Are the ‘Thug Kitchen’ Authors Racists?

Are the ‘Thug Kitchen’ Authors Racists?

A good epithet can go a long f*cking way to make a damn important point. And there’s no argument that choosing to adopt a healthy, plant-based diet is an imperative discussion these days, worthy of harsh language, particularly as it’s intricately linked to impending global warming issues, our myriad health crises and the evolution of our human ethics and values. Enter the new Thug Kitchen plant-based cookbook “Eat Like You Give A F*ck”,  garnering a lot of attention and controversy.

The cookbook was born out of an anonymous website that received praise and promotion from the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow and Saveur magazine. It’s known for using harsh language that sounds more like it’s coming from young black kids, rather than the white Hollywood-based couple, Michelle Davis and Matt Holloway, who actually wrote the book.

“Thug Kitchen has a clear brand — liberal use of profanity and slang intended to champion healthful eating habits for everyone,” reports LA Weekly. The authors’ aim was to reach a wide audience—not just the typical consumer of healthy foods, who tends to be white, liberal and financially well-off.

thug kitchen

But have they co-opted the “thug” persona inappropriately? Critics are charging that Davis’ and Holloway’s voice is “digital blackface” and that disguising themselves from the start is an admission that they were misusing a black voice for financial gain. The controversy is heating up so severely that book signing events have been canceled at the threat of protests.

And it’s no surprise that an overwhelming number of Facebook fans of Thug Kitchen look exactly like the demographic they were unable to avoid—rich, liberal and white. Or, perhaps that was their target audience all along—people who found the gimmick so delightfully charming because, as everyone knows, someone who would actually speak that way would never actually eat healthy, vegetarian food, right? It was only funny because it’s so true. That Gwyneth Paltrow, the quaint queen of cultural delusion, was such a huge fan is a clear indication of how far-removed from our national food crisis Davis and Holloway seem to be.

“For their part, Davis and Holloway have said their intention in writing the blog anonymously was to make the food the message instead of posting pictures of themselves — and that their use of the word thug describes ‘an attitude’ about ‘being a badass in the kitchen’,” reports LA Weekly.

Supporters of the thugs agree and say that the healthy food recipes should be the focus, not the voice they’re delivered in or who is behind the book. But when many of the nation’s black communities are located in food deserts where there aren’t even supermarkets, let alone many healthy options, it’s hard to ignore the language as anything but an insulting manipulation of a culture to sell cookbooks to white people.

Images via Thug Kitchen

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About the Author

Jill Ettinger is co-director of Eat Drink Better. She is the senior editor at EcoSalon.com and OrganicAuthority.com. A focus on food, herbs, wellness and world cultural expressions, Jill explores what our shifting food, healing systems and creative landscapes will look, sound and taste like in the future. Stay in touch on Twitter @jillettinger and .
  • KR

    I would have to disagree with the tone of the language being “digital blackface.” I’ve been following the blog and own the book, but have never seen a picture of the authors. I can assure you that I’ve only pictured the authors as white men from the suburbs of a major city, with plenty of tattoos, wearing jeans & t-shirts, and chilling out with their friends. My point is – let’s not make everything ugly and hateful by trying to attribute colorful language to a specific race. If concerned about racism, a better way to avoid it is to stop making these types of assumptions. This is the way most of the white kids of blue collar parents talked when I was growing up. And, by the way, we called them – the non-conformist, bad-ass white guys with an attitude -“thugs.”

    I enjoy Thug Kitchen for the recipes, and for the way they keep veganism/healthy diets real. They are a refreshing change from the abundance of vegan elitism in social media. It really is about eating “like we give a f@#k, so let’s get over the rest of this nonsense.

  • Jennifer_Smith

    I received the book as a gift because I love to cook, and I tend to swear a lot. When I started reading it the first people I thought of were my nephews and nieces who talk like that, and are all white, but eat prepared processed food that is not good for them. I’m getting the book for them, because it is probably the only way I can get them to eat better. Am I racist because I never saw “black” or “person of color” in any of it?

  • tammy d

    The whole premise of this article is ‘racist’. It is assuming that ‘black kids’ speak in a different way than white people. Do you not see the flaw in this argumentation?
    This article and debate are lame.