NEW YORK -- Isa Chandra Moskowitz, a vegan chef, does not particularly
like to talk about tofu. Ditto seitan, tempeh and nutritional yeast.
"I think vegan cooks need to learn to cook vegetables first," she
says. "Then maybe they can be allowed to move on to meat substitutes."
Moskowitz, 34, was born in Coney Island Hospital, lives in Brooklyn,
and is a typically impatient and opinionated New Yorker. She can't
stand how slowly most cooks peel garlic, makes relentless fun of
Rachael Ray and rolls her eyes at the mention of California hippies.
But as a vegan and a follower of punk music since age 14, she is also
part of a culinary movement that helped turn the chaotic energy of
punk culture of the 1970s and 1980s into a progressive political
"Punk taught me to question everything," Moskowitz says. "Of course,
in my case that means questioning how to make a Hostess cupcake
without eggs, butter or cream."
The charm of Moskowitz -- in person, in her cookbooks and on her
public-access television cooking show, the Post-Punk Kitchen
(theppk.com/shows/) -- is that she makes even the deprivations of
veganism and the rage of punk seem like fun. Moskowitz's veganism
embraces chocolate, white flour, confectioners' sugar and food
Many punks became vegetarian to protest corporate and government
control of the food supply. Veganism takes vegetarianism farther into
cruelty-free territory by avoiding anything produced by animals: milk,
cheese, eggs, honey, etc.
"I would love to live in a world where I knew the eggs came from happy
chickens," Moskowitz says. "But in Brooklyn? That's not going to
happen. Besides, eggs are the big lie in baking. All the books say
they provide structure, but that's kind of crap."
"I learned knife skills by cooking for Food not Bombs," she says,
referring to the activist group that protests corporate and government
food policy. "But I also learned to love Julia Child and Martha
Stewart. Vegan food can and must be pretty," she says.