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March 23rd, 2005 KELLY CLARKE | Bite Club
 

Edible Complex

     
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In less complicated decades, Betty Crocker's Cookbook gave home chefs the skinny on a rack of lamb and Chinese chicken casserole with equal lip-smacking verve. Later, single ingredient/ dish tomes focused on grilled-cheese sammies, hemp or herring with myopic zeal. And cookbooks have continued to mutate, birthing sub-subculture cuisines like giant niche-marketed pea pods from Gregor Mendel's worst nightmare.

If you can identify two cultural communities, somebody has probably penned a cookbook to mark their common ground. For example, there's Southern-Jewish Baking (Sara Kasdan's Mazel Tov Y'All) and Speedy Evangelical Meals (Aunt Susie's 10-Minute Bible Recipes). Intrigued? Here are four more recent releases that explore the taste of crossbred cookery.

Irish Punks + Vegans = Please Feed Me: A Punk Vegan Cookbook by Niall McGuirk. McGuirk, a veteran of the Dublin spit-'n'-safety-pin scene, wanted to chronicle the 10-year run of his Hope Collective, a network of hardworking fans who lured bands like Fugazi, Bikini Kill, Green Day and Jawbreaker to their foggy isle. According to McGuirk, the DIY aesthetic of these activist bands dovetailed neatly with a vegan desire to prevent cruelty to animals. So the hungry author compiled a list of culinary hits, from Hot Water Music's tofu-packed "Twin Tower Tacos" and Chumbawamba's "Veg Kebabs" to Joan of Arse's "Spinach & Ginger Bowel Loosener" to accompany a decade's worth of insane-yet-heartfelt rock-show anecdotes.

Hairy Gay Men + Comfort Food = Bear Cookin' by PJ Gray and Stanley Hunter. Manly mac 'n' cheese? According to the stereotypically burly, flannel-wearing fellas behind this compendium of big gay eats, no Bear kitchen is complete without a big hunk of Velveeta-or a vat of Cool Whip. Bear's fatty, homespun recipes, from cinnamon rolls to "Raunchy Ranch Munch," create a welcome rainbow connection between Gay Pride floats and root-beer floats.

Precocious Grade Schoolers + French Chefs = The French American School's L'ivre de Cuisine. The title of this collection of recipes from local chefs, students and their families is a play on words: In French, "livre" means "book" and "ivre" means "drunk or crazy." Get it? Crazy for food? It's a questionable sentiment for a pack of 10-year-olds, but the book's huge, heady menu of international dishes and desserts runs the gamut from Vitaly Paley's veggies stuffed with Oregon morels to an old-school cassoulet from Pascal Sauton (of Carafe). Plus, you've got bilingual youngsters pimping non-alcoholic "Snowball Tinis." And, well, we're suckers for the illustrations: food-themed scribbles by Portland kids.

Health Nuts + Recovering Pyromanics = SmartMonkey Foods' The Art of Raw. Bite Club has already grudgingly admitted how tasty local raw-foods chefs Ani Phyo and Ede Schweizer's uncooked dishes can be, from flax-seed pizza and fake "cheez" to sweet unbaked apple pie. Now stove-phobic home cooks can try out a select bunch of their cool, blender-friendly recipes. Heck, they've even got a recipe for sunflower-seed pâté-for your dog's raw diet.

Bite Club Web Exclusive

Q&A: Niall McGuirk

To get the real scoop on why crossbred cookery is so palatable, Bite Club queried Irish cookbook author Niall McGuirk via email last week. This Dublin native played Dr. Frankenstein with nonfiction genres by pairing his biography of that city's punk-rock scene with a collection of vegan recipes. His book, Please Feed Me: A Punk Vegan Cookbook, hit Powell's shelves last month.

Bite Club: Why punk music and vegan cuisine? The average American wouldn't naturally put those two communities together. What is it about the ethos of the punk scene and the ideas behind veganism that make it a good match?

Niall McGuirk: I became interested in vegetarianism through the lyrics of punk bands like Flux of Pink Indians and Chumbawamba. Through the bands' lyrics and the way they did things was an inherent belief that you can change the world by changing yourself. It is that thinking-for-yourself-ideal and not accepting the norm just because it is the norm that makes the match of punk rock and veganism.

When I questioned where the food on my plate came from, I found very uncomfortable answers. I didn't want a cow to be hanged upside down, hit by a blunt instrument in the head and bled to dry just so I could have "food." I didn't want a cow to be forcibly impregnated every year and have their calf removed at birth so I could have a white coffee. Listening to punk rock made me question all activities in my life, and here was something I could have control over. So I eliminated animals from my diet.

In Please Feed Me, you talk about making things happen yourself, from forming the Hope Collective to book and stage bands to scrapping together community meals. How did you begin to think you could link the two?

It just evolved. I started off initially by putting on gigs so the band I was in could have somewhere to play. That extended to me asking a couple of foreign bands why they never made it to Ireland, and they said nobody had asked them. So I asked them, and then their friends asked me to help. It then accumulated to a stage where we were putting on gigs for bands and it seemed right that we offer them hospitality as visitors. We were their hosts, and rather than sending them off for accommodation and food, we housed and fed them. People in bands are just people like you and me, and we treated them that way.

How does the act of eating together change your relationship to a person?

If you are going to make food for someone, I think you are showing respect for that person.

Why a cookbook? What audience did you want to reach with Feed Me that wouldn't be served by a straightforward Hope Collective biography?

I wanted to document the story of the Hope Collective, but I also wanted to try and get some vegan recipes out there. As someone who is vegan, I thought it'd be a good idea and a challenge to get the bands to submit vegan recipes. I'm under no illusions as to think that the bands were all vegan. If they weren't vegan, I wanted to get them to think about what they ate and also to show that it's not hard to eat vegan food for one meal. I thought the same for people who might read the book. A large proportion of readers will not be vegan, but maybe they are interested in the punk thing and could get opened up to vegan food by the book. Also, some vegans may buy it and may get turned onto a world of independent music that they were unaware of previously.

What's the best line in a punk-rock song that sums up your attitude toward food?

As a child being raised a Catholic in Ireland, I was always told that it was OK to kill animals for their flesh as they had no soul. Humans had a soul and would go to heaven if they led their life the "Catholic way." When Flux of Pink Indians released their Neu Smell 7-inch, the line that summed up the hypocrisy for me was "My soul for the sole of your shoe." That got me thinking about food and sums up my attitude towards it.

What's the most anti-punk food or dish you can think of?

For someone living in Ireland, it is probably something with expensive or hard-to-get vegetables, like artichokes or asparagus.

Besides putting on shows, what other projects are you focusing on right now?

My involvement in gigs/shows nowadays is one of attendance. I swap my book for other vegan cookbooks and some records and sell these at selected gigs. I also hand out leaflets relating to animal-rights issues.

Aside from music, I am the secretary of the Dublin Food Co-op (www.dublinfoodcoop.com). We are a consumer-owned collective that purchases food wholesale and distributes it to our members. We have approximately 1,000 active members and hold a market every Saturday in Dublin city center.

I am also in the process of completing a cookzine based on a vacation we took for one week with another family. It's a vegan week with stories for each day and a menu for the day. I am hoping to complete a veggie guide to Ireland at some stage over the next year or two.


Please Feed Me ($15.95), Bear Cookin' ($12.95) and L'ivre de Cuisine ($19.95) are available at Powell's Books, 1005 W Burnside St., 228-4651. Art of Raw ($20) is available at Mirador, 2106 SE Division St., 231-5175. For the skinny on crossbred cookery, check out Bite Club's Q&A with vegan punk author Niall McGuirk on the Web at wweek.com.
 
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