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January 2005
More Than a Hot Plate
The Satya Interview with Isa Chandra

 

Isa Chandra
Isa Chandra and Fizzle. Photo: Justin M. Field

Apple Waffles
Recipe by Isa Chandra

These waffles are like apple pie without all the hassle. Roll out of bed, invite your friends over and make them feel loved.

Ingredients

1 large or 2 small Apples (I use granny smith), grated
2 C. Flour
2 t. Baking Powder
1 t. Baking Soda
1/2 t. Salt
1 T. Cinnamon
1/4 t. Allspice
1/4 t. Nutmeg
1/8 t. Cloves
1 C. Apple Juice
3/4 C. Soymilk
1/3 C. Applesauce
2 T. Corn Oil (Canola or Veg Oil will do)
4 T. Sugar
2 t. Vanilla

Equipment: Waffle iron, whisk or strong fork, 2 mixing bowls

1. Preheat waffle iron.

2. Sift together the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. In a medium bowl, mix together all the wet ingredients (including sugar) until well combined. Create a well in the center of the flour mixture and mix in the wet ingredients until combined. Fold in the grated apple.

3. Make your waffles according to the waffle maker manufacturer’s directions. I use a Belgian waffle iron and 1 cup of batter per waffle works for me, but you should consult your directions. For crispier waffles, let cook 30 seconds to a minute longer than the directions suggest. Serve with sautéed apples and pure maple syrup.

If there’s one thing that binds the cultures of punk rockers and vegans together it would have to be a passionate commitment to their beliefs. As a group, vegans are among the most passionate people you’ll meet. Whether it’s about animal rights, politics, or, more importantly, our favorite brand of soy ice cream, vegans live life with a zeal that can’t be matched…except maybe by punk rockers. Both have stood proudly defiant in the face of mainstream society and corporate culture.

Knowing this, it should come as no surprise that there is a great deal of crossover between these two communities. Politically aware punk bands have been addressing animal rights issues for years. And surprisingly enough, many vegetarians and vegans first considered the ethical implications of meat-eating at, of all places, a punk show.

Sound strange? Not for 31 year-old Brooklyn-ite Isa Chandra, who has combined her passion for punk and veganism into one hell of a great cooking show. The Post Punk Kitchen, airing on BCAT (Brooklyn Community Access Television), features Isa and her co-host Terry Romero cooking up everything from vegan sushi to coconut creme pie. Not surprisingly, the PPK has already become something of a cult favorite in New York. With its mix of punk bands smashing ingredients in an orgy of music-induced mayhem, to (relatively) simple recipes even a kitchen dunce can follow, the PPK offers something to passionate punks and veggies alike.

Isa Chandra took some time to meet with Eric Weiss and talk about music, ethics, politics, and (of course) vegan food.

The thing that got me interested in vegetarianism and then veganism later on was punk rock. I’m just wondering what got you involved with vegetarianism? Did it come through punk rock?

Yeah. I remember being very young—like eight—and spitting out my meat or being disgusted by it; and looking at my cat, then looking at meat and just being really confused. I started getting into punk at 14, the Sex Pistols. Then I got into new wave, and the Smiths’ album Meat Is Murder struck a chord with me. But it didn’t really resonate until I got more into punk rock, like Crass and the local bands in New York, Nausea, and A.P.P.L.E. (Autonomy, Peace, Pacifism, Liberty, Equality).

When I first heard about the Post Punk Kitchen I got really excited about the idea to put together my two favorite things in the world: punk rock and really good vegan food. I’m wondering where that inspiration to put them together came from?
It’s really good to hear that because when I thought of doing it, I thought no one would get it. But it was okay because it’s public access. I was first of all bored, second of all cooking a lot, and third of all missing my punk rock roots, the punk scene and the DIY (Do It Yourself) aspect of things.

Have you gotten a lot of feedback? Are people watching?
Our DVDs sold out pretty quickly so I think word of mouth spread pretty fast. As far as watching it on BCAT, once in awhile I get an email or someone will recognize me or Terry. I don’t know if we have any hardcore, die-hard fans but people are watching it.

I watched it o
n Thanksgiving day with my mom, a 70 year-old woman who has no interest in punk rock, but has an interest in cooking, and she enjoyed it—so it crossed over.

The most exciting thing is that a lot of feedback is coming from people that aren’t necessarily punk, that are not in my age group either. Much younger, 15 year-olds are writing to me saying, “Thank you for the brownie recipes. I might be able to go vegan now that I can have good brownies.” And older people are writing, “Thanks, my kid has a lactose intolerance and I made this cake for their birthday.” So that’s been cool.

Why the Post Punk Kitchen? Why not the Punk Rock Kitchen?
It’s called Post Punk because it was just my way of dealing with the fact that I’m not an 18 year-old punk running around the Lower East Side anymore. It felt weird to call it the Punk Rock Kitchen; I’m not so involved, well I’m not at all involved in a punk rock scene. I have a nine to five job, and things I wouldn’t have had when I was punk rock, like a food processor. I’m using more than a hot plate.

Growing up, I don’t know if you considered yourself a progressive or radical, but I would guess that you fall in somewhere along those lines. And for years and years, young, progressive women have been in a sense fighting to get out of the kitchen; yet you’ve sort of embraced the kitchen.
That’s exactly true—we’ve embraced it. I didn’t grow up with this Better Homes and Gardens life. My mom cooked baked ziti, Hamburger Helper and Steak-Um’s. To me, I wish that I’d had the experience of learning how to make my own food and be in control of my kitchen instead of depending on take-out or ramen or microwave dinners like so many people do. So it was empowering. When I got into punk, I got into food too—making it myself, and sharing it with people and not being so caught up in throw-away food.

Was it at first odd for you? Did you have to come to grips with that?
It wasn’t something that I had in my head that was wrong. It was something that I wanted because I wasn’t indoctrinated to be in the kitchen. I’d read some feminist literature and I’d be like, ‘What the fuck, that didn’t happen to me.’ I never got told to bake or cook something, or to not go for a job. I think the kind of sexism I experienced was different. I don’t know if that’s because I’m from Brooklyn or if it’s just some sort of luck, but even watching TV in the 80s, the women aren’t in the kitchen, they’re at their jobs and they are lawyers and doctors.

You said that growing up it wasn’t indoctrinated in you to cook, so how did you learn?
That was purely punk rock learning. I went vegetarian and I didn’t have any idea what to eat. I was eating pizza and Chinese food. My best friend was also vegetarian, and we were making ‘zines. Our friends were all in bands and that was the thing that I contributed, cooking.

You mentioned earlier that you were writing a book proposal. What’s going on with that?
I’m writing a cookbook, the proposal was accepted and it happened pretty fast, which I’m excited about. I’m finishing it in April and it should be out by December of 2005. I know DIY cooking sounds weird but that’s kind of what the basis is, and anti-corporate.

Talk about that, what do you mean by DIY, anti-corporate cooking?
All cooking is pretty much DIY because you are doing it yourself. But it’s more than that: to not rely on store-bought, packaged meat analogs, like Morningstar Farms or Boca (which is owned by Kraft). And rather to make your own things from scratch. Like, making your own seitan, tofu and pasta, things like that. The recipes can still be used without making your own ingredients, but the emphasis is on buying food in bulk and using it in different ways and not relying on corporations and store-bought.

I didn’t realize you were taking it that step further. I’m the king of all things convenience. Is making your own pasta and seitan doable?
I think it is. It doesn’t sound it—it sounds like, “Make my own seitan? What are you crazy? You think I have a factory going on in my kitchen?” It’s actually pretty easy. The other thing I’m focusing on, contradictory to that, is to make things fast—fast vegetable dishes without having to buy the processed veggie meat stuff.

Is your book going to focus on the punk end of things too?
Yes, in the stories that I tell. With every recipe, I write how it came about and there usually is some punk rock route to that. A lot of the cooking I learned was from doing Food Not Bombs for a long time so there will be mention of those things.

One of the great things about your show is that anyone can watch it. I don’t think that your show would alienate any carnivores.
That’s how I feel too. If it makes somebody eat 10 percent less meat just by virtue of using our recipes or by being a little influenced, then that’s really cool. Nobody’s going to watch you go, “Methane gas is from cattle ranching!” No one wants to watch a show like that. [Laughs.] It would be awesome if everybody took their punk rock roots and made every part of culture have some punk rock-ness in it.

To learn more about the Post Punk Kitchen, order the DVD or contact Isa Chandra, visit www.theppk.com.

 

 


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