Controversial vegan cook book authors Michelle Davis and Matt Holloway are coming to Australia for the Sydney and Melbourne Vegan Festivals soon. I had the chance to talk with them today and this is how it went:
What is your response to the claim that your book Thug Kitchen is racist?
Michelle: Our take on the word thug is all about being a ‘bad ass in the kitchen’. The criticisms have come from a very small number of people. We have had an overwhelmingly positive response. Our book has been on the New York Times best seller list for 22 weeks. The criticism has only come from journalists and a few activists; if the criticisms had come from real people that would be a different story.
What do you say to your detractors who contend you have never addressed the controversy?
Michelle and Matt: We have answered every question about this issue in all the interviews we have done on TV, at book signings and at every Q &A we have attended. We aren’t going to go out of our way to write a blog post about it, but we are happy to answer interview questions any time. We have talked about this issue in every single interview we have done. Our few detractors are not a homogenous group.
If you had the chance to do it over, to do your work in a different style, would you do it?
Michelle and Matt: It’s a hard one to answer. Because the book has been so successful and we’ve had such an overwhelmingly positive response, it would be hard to want to change it. We have had great success with helping omnivores go vegan. These are people that would have never been interested in going vegan. The swearing has helped people feel like we are relatable and not high class vegans eating expensive foods. We are showing people that you can be a normal person and have a sense of humour and eat vegetables and that being vegan does not need to be an expensive thing.
How did you get so successful?
Michelle: People can relate to our attitude. The good thing is that our blog didn’t have an author personality. I think that holds people back, when they put their own personalities into it too much.
Matt: We came from a place of honesty: Michelle worked at a grocery store and I was struggling to go from vegetarian to vegan. We didn’t have much money, so we were able to show people that being vegan isn’t expensive and we showed ourselves as normal people who could be vegan.
Do you have any tips for effective vegan advocacy?
Michelle and Matt: People don’t want to be scolded for what they are doing. Be understanding and encouraging and try to get where people are coming from.
Be relatable and emphasise your own struggles so you show them that you are not perfect but you were able to do it.
You don’t need to be a perfect person, just be yourself.