Mortal Coil

December 12, 2012

by Galen Rogers
photos by Joe Edgar
A web-only supplement to Meatpaper Issue 19, the Fishue

After three months of living and apprenticing with a musician in Bamako, Mali, my American friend Joe and I ventured out of the dry country, our sights set on the Ghanaian coast, dreaming of the Atlantic. A trip that could have taken 24 hours ended up taking a week: attempted hijacking, kidney infection, and a party that went long into the night waylaid our itinerary.

The day after our arrival, walking along the beach in Cape Coast and enjoying the cool air of the early morning, I saw in the distance a dozen men in a line perpendicular to the shore, pulling on a thick rope that stretched taut far over the surface of the ocean and disappeared into the gray haze of the horizon. As I got closer I began to hear their song – a short repeated figure under layers of improvised harmony – and I saw the rhythm of their feet, digging in unison into the sand as they inched away from the water. One by one, the man at the back of the line handed his portion of rope to the human anchor of the operation, an old man sitting on a slowly growing coil, and returned to the front of the line to grasp the rope again. Standing close by, I strained my eyes to see what the line was attached to but each segment emerged from the mist exactly like the one before, and as I listened each harmony led inexorably to the next one in a steady string of resolutions. The momentum of the music, more than the weight of the men’s bodies, seemed to draw the rope out of the mist.

A short exchange of greetings with the men resulted, like most greetings I had experienced in Africa, in something unexpected. Within seconds of meeting them I found my hands on the rope, my friend and I absorbed into the human machine. I paused just long enough to get permission to turn on my digital recorder, and then I wrapped both hands around the rope. It was quivering, alive with so much tension that it hurt to touch, but my dignity as a traveler was on the line so I braced myself against the ground and started to pull. I was met with such inconceivable resistance that I began to wonder if I had just sentenced myself to a Sisyphean fate, pulling the full weight of the Atlantic on an infinite rope. But instead of letting go I started to sing along. I reveled in the feeling of inclusion, in the ways this simple task had erased cultural difference. I was in line with the men – physically, rhythmically, and harmonically – and I held onto the moment as tightly as I could even though my hands begged me to let go.

Half an hour later the rope, song, and waves were all unchanged, but my hands were raw, my back sore, my patience thin, and my ego shrunk. My friend and I abandoned the labor, disappointed by our comparable lack of stamina, and returned to our outsider comforts. The men weren’t surprised, giving brief acknowledgement as we walked away. Their focus remained on each other and the point where the rope disappeared in the mist.

After walking up and down the beach, we returned to the same spot several hours later. Now four ropes were emerging from the waves, each one connected to tightly coiled, blue netting, a dozen men pulling on each line. The beach was crowded, and the music had become faster, bordering on frantic. A big splash announced the arrival of a gigantic, shimmering mass of fish, wrenched to the surface by the men on the shore. The fish threw off water and sunlight as they struggled against the net that bound them together. Some of the men advanced into the water, crossing their ropes to close the net as the others pulled it onto the beach. Fish of all varieties pressed against each other. My friend and I joined the fishermen as they stood in a circle around the fish, considering their catch, pointing out certain specimens to each other and picking up the larger fish through the net in order to inspect both sides. I marveled at the bounty of the ocean and at how the men’s work was simultaneously efficient and beautiful, practical and abstract. Their work song repeated endlessly in my mind. “This isn’t a very big catch,” the man next to me said as he turned away from the pile of fish.

Here is an audio clip from that day.
Listen carefully at the end of the recording. While I was in West Africa, people I encountered commonly used one proper noun to create mutual understanding.

Cincopa WordPress plugin


GALEN ROGERS is an intern at Meatpaper, an employee at Olivier’s Butchery, and an avid consumer of West African music.

A web-only supplement to Meatpaper Issue Nineteen, the Fishue

Our infamous T-rex poster is now available for purchase!

September 27, 2012

Based on original artwork by Rebecca Macri for Meatpaper, with help from butcher Ryan Farr of 4505 Meats, this limited edition poster is hand-silkscreened on stiff paperboard. T-Rex might have tasted like chicken (see Issue 9 to learn why) but we like to think of T-rex as having its own T-bone.

Purchase T-rex here!


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Deadline extended! Send us your fish stories by September 17

September 11, 2012

We are collecting very short, personal essays for our “Meat Up” Section. The next theme is “fish stories.”

Meatpaper 17 illustration detail by Mia Nolting

We’re casting our nets in hopes of hauling in some fish stories. Is there one fish you’ve eaten that you’ll never forget? A fish dish with special meaning or ceremony for your family? Tell us about it. E-mail your fishy essay — 300 words or less — to stories [at] meatpaper [dot] com by September 17, 2012. Please note: these essays need not include recipes.

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Meatpaper 18 is on its way!

June 28, 2012

If you’ve been meaning to subscribe, don’t delay!

Meatpaper 18 is our “Food Issue” featuring deliciousness of all kinds. You are invited to the feast: Hungarian-inspired meats, a bollito misto experiment, our unofficial map of all the national dishes of the world, the birthplace of Buffalo wings, the idea of steak, reader-submitted recipes, and more.

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We are collecting “Meat Up” submissions — deadline extended!

April 11, 2012

We are collecting short, personal essays for our “Meat Up” Section. The next theme is “kitchen stories.”

Meatpaper 17 photo detail by Jessica Niello
Meatpaper 17 photo detail by Jessica Niello

Have you ever noticed that when you make a particular dish, a significant memory overtakes you? For Proust it was a madeleine that summoned powerful memories — is there a meat dish that functions in the same way for you? For the “Meat Up” section in Issue Eighteen, we are collecting your recipes and the stories that surround them.

E-mail your recipe and an accompanying mini-essay that explains its significance (the essay should be 250 words or less) to stories [at] meatpaper [dot] com by April 20, 2012.

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OPENharvest at Headlands on March 29

March 20, 2012

Headlands Center for the Arts hosts an evening with OPENrestaurant: Members of the food and art collective share their experience in Japan with an interactive, multi-sensory experience involving video, images, conversation, and savory, Japan-inspired tastings.

OPENharvest was created in 2011 when members of the Bay Area collective OPENrestaurant joined forces with Tokyo’s Food Light Project to build support for Japanese sustainable food systems. The Bay Area contingent traveled to Japan to visit farmers, fishermen, cooks and artists, documenting along the way and organizing a series of engagements across Tokyo. At Headlands, members of OPENrestaurant will create an immersive environment that will begin to tell the story of their encounters in Japan. Stories, photographs, and artifacts will be shared. Ramen, featuring local ingredients of the Bay Area, will be served. Guests may visit a Japanese-style whisky bar, attend a presentation about food and radiation, listen to audio recordings from OPENharvest, view photos and videos from Japan, and more.

OPENharvest at Headlands

Thursday, March 29, 2012
6:30 – 10 pm

Headlands Center for the Arts
944 Fort Barry
Sausalito, CA

$25 ($20 for Headlands members)
Buy tickets

Kayoko Akabori, Anandamayi Arnold, Sasha Bernstein, Aya Brackett, Sylvan Brackett, Howie Correa, Sam Fuller, Charlie Hallowell, Kelly Ishikawa, Jerry Jaksich, Susan Kim, Chris Kronner, Yoko Kumano, Tal Mor, Jessica Niello, Stacie Pierce, Louesa Roebuck, Yuko Sato, Jeremy Tooker, Jerome Waag, Jonathan Waters, Sam White, David Wilson, Sasha Wizansky, Melissa Wong, Renata Yagolnitzer

PLEASE NOTE: All guests will be asked to remove their shoes at the door, so please make sure to wear nice socks. Also, evenings can be chilly at the Headlands, so dress accordingly.

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Thank you, BONE-enthusiasts!

March 1, 2012

BONES: 20th Street Corridor Crawl on February 10, 2012 was a truly special event.

500 Capp Street

Hundreds of bone enthusiasts came out in a light drizzle to check out marrow many ways, music played on bony instruments, bone installations, wishbone-breaking, bone lectures, and much more. Meatpaper would like to extend special thanks to all the collaborators and volunteers who made it possible!

500 Capp Street Foundation (David Ireland’s house)
Kadist Art Foundation
Southern Exposure
The Thing Quarterly
Salumeria / flour + water

Chicken Paw

Trumer Pils
Scribe Winery

And myriad artists and helpers.

Check out the photos and a map of all the happenings.

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February 10 — BONES: 20th Street Corridor Crawl

January 13, 2012

T-rex meat diagram

Please join us.

In celebration of Meatpaper Issue 16, the “Bones” issue, Meatpaper and friends are hosting a night of art, music, food, and drink, in the secret (and not so secret) places of the San Francisco Mission District’s 20th Street Corridor.

Download a map and guide to all the happenings.


Bones: 20th Street Corridor Crawl

Friday, February 10, 2012
7 pm – 11 pm

20th Street, between Capp & Florida
San Francisco


500 Capp Street Foundation (David Ireland’s house)
Kadist Art Foundation
Southern Exposure
The Thing Quarterly


Jerome Waag (Chez Panisse)
Nick Balla (Bar Tartine)
Leah Rosenberg (Blue Bottle Coffee at SFMOMA)
Thomas McNaughton (flour + water)

Biodynamic wine
Trumer Pils

… and more

Music by Chicken Paw
… installations and performances by many local artists. See map for more information.


The event is free and open to the public!
Tickets will be on sale for tasting plates.

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Delicate: New Food Culture. A new book from Gestalten.

November 11, 2011

Meatpaper is pleased to be included in this new book from Gestalten: Delicate: New Food Culture.

From the website: “Delicate is an inspiring collection of people, places, projects, and products from around the world that are blazing trails for a new passion for food and the ways we share it.”

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Meatpaper in Tokyo

November 11, 2011

We are pleased to announce that Meatpaper is now available in its first shop in Tokyo. Visit Shibuya Publishing & Booksellers to see the “Bones!” issue as well as a few back issues!

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