Of Meat and Men with Alicia Kennedy | Crooked Media
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May 27, 2022
Of Meat and Men with Alicia Kennedy

In This Episode

Today on Hot Take, Amy and Mary review bad weather, bad politicians, Bad Vegan, and bad carnivores.




Amy Westervelt: Just a quick note before we get started. We had some major technical difficulties this week. Mercury in retrograde and all that. So the audio quality in the initial conversation and the last bit are a bit lower than what we’d like to bring you, but we thought they were still worth putting out. Thanks for bearing with us. Now onto the show. Hey, hot cakes. Welcome to Hot Take. I’m Amy Westervelt.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: And I’m Mary Annaïse Heglar. Amy, is it just me or is there more crazy climate news every single week?


Amy Westervelt: Oh, my God. It’s definitely not just you. I feel like it’s like just waves and waves and waves and, like, my head is going to explode. It’s too much.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: I know. Remember when you used to look forward to summer? Because it was, like, summer fun, and now it’s like summer disasters everywhere.


Amy Westervelt: It’s true.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: And it’s not even, like, kicked into high gear yet.


Amy Westervelt: In your part of the country. What have you been seeing lately, Mary?


Mary Annaïse Heglar: Well, there was talk of an early hurricane like this past weekend in the Gulf of Mexico. Wound up not actually happening. And turns out that would be the first time in the past seven years that we’re not likely to get a named storm before June.


Amy Westervelt: Wow.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: In a way that’s a little bit promising, but I was kind of like, really, it’s not even Memorial Day and we’re talking about a storm? Because like normally when a storm forms in May, we’re not talking about this far north. You’re talking about like in the Caribbean, which is not not fantastic. But yeah, you’re not talking about it in like Florida or Louisiana. So there was a disturbance in the Gulf yesterday, but it was not a hurricane. It was not even a tropical depression. But that does not mean anything as far as the rest of the hurricane season goes. Like we’re still bracing for a quite active season. And it’s also happening when people are still, you know, living in temporary housing or in tents or with relatives from the 2020 hurricane season, not just Hurricane Ida last year. Right. So like folks out in Lake Charles have still not gotten the help that they need. And now we’re already bracing for yet another hurricane season. And they’re talking about the waters in the Gulf are about set to be like the 2005 hurricane season, which gave us Katrina and Rita. So, yeah, we’re on edge. We’re on alert. You know, if you’re able to pack a supply a bag and have your evacuation plan ready. Time to make sure you got your rent insurance up to date and and all of that stuff. So yeah.


Amy Westervelt: Get your go bag ready.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: So that’s what’s happening out here. How’s it going out there on the west coast?


Amy Westervelt: Yeah. We’ve got, we’ve got our go bags ready for a different reason which is mega droughts and fire season and it’s. And of course in New Mexico, I mean, they’re just getting absolutely hammered right now with four active large fires that have burned almost half a million acres, including a lot of sacred sites. There’s a lot of sacred land in New Mexico that these fires have impacted. Thousands of people have been evacuated. I believe it’s one person who’s died so far. But, you know, these fires, I think the one that’s most contained is at about 40% still which is not. You want to be like over 50 before you start to feel like they’re starting to get under control. And the sort of icing on the cake here is that these fires started in part from a controlled burn, which is like, oh, my God.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: What is a controlled burn? Actually, I don’t know what that is. Yeah.


Amy Westervelt: So, so basically it’s a, it’s a forest management technique, you know, in part because humans, as we’ve built more into wilderness, have interrupted the fire cycle because we’re not comfortable with fire. Right. Like even a tiny bit of fire is scary to us. So we put out even the smallest fires that interrupt stuff, you know, forest ecosystem, really, because forests naturally burn a little bit every year to get rid of a certain amount of brush. And, you know, it’s actually what keeps a forest healthy.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: I did not know that. Like I’ve heard people say that and passing by it. Like I’ve never really internalized that forests naturally burn. Yeah. You know, like a part of carbon cycle. Water cycle. I’ve never heard of a fire cycle.


Amy Westervelt: Yeah, there’s a natural fire cycle that’s been really interrupted by fear, really. You know? Fear and also the desire to protect property. So. that has interrupted


Mary Annaïse Heglar: Yeah, but indigenous folks were not afraid?


Amy Westervelt: That’s right. So Indigenous folks have always kind of allowed this cycle to continue. And just now in the last couple of years, there’s been a real push to kind of let indigenous practices inform how the Western states deal with fire in general. But because we’ve kind of interrupted these things in order to approximate that the USDA will do these prescribed burns, where they will go in and they will burn off a certain amount of the dead brush and new saplings and things like that, because otherwise you end up with too much what they call fuel for the fire, which is basically like brush and lots of little trees and things that would have formerly been cleared by kind of regular forest fires. So that’s what they were doing in New Mexico. And I mean, it wasn’t the only thing that got these fires going, but it did it did contribute to it. And so now there’s this backlash against prescribed burning, which is sort of it’s sort of just restarting this whole fear of fire thing that that is kind of at the root of the mega-fires in the West in the first place, along with, of course, drought conditions, climate change exacerbating not only heat, but also dryness, which are all kind of factors for for fires and poor development choices where you’re allowing in areas that that didn’t historically have it. So just kind of seeing this every year and I feel like it’s like a different states turn every year in the West right now. So like. You know.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: Really? Because I feel like all of ya’ll be burning.


Amy Westervelt: Yeah, but it kind of rotates its like you know California and Oregon, then Colorado, now New Mexico. I’m worried about what will happen in California this year because it’s it’s it’s extremely dry. We’ve had we have our worst drought that we’ve had in 1200 years right now. It just, like didn’t really snow didn’t really rain this year. So it just it’s again, that bracing thing, I think I think that’s like a thing for for states that are prone to sort of annual extreme weather events at this point where like it just starts to get to be around this time of year. And it’s kind of the same for both fire and hurricane anymore and you start to really brace for for the next.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: Impacting.


Amy Westervelt: Yeah. Yeah, it’s stressful.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: For impact. I was reading a story, I didn’t finish it, so I won’t spoil it for you. But it was about the climate refugees from Camp Fire. And I was you know, I remember when Camp Fire horrified the country, it was like this huge, huge fire. And it burned down this entire town named Paradise, you know. And but now camp fire isn’t even in the top ten worst biggest fires in California, I think is the deadliest so far, I think.


Amy Westervelt: But it might still be in the top ten of largest. But it’s not it’s not the largest anymore.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: But the story was like blaming PG and E as the cause that the utility in California blaming them as the cause of the fire. And I was I was meaning to ask you about that. Like, I understand that their negligence definitely started the fire, but the conditions that made it ripe for it to burn as long as it did and as bad as it did, that’s climate change. And as a utility, of course. PG & E had a hand in that, but they didn’t do all of it.


Amy Westervelt: Yeah, I mean, it’s a, it’s a mix. I mean, this is the thing. I think this is the thing that makes the fire conversation so fraught in general is just that like it’s a mix of things always, you know, it’s like, yes, the utility is being allowed to be totally negligent with its maintenance for a really long time. And they kind of just keep not addressing the how, you know, it’s like they get fined for something and they pay the fine and they keep doing the same thing because they’re incentivized by a profit. You know, it’s that we have this weird thing where it’s like it’s supposedly a public service, but it’s, it’s a private utility and they have a profit motive that is out of step with the public service that they’re providing. So that shows up not just in maintenance of lines, but also in, you know, not necessarily moving as quickly as they should on the energy transition, because that’s another thing that these are partly responsible for you know? Um.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: Yeah


Amy Westervelt: And and then also there’s there’s the development question, you know, of of allowing things to be built where they probably should be and zoning that that encourages sprawl instead of more dense development that makes more sense, you know, and forest management. So this whole fire thing that we were talking about and then on top of that, you have this layer of climate change that is is intensifying and exacerbating all of those things, you know, where it’s like it’s a lot more likely for a downed power line to spark a fire because there’s a drought which is exacerbated by climate change. You know? Or because there’s high heat. And then in terms of like the way that they kind of grow now, that is really it’s very hard to point to anything but climate change on that because like what you hear even from firefighters is like it doesn’t cool down at night anymore and the humidity doesn’t increase at night anymore. And that is when they would get on top of those fires. So that’s where contributing to the size of these things. That’s just like, yeah, same. It’s crazy. Of course, elsewhere in the world there is plenty of bad news on the extreme weather front, too, in South Africa, these rain bombs that have been happening. So this I think the first one was in 2017. It happened again in 2019. Last month, there was one of these extreme rain events in Durban, South Africa, that actually killed 300 people. And I swear, I did not hear a single news story here about it. Yeah, they got like a foot of rain in less than 24 hours. It’s when they get, like a couple of months worth of rain in one day.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: That almost sounds like a hurricane.


Amy Westervelt: It does. It does. But it’s like it’s lax, I guess. Like the wind, a factor of a hurricane. It’s just like the sky opens up and it’s a deluge.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: Terrifying.


Amy Westervelt: It is terrifying. And especially when you think about Durban and this is again, I’m like, oh, god, there’s so many examples of these things happening where lots of different societal issues collide, right? So you have this rain and it’s falling in a city where there’s intense poverty, it’s washing away like entire slums, which people shouldn’t be forced to live in those conditions in the first place. But then you add an extreme weather event on top of it. And like you were saying about the folks at Lake Charles that, you know, they’re sitting there in a temporary shelter that’s not at all ready for another extreme weather event. So.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: Yeah.


Amy Westervelt: So anyway, yeah, these things are happening. They’re going to continue to happen. And unfortunately, they’re, they’re happening on top of, you know, lots of other issues like, you know, wave number 200 of the pandemic and monkey pox and wealth inequality and all of these other things.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: So. Right. And there are so many other extreme weather events going on around the world, too. Like, I don’t want to create the impression that we captured all of them in the couple of minutes. Like there’s so many of them are under-covered around the world and also so many of them have become normalized around the world. So yeah, shit is real. That’s the system. That’s that’s the underlying.


Amy Westervelt: That’s right. That’s right. And like we mentioned last week, another thing that all of that contributes to is the rise of eco fascism. So we saw this with the Buffalo shooter and before that with the Christchurch and El Paso shooters back in 2019. This is a thing that is not going away as more extreme weather events happen, as resources like water become more scarce, people are doubling down on ideas about who deserves and doesn’t deserve those resources. And unfortunately, it’s is turning up all over the map. And you and I both wrote about this in the newsletter this past weekend. And, you know, you made the point that like, yeah, this this is someone who believes the science on climate change, but their solution is, you know, to kill black and brown people. So.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: Exactly. Because that’s that’s what happens when you understand the problem. But you don’t understand the causes. That’s right. Or the solution. Right. And so, you know, this is such a seductive narrative to scapegoat someone else for all of your problems. And that’s really what eco fascism does. It’s like a livable future, but only for white people. Right? Right. And there used to be this assumption on the left that once people on the right wing came around to the reality of climate change, of course they would get on board with solutions like the Green New Deal or like a carbon tax. And sweetie, that is not where folks are going to take it because these are folks who wanted to kill black and brown people before there was a real scarcity. Right. The great replacement theory made up of a scarcity mentality a long time ago. So that just like general white supremacy, like. Yeah. So now you get to give an actual scarcity to it and. Yeah, yeah, this is where we wind up.


Amy Westervelt: That’s right. And I think it’s important to to note that, like, it’s very tempting to want to put these into sort of handy existing left and right boxes. And yeah, what we’re seeing and this again came up in the context of the Buffalo shooting as well, is that there are lots of people who. Identify self-identify as being socialist or communist or anarchist or left.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: Or free thinkers.


Amy Westervelt: Freethinkers who also are very attracted to these ideas of fascism and white supremacy. There’s there’s like this real kind of nexus of folks who just kind of generally consider themselves anti-establishment and are not necessarily like pro-Trump or anti-Trump or, you know, it’s like they’re sort of bound by this idea of themselves as being anti-establishment, like radical free thinkers. And the things that they have in common are not necessarily a political party, but the idea that fascism is a solution.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: Yeah.


Amy Westervelt: And a lot of problems. It’s very it’s scary because, like, I don’t know, I think these categories and labels that have been kind of handy shorthand for a long time don’t necessarily apply to all of these situations.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: I read an article this weekend about how did Gen X becomes the Trumpy-est generation.


Amy Westervelt: Yes. Yes.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: No shade to present company. I know you’re a baby, Gen X.


Amy Westervelt: I am. I am. It’s true. Yeah.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: You know, I think it’s something to think about and to talk about that Gen X according to polls, which you know how I feel about polls, take them or leave them. But the polls indicate that the Gen X cares the least about the environment out of all of the generations less than the boomers, less than even the silent generation, way less than the Millennials and Gen Z. And I don’t know. What do you have to say for yourself?


Amy Westervelt: I know I was doing it. I was scouring that article for a line that said it was mostly the older Gen Xers that feel that way. Not not as like Xenials, but yeah. I mean, I think, you know, again, it’s this like this idea of, oh, I’m not conservative or liberal, I’m anti-establishment, I’m an individual thinker. I just I think that like actually there’s so much of that that lends itself to kind of weirdly to kind of like flashy cultist ideology. You know.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: Yeah


Amy Westervelt: Because it’s like, oh, no, I’m just thinking for myself. And I’m just I just think that this I’m willing to listen to any idea. And even if it like offends me on some level, I’ll still listen to it. And that makes me, you know, smart and and free thinking. And I think that was definitely a thing in Gen X, the idea of like, I’m not voting for the party, I’m voting for the individual. And I think has has made it possible for a lot of Gen X people who probably thought think of themselves as anti-establishment to be very into Trump because he has branded himself as that. Right? I mean.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: Yeah. I kind of feel like in order to really care about the climate, you have to let yourself get vulnerable. You have to let yourself get emotional. And there is, you know, in in Gen X, like what they’re known for is apathy and, you know, not being emotional at all, which is actually very dangerous because every human being is emotional. Right. And if you don’t allow yourself to be in touch with your emotions, that means that like you just that doesn’t mean you’re not emotional. It means you just don’t have emotional intelligence. That’s right. And that means that, like, you can easily be manipulated by a demagog or a cult because you don’t know how to recognize your own emotions. Yeah, I’m saying all of this because clearly I want to get bad reviews.


Amy Westervelt: You want all those Gen Xers to be like, Fuck you, Mary!


Mary Annaïse Heglar: Right.


Amy Westervelt: Yeah.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: I know what happens when you talk about Gen Xers, right? Like they get very defensive and very sensitive and at the exact same time, like think their feelings are facts because they don’t know what feelings are.


Amy Westervelt: Yeah.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: So, whatever. Come at me, bro.


Amy Westervelt: I have to say. As a Gen X person, I definitely remember it being treated as like lame to have feelings for sure. Like as though that’s not a part of being a human, you know, and you know, of course, like there were lots of things behind that. And, you know, we’re not going to get into a whole long conversation about the context in which Gen X grew up. But yeah, all of the research right now is showing that my generation is less inclined to give a shit about the environment than than other generations. And honestly, I feel like that might be reflective of this like defensiveness that you mentioned, Mary, and like the being out of touch with feelings, too, because, you know, I think we we don’t like to feel implicated. You know.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: Mmmhmm


Amy Westervelt: And we also like to kind of align ourselves with with like the oppressed, too, like, hey, we didn’t have it easy, you know, we had to deal with xyz.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: You mean play the victim?


Amy Westervelt: Yes, exactly. Exactly. So I think it plays into that too.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: That’s not aligning with the oppressed. That is just like.


Amy Westervelt: Embracing victimhood.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: Yeah, yeah. Exactly. Like, oh, you had it bad. We had it worse.


Amy Westervelt: We had it bad. You know?


Mary Annaïse Heglar: Right.


Amy Westervelt: Yeah. Anyway, Gen X, get it together. I say this with love. As a fellow Gen Xer, we can do better. You know. Yeah.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: Our reviews are about to tank.


Amy Westervelt: It’s true. Speaking of shitty Gen X people, Scott Morrison voted out in Australia resoundingly *applause* by scomo goodbye.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: Ooh, I know that must’ve been hard for you, because he was really your your hero.


Amy Westervelt: My climate bae. My favorite Scott Morrison story is, is about the time when his country was being engulfed by fire and he decided to go to Hawaii to get away from the smoke.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: Yeah, I remember that. My favorite was when I don’t know that everybody who’s like not deep in climate world knows remembers how bad the Australia fires were. They were so bad. The whole fucking continent.


Amy Westervelt: Yes. I read the stat about the smoke during that fire that the smoke plume was so large that it was the size of the entire continent of Europe.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: Yeah, yeah. I remember. I also remember, like people who were expecting babies were going to their doctors and being like, so should I get induced? Or like, what should I do? Because I don’t know if my baby is safer in my womb breathing the smoke through my lungs or if they would be safer out of my womb, not breathing.


Amy Westervelt: But God, that’s heartbreaking.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: Planes couldn’t land because of the fires. Like it was really, really dangerous. And he’s out here telling children, you know, I just feel bad for the kids because they don’t realize that it’s always been this way.


Amy Westervelt: Yes, that’s right. He did do that.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: And people are like are you fucking kidding? Like he tried to normalize it. And I think what a lot of folks don’t quite realize is that Australia is where Rupert Murdoch is from and the misinformation in Australia is extreme.


Amy Westervelt: Yep. It is very, very extreme. Yeah. Yeah. We actually have a reporter there for the other climate show I do, Drilled, and she has been doing a bunch of stuff on the ground there. And she was she she was talking to me recently about how she’s like, you know, on top of the fact that because of Rupert Murdoch, our libel laws are really like stacked in favor of like corporations and rich people who don’t like journalists saying mean things about them, you know. Or being critical of them at all. So, yeah, there’s the fear of a lawsuit. But she said also, if you do a story that somehow implicates Murdoch or his many holdings or just goes against his political ideology, that like there’s a very real chance that you will be massively smeared in all of his media outlets. And so, like, you know, people have to really weigh the potential consequences. Climate reporting and it’s had a major chilling effect on climate reporting there. However, this election hands down was a climate election like not just in terms of the prime minister, but there were members of both parties who have either been anti climate action or just very slow on it that got booted for climate candidates. So there was a like resounding mandate from the public for the government to actually take this seriously and do something which is a big deal because this was the first election since the bushfires in 2019-2020. So, you know, despite all of the efforts to normalize it and to lock down press coverage and convince people that, you know, burning more coal and expanding into gas and all of these things are the way to go. The Australian people are not having it. So we’ll see, we’ll see what happens.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: They’re pretty much a petrol state, aren’t they?


Amy Westervelt: Oh yeah, they’re massive. Actually, just before the US knocked them out of first place recently they were the world’s largest exporter of gas. They’re also one of the top producers of coal. So yeah, very much captured by the fossil fuel interests and and actually probably have a worse media ecosystem than we do, which is really saying something on climate.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: That’s terrifying.


Amy Westervelt: Yeah.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: So everything kind of sucks and feels pretty precarious at the moment. So this week’s episode is all about something we’ve both been distracting ourselves with lately.


Amy Westervelt: That’s right. It’s called Bad Vegan on Netflix.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: Is there really such a thing as a good vegan?


Amy Westervelt: Not in media there isn’t.


Amy Westervelt: Side note. I do want to note that there is way more climate and environment related content in the documentary universe in general. I think lately we talked about the documentary Youth v. Gov recently. There’s the PBS series Power of Big Oil. There’s this Bad Vegan series on Netflix.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: And you’re in a doc series coming out soon called Black Gold, all about Exxon’s move to hide and spin climate science even after their own researches did a bunch of it.


Amy Westervelt: That’s right. It’s actually out now on Paramount Plus. And I don’t know if I should be proud or embarrassed of this, but I am the only one cursing throughout the whole thing like.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: Well, I’m proud of you. I love that there are so many of these things and especially love this Bad Vegan series because it feels like this sort of guilty pleasure, true crime, kind of binge. But it also gives us a good reason to talk about veganism and how it’s portrayed in the media, especially since veganism is often touted as a climate solution. And it is one of the biggest things you can do as an individual is to go vegan or to eat more plant based meals. And it is a good thing to do and it can be quite delicious. Some of our new listeners might not know this yet, but I am vegan and I have been for about 12 years and I never really see anything in the media that matches my views on veganism.


Amy Westervelt: Which is too bad because as a non-vegan I love all of your takes on this stuff. I find it really interesting. Yeah.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: Yeah, I’m a vegan who loved dumping on vegans.


Amy Westervelt: Yes. It’s fun.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: And I still think a vegan cooking competition or even just like a vegan show or vegan cooking show would be great, even for non vegans.


Amy Westervelt: I would totally watch it because I think sometimes the thing that makes me go to other types of things more easily in the kitchen is just is just because like I don’t necessarily know how to cook vegan. Getting some tips would be great. Today we’re joined by a cool formerly vegan, now vegetarian lady Alicia Kennedy.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: Yeah, I’m so excited to talk to her. Even our producer Rae rave about her newsletter and I know it’s got vegan recipes too, but also she wrote this great piece about Bad Vegan, so not to give too much away, but the series follows this woman who co-founded a really popular, successful, raw vegan restaurant in New York. The show follows the whole series of terrible decisions this woman made. A little bit gullible, and the effects those decisions had on her employees. Which she’s actually not that bad of a vegan, but she’s not a great business owner. Alicia wrote about how actually the restaurant at the center of it all, pure food and wine, had this major impact on food culture in ways most people probably don’t know about. And I know I didn’t.


Amy Westervelt: Yeah, totally. I feel like she’s the perfect person to join this conversation about our our guilty pleasure, binge watching her. Yes.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: And I promise, this is not a vegan shaming conversation like vegans and non vegans alike should feel pretty comfortable listening to this conversation.


Amy Westervelt: Right.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: Without any further ado, let’s get to it. It’s time to talk about climate right after the break.




Amy Westervelt: Alicia Kennedy, welcome to Hot Take.


Alicia Kennedy Thank you so much for having me.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: Yeah, we’re excited to talk to you. So first, I’m curious, did you ever eat at Pure Food and Wine when it was around?


Alicia Kennedy I did. And I actually also staged in the kitchen for one shift while the controversy was happening. Like Sarma had disappeared and the people who work there were trying to keep it open. And I applied for a job to run the production at One Lucky Duck, which was the like, yeah, the juice bar. And I was going to, I wanted to work in the production kitchen in the Pfizer building because I really wanted to quit my magazine job. And so I staged in the pastry kitchen for one day there, which, which was interesting. And then they closed indefinitely, a month later.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: Oh really? That does sound interesting. You got any inside dirt that uh…


Alicia Kennedy Oh, no, I wish I did. Like, that’s the extent of my funny Pure Food and Wine story. But I did eat there. I did eat the lasagna. I had a dessert there that I loved. The desserts were divine, honestly. And but other than that, that was my experience. Yeah, but it is interesting because I did just write a chapter in my forthcoming book about raw veganism and wellness and that whole diet culture thing in veganism. And so I did had to have to just dive into all the cookbooks. Yeah, but right before that interest came out, it was good timing for me.


Amy Westervelt: I’m going to I’m assuming we’ve all watched the Netflix series now. Yes.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: Oh, you know, I have.


Amy Westervelt: Yes, I know you have. Alicia, have you seen the whole thing?


Alicia Kennedy Netflix commissioned me to write about it, so I did an oral history of the restaurant for them.


Amy Westervelt: I saw that it was great and very like very enlightening. Okay. So I’m curious for your kind of general take on it. Were there any big opinions you had or takeaways things that jumped out at you about that series?


Alicia Kennedy I wish that it had focused on the food more. I felt like it really, really overlooked the entirety of the, you know, the kind of revolutionary aspect of the food there, and that it was open for so long and that it might still be open had this whole strange saga not occurred. Because, you know, the fact is, is that it opened with Matthew Kenny, as you know, Sarma’s chef partner and life partner at the time. And he was, you know, a real kind of underkin of New York City dining in the nineties and then they went raw together. And so it was kind of really combining that raw vegan moment with real culinary chops. And I think that they really overlooked that in the in the documentary. I suppose it’s not that interesting to other people. I am a food writer who focuses on vegan cuisine. So to me that is the most interesting aspect. But I think that it it misses a lot in not having shown people that because that to me makes kind of more of a joke of Sarma’s escapades with the guy. And that, I think, is kind of a loss, but I understand its dramatic purposes.


Amy Westervelt: Mm hmm. Mm hmm.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: So, yeah, let’s talk a little more about the series. I feel like a lot of people were really into the idea that this show, Sarma, the main character and the co-founder, to be this like hypocrite, whether because she was with this crazy boyfriend of hers and they got caught by the cops because they ordered a cheese pizza from Dominoes. You know, like that seems to be one of the big sticking points for people, like kind of what made the story go so viral. Alicia, what are your thoughts on purity with respect to veganism?


Alicia Kennedy I think that it’s overrated. I mean, I’m a vegetarian now, so I can’t speak to vegan purity. You know, there’s a really great piece in a book called Messy Eating, which is it’s like interviews with academics who work in animal studies. I don’t know if you’ve read it, but there’s a really great piece in there called like The Tyranny of Consistency. So I think that that is something that sort of plagues people’s ideas about what it would mean to start going in a more plant based direction with their eating because they think that it’s going to be this complete overhaul of their life. They’re never going to eat anything again. That has a lot of nostalgic meaning for them. They’re, you know, they’re they’re going to upset their mother and their grandmother. And, you know, it’s just going to be this huge mess for them emotionally. And it is for me when I did go vegan for the first time, it was a strain. And I did have a lot of arguments in my life, you know, and people were hurt by it. And so that’s a very real thing. And I think that when when people are so obsessed with the purity of of how they eat, that it does a real disservice. And it keeps people from making choices that they might like to make because they feel that this kind of ideology and this label takes more importance than just making different choices most of the time, you know, defaulting to a vegan diet rather than making it the focal point of your existence.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: Yeah. Yeah, I’ll say. So I’m vegan, but I cheat for sweets.


Alicia Kennedy Ooh.


Amy Westervelt: Yes.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: I had cake this weekend that was decidedly not vegan, but that was a 1000 percent delicious. I regret nothing. I feel like I get a lot of people who, once they hear you’re vegan, they don’t know the difference between a diet and a religion. A lot of time, you know. So like I have cousins who are like hold up meat in front of me and be like, You can’t have this. And I’m like, I could. I don’t want it.


Alicia Kennedy Yes.


Amy Westervelt: Yeah.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: You know, because like so much of what the way that people talk about veganism is all about deprivation. And it’s like there’s such such a focus on what a vegan can’t, quote, can’t eat and not on, you know, all the amazing, delicious food that are naturally vegan.


Alicia Kennedy Yeah.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: What I appreciated about Sarma and what she was trying to do with pure food, which, you know, that restaurant opened in 2004. And I’m sure you remember what the discussion around vegan food then was very, very different. And the types of food that have been developed and normalized as vegan was was pretty paltry. You know, we’ve come a long way since then. So in a lot of ways, she really was like a trailblazer. And it it’s also like you don’t have to go all the way vegan at at once and just like underscore why we’re talking about this on Hot Take is because veganism and having a more a more plant based diet can do a lot to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. If the whole world went vegan tonight, that would not solve the climate crisis, though. So it’s, it’s one thing that you can do. And if you are able do it, try it. You might like it.


Amy Westervelt: Yeah. This reminds me, actually, Alicia, of your piece on lionfish, which I loved. And just like, I don’t know, the idea of of why people choose certain diets and that if you are concerned about the environmental impact of your diet, that like sometimes the rules of any one day diet like don’t work across the board, which I think gets at this like tyranny of consistency thing too. I’m, I don’t know. I think I’d like to have you kind of talk about that a little bit like, you know, what is lionfish and why were you thinking about eating it.


Alicia Kennedy Right? So lionfish is an invasive species found in warm waters. So I’m based in San Juan, Puerto Rico. It’s also found around Florida. And so a restaurant I love called Piopio here in town was doing a lionfish ceviche because they cook with basically all local ingredients. It’s really, really, really vegetarian and vegan friendly because they’re so focused on using local produce. And they also use, you know, some local meat, usually rabbit and local sustainable fish. And so they were serving lionfish because it’s it’s an invasive species. It eats things it’s not supposed to. It screws up the coral. The only way to really control the population is to eat it. I guess you could kill it and not eat it, but, you know.


Amy Westervelt: It just seems wasteful. Yeah. Yeah.


Alicia Kennedy So I was there at the restaurant and our friends were coming and I was like, I’m, you know, I’m going to eat the ceviche because, you know, it’s invasive and I understand its purpose on a menu. And, you know, I eat oysters because they’re also really great environmentally, clean up water, are just really important. And so I thought I could do the lionfish in the same way. And then I couldn’t do it because at some point, well, I think forever, you know, I haven’t eaten meat in 11 years. And that includes fish that have nervous systems. And so I, I thought I could do it because I thought that I would put ecology above my kind of ethical stance. Or I suppose at this point it’s more of like a spiritual stance against eating, eating things that have eyeballs and sentient existences. But I couldn’t do it because I just for me, it just is something I don’t do. And  it’s not against like my religion or anything. It’s just, you know, not not something I can consciously do and feel good about. And I think that when I wanted when I wrote that piece, I wanted, you know, I wanted omnivores mostly to understand that when people don’t eat meat, sometimes it’s it’s really goes deep into how they they feel and interact with the world and isn’t necessarily about like being a better person, quote unquote. It’s just it’s just a motivation from their own conscience or or soul or whatever it might be. And because people like to say, you know, veganism isn’t the best thing for the planet, blah, blah, blah, like, and, you know, I there are, you know, things that I eat locally because I think that’s a good idea. I eat local oysters, I eat local cheeses, I eat local eggs. I, you know, support those economies. But there there’s this idea that, like, vegans think they’re saving the planet and think they’re better than everybody else. And I mean, some do, but that’s not the whole story. You know, like there it goes into this deeper strain of thought and this deeper strain of feeling as well. And, you know, you’re not supposed to really talk about your feelings, like.


Amy Westervelt: Shove them down. Yeah.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: I gotta say that. That tells me your commitment is a lot stronger than yours because I cheat for sweets. I also sometimes will cheat for spite. There’s not much I won’t do for spite. But over Thanksgiving I ate some of the Thanksgiving turkey so that my mother was mad at my brother and my brother was mad at my mother.


Alicia Kennedy I love that. I love it.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: It made me a little sick. But you know what? Worth it.


Amy Westervelt: Worth it.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: Worth it.


Amy Westervelt: Okay. So you kind of touched on this a moment ago, but I. I want to talk a little bit more about the way that the particular type of veganism that Sarma seemed to to embrace was kind of this very upper class, white wellness slash, diet focused kind of approach. Or maybe it’s just how it was portrayed in the series. I’m curious because I think you had a little more direct experience with that restaurant than for sure,  I did. So, so, yeah, I guess I’m curious what you think about that in general. And then also this happens in climate too, like how do we keep climate stuff or veganism or any of these kinds of things from being co-opted by either kind of the purists, who make it like too hard for anybody to want to do it and seem like really unfun, or the people that are like, let’s make it an expensive thing, let’s make money off of it, you know?


Alicia Kennedy Well, yeah, raw veganism is such an inefficient way of eating that like it’s, you know, it’s not sustainable. If you’re in New York, you know, why are you eating mangoes in the winter? Why are you eating avocados in the winter? Why are you relying on dates? It’s a really, really, really inefficient diet. It requires so much food. Like if you if you see people on like Instagram reels who still are eating a raw vegan diet, like they’re they’ll be like, look at what I eat in a day. And it’s like 50 apples or bananas or something. And it’s just like, dude, if you just ate like a piece of toast, you wouldn’t need all those apples. Yeah. So, yeah, it’s an expensive way of eating because it requires, like, so much volume. It’s a time expensive way of eating because you’re, like, dehydrating, different things if you want a cracker. And like now there are people who are like, Oh, if you just blend a smoothie on high in your Vitamix, it’ll get a little bit warm. So it’s like having soup in the winter. It’s just like a very intense way of existing. And, you know, but on the other side of the coin, too, that right now there’s a big carnivore movement which which is very similar there now. Yes, there is.


Amy Westervelt: What’s that about? Tell us more. I’m curious.


Alicia Kennedy So people are just eating full on steaks, livers, like or like, you know, it’s good to eat organ meat. If you’re going to eat meat, of course.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: They’re cooking this first, right?


Alicia Kennedy Most of the time they’re cooking it. Some people are eating it raw. There is raw liver and there is a lot of raw meat. There’s a lot of eggs, like of every kind of animal. So it’s one of those diets that’s like super excessive in like the other way from raw veganism, which I think both ways are very questionable. I think, raw veganism has it’s place, I mean when it’s summertime and and you it makes you feel good go for it. You know but I don’t know if you’ve heard of Ann Wigmore but she was a big proponent of this and she she developed something called Rejuvelac and she made all these enzyme soups. And there’s actually still a school here in Puerto Rico with her name. But she really pioneered raw veganism and wheatgrass juices and that kind of thing as like a wellness thing. But she was also tried for quackery multiple times. And so it comes from a very strange place, I suppose. It’s something that has you know, it can appeal to anybody. I think that when we, whenever we talk about veganism and race or we get we start to erase people when we that we otherwise wouldn’t want to erase in this history, even if it’s if it’s a bad history.


Amy Westervelt: Right.


Alicia Kennedy Yeah. So it’s just a very expensive, very, very consumerist way of existing to do raw veganism. And so when it was having its moment, it was having its moment mainly in California, as you can understand. Like there was this guy Juliano in the late nineties who actually got rave reviews from Michael Barrett at the San Francisco Chronicle. Roxanne Klein did a cookbook with Charlie Trotter that I actually love. I think it’s a really great technique cookbook called Raw. And it was, you know, when when Pure Food Wine opened in 2004, it was really coming into that moment when raw veganism was a little bit being seen as a chic kind of style of dining, and no one thought it would last as long as it did. I don’t think, Pure Food and Wine, for 11 years. But they proved the longevity. And my friend Charlotte Druckman, who I talked to for that oral history, her argument was, you know, it was a nice place that even if you weren’t vegan, you wanted to go there like it had a really good biodynamic wine list before that was a thing. It had good cocktails. They had a beautiful patio in Gramercy. It just felt nice. And the desserts were like, people really will still talk about the desserts. So like, you know, it had a real appeal in a way that these other raw vegan places maybe did not, because it was one, such an anomaly in New York City, where most vegan restaurants other than like Candle 79, maybe on the Upper East Side, were not fancy places. They were you know, it was Kate’s joint in the East Village. It was Teeny on the Lower East Side. It was you know, it was it was Food Swings in Williamsburg. It was, you know, it was not a chic thing. And so it made it kind of chic and it made it expensive, of course, but it really just changed the understanding of what vegan dining could be. I know Amanda Cohen, who’s the chef at Dirt Candy, she told me, you know her, she doesn’t know if she would have been able to be so successful in Dirt Candy, which she opened in 2008. You know, had she not worked at both, worked at Pure Food and Wine, and if Pure Food and Wine hadn’t set up the culture in a way that it was ready for, you know, vegetable dining.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: Mm hmm. Mm hmm. You know, I was going to tell a vegan joke, but it. It was too cheesy.


Amy Westervelt: *Cackling*


Mary Annaïse Heglar: But so Bad Vegan I feel is emblematic of something I see a lot when it comes to how pop culture or the media portrays vegans, which is like, you have to look a certain way, you have to make a certain amount of money. It’s a lifestyle choice and all of that. And it’s also portrayed as very white, and that hasn’t been my experience with it at all. There’s a very old black vegan tradition. And based on your newsletter, Alicia, I don’t think it’s been your experience either. So where do you think this particular idea of veganism comes from, and how would you like to see media portrayals of veganism shift?


Alicia Kennedy Yeah, it definitely comes from a desire to make veganism unappealing. I think if you want to keep people from seeing veganism as something to take seriously, then make it a joke. Make it for skinny, rich white ladies and something they do that doesn’t really have any impact and is just frivolous and a diet and doesn’t mean anything. And so when you go back and look at the history, you know, the 1960s black veganism was on the rise and black vegetarianism as well. And there’s so much documented evidence of this before, you know, 1971, which is when kind of meatless diets go mainstream to middle America, middle white America through Diet for a Small Planet by Frances Moore Lappe. So that that narrative got really solidified. And then you also see the erasure of Asian influences. You know, like the first person who was making vegan cheeses in the West was a Chinese anarchist in France at the turn of the 20th century. And like the people who brought tofu to the U.S., you know, people talk about it as William Shurtleff and Akiko Aoyagi, who were married in Japan and wrote the Book of Tofu in the seventies. But there’s like all this history of people bringing tofu to the states, you know, in the early 1900s. So there’s there’s this real whitewashing of like what’s known as alternative eating, because the narrative of, like, hippie food starts with the whiteness of like the sixties and early seventies hippie movement. And I think that that just, you know, it does a real disservice to how we talk about it. It does a disservice to people’s understandings. I mean, you know, there’s  Margaret Robinson is a great if you’re an indigenous academic in Canada who has written about this and how, you know, this whitewashing of veganism allows for people’s food traditions to also be taken from them. You know, and I think in Decolonize Your Diet by Louis Calvo, that’s also present where they’re they’re Mexican American. And so this kind of like thing where people are like, well, veganism is a white thing and like eating healthy is a white thing. Then it becomes like, okay, well, is processed American cheese and white bread and hamburgers are those indigenous foods to the Americas? And it’s like, no, of course not. It’s, it’s beans, it’s squash, it’s corn. And so that narrative, you know, it takes people’s traditions from them. And it also keeps the people from understanding veganism or vegetarianism as something open to everybody, you know. And so that that’s that’s really problematic. But I do see that narrative shifting a little bit. You know, I wrote how when I was writing for The Village Voice and writing about vegan restaurants in New York, I saw Chinese Buddhist vegan meats in the freezer at Vegan’s Delight at the end of the five train in a Jamaican store, you know, a Jamaican bodega that served ital food. And so, like, for me, that’s the tradition of veganism, especially in a city like New York, where everyone gets to mix their traditions. And so like the idea of veganism as like Pure Food and Wine and Sarma like that is part of vegan history, of course, and it’s an important part of that, but it is not the the entirety and it’s not even necessarily that significant a part. It’s not a it’s not a part that’s touched more people than, you know, lentil patties and rasta pasta, so.


Amy Westervelt: It’s so funny because I feel like what you’re describing about the way that vegans are often portrayed and also the reasons for it, it just reminds me so much of how environmentalists and climate activists are portrayed and why do it’s like the I think the motivation is the same to sort of discredit and minimize. And I feel like a big part of that is the way that we see vegans show up and climate people show up in TV and film. I still think it’s pretty common to see the, you know, hippie dippy woo woo crystal and or like the sort of shrill, colorless organizer. You know?


Mary Annaïse Heglar: Like Lisa Simpson, I think is vegan now.


Amy Westervelt: Yeah, exactly. So it’s like I don’t know. I feel like part of it is that we need to see people who care about things like what they’re eating, not just from a diet perspective, but from an environmental perspective and a justice perspective and a labor perspective and all of those things. And people who care about the environment, not because they love polar bears, not there’s anything wrong with that, but like because they’re concerned about justice issues. I just I feel like we need to see people on TV and film and in media in general as kind of whole, people who are just normal, everyday people who also happen to be vegan or like happen to be working on climate or happen to talk about climate sometimes. And I’m curious if you guys have seen any examples of kind of good examples of representation in that in that way? I don’t know just what you think of that in general and why we’re not seeing these things be more normalized. Given that like out in the world, I feel like it’s way less unusual. You know.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: I mean, I, I have thoughts. I keep clamoring for a vegan cooking show, you know, like everybody loves the good cooking show, like the great British baking show, like they have a vegan week or something like that. And so I think we need more of that in veganism to show people and demystify that. Like it’s actually not that hard to cook vegan food. Like I think some people think there has to be just so overly complicated or whatever.


Alicia Kennedy: Totally.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: So like in some ways I feel like Sarma, with Pure Food and Wine, did a lot of good to normalize vegan food and show that it can be served in a restaurant and it can be like upscale or whatever. But also like a lot of people looked at at food, like Pure Food and Wine’s menu. And we’re just like this is beyond me and I can’t do this. This is too hard.


Amy Westervelt: That’s how I’ve always thought of vegan food. Like, I’m not I’m not a vegan or even a vegetarian. Don’t stone me.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: But you eat vegan meals all the time.


Amy Westervelt: But I eat vegan mealls all the time. And I and honestly, like a lot of times that’s what I will order at restaurants, partly because I’m like intimidated by cooking things that are plant based, which is why I actually, like, shout out to Alicia’s newsletter. The recipes in there are great and like, easy to follow and very good at breaking down that barrier. I think for for those of us who are afraid.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: Well, I think that one of the big problems with veganism in the way is portrayed in the media. I guess the spiracy the documentaries is that kind of emblematic of this where vegans are like super and I’m talking about Cowspiracy, Seaspiracy where it’s like they start with one totally well seemingly unrelated environmental issue and they follow this chain and then it’s like, well, if everybody just went vegan, we will solve this whole problem. And it’s like, here’s the thing I was saying earlier, everybody going vegan is not going to solve the climate crisis. It is not going to get all the plastic out of the ocean. If you are able to go vegan, it will reduce your impact on the planet. And that is a good thing to do. If you can do it. Eating more vegan meals, it definitely counts and it is a good thing to do in general. But you’re not a horrible person if you don’t do it. And like the way that these documentaries are set up, it’s like there’s this big, you know, conspiracy against veganism. And while, yes, I do think there’s some propaganda against it, I don’t understand how you see the plastic patch in the ocean and don’t wind up at the fossil fuel industry. Instead, you wind up right back to individual solutions, which again, if you can do it good. But the other thing is that not everyone can.


Amy Westervelt: Right.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: And that’s where a lot of the vegan discourse gets really obnoxious. Like some people have allergies to nuts and it’s not super safe for them to rely on beans to get all of their protein.


Amy Westervelt: Yeah.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: So…You know, just I feel like I went a lot of different directions with that.


Amy Westervelt: But that happens with the climate stuff too. Like I see people being like, you know, you should never fly. And I’m like, well, I’m, you know, definitely reducing the amount I fly for sure. But like, I’m married to someone who’s not from this country. I have like family that depends on me that lives far away. I’m not independently wealthy and like entirely in control of my own work schedule. So like sometimes I, you know, I have to travel for work and like, I don’t know, I just feel like there is a little bit of a lack of understanding of the fact that, like, not everyone has the absolute optimum number of choices available to them in their life. Alicia, have you seen any like particularly good or bad examples of this? Like either characters in sitcoms or like, I don’t know, films or TV shows that that look at this.


Alicia Kennedy: You know, I wish I had seen a good vegan on TV.


Amy Westervelt: I’ve never seen it. I’ve never seen it. It’s terrible.


Alicia Kennedy: I’ve never seen it. but I mean, you know, vegans do themselves a big I mean, they’re going to get mad out of me again. They always get mad at me. It’s like as a vegetarian, I am their biggest enemy, you know, as an ex vegan. Vegetarian.You know, but I think that these kinds of these documentaries do a disservice because you’re pushing the wrong narrative. It’s proven that the animal welfare aspect of this isn’t motivating to a majority of people. So you have to take a different tack if you are trying to convince people to eat differently. But I think that human labor is not as significant a part of the discussion of why to stop eating industrial needs specifically for for a lot of people that those labor conditions I think if we start to talk about them more will really move the needle on a lot of people who have this urge to cut back on meat but don’t really know how to do it. I think being open to giving people the opportunity to see where they can support smaller ranchers or butchers near them. You know, I don’t I’m not happy about it. I couldn’t even eat the lionfish. But like, you know, like living in some sort of reality is, is why we don’t see portrayals of good vegans and positive vegans on TV and in movies because there’s, there’s not this connection to reality. And that for me, that is why like my in my newsletter, I do all vegan recipes every week and like and my approach to recipes is very much like you can have like an extremely simple but very elegant thing on your table and it’ll be plant based and no one will really think about why, because I think that that, like Mary said, like the cooking show aspect is missing. The thing that normalizes and makes it easy and makes it pretty is what’s missing. You know, again, it’s that I’m giving up everything I’ve ever known and making my life really difficult kind of thing instead of something that’s inviting, like, you know, these these documentaries aren’t an invitation.


Amy Westervelt: No. I mean, and again like, reminds me so much of the the climate discourse, which is mostly framed as like loss and scarcity and things are going to give up and not as like world building and like, opportunities to improve things. You know. Yes.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: Mm hmm. Mm hmm. But in some ways, I actually did appreciate that Sarma was an imperfect vegan and that they showed that and talked about that in the series. You know, I don’t think she actually ever broke her vegan vows, but just to show her as an imperfect person, I think was like kind of humanizing vegans in a way. So in a way, Sarma is probably the best vegan I’ve seen.


Amy Westervelt: That’s hilarious. Good vegan, in fact.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: She’s not a bad vegan. She’s a bad business owner.


Amy Westervelt: Maybe a bad person who, like, doesn’t give a shit about her employees, but that doesn’t make her unique in American business.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: So she’s more like a gullible vegan.


Amy Westervelt: Yeah, yeah, yeah.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: She’s not even a bad person. She’s just gullible as hell.


Amy Westervelt: Yeah. Yeah.


Alicia Kennedy: Yeah.


Amy Westervelt: All right, Alisha, before we let you go, I have to, as a gift to Mary, I’m going to tell you a dad joke. Are you ready?


Alicia Kennedy: Sure.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: Hey, you’re not supposed to warn them, Amy.


Amy Westervelt: I can’t help it. I can’t help it. All right. What does a vegan zombie eat?


Alicia Kennedy: I’ve heard this before, but I don’t. I don’t have a response to this.


Amy Westervelt: Okay. Okay. Are you ready? Grains.


Ah, yes. Yes.


Amy Westervelt: All right, Mary, I just gave myself dork chills. That’s really something.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: Oh my gosh. You just gave yourself a wedgie.


Amy Westervelt: Awesome. Thank you so much, Alicia, for coming on and talking to us. We’ll definitely stay tuned.


Alicia Kennedy: Thank you so much.


Amy Westervelt: Your news later in the show notes. Do you want to tell people the name of your book that’s coming out and when it’s coming and where they can find it?


Alicia Kennedy: It’s a cultural and culinary history of vegetarian and vegan cuisine in the U.S. since 1971.


Amy Westervelt: Awesome. Oh, that’s amazing. So all of these missing pieces of history will be found in your book.


Alicia Kennedy: I did try to put them together. Yes.


Amy Westervelt: That’s awesome. That’s awesome. Great. Thanks again and have a good night.


Alicia Kennedy: Thank you.




Amy Westervelt: Okay. So we talked about these carnivore people, meat men a little bit with Alicia. And our producer Ray was furiously typing notes to us, during the conversation to try to school us on this trend. So we thought we’d have him just come on and tell us a little bit more about it. Ray, welcome to the show.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: Ray.


Ray Peng: Thanks so much for having me. It’s it’s weird to be on this side of the


Amy Westervelt: Of the mic.


Ray Peng: Yeah.


Amy Westervelt: All right. Tell us about this. Who are these people and what are they doing?


Ray Peng: Yeah, when it came up, I just I realized that I had gone down this social media, like rabbit hole, for a couple of months where I just saw these videos popping up of these really buff, mostly white guys who are advocating a carnivore diet. And they kind of like make all of these connections between their diet and their physique and like, you know, their virility. And so there are a couple of guys who there are a couple of main men, I would say culprits. There’s a guy named Brian Johnson who goes by the name Liver King and and his videos are mainly like him doing incredible kind of like workout feats. And he, like, puts his whole family through them. And it’s it’s like they he eats like 13 burgers at lunch and he eats a raw liver every day. And it’s kind of like. It’s almost like performance theater. And there were yeah, there was an article a few weeks ago about his rise and how he was living this lifestyle and then, like some marketing firm, helped him put together a social media profile that has now has like millions of followers. And so he’s I would say, like, he is one of the main people. And then there is this guy who goes by the name Carnivore, M.D.. And his name is Paul Saladino, and he’s a psychiatrist who’s been on the Joe Rogan Show. And so.


Amy Westervelt: Oh.


Ray Peng: He goes a step further in saying that, like there’s actually nothing good that you get from vegetables.


Amy Westervelt: Wow.


Ray Peng: That vegetables are poison.


Amy Westervelt: Fuck vegetables.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: Do you know how much your brain suffers when you don’t have vegetables?


Amy Westervelt: This is like a self-perpetuating problem here for him.


Ray Peng: Yeah.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: I gotta ask, how many of these meat men were at the Capitol on January 6th? Just ballpark it.


Ray Peng: Yeah, I wish I had numbers for that.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: I’m going to go with all of them. I’m going to go with all of them, until I can be proven wrong.


Ray Peng: It’s like this weird intersection of, like, meat. Like like this rejection of vegetables as being a rejection of people telling you what to do or how to live your life.


Amy Westervelt: Do you know what this reminds me of? And I can’t believe I just did it. But I did this story like ages ago about how there been this this cultural effort in Japan to try to get men to embrace the role of fatherhood more. And one of the things that has resulted from this kind of cultural propaganda campaign that the government’s been running for ages is the emergence of so-called vegetable eating men, which are like men who are okay with being stay at home dads. And I remember I like I interviewed this woman who was a professor there who was like, yeah, yeah. Like I asked my students if they prefer meat eating men or vegetable eating men. And like half of my female students now say that they prefer vegetable eating men. And I was like, This whole thing is so weird to me like…


Mary Annaïse Heglar: That is a false dichotomy.


Amy Westervelt: It was being framed in this very, like, gendered way around meats and vegetables that I had not I hadn’t really heard of. And I hadn’t really thought of it again until until right now in this conversation.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: Honestly, what it reminds me of is that that phenomenon of like white supremacists guzzling milk on camera, because it’s like, you know, people of color are more likely to be lactose intolerant. And that was how they.


Amy Westervelt: Oh, I just thought it was because it was white. Hilarious.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: Well, I’m just glad you’re not one of them. You know, I wouldn’t want you to faint somewhere because you’ve got scurvy or some shit.


Amy Westervelt: That was that. That would be hilarious if scurvy came back.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: Because of the meat men?


Amy Westervelt: Why not?


Ray Peng: I guess in our water world future, maybe.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: Yep. Everybody’s a pirate.


Amy Westervelt: Wow. Wow. All right. Well, thanks for that. Thank you for that little explainer, Ray


Ray Peng: Yeah, thanks for having me on the show.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: Yeah.


Amy Westervelt: Now it’s time for a little segment we like to call The Billionaire  Burn. The Billionaire Burn.  So who’s today’s lucky bachelor?


Mary Annaïse Heglar: Well, you know, Jeff Bezos has been a little bit unhinged lately, so let’s. Yeah,.


Amy Westervelt: Let’s burn Bezos.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: That’s going to be the one.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: Yeah, yeah.


Amy Westervelt: Yeah. He deserves it, I think. Let’s see. What should we talk about first? Maybe the fact that he’s been trying to crush unions here for a really long time.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: Well, he kind of got crushed by unions.


Amy Westervelt: He did. He finally lost that. But but he’s been firing employees for being pro-union, which is illegal, by the way, in the wake of of losing their first battle against unionization, Amazon has been really going on the offensive to try to stop any other factories or warehouses from unionizing. I don’t know if you watch any kind of streaming content that delivers ads, Mary, but these ads are fucking everywhere where they’re like, I’m so glad I work at Amazon because when I had a baby, I got three months of paid maternity leave and stuff like that.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: I did not see that.


Amy Westervelt: Yeah, a lot of like it’s amazing to work at Amazon ads all over the place right now.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: Yeah.


Amy Westervelt: Yeah.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: But the thing is, the Amazon’s been at this for a minute because remember when they fired all of the people organizing for Amazon to get better on climate.


Amy Westervelt: That’s right.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: They did in 2019.


Amy Westervelt: That’s right. Yes, they did.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: They did. this was not in their warehouses. These were like the software developers who were like, this company is not who it says it is when it comes to the climate. And we we demand better. And yet they got straight fired.


Amy Westervelt: They did.Yeah, they got fired right after doing interviews with The Washington Post, actually. Which Jeff Bezos also owns, by the way. A weird little circle there. Yeah. So he’s been tweeting a bunch about policy stuff, which has some people wondering if maybe he is running.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: What is he saying about policy though?


Amy Westervelt: He’s mostly trying to claim that inflation is not being caused by corporations, not like like their fair weight in taxes, and also that it has nothing to do with wages. And you know there’s a lot to be debated there. But I think I think all of this has kind of been prompted by what’s happened to Amazon in the pandemic, which is this very weird thing where like on the one hand, their business is booming because so many people were ordering things online during the pandemic. But on the other hand, they have been hit by this labor shortage that everybody else has been hit with. Right. And, you know, it’s like people who are fed up with bad working conditions and shitty wages are saying no. And people like Jeff Bezos don’t really know how to handle that.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: Yeah. And it’s been coming to light that like folks have been having to like pee in bottles and yes, drivers are held to these crazy standards. You know, who I think has done a really good job of covering that? Is John Oliver.


Amy Westervelt: Yes. Yes, I agree. I agree. He also, like our boy Elon, claims to be this total climate hero and yet is investing heavily in personal space tourism, a climate disaster in the making.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: Oh my gosh, yes. Wasn’t there a day where he and Elon went to space at the same time? And we’re all kind of hoping like just stay out there.


Amy Westervelt: Yes. Both in these like weird penis rockets. I mean, the the like sword fight analogy was like, too on the nose. It was ridiculous.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: Mm hmm.


Amy Westervelt: Yeah. And, you know, you started this big climate fund a while ago, but everyone was, like, cool. Or you could just pay taxes.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: Yeah. Well, the thing is, like, at the time that he started that climate fund, Trump was in office. So paying taxes.


Amy Westervelt: That’s true.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: I don’t necessarily think that would have gone for climate solutions. And to be fair, he started that fund with $10 billion, which is one of the biggest I believe the biggest investment in philanthropy in climate for a long time. Forever, actually, in a way, his fund did a lot of good. But the thing is like $10 billion to Jeff Bezos. It’s like $10 to me.


Amy Westervelt: Yeah.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: And this is why. So I tweeted a while back that you can’t be a billionaire and a climate hero at the same time. And I said, I still have people showing up in my mentions being like, what about this billionaire? What about this about that billionaire? That does not mean to say that any billionaire in the world that no billionaire ever has ever done anything for climate. But if they actually wanted to be a climate hero, they would not be a billionaire any more. That’s right. There’s so many climate solutions out there that are underfunded there. There’s no way in the world you’re running around here with a billion motherfucking dollars.


Amy Westervelt: That’s right. Well, and also, I’ve written about this before, but I feel like it bears repeating that, like the problem with billionaires funding their own personal pet climate solutions is that they have a tendency to fund the things that will maintain the status quo power systems. So this is why you see, who do you see lining up to fund geo-technology and carbon capture? The billionaires. It’s it’s Bezos, it’s Musk, it’s Bill Gates. You know, it’s Chris Sacca. It’s all the tech bro billionaires who are like, what can we fund that? We get to pick the it gets to be like innovative in this way that they like. It’s a technology solution. It’s not social change or cultural change or any of these things that might actually question why we even have billionaires anymore.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: Yeah. And you can’t tell me that you care about Earth when you’re out here going to Mars.


Amy Westervelt: No, no, no, no.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: Right.


Amy Westervelt: And I mean, I think.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: Riches on the moon.


Amy Westervelt: That’s right. I think it’s also worth pointing to this stat that the top 1% is responsible for 21% of emissions growth. So if you are a billionaire who is flying in a private plane all over the place and generally have a massive, outsized carbon footprint, not just with your own personal lifestyle choices, which, you know, we’ve talked about how problematic that can be. But like, you know, in the ways that you’re incentivizing certain things with your business a la Amazon. You know?


Mary Annaïse Heglar: Yeah.


Amy Westervelt: Or space tourism. That has an enormous impact way beyond, you know, whatever money you’re putting into into philanthropy, so.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: Right. It’s like it’s bad enough you’ve got a private jet now. You’re you’ve got a private spaceship, like, sweetie, look at your choice.


Amy Westervelt: Yeah, Yeah, it’s true. It is true. I can’t imagine. But honestly, I’m like, man, if Jeff Bezos was a candidate, like, would he get the same, you know? But he’s so successful in business. Crowd as Trump. I don’t know.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: He’s not as charismatic.


Amy Westervelt: No. Well, it’s but it’s funny to me because I’m like Jeff Bezos actually has been successful in business. Trump’s like a massive failure on that front, but more charismatic.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: Trump is way more charismatic because this it’s not it’s not about the truth. It’s about the story.


Amy Westervelt: That’s right. That is right. Yes. That’s it for this time. Thanks for listening and we’ll see you next week.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: Hot Take is a Crooked Media production.


Amy Westervelt: It’s produced by Ray Peng and mixed and edited by Juels Bradley. Our music is by Vasilis Fotopoulos. Thimali Kodikara is our consulting producer and our executive producers are Mary Annaise Heglar, Michael Martinez and me, Amy Westervelt.


Mary Annaïse Heglar: Special thanks to Sandy Girard, Ari Schwartz, Kyle Seglin and Charlotte Landes for production support and to Amelia Montooth for digital support.


Amy Westervelt: You can follow the show on Twitter at Real Hot. Take sign up for our newsletter at HotTakePod.com and subscribe to Crooked Media’s video channel at YouTube.com/CrookedMedia.