New SF Zine Mouth2Mouth Wants To Keep Food Writing Weird

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For her own contribution, “Pizza Is a Place,” Chen drew on her background as an architect to reimagine a slice of pizza as a landscape, spicy oil that collects inside each curl from cup-shaped pepperoni to the valley of dehydrated red sauce that forms at the foot of the crust.

It all looks very sleek, thanks in large part, according to Chen, to the design work of Wolfman Books founder Justin Carder. And Chen is particularly proud of the few professional writers and chefs who have contributed to the zine. Instead, she curried favor with her wider community of Bay Area friends and acquaintances — artists and cooks, but also technicians and other everyday people. “It’s mostly people who never write or take pictures, sharing something,” Chen says.

A sign from “Pizza Is a Place” by Hallie Chen, which is inspired by the author’s daily work as an architect. (Halie Chen)

The title comes from an offhand comment Chen’s partner once made about being glad the two saw “word of mouth” about a particular food trend they despised. (“I thought it was so clever but so profound,” Chen says.) For her, the term also conjures up oral traditions, verbal communication, kissing, and the act of a mother bird feeding her baby.

Chen says she doesn’t consume enough food media to position herself Mouth2Mouth like any kind of open criticism. But at its core, the zine isn’t much concerned with the topics covered by more traditional, mainstream food publications, as illustrated by the phrases of interest Chen lists in the introduction to the first issue: experiences, anti -optimization, anti-listicule, general interest.

Beyond this overall mood board, Mouth2Mouth does not stick to any overt theme. For the inaugural edition, Chen asked potential contributors to think broadly about family and memory. For the second issue, she hopes to solicit pieces that have something to do with the matriarchs, though she acknowledges that it’s difficult to make specific requests when she doesn’t have a budget to pay contributors.

Watercolor painting of three fruits in different sizes and shades of green:
“My Avocado”, by Chloe Roth, one of many food-themed artworks featured in Mouth2Mouth. (Chloe Roth)
A photo collage: a mother giving her child a bath in the sink;  text reads,
“Secrets of Art”, by Chinwe Okona. (Chinwe Okona)

Those interested in submitting writing or artwork to the second issue of Mouth2Mouth should email Chen at ha[email protected] by April 15. His hope is to produce and print the issue in time to sell it at this year’s show. San Francisco Art Book Fairfrom July 15 to 17, where she will have a table.

Otherwise, Mouth2Mouth is not easy to catch. Copies of the first issue ($15) are periodically available through Oakland’s independent art book printing company, Floss Editions. At this time, the zine does not exist in digital form on the Internet.


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