I fucking love Thug Kitchen. I love Thug Kitchen so much, I will lace this post with the profanity that is characteristic of this popular food blog because I also want to meet Thug Kitchen on its own terms. I am also going to curse like a motherfucking sailor here, because I am a tad distraught. This is what my thoughts look like before I’ve had a few days to make them all gentrified and shit. If curse words offend you, click away now and come back next week, when I’m feeling less profane and perplexed. No harm, no foul, no offence taken. Folks need to have their limits and I respect yours. All this cursing will probably shame my mother (mommy if you are reading this, stop now). All that said, what the fuck white people? Why?! Why must you thoughtlessly popularize shit, making me think that it really isn’t about anything but vegan food made more interesting by a liberal use of profanity, and then put out a lily-white promo video for your new cookbook and get featured on Epicurious and make me realize, fuck, some shit is rotten in Denmark.
I’ve followed Thug Kitchen on Facebook for maybe two years now, and I have made maybe a couple of their recipes and that shit is always legit. Those motherfuckers over there do not play. More than anything else, I really just enjoy their prose. Who can resist a tagline like this: “eat like you give a fuck”? Certainly not me. Shit, if it gives me a reason to curse gratuitously, fuck yeah! This food blog is a curse word littered take on vegan healthy eating that is written so humorously, I didn’t think too much about the word “thug” modifying kitchen. Why would I? Shit, artistic license. Plus, I’ve grooved to Jah Rule feat. Bobbie Brown’s “Thug Lovin” in the 90s – “I know you’re getting’ bored…” – among many other thug-laced things. I am under no misapprehension about “thug” or “thug life” being widely appropriated beyond the confines of black communities where it is used to criminalize young black men in particular. Shit, if you want to appropriate elements of things generally considered to be intimidating and all around badass to help vegan food look enticing and appetizing, who the fuck am I to shit on your parade?
But then this week, I watched the trailer for Thug Kitchen’s new cookbook. It is a cookbook that I, as a fucking badass cook and eater extraordinaire, would love to have in my repertoire so I can lay some ill ass vegan shit down on the table like I do. The promo trailer, though, only had white people in it – of all ages and both genders, but only white people; there wasn’t even an Asian person. No people of color. As if white people are the only folk who want to, or should, (or can?) eat like they give a fuck. With things like diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease laying more black people low than any other diseases in this country, it seems fucking negligent to not even cast a black friend or something. I mean, what kind of bullshit is that?
While the interwebs is going bonkers this afternoon, over Thug Kitchen’s identities finally being revealed, I always knew, more peripherally and unconsciously than anything else, that this was the brainchild of two white people. I have a fucking PhD in English; reading between the lines is how I get my paper. So, from reading their posts, I knew unconsciously that Thug Kitchen was peopled by a couple, who even though they deliberately kept their posts free of information that could identify them personally (something I am working on doing myself here), mentioned things like “my girlfriend.” So I knew there were two. I assumed the aggressive tone of the posts, as conveyed by the profanity, was attributable to a speaker who was male, but I have always been prepared to be proven wrong for this fucked up stereotypical logic. Additionally, the knowledge of and frequency with which tempeh (whatever the fuck that shit is) appeared in recipes concretized the assumption that at least one of these motherfuckers was white. That they are white is not the goddamn problem here.
Something popped off in my brain when I read the Epicurious piece though. I mean, that shit pissed me off. All of a sudden, while reading what Epicurious called the pair’s “cheerful profanity,” I began to think about, as I often do, who does not get access to this kind of carefree shit. Like, Thug Kitchen liberally uses vernacular terms, popularized in black culture in a rags-to-riches project that is very much on the come up (on the riches side) as I type this. But there is a fucking serious flipside to this bullshit. The descriptor “thug” is used to criminalize the very existence of young black male bodies, in recent times fatally. Teenaged boys are getting shot in the street, for no other reason than they appear in the eye of twisted beholders as the embodiment of the stereotypical characteristics that render them thugs, criminals, better off for all of us dead. Hands up don’t shoot.
Fuck cheerful profanity. This is not the time to be willfully ignorant of what “thug” means when applied to some bodies today. I am not asking for Thug Kitchen to politicize their shit. Not everyone is, should, or needs to be a motherfucking activist for the causes of prejudice and discrimination and shit. Keep using the word thug; I have no problem with that. But at the very least show some motherfucking awareness of what the hell is going on in America today. Remember when Mama died of diabetes in the movie Soul Food? Shit, put somebody’s black grandma in di blasted promo and have her cursing up a blue streak. Who does not a love a black grandma who says fuck? Show us that you actually have a less vapid sense of what eating like you give a fuck means, like you are aware of the harmful permutations of your moniker, like you have a sense of how diverse your fan base is, and are at least trying to be thoughtful about it. None of us has the luxury to be thoughtless when children are being shot down in the street. Make like you are even remotely aware of what the fuck is going on around you, like you actually give a fuck. Shit.