I was never a punk. The closest I came was Riot Grrrl, and everything but the music of that movement pretty much passed me by too. Growing up in The Hot State, I didn’t know any punks. Maybe some street kids hung out outside the co-op in the college town an hour away , but that was about it. I was a vegan dork who got straight As who has yet to learn how to smoke. My only links to alt-culture cred are my black bangs and two conversations with Kathleen Hanna, both of which involved me gushing embarassingly.
But I had my radical politics, and when I got this email, on June 15, 2003, I smiled:
Hi, I check out your site sometimes, and thought you might be interested in mine. Below is my generic email, hope you’d like to participate cuz your recipes are awesome!
Take care, Isa
The Post Punk Kitchen is a vegetarian cooking show, soon to appear on NY public access (Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn).
We are looking for recipe submissions to be included in our database. That’s it. In return you will receive fame and notoriety and all the trappings that come along with it. I mean come on, who doesn’t want to see there name in bright lights on the (gasp) internet!
So send ’em in, help us make this a kickass vegan recipe database and keep those vegetarian bellies full. For more info, check out our website in progress at http://www.theppk.com, and join our mailing list.
To preview a recipe template look here: http://www.theppk.com/recipetest1.html
Submit the recipe, your user name and a little story about the dish.
If you’d like to participate in the show in any capacity (cooking, tasting, promoting, filming, editing, web development, standing around lookin’ pretty) then get in touch. We’d love to hear from you!
So, I submitted a recipe and said I lived too far away (really then I lived just 20 minutes from Manhattan, but I was a good hour or so from Bklyn) to participate in the show. But it seemed so rad and I wished them well, and everything.
Then for the next four years or so I tried to not admit to myself that I was annoyed I didn’t jump on it, because, as we all know now, that whole “fame and notoriety and all the trappings that come with it” thing was no joke. When Isa and Terry were on the cover of the New York Times food section one day and 10 people in my life called me up to ask if I knew them, I outwardly talked about how I was happy that veganism was getting such a kick-ass public face, and privately, quietly, decided I hated them.
I’ve always thought that the great thing about veganism was that because we were in it for animals, other people, and the environment, we were freed from those annoying things like jealousy about who became a vegan celebrity and who didn’t. As it turns out, I wasn’t as strong and perfect and noble as I pretended to be, and spent a few years assiduously ignoring anything PPK-related.
Then one day I picked up one of their cookbooks at The Strand and leafed through it. My heart began to soften: the recipes were good! OK, they are fans of Earth Balance, but let’s admit it: EB makes it a hell of a lot easier to go vegan. You can make such pretty, lovely things with it. The PPK recipes were witty, snappy, interesting—good.
It’s so hard to hate something that you can’t put down in any substantive way. Sigh.
I knew I had work to do. After that I worked to let my annoyance at them (which was, of course annoyance at myself), dissolve. The truth is, Isa does really amazing things. Every time I turn around she’s cooking at a benefit dinner for Farm Sanctuary or giving away copies of her books as donations, or organizing massive bake sales to raise huge amounts of money for Haiti, etc. She’s not a Food Network airhead, she’s stayed true to her politics, her aesthetic, and her roots.
She’s the face of our movement today, and for that I am very very proud. Pretty much single-handedly, she and Terry changed the public perception of vegan food from lentil loaves to adorable cupcakes, and even my EB-hatin’ self has to admit that that was a big, huge, awesome awesome step.
And what did I do, in those years when Isa was busy talking to newspapers and testing recipes? I worked on my own pretty business, keeping my head fairly down, listening to my own instincts about what makes good vegan food. The other week, when I was ranting to Maresa about cupcakes, I realized something, something which finally dissolved the very last bits of my Isa-jealousy:
I don’t want to be doing what she’s doing, and I’m damn thankful that she’s doing it.
Do you know what I hate? Talking to boring mainstream people about how to sauté a goddamn motherfucking piece of tempeh. Convincing them that tofu is not scary. Telling them that wheat is not going to kill them. Not using swear words. Smiling in public. Talking in public. The public! Tailoring my words for a wider audience. I hate all of it, but it all has to be done. And Isa’s doing it!
And I’m not. And you know what? That’s fucking amazing.
Veganism, like all social movements, is a continuum. Isa is where she is, and we’re damn lucky to have her. I’m where I am, off in the ether somewhere, talking about molecular gastronomy and Kajitsu, and I’ve got my little crew of people who get me. My crew will always be smaller than Isa’s, that’s how it should be. Shes going wider, I’m doing deeper. Both of us are absolutely necessary. I’ll be the first to admit that Isa’s making more vegans, and keeping more people vegan, than I am. That used to annoy me, too. But today I’m just thankful to be here, firmly anchored on my spot on the continuum.
(A little more grown-up this time.)