Check out the “Eat Your Heart Out” Kickstarter Interview

Just ran into Tamara Murphy of Brasa and Elliott Bay Cafe, who has just published a new book, “Farmers, Cooks, Eaters” (pre-sales are up now, and the first run is out soon!).  In  2006, Tamara started to source local meat for her restaurant and began a collaboration with Whistling Train Farm just south of Seattle.  She blogged about the journey, from meeting her litter of pigs, through seeing her first slaughter, all the way to the celebratory meal they cooked at the end.  Read about her experience on that 2006 blog, Life of a Pig, and check out the menu below from that final event…pork belly brittle?


Life of a Pig

April 20, 2006

by tamara murphy

and whistling train farm


Chicharrones ( skins )

Everything Pig Pate ( pork trimmings, fat, heart, liver, kidney, tongue )

Smoked Riblets ( ribs )

Traditional Posole, Roasted Chilies, Tomatillos, Tortillas ( pork shoulder,  head, trotters,  hocks )

Grilled Loin, Chorizo and Clams ( loin, chuck, fat, trimmings )

Roast Pig: Whistling Train Farm’s Greens, Greek Potatoes ( whole pig )

Heirloom Navel Oranges, Jicima, Watercress, Cracklings ( fatty skin )

Bacon Baklava

Vanilla Ice Cream, Maple Flower Crème Anglaise

Bacon Brittle ( belly )

Tamara also invited me to perform at this year’s Burning Beast, an event held at smokefarm featuring some of Seattle’s top chefs and a great deal of meat from local farms.  We may also book a small performance at Elliott Bay Cafe as they work on new digs.  Looks like the west coast summer tour is taking a turn for the savory!

Vote! Pork v. Beef

Please take a moment to vote: beef or pork?

Pork! – Ms. Honeysuckle Hype

digitally remastered photograph 2010

Beef! – Ms. Honeysuckle Hype

digitally remastered photograph 2010

-What is she asking, really?  Is this about the meat or the images?

Just answer the question, please! I’d like to know what you think.

Sure_you’re right in liking meat (Meat Art Installment 1)

My biggest question is about the use of the underscore, or is that just a really low hyphen? My next question is a story: I’m sitting alone at the counter at Mistral Kitchen, polishing off some kushi oysters, sipping something brilliant involving gin and waiting for my pork belly (served on a sweet steamed bun with cippolini onions-gone-asian and cilantro?  Was that even cilantro?  Might I never need to touch another actual burger?).

WAIT: My PORK BELLY. On day four of “taking a break from meat,” the day on which I reflected back on the smoked chicken I had Thursday (Jack Timmons had smoked it in his backyard for 14 hours! How could I resist? And he’s from Texas, that dreamy drawl…), the Seafood with our hand-shaven noodles on Friday…and…

Waiting for pork belly.  Which was fucking delicious.

I’m not sure what the question is actually.

Look at her fingernails.  The red of the poster and the red of the steak and the red of her FINGERNAILS!  I am in the process of responding to interview questions from Cassie Marketos of, who asked:

Where did this idea sprout from? Meat is an interesting entry-point into conversations of sexuality and power. I’m curious to know how the idea evolved!

And I keep on wanting to respond with images.  Because meat is simultaneously so un-ladylike to devour, and so owned-by-men in most narratives of “how labor has been divided” and such an essential part of the ideal American woman preparing food at home for her husband and children and used as an explicit stand-in for “penis,” for “a woman’s ass,” for woman more generally, in language, in images,

Which we could either say perpetuates the idea of women as commodity, as consumable/consumed…

Or acknowledges that this image in an almost magical realism way is a better representation of what it feels like to live in a female-marked body, or to work in the sex industry or pornography, or to wake up in the morning, and make it all into a day marked by meaning and whatever it is we each hope our days might be marked by…than this image

Miss Wasilla 1984

Finally, as the title of this post was written before the post itself, and it seems to plead for one more piece of Meat Art,

Roy Lichtenstein  –  Meat
acrylic/canvas    21 1/4″ x 25 1/4″   1962

The chef in charge of pork belly came over and asked how it was.  Fucking delicious, I told him.  I asked my waiter where it was from, he asked said chef, and the relay response was Snake River, Idaho.  Before leaving for the evening, I asked chef/owner William Belickis if I might come in some time and talk to him about meat: the hand-powered slicer, their butchering, charcuterie, sourcing, their menu.  He said of course, Tuesday through Thursday, any time, and asked what I’d ended up deciding about love, women, immediacy, and patience.  He remembered the conversation we had my first time in the restaurant, when multiple women felt like the most enormous metaphors of decision-making: protection v. vulnerability, immediate return v. investment, love v. fear.  I made the right choice I told him–didn’t you meet her the next time?  I did, he said, I just didn’t know which one it was.  That, I think, is a special thing: to have someone, particularly someone you have only met twice, remember what matters to you most.

Mistral Kitchen  –  Pork Belly
Saturday March 27, 2010

…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.

If what you’re into is the human experience

It wasn’t until a week had passed and I found myself in the sky, en route from Austin to Dallas that I finally looked at photographs of the slaughter.  I couldn’t do it beforehand; it was still too close, I was still there.

Here is the answer that some voyeurs are waiting for: eating meat has been different.  I finally had really good bbq at Sam’s BBQ in East Austin on Sunday night, and I ate the meat quickly.  I wanted to eat it all, it tasted fucking good, and I didn’t want to be left again staring at the last pieces on my plate unable to get them to my mouth.  So I ate fast.

I was also hungry, it was the evening of gaybigaygay and I wasn’t wearing any pants.  So I ate fast.

This is the photo that reveals a slight bit of impending PTSD from the slaughterhouse experience.  I don’t remember if I tried to smile, but I do remember feeling it was important to be respectful of the carcasses around me.  It was also (obviously) terribly cold.

On the long flight home, I relived it all slideshow style, and the woman next to me glanced up from her needlepoint (a little boy in blue footsie pajamas hanging a stocking near a christmas tree) occasionally and then glanced back down.  I felt like I was watching porn.

After watching all the slides (but none of the video, haven’t even touched the video, but remember the sound of the shot and of the pig’s body rattling as it convulses), I pulled out a leftover piece of bbq pork rib saved from Sam’s and ate it.  It was wrapped in a piece of white bread, more foreign to this Jewish girl from Brooklyn than the bbq pork, and then wrapped in waxed paper, twice.

It felt like a performance piece, an odd one, a private show just for me and my blue jammie needlepoint seatmate. Not sure how she felt about it, if she felt about it. I was glad that the pig I was eating looked like pig, was identifiable from the final slides in the slideshow.  I don’t think I could have stomached bologna.

Whether or not there is any causality, I have been dreaming of raw kale salad for the last five days.  I think I’ll go slaughter some today, dig my fingers in and rub the salt around, break down its flesh with my bare hands.  And I am maybe thinking about taking a full week off from meat.

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.

Slaughter: Slides 8-12

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

Slide 9: I didn’t know what to expect.

Slide 10: I put on a lab coat and hair net over my yellow dress.

Slide 11: I was on the inside looking out.

Slide 12: The slaughterhouse was beautiful.

Slaughter post-game report: part one

The truth is, the slaughter was beautiful.  yellow tile, bare rafters, simple, well-handled tools, a photo spread of a room laid out for working.

I promised Jo Sugar, my semi-permanent home in East Austin, to show her only the architecture first.  The images I need to close my eyes to (just in case) are these:

Not so solo

Up until sundown of the night before the slaughter, I imagined I would be going alone. Waking up early, putting on a version of drag that is in between suburban Texas day wear and stage-ready Honeysuckle, listening to the same five hip hop songs on loop on the local station, and driving my little rental car up to the slaughterhouse. That all changed, as things do in East Texas, in a backyard over a six pack. Stephanie Scherzer of Rain Lily Farm and Farmhouse Delivery in Austin sat next to me, and the moment she started talking, I started taking notes. It was the first of what I hope will be many interviews with local farmers, cooks, and lovers of food on this adventure.

I’ve spent the last few days thinking a lot about death, the grit of raw, clawing living, and what it means to have people to lean on, to process with, to take care of you, or just to be beside you. It now seems foolish to have planned something that could be so emotionally intense without plans to have another human there, and I am so glad to get to have Stephanie’s company on the trip tomorrow. Even if the process just makes me crave steak even more, or feel instantly more connected to and more appreciative of the beef jerky backup stash in my glove box, it will be wonderful to experience it with another person, and with someone who is phenomenally passionate about meat and change.

I’ll plan to complete and post the interview with Stephanie promptly, and of course to report out on tomorrow’s fieldtrips as soon as humanly possible. And then, at the request of a reader, to try to document the aftermath over the next several days.

There is something about writing and posting the experience though, I am realizing, that makes it all feel not so solo. Thanks for following along, and please do share your thoughts if you’ve made it all this way.