John Birdsall (@John_Birdsall) is a Bay Area-based food writer whose essay, “America, Your Food Is So Gay,” won a James Beard Award in 2014. All photos courtesy Mouthfeel.

This is a review of issue two (just published) of Mouthfeel, an arty gay food magazine from New York City. But it starts in a California bedroom in the 1970s, the day I stole my mom’s Playgirl mag.

It had this mustached guy I hungered for, Lorenzo—an Argentine gaucho according to the text, though more likely a landscaper from Boyle Heights. In some dirty canyon approximating the pampas, naked Lorenzo sprawled on a Mexican serape, slack dong blunt on the nubby textile, a fleshy metaphor for the way horniness weighed on my teen brain at twice the force of gravity. I rolled Lorenzo up, stashed him deep in my closet, took him out and put him back so many times the pages got dimply and cracked. Even worn, Lorenzo held his power, an image and a transgressive object both, a thing demanding physical space, shoved back behind the shoebox containing my buckled Sunday loafers.


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Slightly older and living in San Francisco, I nervously bought gay porn mags with names that opened worlds. Playguy. Blueboy. All Man. Varsity jocks with feathered hair and thick mustaches existed in some parallel universe of easy connection, with no guilt and zero shame. In the shiny pages of Honcho, open queerness was a totally normative mode—there was no botched job interview a desktop dicking couldn’t save, no dropped tip that couldn’t be compensated for by blowing the pizza boy. I was not a fag or a pussy here; I was not sick or confused.

Porn mags became the first secret, subversive objects through which I could imagine a brotherhood of guys like me. They worked on me like the Time-Life Foods of the World books, early Saveur, and scattered scenes from Anthony Bourdain, opening vistas I had only hoped existed, urging me to take my place in the community of others seeking old and insistent pleasures, pursuing them with seriousness.

“Porn mags became the first secret, subversive objects through which I could imagine a brotherhood of guys like me. They worked on me the like the Time-Life Foods of the World books, early Saveur, and scattered scenes from Anthony Bourdain, opening vistas I had only hoped existed…”

This brings me to issue two of Mouthfeel, a magazine that revives the grainy confidence of vintage gay porn mags and lays them out on the table. Mouthfeel is the second gay food publication to launch this year in print—the other is Jarry, which (full disclosure) I wrote a feature for. (Jarry means “food” in the English slang vocabulary called Polari, famous for giving us the word “drag,” less so for a horrible Morrissey song nobody remembers.) Mouthfeel and Jarry are like gay neighbors who politely coexist but never show up at each other’s parties.


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Where Jarry is handsome and composed, Mouthfeel is raw and musty. It comes in a sealed plastic bag, like porn mags used to, only in separate parts. Issue two has a profile of gay chef Gerardo Gonzalez of El Rey on Manhattan’s Lower East Side; another of Dante Gonzalez (no relation to Gerardo) from Dante Fried Chicken in L.A. There’s some bear-adjacent forager porn, and a naked dinner party in the San Francisco apartment of drag queen Juanita More, full of jammed-up beardy boys with tats and belly hair, sweating on the furniture, popping after-supper chubbies.

Mouthfeel’s founder and editor is 28-year-old Mac Malikowski, who lives in Bushwick and has worked in the city as a Blue Bottle barista, and front of house at Bar Boulud and Ma Pêche. He came up through the hardcore punk scene in Reno, Nevada; likewise, his visual collaborator, creative director Yego Moravia, was into the hardcore scene in Northern California. The queercore band Limp Wrist (Malikowksi calls them “strange, subversive, and salacious”) has been a huge inspiration. Malikowski tells me, more than once, that he never wanted Mouthfeel to be a Good Housekeeping for gay men, full of recipes and dinner party tips.


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“We wanted to change the experience of what a gay food mag was the way Limp Wrist changed what a gay punk band was,” Malikowksi says. “They were irreverent, they wore fishnets on stage—the cover of one of their albums was like two skinheads kissing. They weren’t doing the same thing everybody else was.”

For me, the heart of Mouthfeel is the section called Plates—in issue two, a series of collages, vintage image scans from ‘70s and ‘80s stroke mags like Honcho and Inches, mashed up with equally lush and thirsty photos from old cookbooks, at hyper resolution. Malikowski calls it a “fantasy of food and connection,” a millennial’s cultural nostalgia for a simpler transgressive past, before the endless scroll of digital dick pics and Instagram trophy plates made us numb.


“Malikowski calls it a “fantasy of food and connection,” a millennial’s cultural nostalgia for a simpler transgressive past, before the endless scroll of digital dick pics and Instagram trophy plates made us numb.”

The thing about growing up gay is that it makes you go deep underground to examine your desires. You start out thinking all you want is the Argentine gaucho rolled up at the back of your closet, and end up seeing that what you really craved—all along, really—was connection. In its own strange, subversive, and salacious way, Mouthfeel gets it.

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