Category Archives: Beef

Mid-Summer Beef Jerky Report

Two months?! What happened?

The simplest answer would be this: in New York City’s Chinatown, before hitting the road for my East Coast fieldtrips and performances, I discovered the most phenomenal beef jerky I have ever torn into and fell into a food coma so deep, I am only just emerging.

A more nuanced answer, with slightly less magical realist leanings would be this:

0. Debuted a segment of the show as a performance artists at the Seattle Erotic Arts Festival

image courtesy of Kelly O for The Stranger

1. Traveled to Vermont to visit Juli at work at a small mid-state slaughterhouse.

2. Performed with Rogue Burlesque at the Middlesex Lounge (including the first public screening outside of dress rehearsal of the short film “Honeysuckle’s BBQ” by Morgan Elizabeth and Debora Spencer)

3. Christened the new space for queer performance venue “Collect Pond” along with Julie Blair in Brooklyn, NY with the full-length solo show

(image taken by Honeysuckle during NYC show)

4. Performed the full show in DC’s oldest lesbian bar, Phase 1, just after they celebrated their 40th anniversary.  Writer/Performer Natalie Illum opened that show, and her performance gave me permission to take content deeper and to engage the audience from the start.

DC preview coverage/interview

DC show review

(photo taken by Honeysuckle during DC show)

(Phase 1 minglers)

5. Moved my life from Seattle to Southern California (with show set and costuming in the trunk in case I needed to stop along the way!)

6. Considered buying a cow (for slaughter) at the Del Mar, CA County Fair.  His name was Brick; he was a sweetheart and the teenage boy who had raised him (his first steer!) was so eager to show him, and a bit sad to see him go.

“Menu” motif signs were used to identify cows at the county fair

This cow was licking his stable mate over and over–cleaning or cuddling or scratching an itch?

Sexy nurse imagery being used to sell deep fried butter gives meat-woman imagery a run for its proverbial and literal money.

And in the last two weeks, though less well photo-documented, some exciting beef run-ins:

7. Sampled two varieties of homemade beef jerky (and witnessed the preservation process of one variety) made by one of my favorite lesbians in San Diego.

8. Considered buying many pounds of local beef through a groupon.com deal of the day.

9. Considered buying many pounds of local beef from a man driving around in a truck who stopped me in an alley to sell frozen steaks.

10. Found that the local meat vendor at my farmer’s markets makes jerky…ordered beef jerky…daughter forgot to remind dad to bring it…got a slim jim-like preserved meat stick (which looks wonderful!) instead.

11. Considered researching the impact the BP oil spill will have on the economics of beef jerky; decided to focus energy elsewhere.

12. Received beef jerky in the mail for my birthday.

The experience of taking the show on the road, connecting with new and extremely varied audiences, and getting more meat-learning and slaughter-smelling under my belt (figuratively) has been one of the most moving experiences I’ve had as a performer and artist.  Blogging is weird.  It is a strange way to report and semi-interact when the cultivation of a certain type of authenticity and artifice in live performance is the medium and the message of this work.

AND some of these images, interviews, conversations, and video clips seem worth sharing.  I plan to eat enough jerky to have the beefy balls to backtrack through my archived material from this adventure and share more of it.  And hey, if you’re reading this, I would love to hear some questions you have–what would you want to see or hear more about?  What is most compelling or confusing?

As far as the show itself, the cross-coastal tour is not entirely over.  Conversation is currently in progress with Producer Paula The Swedish Housewife about a summer/fall show in Seattle, and there have been offers to perform in Palm Springs, CA and elsewhere in the middle and the western parts of the country.  Stay tuned for more…

xox,

Honeysuckle.

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Hangar Steak and Queer Youth Space

On the topic of conversations with rad queers over meat, I got to share a Hangar/Hanger steak in Seattle this week with Kennedy of YES, Queer Youth Space and the documentary film Put THIS on the map, which was just accepted into Frameline this week!  Our hangar steak at Cafe Presse “from Oregon” was medium-rare and served with pomme frites.

Hangar steak, the cut that ‘hangs’ from the diaphragm, is prized for being flavorful with a slight kidney-ish tinge.  Presse does a nice job of preparing the steak to bring out that flavor and keeping the steak relatively tender (it tends to get tough if cooked slowly or for too long).  Several butchers I’ve spoken to in the US have bemoaned the lack of demand for Hangar here.  Even in good economic times, when steaks are selling better than they are right now, hangar is often ground into hamburger rather than separated as a delicacy as it is much of Europe and in Mexico (can someone set me straight on whether Hangar would be carne asada or arrachera, please?)

It was wonderful to learn more about the path that Kennedy and a strong group of queer youth on the East Side of our city have been on for the last several years, from documenting their individual stories to launching a project to make real change and safe space in their community.  Check out how you can support Queer Youth Space, follow them on facebook, and see what they’re up to!

Queer Youth Space is a community initiative and coalition in which the overall campaign is to secure space for queer youth in the Seattle area. This space would be led, owned, and organized by the very constituency that the space would serve. Queer Youth Space is radical and revolutionary in that it is a youth-led, adult supported model. The ideas and values inherent within this structure are at the very core of the philosophy of the collective, chief among them furthering the model of youth leadership in which Queer Youth Space believes should be dominant structure locally as well as nationwide.


…or if you want blood: Slaughterhouse slides 14-21

Slide 14: (slide 13 is missing, it just felt like pimping the pigs)

Slide 15: This is how you bleed a pig: you slit its throat the long way, and you let it hang over a plastic barrel or a trash can to catch all the blood.  This particular blood will not be saved to make blood sausage, broth, or anything else that people will eat.

Slide 16 a: When you hold a knife like this, it is doing work.

Slide 16 b: When you hold it like this, it is violent.

Slide 17: This pig is taking off a mask, and the mask is his own skin!  It even has eyehole cut-outs, just like THIS mask.

Slide 18: Do you ever feel like you’ve just been split in half?  This pig was truly just split in half.  And this is either the climax, the most revolting, or else the pig has made the sharp transition from animal-being-slaughtered to the more palatable MEAT.

Slide 19: Did you do dissections in biology class?  I don’t mean for the blood spots to be upsetting—please try to focus on the organs, on identifying and labeling them for a moment.

Slide 20: This picture is meant to be very straightforward and to-the-point.  This is the result of a day’s labor, almost completed, you can even see the squeegee in the background and know that this place is kept clean: that pigs come in and pigs go out, and the floor is rinsed and squeeged each time.

Slide 21: I hid in the cold storage room.  I didn’t know I was hiding at the time, but after a while I noticed how cold it was, that this wasn’t really the most logical place to be spending a long while, that it was strange to look to these halved cows for comfort, and stranger still to find it there.

The first photo of a truly naked animal, “Original Size”

Two days later, I am still eating meat.  I finished all but one bite of my steak and eggs (Niman Ranch) at Counter Cafe, but the final piece just stared at me, bloodier, like the outside of it was meat and the inside of it was animal.

While it was happening I was in it like a fascinated tourist, like a biology student on an awesome field trip: the first pig I just watched, from entrance to airgun to bleeding to feet off to skinning to eviscerating to halving to cold room.  The second pig got to “airgun” as the first pig got to “feet and skin”.  The second pig I captured with photos and videos like a proud aunt at a birth or a soccer game.  In retrospect, my behavior seems bizarre.  I spent some time in the cold storage room, and though I didn’t feel it yet, those pictures reveal that something had shifted–I can’t smile in them, whether out or respect for the cows next to me or because of the goat head installation art against the wall.

Or are they cows?  Cows would make much more sense, and would match the bodies hanging in the cold storage room.

So it has been two days and I have eaten meat several times (chicken enchiladas mole & fish tacos at guero’s in SOCO, that steak at counter cafe, chicken tortilla soup at Chuy’s) and I have not yet looked at any of the photos past the airgun at any size larger than the requisite thumbnail on an iphoto scroll-through.  Except for these.  The heads.

I’m not sure how to write about this, how to post these images, or how to tell the story, even how to document my own processing of the experience without sensationalizing the moment the bolt hits, the killing of the animals, without pimping them to get a reaction, because the airgun was not the climax, or at least it did not seem to be the climax until much later.  So for now, desensitization through hanging heads, and later, an actual engagement with the process.

1. Anticipate the Slaughter

Slide 8: In Austin, Texas I saw my first slaughter.

What’s funny is I haven’t seen it yet. I am writing down a future imaginary, I am committing it to real.

I have no idea how I will respond to the experience. It could be incredible: uplifting, transcendent, or terrifying.  I might run, vomit, cry, shit my pants.

I might gasp out loud, make some sounds involuntarily, and only realize afterward that I was the one who made them.

I might not be able to watch.

Will the animal look at me? Will I be looking in its eyes at the exact moment of death?

Will I ask to take a cut of that meat, of that animal, will I be able to fathom the connection, life to mouth, to actually walk the whole path?  Shit.

Will I be able to watch hanger steak ground up to become a burger? Will taking the steak as a Steak feel more respectful?

What if there is still meat in the grinder, what if the burger isn’t just my animal anymore? What if it is tainted, disrespectfully mashed together with some other meat from some other animal, what if the meat becomes JUST MEAT?

And maybe that moment, the moment of death, won’t be the climax at all. Maybe it will be the sound of the door as I leave, or words spoken by another human, living. The thing about trying to imagine and predict what will come is that we can’t know. Which has not yet stopped me from trying, ever, or from making up stories, or spending days at a time living in them.

In five days the infinite possible imaginary moments will all be killed. I will wake up that morning with a knife in my hand and run around killing all the ways that I THOUGHT the day might go. Then I will do what we always do: take it step by step, drive a mile at a time, and wait, and see.

cow/blood

(excerpted from our Passover Haggadah-2009)

Eat Your Heart Out: Slaughterhouses and other FIELD trips

“Meat department, Chris here”

Before I DIG IN to the story of booking Austin, TX meat-related field trips, I should explain that there are two Chris’s.  There is Chris the General Manager at Taylor Meat Co., a slaughterhouse and meat shop north of Austin in Taylor, TX.  And there is Chris in the meat department of the big (relatively original) Whole Foods on N. Lamar in Austin, TX.  Chris at Whole Foods is the Serious Pearl Jam Fan and has seen them in concert 31 times.  He has been cutting meat for 16 years.

The Austin trip is the first major research travel for my solo show “Eat Your Heart Out,” debuting in Seattle in April, then touring across the country and up and down the East Coast in the month of May.

(pasture map)

Map of Paddocks @ Ross Farm

I love Texas, I love Texans.  Everyone I spoke to by phone was ready to welcome a visiting performance artist into their lives and workplaces.  In Texas, not only are the hearts bigger, but everything is so much bigger that a week ago I truly thought a pizza joint water cup was a skype-tical illusion.  Truly.  Made the gal hold the cup up to her head to prove it was real.

So the meetings are scheduled: Watch a slaughter, then visit some living cows and meet Betsy Ross of Betsy Ross Beef.  And someday before 2:30pm, pay a visit to Pearl Jam Chris in the Meat Department.

Promise to post updates along the way!!

xox,

Honeysuckle.