtle removal of taboos about meat-eating. In a post-Atkins American culture in which “sustainable” meat is more readily available, we’ve encountered many people who re-embrace meat-eating with new curiosity and enthusiasm, both for health and environmental reasons.
You’re both ex-vegetarians. So were many of the locavores I encountered in my reporting for this issue on biodynamics. Is the local food movement making it easier for vegetarians to become meat eaters again?
Amy: (who’s now a current vegetarian as well, see below): I think so, in that it’s now possible to say, “Well, at least I can just eat the meat of animals who lived decent lives, and had a lighter impact on the land.” So I think people feel like there’s some kind of middle ground where you can eat meat, but still be responsible, at least in an environmental and (depending on how you look at it) humanitarian sense.
Sasha: In light of all the recent reporting on the realities of mass-market meat production, it is a welcome change to be able to create relationships with small, local meat producers. The personal contact to rancher and butcher is becoming possible again, especially in places like the Bay Area in which farmers’ markets have become year-round gathering places. We’ve been told that a decade ago meat producers weren’t welcome at the farmers’ markets around here, but now it is possible to buy organic meat at the markets, get to know the folks who raised it and become educated about its production.
Some of the most innovative and humane aspects of meat culture are illegal, and writing about people doing them would get them in trouble. How, as editors, do you navigate these tricky waters?
Amy: We would never put anyone we write about at risk, and luckily it hasn’t been a problem so far. You’re right, and I’m sure it will be an issue at some point. But when it does, I suppose our general rule would be to trust people to decide for themselves how much exposure they want.
From looking at your contributors’ bios, obsessing about the meaning of meat seems to be a mostly urban phenomenon. Why do you think this is?
Amy: People who live in rural places already know what us city people are just starting to learn. If you live on a farm, there’s nothing radical about hunting, or seeing an animal slaughtered, or making sausage. And a lot of our contributors are artists, who tend to congregate in cities.
Sasha: We are hoping to continue publishing writing and artwork from both urban and rural contributors, from the U.S. and abroad. Our stories don’t necessarily have an urban bent: we’ve published a piece on learning to hunt in Montana, an interview with a Native American food historian on how the Plains Indians prepared buffalo, and a photo essay on pig slaughter in a small Italian town.
What is your favorite meat and why?
Sasha: I don’t really have a favorite, but I am a big fan of flavorful, dark meats like lamb and duck. I also enjoy salumi, and have been enjoying the recent rise of artisan salumi in the Bay Area. I also love a good bowl of meaty pho or ramen.
Amy: Well, as of January 1, my favorite meat has to be Field Roast’s delicious, vegetarian Italian sausages — that’s because I’m starting 2008 as a re-born vegetarian. I’ve always been a very ambivalent carnivore (and a tofu lover), so I decided to give it a shot. So far so good!
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- #5 Islands
- #6 Animals
- #7 The Subterraneans
- #8 After the Deluge
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- #14 Revolution
- #15 Hidden In Plain Sight
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- #19 Walls and Borders