The Post Punk Kitchen and me

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, and join our mailing list.

To preview a recipe template look here:

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.)

12 Responses to “The Post Punk Kitchen and me”

  1. IsaChandra

    Ha, thanks for writing this. I know a lot of people hate me* and I’m happy that you worked it out.

    It’s been my experience that vegan baking is the most cut throat “industry” there is! It’s kind of insane to think about the amount of hatred, resentment and backstabbiness I’ve encountered – not from omnivores but from other vegan bakers! The stories I could tell…

    I don’t know, I think there is plenty of room for all manner of vegan baking and business and blogs and life in general. When I taste other vegan baking that I love, yes, I get a little jealous and demand to know that they did, but instead of hating I try to blog or tweet or yelp or whatever about how great it was, throw them some support and get over myself. It is so much better to have vegan pastries you adore out there rather than the dry egg replacer stuff of yore. Obvs.

    But just to clear a few things up – I don’t actually love Earth Balance! Terry does :) My favorite cupcake is simple chocolate and bittersweet ganache. But, yeah, you gots to have the buttercream for the people. We have a coconut based buttercream in there, too, but no one makes it. Poor coconut.

    I can’t believe that email was 2003! I was so young and naive sending out emails like that. Ha, I am so petty that I remember who responded and who didn’t.

    *And ok, sometimes they hate me for non-baking reasons.

  2. lagusta

    Dude, I feel so fucking good about this! I’m so over the bullshit frenemies crap and capitalist-driven jealousies and blech blech. I vow never to get bogged down in it again.

    I also know some INSANE vegan bakers. WTF! We should rant together one day. I think they are probably the same.

    And yay about EB and dang, I should have looked in your book to get tips on my coco oil buttercream!

    Yeah, 2003!
    We are old.
    But damn, my email is so organized, isn’t it? I was amazed that it took me 2 seconds to find that little gem.

  3. IsaChandra

    Aww, I want to hug you! Not in a creepy way. I have a feeling we would gossip all night if we ever meet. Watch out, world!

    And now everyone knows we’re going to gossip about them.

  4. Allyson

    :) This post made me smile… and the comments made me laugh. Rock on girls! You all are doing seriously amazing things.

    • Christy H

      You two don’t know each other? That seems odd. Yet another reason to come to Portland, Lagusta! For some reason, I thought all the awesome influential vegans were in some cool club that meets regularly to get all think-tanky. Stuff like this happens among influential abortion rights folks… There should be such a meeting of vegan chefs and bakers! I’ll host! You can all cook for me!!!
      I mean, I don’t know Isa either, but I figure it’s just a matter of time given that we live in the same town, eat the same food, and care about the same stuff. If you are reading this, Isa… I look forward to meeting you some day.

  5. Sara

    I found this blog, clicking on links from the ppk’s blog. Then I bought chocolates. So, it worked out.

  6. Fiona

    You are just totally awesome. Reading your blog is like standing on a fabulous mountain with streaming cold fresh air. Never read anyone who holds back less than you do. Inspiring.

  7. Randal Putnam

    Being nice is super special fun! The Wonder Twins come to mind. That happens to me pretty regularly despite the context, so don’t read too much into it with regards to your situation.

    In case you haven’t seen the Wonder Twins, I was trying to find an episode in a hurry. I made it most of the way through this one before I realized it was a spoof. No matter. It is lovely in its own way.


  8. Dustin Rhodes

    I bought Isa’s Vegan with a Vengeance on the very day it was released, and I think now what I did then: she almost single-handedly revolutionized veganism with, what should be obvious but apparently isn’t, a simple, brilliant formula: she produced recipes, and hence meals, that a n y o n e (vegan or not) would not only tolerate, but love. Even her humble tofu scramble is absolutely amazing, and I can’t recall the number of times I’ve made it for some non-vegan friend who’s raved about it. And I could live off of any of the soup recipes in that cookbook (That carrot soup with coconut milk: to die for).

    And what’s really endeared her to all of us vegans is the fact the she’s so damn charming, clever and utterly real; in between recipes, she effortlessly makes you fall in love with her with her witty banter, tales of her punk rock childhood and non-sequiturs. And while I’ve never met Isa in real life, I’m pretty certain that Isa on the page matches Isa in real life. She’s probably more awesome than I even can imagine.

    Just a couple of weeks ago, I made Isa’s braised brussells sprouts and seitan (homemade, of course), and just like Isa suggested, I served it over garlicky mashed potatoes. It’s one of my favorite recipes in the whole world, and tastes so utterly delicious, it makes me want to weep. My boyfriend tells everyone, in fact, what a “brilliant” cook I am, and let’s face it: Isa is my secret weapon.

    Ahhhhh: we vegans are so lucky to have her.

  9. Carrie

    I found you through the PPK blog because I’m addicted to those dang jam cookies and now my whole family is too.

    • lagusta

      oooh, those are great! have you made them with olive oil? it’s my favorite.


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