When you hear the words “queer culinary magazine” you might be inclined to envisage a kind of Good Housekeeping for gay men, some kind of conservative bible of new male domesticity. What you might not be expecting is an alternative publication where food and gay culture sit together against a post-punk backdrop, but that’s exactly what Mouthfeel is. A reaction against the all-pervading rustic minimalism championed by the likes of Kinfolk, which has all but homogenised food media, Mouthfeel gives food writing a gay voice, combining chef profiles, recipes, essays and good looking men.
After years working in the New York food scene, from Bar Boulud to Momofuku Má Pêche, editor Mac Malikowski decided to bring together two parts of his life that have helped define him: food and a gay point of view. Coming back from a trip to Europe last summer where the idea for Mouthfeel struck, Mac started trying to make things happen. “I thought I could engage some friends of mine who were gay and worked in the food industry and had interesting stories or angles,” he says.
The first issue of Mouthfeel – which has already sold out in print – profiles Ty-Lör Boring of Top Chef fame, owner of New York’s BAKED, Renato Poliafito, and includes an in-depth feature on Berlin-based currywurst stand Fritz and Co. There is even a literal play on “food porn” pairing cut-outs from pre-packaged food adverts with vintage gay pornography. “I was actually really inspired by that magazine Cherry Bombe. It’s put together by women, the content is about women, and it’s a real champion of femininity in the food industry,” Mac explains. “I remember thinking, lets just get more niche, as niche as we can, and I think I thought even a gay food magazine wasn’t enough so I decided on this punk aesthetic to really give it its own place." Mac also adds they use the word punk very loosely. “I think people like it as a cultural symbol. It’s just that mix of high and low and soft and hard.”
Design and packaging is an essential part of what makes Mouthfeel so special. “I was just going to print it on newsprint or whatever was cheapest,” says Mac. But after asking for InDesign help from Mother New York art director Yego Moravia, he along with colleagues Wade Jeffree and Peter Lauricella asked if they could take on the design. “It definitely took on a new life after they came on board.”
Once the design process was under way, they started finding inspiration in places as unexpected as 70s Velveeta adverts and gay hardcore bands like Limp Wrist. “The spirit of Mouthfeel isn’t overly precious,” says Yego Moravia. “When Mac first came to us with the idea we quickly outlined some common visual influences, but once the initial design started, we surprised ourselves.” Anything but ordinary, the large-format zine is wrapped in two double-sided posters and comes with a recipe card and four punk badges all held together in a large kitchen basting bag. “We wanted to deconstruct the magazine format from the start and almost treat the publication more as a Fluxus experiment than a traditionally bound magazine,” Yego tells us.
The next issue, an homage to California out in September, will come with even more accoutrements. “I think it’s really fun for us to work on a tight press and push the specialised nature of each issue,” says Mac. “We’d like to really make Mouthfeel something people are anticipating.” It’s working, we can’t wait.
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