An Irreverent Interview with Thug Kitchen
A few years ago in college, a friend of mine who was really into vegan baking and hip-hop told me about a unique combination thereof. “It’s hilarious,” she assured me, turning her computer screen towards me to explain a new cooking blog she had discovered, called “Thug Kitchen“. “They post recipes for plant-based foods with these funny, aggressive captions,” she explained. “There’s a ton of swearing,” she added, smirking: “You’ll love it.”
Whether or not her suggestion of my probable enthusiasm constituted a character judgement, the fact is: I did love Thug Kitchen. From the moment I saw it on the screen.
I started following Michelle Davis and Matt Holloway’s blog almost immediately after reading a caption over an image of grapes that said, “These sons of bitches right here will lower the ever-living FUCK out of your cholesterol”. This was in 2012, and two years later– in a poetic nod to our friendship– the same friend got me the official Thug Kitchen cook book, THUG KITCHEN: Eat Like You Give a F*ck, which would go on to debut at the #1 spot on the New York Times bestsellers list.
The plant-based cookbook followed the same proven formula that Davis and Holloway had perfected on their blog: Thug Kitchen recipes proved that eating a veggie-rich, plant-based diet didn’t have to be a pretentious, expensive experience. The recipes were simple— aimed at people who had never cooked a day in their lives– and served with a side of humor. “Cool Your Ass Down,” reads one recipe, “snack on some frozen banana pops motherfucker!” (And that’s just dessert.)
With the release of their latest cookbook, THUG KITCHEN PARTY GRUB: For Social Motherf*ckers, the duo continues to offer their irreverent take on the world of healthy eating, but this time it’s served with a twist: if the first book got people cooking healthy food for themselves, …For Social Motherf*ckers, is all about taking new healthy lifestyle habits out into the world and sharing them with friends and family. “Because let’s face it,” says the book’s press release, “shit falls apart when you hit up a party where the only healthy options are wet baby carrots.” Below, Garden Collage talks with the Los Angeles-based duo to discuss “trendy” veggies, what they grow in their own gardens, and why everyone in the Internet-era should “eat like they give a fuck”.
GC: How did the idea of “Thug Kitchen” come about?
TK: Thug Kitchen started as a collaboration between Michelle’s cooking and Matt’s photography, and co-writing the jokes was a creative outlet for us from our boring-ass jobs. Other healthy books and blogs out there made it feel like we needed a ton of time and money to take care of ourselves, but we had neither. So we created something that we wanted to see without being too snobby or precious about it.
GC: Certain veggies often go in an out of “fashion”– first it was truffles, then Brussel sprouts were on every menu, and now Kale. Are there any food/veggie trends you’re noticing as of late?
TK: Turmeric is making its way into every damn thing, so watch out.
GC: What do you grow in your garden and where do you shop for your produce?
TK: Matt is the one with the green thumb, and he tends a small patio garden (there’s not much space to grow crops when you rent in LA…). The garden has some basic herbs like rosemary, basil, thyme, and lemongrass. We try to get produce from local farmer’s markets when we can.
GC: What is your process for testing out new recipes?
TK: Michelle creates the recipe, usually inspired by seasonal veggies because they’re often the cheapest, then she gives it to Matt once she’s happy with it. Matt plays a good “every man” in testing the recipe, since he’s new to veganism and cooking. If Matt has trouble with the recipe, then we rework it until it’s as simple and tasty as possible. Then, we shoot the photo and write the jokes together, which means we don’t post every damn day like other blogs. Our shit takes time.
GC: We love the detailing that comes with each recipe ala “shake that shit up”. Do you find that the Internet is more receptive to healthy recipes when they sound a little more irreverent?
TK: The internet is receptive to almost anything irreverent, but apparently it works with health food too. We know we’re certainly tired of the preciousness and smugness that usually comes with healthy eating, so when we got rid of that and decided to have some fun with the whole formula, we saw readers were more receptive to cooking the recipe because they didn’t feel so damn alienated from the jump. We get a lot of omnivores and first-time cooks, which is awesome.
GC: How will the new book differ from what’s been published in the past?
TK: The first book was our battle cry to get readers cooking healthy at home for themselves and their families. Our second book is about taking that same philosophy out into the world for social settings like football games, birthdays, holidays, etc. We know how quickly people will make culinary compromises in large groups, and we’re here to fix that shit.
GC: Do you have any Thug Kitchen “staples”? Like a tool or spice that every aspiring cook should have?
TK: A must-have is one good, sharp knife: that’s our best friend in the kitchen. It cuts prep time in half, literally.
As for seasoning, a little lemon juice goes a long way. A little citrus squeeze makes everything taste way better than salt ever could.
GC: The GC Team fucking loves vegetables. What’s your favorite?
TK: Matt loves spinach, either on a sandwich, burrito, tossed in some pasta, or even just wilted by itself with a little garlic and lemon juice. Michelle is all about peppers: bell, shishito, jalapeno, whatever. They are so versatile and damn affordable.