“I think that everything veganism does, it’s failing at proving that it’s good for everyone.”

Alicia talks to chef and chocolatier Lagusta Yearwood, owner of the chocolate shop Lagusta’s Luscious and its sister café, Commissary, in New Paltz, New York. She also co-owns Confectionary in New York City, and her cookbook, Sweet X Salty: The Art of Vegan Confections by Lagusta’s Luscious, will be out in 2019.

Written and presented by Alicia Kennedy
Produced by 
Sareen Patel


ALICIA KENNEDY: This is Meatless, a podcast about eating. I’m Alicia Kennedy, a food and drink writer. I’ll be having conversations with chefs, writers, and more about how their personal and political beliefs determine whether or not they eat meat. This show will ask the question, “How do identity, culture, economics, and history affect a diet?”

In this episode I talk to chef and chocolatier Lagusta Yearwood, who owns Lagusta’s Luscious, a chocolate shop in New Paltz, New York, and co-owns the cafe Commissary in the same town, as well as the sweet shop Confectionery in New York City’s East Village. I first came across Lagusta’s work through her blog, Resistance Is Fertile, back in 2011. When I finally got to eat her chocolate, I was even more blown away by her capacity to merge the sweet and the savory, the herbaceous and the rich, and to do it all with her politics and veganism at the fore. My first piece as a food writer was a profile of her for the now-defunct website, The Hairpin. The headline called her “the punk chocolatier,” and that remains true, even as her work has expanded and morphed and will soon include a major cookbook. While sitting on a couch in her New Paltz chocolate shop, we discussed the blind spots of veganism, her forthcoming book, and how to bring politics into a business.



Lagusta Yearwood

ALICIA KENNEDY: …chatting with me for this. And actually I wanted to start with getting you to tell me a bit about your cookbook.

LAGUSTA YEARWOOD: Blah, OK. Already, I just made a weird sound. First thing. OK. So the cookbook is, it’s called Sweet and Savory, with like an “X” for the “and,” for edginess, and it’s, “The art of vegan confections from Lagusta’s Luscious,” and it’s basically not everything we make at our shop, but a lot of things.


LAGUSTA YEARWOOD: The more maybe home friendly things to make. It’s roughly like half caramel type stuff and half ganache confections. So a lot of truffles, a lot of different caramel recipes like rosemary caramel, and some like candy bars that are like a combination of like ganache layer and caramel layer, and I’m really psyched about it and it is definitely killing me, so.



ALICIA KENNEDY: How long have you been working on it?

LAGUSTA YEARWOOD: I guess about a year, but like really intensely for like 10 months, sort of. But yeah, it’s supposed to, it’s due in June, so I just have that pressure of, you know, getting everything done


LAGUSTA YEARWOOD: And it’s weird because like confectionary stuff is so precise, so I’m just like, we’re, I have people at the shop testing everything and then I have recipe testers like out in the world.


LAGUSTA YEARWOOD: And just making sure that everyone is on the same page with how to do all this stuff. It’s so different from just like a, you know, put some stuff in a pot and cook it, add some other stuff if it doesn’t taste good. So it’s weird that like you can’t taste the recipes as you’re making them really, because it’s like 250 degrees sugar. So yeah, it’s a funny project, but I’m pretty psyched about it.


LAGUSTA YEARWOOD: And it’s coming along.

ALICIA KENNEDY: What was the process to like getting to the cookbook deal?

LAGUSTA YEARWOOD: It was very hard, and stressful. Yeah, I happen to know a woman who’s an agent, so I talked to her and then, and somehow convinced her to take me on, which was great. She’s really wonderful. And then, you know, our, our like brand quote unquote, it is a brand, there’s no reason to put it in quotes, it’s so specific, and our customer base is so specific, and I really didn’t want to like water, to water it down or like dumb it down, and I really didn’t want to do like quick and easy, you know, vegan treats, because like what’s the point of that, you know, that’s not us. We are not quick or easy. But there are some easy recipes in the book I will say.

But yeah, so it was really hard to find a publisher that really got that. So I had a couple meetings with, with, you know, I just kept hearing the same thing in meetings of that the editors loved it and everyone was super excited about it, but they didn’t, it’s such a niche market, but it’s really hard to find the right market for it. But then I found a really great editor at De Capo Press, who’s super psyched about it and, so we’ll see how it goes.

ALICIA KENNEDY: Right, right, right.

LAGUSTA YEARWOOD: But yeah, it definitely was a long process of just convincing myself to not change my vision for it, and to not, nobody really suggested changing it. I think everyone really, was really terrific. And even the editors that like didn’t, they couldn’t really sell it, you know, they were still psyched about it and no one was like, this is terrible, don’t do it. But, yeah, so we’ll see how it goes.

ALICIA KENNEDY: What was the motivation for you to do a cookbook in the first place? When you have so much going on?

LAGUSTA YEARWOOD: Yeah, totally. Just wanted to?


LAGUSTA YEARWOOD: I feel like, you know, I grew up, my mom was a writer and I went to school for English and I just kind of felt that that’s, the end goal of my life has always been writing a book, you know, I feel like that’s a very specific kind of person where either that’s everything you value in life or that’s not.


LAGUSTA YEARWOOD: You know, and like for people who are looking to write a book, like that’s, that’s who you are as a person and I feel like that’s who I am as a person. And so that was just kind of an inevitability because of that.


LAGUSTA YEARWOOD: And now that, even though it was harder than I thought it would be, I’m really psyched to kind of like get better at it, and hopefully do like a savory cook book and different things, and it was really, it was a great process, and I feel like I’m kind of, my grandfather was a writer too and published books about nature and so I feel like I’m kind of like, I’m fulfilling that family destiny of writing maybe?


LAGUSTA YEARWOOD: So yeah. So it’s nice.


LAGUSTA YEARWOOD: Sounds very egotistical, but…

ALICIA KENNEDY: Oh no, I mean I’m a writer so I get it.

LAGUSTA YEARWOOD: Yeah exactly, you get it.

ALICIA KENNEDY: And I actually, I did like kind of become obsessed with like your work through your blog and not your chocolate. So…


ALICIA KENNEDY: …for me you are a writer.


ALICIA KENNEDY: And yeah, so that brings me to like my first real question.

LAGUSTA YEARWOOD: For real though, can I just ask you like, isn’t it odd, this world now of like, I feel like I’ve always kinda like, well I’ve always written things, and I have like a blog and now everyone has Instagram or whatever, but I still feel like we have this thing in our culture of like, if you have a book contract that, like, legitimizes you as a writer.

ALICIA KENNEDY: Oh yeah, oh yeah.

LAGUSTA YEARWOOD: I think that’s such crap because that’s not what I believe in. But then still for myself, I used to never want to talk about writing or anything. I’d just be embarrassed and like didn’t, it just seemed like not a thing to mention or something, and also it was like sacred or something. But then when you have a book contract, like I feel like it changed for me. I’m like, “OK, and now I’m a writer,” which I’m kind of ashamed of that trait in myself, you know? It’s odd.

ALICIA KENNEDY: I mean, yeah. It, it’s a struggle, because I, it took me a really long time to be OK with being public with what I would write or think.


ALICIA KENNEDY: And so, but I, like even just getting signed with an agent made me feel like a real writer.

LAGUSTA YEARWOOD: Exactly, yeah, and then you’re like, “Oh, my agent.”

ALICIA KENNEDY: Yeah, exactly. It’s like someone’s working for me to like make me a writer, you know, I don’t know, but I, I haven’t sold a book yet, so…

LAGUSTA YEARWOOD: I’m sure, I’m sure you’re around the corner on that.

ALICIA KENNEDY: We’ll see. We’ll see. Cool. And so yeah, but, when I was like a new vegan, I was kind of freaking out about how the food was bad and like the, I was, for me, food had always been very, very important, so to go from a whole world of eating to feeling like everyone was eating like bad things, I don’t know…

LAGUSTA YEARWOOD: Yeah, totally, the struggle.

ALICIA KENNEDY: Just boring food, that wasn’t good, yeah. And then like when I was reading you, I kind of felt like, oh, there is a vegan perspective that sort of reclaims what food, and real food and good food and…

LAGUSTA YEARWOOD: I feel that way about your writing.

ALICIA KENNEDY: Oh thanks. And also from like, not a like bougie classist kind of framework. So I wanted to know how you developed your ethics and palette, and how they complement or complicate each other.

LAGUSTA YEARWOOD: Hmm, yeah. You know, it really came out of like an activism kind of spirit, where I really felt like, yeah, it’s weird but for a long time I was that vegan who eat terrible food, but I think that I don’t like meat analogs at all, and I never liked meat, so I feel like that was kind of good for me because I never thought that like fake meat was good.


LAGUSTA YEARWOOD: So I think that’s maybe not a trap people get into, but I don’t know, I was never like impressed by any weird processed soy like TVP things, but I really have a strong sense, like when I went to culinary school and, and even like in college doing like vegan activism and even in high school doing vegan activism that, like, the only way to advance like the vegan movement, which really sounds so cheesy, but that really is my only goal in life, would be to make stuff that was as good as or better than what, you know, than non-vegan food.


LAGUSTA YEARWOOD: So I’ve always tried to market our stuff to non-vegans, and I’ve always tried to hold myself to a standard of non-veganism. It sounds so stupid, you know, but, but, and really try to like not get bogged down in, not, not be so much in the vegan world.


LAGUSTA YEARWOOD: Like I follow like very few like vegan chefs on Instagram, you know, not because they’re bad, I just feel like it’s not as, you know, this morning I was like, should I followEleven Madison Park on Instagram? I was like, wow, what interesting preparations and what, you know, it’s obviously not food that I’m going to cook, but, but, you know, then they was like, here’s our veal like, blah blah blah, and I was like, I don’t know, like, can I just slide, like swipe past those things in order to learn new techniques? And, you know, it’s, it’s always been a line for me and I, I really feel strongly that like vegans have to get out of the vegan bubble, because it can be such an echo chamber of just congratulations.


LAGUSTA YEARWOOD: And I, you know, I think that veganism has changed so much and it’s advanced so much since I first became vegan. But it’s still just like everyone’s so happy for what, like a cannoli or something? I don’t know, not that cannolis are bad, but it’s just strange. Yeah.

ALICIA KENNEDY: Yeah. Are there lines that you have for yourself with, in terms of that, with following along with restaurants that do serve meat and that kind of thing? Like I have friends who work at the Greenmarket or something and one of them posted basically like a cow, I mean not a, a pig carcass that had just been like roasted on a spit and like, I know so many Puerto Rican chefs and they’re constantly putting pigs on spits.


ALICIA KENNEDY: And it can feel a little jarring. So what, how do you, how do you kind of deal with that?

LAGUSTA YEARWOOD: Yeah, that is really hard because I pretty much only scroll through Instagram in the mornings and at night, which, it’s like the vulnerable time when you’re like, I really don’t want to see like a whole dead pig.


LAGUSTA YEARWOOD: Yeah. I think if someone posts, someone, some restaurant I follow did post something like that and I was like, no, goodbye. But I don’t follow a ton of restaurants, really.


LAGUSTA YEARWOOD: I follow a lot of chocolatiers who aren’t vegan but they’re not posting, you know, whatever, cows on, cows on spits? That’s not it, that’s how vegan I am.


LAGUSTA YEARWOOD: But yeah, no, I definitely have seen things that I’m like, that was not pleasant. I went through this phase where we developed this, it’s called the Pig Out Bar, this like vegan bacon bar thing.

ALICIA KENNEDY: Yeah, I remember.

LAGUSTA YEARWOOD: We make it every summer and I got really obsessed with wanting to make like amazing vegan, like a vegan bacon chocolate bar. So I was just really went deep on like what is bacon, because bacon is so like fetishized and everyone loves bacon and, so I did all the like coconut bacon, like which I think coconut bacon is terrible, I just have to say.


LAGUSTA YEARWOOD: And you know like, so, so anyway, so I started like smoking mushrooms and, yuba we use, it’s like cold-smoked yuba, and I just really want to like get this bacon texture, but because of that I forced myself to read this webpage about how to make bacon, and it was just, I was just like holding my hand up to the computer, like blackout the pictures.

ALICIA KENNEDY: Yeah, yeah, right.

LAGUSTA YEARWOOD: But I really wanted to know like, how is, how do you get these flavors? Obviously it’s like dead animal flesh, but other than that, there’s something done to make it be this thing. And I feel like it’s almost like this game of telephone where everything in the vegan world gets reduced down to like, oh, bacon is smokey, OK, so add liquid smoke, you’re done. You know, like anything becomes bacon if you just add something that’s like a little smokey.


LAGUSTA YEARWOOD: And that’s, so that’s not how the non-vegan world works, you know, and no one would let that fly. And so I think like we have to hold ourselves to this higher standard because everyone makes fun of vegans already.


LAGUSTA YEARWOOD: So let’s like not encourage that. Yeah.

ALICIA KENNEDY: Have, you’ve been vegan for a really long time? Have you, do people will make fun of vegans less now?

LAGUSTA YEARWOOD: You know, it’s weird to me because I live in a completely vegan world.


LAGUSTA YEARWOOD: Where I just, I literally don’t go anywhere except for my own three vegan businesses, and everyone who works at them is not vegan.


LAGUSTA YEARWOOD: But it’s not like, people who at work are talking about like hamburgers, you know? But, my sense is that people really, really make fun of vegans less, because I don’t really get in any fights about veganism ever. I mean, I don’t know, I’m so far out of the world, but I, I’ve seen with the business, I’ve seen it change a lot, where in the beginning people were very skeptical about veganism, and when I started cooking professionally it was kind of the height of Adkins diet, which was just all meat. And like, you know, everything, and everything was spelt, was like, there wasn’t, gluten-free hadn’t really started, it was like wheat-free, it was like these weird trends. And now I see that like our customers now are like, “Oh, it’s vegan, oh, huh, let me try it.”

Like there’s so much more, you know, it’s weird having a vegan coffee shop because, you know, we ask people what milk they want, and this happened to me like an hour ago, and this guy was like whole milk, and I was like, “Oh, we don’t actually have dairy milk,” and then I list off our six times of milk, and he was a super just mainstream looking dude, and he was like, “Oh, all right, I’ll try the homemade cashew,” you know? And I feel like there’s, I would say once a month at the most, maybe we have someone walk out because we don’t, they really want daily milk. But I thought that would happen like once a day.


LAGUSTA YEARWOOD: So I don’t know, I feel like it’s changed a ton. But I still do think that vegan is still kind of a synonym for like “crappy” in the chef world, you know?


LAGUSTA YEARWOOD: So there’s that.


LAGUSTA YEARWOOD: And now we’re getting a nice loud delivery.

ALICIA KENNEDY: Oh, it’s OK. I actually kind of like, I’ve been working on a theory around the idea that like vegan food is best when it’s casual. Like maybe I’ve just had this really strange experience of some good fine dining vegan experiences, but mostly very boring food.

LAGUSTA YEARWOOD: Yeah, totally.

ALICIA KENNEDY: But I don’t know. Do you think that veganism and fine dining are, can be compatible?

LAGUSTA YEARWOOD: Oh I think it totally can be. I haven’t seen it. I mean, I’m trying to think like, even like, I did the series of dinners, like two years ago, I did a bunch of these super fancy dinners, and it was like 12 courses, like, you know, but it was just like, I’m not hating on myself, because I think I’m a pretty good cook, but it was for me, in New Paltz, there’s nothing like that, and it was just kinda like, it’s exciting for people to have a multi-course meal. It’s exciting for people to have, obviously, like for it to be vegan. But I know that the techniques, like I’m not a fine dining chef.


LAGUSTA YEARWOOD: And like that wouldn’t, it wouldn’t have flown in New York City, at a real fine dining restaurant, you know? And for me it was fun to be like, oh I’ll experiment with spheres and molecular gastronomy and all these things, but, like, I see for myself just the disconnect between the level I’m at and true fine dining, because I, you know, I think as a, just to sharpen my skills, I try to go out to fancy restaurants pretty often, and you know, so I kind of have a good sense of what’s out there, and I don’t think, like, there’s nothing in the vegan world that is, you know, that’s as great as, you know, Alinea or something. But, I will say, just to throw some shade, why not, I went to Next, you know, that restaurant, like vegan dinner…

ALICIA KENNEDY: Right, yeah.

LAGUSTA YEARWOOD: …and I thought it was pretty, a little dumb. Like they did this fancy fancy meal, and you had to bid on the tickets, and it was like the most expensive meal of my life, and I went to Chicago for it, and I was like, well this is what fancy chefs think of as vegan, and it was just the most, you know, they had tempeh, and I was like, “Oh, do you make your own tempeh?” Because I just figured like, yeah, they’re going to make their own tempeh, and they’re like, “What?”


LAGUSTA YEARWOOD: You know, like, couldn’t make tempeh, you know? And I was like, you can make tempeh. Like I don’t know.

ALICIA KENNEDY: That’s, that’s interesting.

LAGUSTA YEARWOOD: So it was, it’s interesting to see the flip side of it, you know. And then when you go to like, I know I went to Per Se, and you know, sometimes you go to a super fancy restaurant and they, works, like Alinea actually was like that when I went there, and they work so hard to make everything comparable. There was nothing of like, oh, we’ll just leave off half the dishes.


LAGUSTA YEARWOOD: Everything was like, amazing, and they made a vegan version of every single thing, which is weird because it’s owned by the same person who owns Next.


LAGUSTA YEARWOOD: But anyway, but then, you know, I’ve been to a lot of other fancy restaurants where it’s just like, even if, especially if you’re with a non-vegan and they’re like, “Oh, I just got the sorbet.”


LAGUSTA YEARWOOD: Minus the like other things, you know, and I feel like people really think like, “Oh that’s fine because they’re vegan.” But, to go back to your original question, I don’t think there’s any reason that there can’t be really amazing vegan fine dining, but I just think it hasn’t, but it makes sense because when you look at the proportion of chefs who do that really high end stuff, like of course there’s just a lower proportion of vegan chefs in general.

ALICIA KENNEDY: Right, yeah. Okay.

LAGUSTA YEARWOOD: But I do really think that, who gives a shit about fine dining also, so.

ALICIA KENNEDY: Oh, exactly, no, I agree with that. It’s hard because it’s like, it is the standard by which you judge, I don’t know, what’s going on? It shouldn’t be.



LAGUSTA YEARWOOD: Yeah. But it is kind of fun.


LAGUSTA YEARWOOD: But it’s kind of like…

ALICIA KENNEDY: But it’s also worthless, essentially.


ALICIA KENNEDY: Yeah. Like every time someone asks me my favorite vegan restaurant in New York, I say, well Superiority Burger and Toad Style.

LAGUSTA YEARWOOD: Yeah, and those are so like, they’re like cousins.


LAGUSTA YEARWOOD: Yeah, I definitely feel that way. And I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Superiority Burger is someone who worked in the fine dining context and actively rejects that.


LAGUSTA YEARWOOD: You know, and really is like, but also takes that, that theory of hospitality and is, it’s such a hospitable place. It’s not, but I also think Toad Style is too, you know? And it’s just like, you know, cool punk kids who were like, let’s just be nice to people.


LAGUSTA YEARWOOD: Which is really what fine dining hospitality is, you know? So it all comes full circle.

ALICIA KENNEDY: I hope so. So you have the Sliding Scale Socialist Soup at Commissary, I wanted to ask how, how important is the accessibility of your product to you, and, yeah, do you think that there’s things veganism can do to, to prove better that it is for everyone?

LAGUSTA YEARWOOD: Yeah, I think that everything veganism does, it’s failing at proving that it’s good for everyone. I think that’s the number one stumbling block of veganism, is how middle class and white it’s perceived as.


LAGUSTA YEARWOOD: Which is so funny because there are so many traditions around the world that are naturally vegan that for some reason have not been celebrated within the American vegan world.


LAGUSTA YEARWOOD: And I don’t know, I think it’s interesting to do these, like we did this market this week, this vegan, it was called a vegetarian food festival, but it was vegan, and there’s a lot of like African-American, like, like businesses there that are vegan and like, this is, this is a thing, but it’s not celebrated, or, I mean I think it is celebrated, but I don’t know. It’s like kind of, we need to kind of amplify those voices a lot more, you know?


LAGUSTA YEARWOOD: And I do think there is a huge perception that veganism costs, you know, in terms of class, there’s race issues, there’s also class issues. And that there’s a huge perception that veganism just costs more, and I think because people see these $13 cheeses and, you know, really expensive meat analogs, when of course like rice and beans is like the original vegan food, you know, and every culture around the world has a version of that that’s naturally vegan, but it has an, those things haven’t been as, like, celebrated sort of. But, that said, I’m totally guilty of that because we sell $12 chocolate bars, you know? So it’s kind of that balance of paying a fair price for ingredients, and that, and then also, you know, paying, paying your workers well, and making affordable things. Yeah.

So we try to kind of combat it at our, at our coffee shop with a Sliding Scale Soup. It’s strange because New Paltz is a very middle class town, a college town, and I don’t, it’s just funny, like sometimes I don’t get the feeling that people who really need a kind of cheaper like “pay what you want” kind of thing, those people aren’t coming to our coffee shop, but I actually just rang someone up at Commissary, and, and she just, this was a person who was just like, “Oh, can I pay $3?” And, and was feeding her family, she got three soups and I was just like, this is what it is.

ALICIA KENNEDY: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

LAGUSTA YEARWOOD: This is so great, you know? And it made me feel really good. So, who knows. I don’t know, but I also don’t think that like one sliding scale option on the menu is like, it’s not really doing anything, you know, but I think it’s really a more of an issue of governmental subsidies and wages because, you know, there’s a lot of issues there.



ALICIA KENNEDY: So you are, you are very careful with your sourcing of ingredients and that is why the chocolate bars cost what they do. Do you think that within veganism there is a consciousness about that?

LAGUSTA YEARWOOD: I mean, I don’t want to just be a kind of hater, but no, I mean I feel like so, I know lots of vegans who are very aware of it definitely, but I feel like overall, vegans want treats, and they just really want what they want, which, OK, I have this theory about veganism, which is a lot of people became vegan when they were like 15, and so your, your palate gets locked in time, and so you really want this like supermarket birthday cake you had one year when you were like 10, and most people grow up and they’re like, I don’t really want a supermarket birthday cake, that’s not my ultimate treat.


LAGUSTA YEARWOOD: But vegans always have this really stupid issue, like deprivation, which annoys me because I feel like it, it ties into all these class and race issues too, of like, like you’re not, you’re voluntarily not eating something, you’re not like, like calm down with like, “Oh I just want this,” you know, these like cravings or things. So I feel like because of, of that, and I feel like there’s this world now of, you know, with Instagram, of like showing off the fancy vegan thing that you got, and you know, taking your picture of your ice cream cone held up against the wall or whatever. And it’s just so, like gluttonous, I say this as someone who literally makes chocolate for a living, but it, it really kind of sticks in my craw a little bit. There’s probably a non-vegan metaphor, right?

But yeah, so I feel like if we could really, and I know lots of groups doing it, like Food Empowerment Project is a great group that’s run by vegans that are, it’s really like a very political, you know, overtly vegan and, you know, group that’s looking into food justice issues and there are lots of people doing things. But I think that the average vegan, are they really thinking about these issues? I feel like not as much as we could be.



ALICIA KENNEDY: Yeah. Yeah. It seems like veganism stops for a lot of people with being vegan.

LAGUSTA YEARWOOD: Well, I think that’s the thing. And the funny thing is I think people think like, “oh, but I’m not eating animals so I’m doing this great thing.”


LAGUSTA YEARWOOD: But the weird thing about being vegan is like unlike, I feel like so many other, like, social justice or other like activist movements, it’s really not hard. Like especially after you do it for a while, you know? I mean, I’m kind of privileged in that I didn’t really crave meat, you know, and I don’t really. I’ve been vegan for so long that I don’t know what non-vegan stuff tastes like, and I don’t want to say that for other people, it’s not hard, you know, but I think that for some people it’s not hard. And then, if it gets to that point where you’re like, “This is actually very easy for me,” then, then that’s, your obligation is to be like, “What can I do to take it to the next level?” You know, because it’s not really activism after a while.


LAGUSTA YEARWOOD: That sounds terrible.

ALICIA KENNEDY: …it’s eating.

LAGUSTA YEARWOOD: Yeah, exactly.

ALICIA KENNEDY: So are the same reasons, the reasons you became vegan initially still the reasons you are vegan, or has that evolved?

LAGUSTA YEARWOOD: Yeah, no, it hasn’t evolved at all. It’s just total, meat is murder, exact same Morrissey crap.

ALICIA KENNEDY: It’s his birthday today apparently.

LAGUSTA YEARWOOD: Happy birthday Morrissey. If you ever want a treat, try listening to the Morrissey audiobook.


LAGUSTA YEARWOOD: He’s a, everyone knows Morrissey is insufferable, the audiobook really, really gets in deep with that. And it’s read by a guy named Morrissey who’s not Morrissey.


LAGUSTA YEARWOOD: Highly recommended. Anyway, yeah no, the only reason I’m vegan is because I think if you can not kill something, don’t kill that thing.


LAGUSTA YEARWOOD: And that has never changed in 20 years. 25 years? 25 years. And that’s, you know, there’s lots of reasons to be vegan, like environmentalism, or even you know, even human rights in terms of how the workers in slaughterhouses or you know, have such high rates of suicide, blah blah, but for me, I’m like, if something can not die for me, I’m going to do that. Yeah. Simple answer, for once.

ALICIA KENNEDY: So you, recently in 2016 you opened Confectionery in the East Village. When I was up here a couple of weeks ago, I was kinda struck by how many businesses had the signs, including yours, for like New York Health Care For All, which I don’t see ever in Brooklyn where I live, or in New York City.


ALICIA KENNEDY: Like I never see those things. So I was kind of wondering how, how it has been running a shop there versus here. Like what are the, what are the clientele differences? Who are, who are the people who come to each place?

LAGUSTA YEARWOOD: Yeah, I’m really fascinated by it. I think the reason so many shops in this town have those signs is because of one person.


LAGUSTA YEARWOOD: Welcome to small town life. And the reason we have that at Confectionery is just because I brought it down.


LAGUSTA YEARWOOD: But yay Beth Dulay, doing good work. But, it’s weird, because I feel like on the one hand we have our customers, who just come to us where we are.


LAGUSTA YEARWOOD: So I think Confectionery is an interesting mix, and Commissary too. It’s an interesting mix of, here is just, we’re on a side street, so it’s like the chocolate shop is like, you have to really come to us, you know, but Commissary people definitely walk in because they just want coffee. And Confectionery people walk in because they’re just walking past and they’re like, “What is this place?” I think it’s a mix of people who know us, and people who are just curious about stuff. And I think in Commissary we get a lot of people who are like, “Oh, I heard they have good coffee,” and like probably don’t even know that we’re vegan. And that’s great, you know?


LAGUSTA YEARWOOD: And that I know we have a customer here, who’s been coming for years and years and didn’t know we were vegan for a long time. And I think that’s so awesome. But I think Confectionery is so fascinating because, you know, I’m like, I, I lived in New Jersey but I’ve never actually lived in New York proper, and at one point I was working there like six days a week. So I’ve put in my New York time, but I still also feel like that girl from Arizona who was like so star struck by like New York City. And it really is so New York City-ish, like there’s so many bonkers people, it’s just like, it is just itself, you know? And even though the East Village is so gentrified and so expensive and so annoying, there are those bits of East Villageness….

ALICIA KENNEDY: That are still there.

LAGUSTA YEARWOOD: Yeah, which is why we opened up there. And, and it’s really fun to see that, you know, and a lot of our core customers down there are just true East Village weirdos, you know? And thank god, it makes me so happy. It’s the best thing ever. So yeah, it’s different and not different.

ALICIA KENNEDY: Yeah. I, every time I’m in the East Village I’m like, this is the city I thought I was moving to when I was a kid, like because I grew up so close to the city and I was like, “Oh, it’s so cool.” Like in the 90s when I was a kid and I’d go to the city, and then it’s like, “Oh, it sucks now.”


ALICIA KENNEDY: And it really does, but whatever.

LAGUSTA YEARWOOD: Yeah, and it’s kind of also like, well, here we are.

ALICIA KENNEDY: Here we are, yes. Can you talk more about, talk more at all about the phrase “resistance is fertile,” which is the title of your blog and it’s on the counter at Commissary?

LAGUSTA YEARWOOD: I’m so embarrassed by it because I didn’t really know, OK, this is going to sound insane, but I did not know about Star Trek.


LAGUSTA YEARWOOD: So, I wasn’t aware. I mean, I knew about Star Trek.


LAGUSTA YEARWOOD: But I didn’t really think about this connection. Anyway, so there’s this book, All Over Creation by Ruth Ozeki, and she’s an amazing writer, I love her work, and this phrase “resistance as fertile” is used in the book by these like anarchist punk scene weirdos, and they travel in a van, and so, and I just love the idea of, like, putting yourself in a space of resistance and taking yourself out of like the world of sadness and Trump president and all these things and kind of creating your own world around you where you can have space to think about what kind of world we want, and how you want to treat people. That, like, it really is a very fertile space. I think that’s really beautiful.

So, yeah. So we’re like, oh, let’s put this on the counter at Commissary because it’ll be a fun thing, and so many people are like, “Oh wow, resistance is fertile, this is so great.” And it took me like six months, I was like, where is this from? Like I don’t know, I’m so out of, I knew that phrase but, I don’t know. So, a lot of people, we have to be like, “fertile.” But it’s really, you know, I think a lot of people too are like, oh, that’s really cool. But now I feel embarrassed about it, like it’s kinda like that thing that’s like your special thing and then you, kind of like my whole business, like put it out in the world a lot…

ALICIA KENNEDY: And it’s not yours.

LAGUSTA YEARWOOD: And it’s kind of weird now, but it’s alright. Now it’s our wifi password, so.


LAGUSTA YEARWOOD: That’s how life goes.

ALICIA KENNEDY: So I think this is pretty self-explanatory and anyone would know this by coming here or anything, but can you kind of talk about how cooking is for you a political act?

LAGUSTA YEARWOOD: Sure. Yeah. Well I guess I just feel like, it is on a lot of levels. Obviously through your kind of supply chain and how the little ways that you buy things make such a huge impact. You know, we had a dish on our menu at Commissary because it was winter, mashed potatoes and gravy, and everyone loved it and we had like these nice green beans and, and it was good because it was like January, it was a lovely hearty meal, but then we recently took it off even though it’s our best seller because we were like, all of this is coming just from like our food distributor, you know?


LAGUSTA YEARWOOD: Who knows? I mean I think it’s probably, mashed potatoes are probably fine, but you know, sometimes you’re buying like grapes from Peru and you’re like, I don’t know what the, you know, probably honestly the standards are worse than the U.S. and I feel like they’re probably better everywhere else around the world, I don’t know, but you know, you don’t, you don’t know how standards are being upheld in terms of organic or Fair Trade or you know, well. I think I lost my train of thought. Anyway, you know, so just trying to kind of, it is such a tangible difference.

We work with a local farm for Commissary to get a lot of our produce and we plan our menus around what they have, instead of vice versa, and every year we kind of sit with them and we’re like, you know, and they’re like, what do you, what, what did we not grow as much of this year? What do you need more of? What do you want to work with? So, you know, I always felt like we didn’t order enough from them and I always feel nervous about that because it’s like, these farmers are like, you know, they don’t do a full farmer’s market because they sell stuff to us. So I’ve always felt a little bit like we’ve got to really support them. And then this year they told me that they recently hired a full time employee because they’re doing well, because we buy so much stuff from them.

ALICIA KENNEDY: That’s amazing.

LAGUSTA YEARWOOD: You know, and it’s like, “Wow, these are my friends and now they’re, this is, they started out being part-time farmers and now they’re full-time farmers and they’re hiring other people and they’re building hoop houses and getting grants for greenhouses,” you know? And it’s like that’s a real difference in my community. So there’s that aspect of it. I feel like also just cooking is so powerful in that people don’t really cook anymore and it’s so like, it sounds cheesy to say, but empowering just to have that ability. I know for me like it’s so wonderful for me to be like, this is what I’m craving, I will make it for myself, and it’s just a really amazing, I don’t know, feminist, I don’t know, just kind of really great act of, like, I can take care of myself and be nice to myself and you know, it’s really self care and all those things.

ALICIA KENNEDY: How would you, do you have any, would you give advice to someone if they came to you, and they were like, how can I better support my local food economy? What would you say?

LAGUSTA YEARWOOD: Wow. Yeah. I feel like, so you know, that like Woody Allen quote of like, something, people who show up?


LAGUSTA YEARWOOD: It’s just, I feel like just showing up and just going to your farmer’s market, you know, we have a weird catch-22 with the farmer’s market in New Paltz, it drives me crazy, where we don’t have a good farmer’s market and it’s because all the farmers don’t want to come to a market that’s not well attended, but all the people don’t want to come to a market where there’s no produce. So it’s just been like this for years, and I think working, working in your community to see how to kind of bring food to your community and work with different farmers and see what they need, and, yeah, I don’t know. I feel like there’s a million ways.

I know that Dot who works at Commissary, they just started like a, I don’t want to get, it’s like a Food Not Bombs-type group but it’s not Food Not Bombs, which is funny because there is a Food Not Bombs in New Paltz, but they’re starting their own thing, which is awesome. And it’s just so cool. They’re so excited, they’re cooking their first meals for it today, and just little things like that, of like just cooking meals for your community or, yeah, I don’t know. I think just kind of looking around and being like, what do people need? What, how can I engage with this system, you know?

ALICIA KENNEDY: Right, right, right.

LAGUSTA YEARWOOD: If that made sense.

ALICIA KENNEDY: Are there any books that have kind of created your politics and ethics, that you are like, required reading, you would say?

LAGUSTA YEARWOOD: So many. Well, yeah. I mean let’s see. In terms of like, well, jeez, OK, in terms of like veganism, I really think that Carol Adams’s books are amazing. Sexual Politics of Meat like just really turns your brain inside out, and like Pornography of Meat is, was amazing. I know she just put out a new book, Burger

ALICIA KENNEDY: Oh, I loved it.

LAGUSTA YEARWOOD: Which I have on hold at the bookstore. I haven’t, I haven’t picked it up, but it was good?

ALICIA KENNEDY: It was good, yeah.

LAGUSTA YEARWOOD: Cool, nice. Yeah, she’s really great. It’s really funny because when I became vegan, I was super into Diet for a New America, which is the most old school vegan book. I wonder what would happen if someone read it now? I don’t know. It would be, it’s interesting. It’s interesting because it’s written by John Robbins, who was the heir to the Baskin-Robbins thing.


LAGUSTA YEARWOOD: So that’s really fascinating. Let’s see. In terms of, think there’s a lot more food books. I really love, there’s a series of business books from the Zingerman’s Deli and it’s called The Lapsed Anarchist’s Guide to, they have one of like being a better leader and, you know, a bunch of different ones and there’s like six different books. Those are really great for me in terms of business advice, and just kind of being like, oh, so you, at first I laughed at the idea of like “anarchist business book,” but it’s kind of like a weird little sub-genre that has been really great, of, I think it’s very easy for like, quote, unquote “real anarchists,” to really laugh at. And I get why people would, because obviously anarchism is incompatible with capitalism. However, here we are, and I’m just going to try and do the best I can within this, this world I’m in.

And so within that, you know, there are a lot of good books about like, OK, you’re trying to run a business with a heart, how can you do this in a way that’s minimally harmful to your employees? And I think also a lot of small business owners who’ve been in like activist backgrounds, it’s really hard, and women especially, it’s really hard for people to kind of make their peace with how to be a leader in a way. And so that was really good for me to have a book that’s like, let’s face it, you’re a boss, just learn how to be a good one because you’re not helping anyone by deflecting, by admitting you don’t have power, you know, and maybe that’s, a true anarchist would say that I’ve been totally brainwashed. But, here we are, today.

ALICIA KENNEDY: Right, right, right.


ALICIA KENNEDY: So what are you excited about in the next like six months, year? What’s really exciting you?

LAGUSTA YEARWOOD: OK, here’s my thing. I’m super excited to finish this book. And then, for the first time ever, I’m going to try to learn how to relax. That’s what I’m excited about. I’m going to try to take two days off a week, which sounds insane.


LAGUSTA YEARWOOD: And just be, just saying it, I feel like a little nervous. But yeah, I’m going to try to really like learn how to be a human being who’s not focused on work all the time. I don’t know if that’s where your question was leading…


LAGUSTA YEARWOOD: …but I mean work-wise I’m always super excited about, we’re always, it sounds really cheesy to say, but we’re always doing a little bit better than we were before. And it’s so funny to look at where we were even six months ago and be like, “Oh, we hadn’t figured out that you can cut the tahini melt-aways this different way.” You know, just these little changes that so many people on our staff will see things that, in a way that I would never see it, and point them out, and it just like changes our lives sort of.


LAGUSTA YEARWOOD: So I’m always excited for that kind of stuff. Yeah, I don’t know, just all kinds of little things like that. I feel like I used to have all this nervousness about hiring people, and kind of bringing new people into our fold and training them, and it’s so much work, and now I kind of have an excitement about like, meeting new people and, and giving them good skills, and hopefully good jobs and stuff like that. So yeah.

ALICIA KENNEDY: All right. Awesome. Thank you for chatting with me.

LAGUSTA YEARWOOD: Well thank you. You’re a personal hero of mine.


LAGUSTA YEARWOOD: So this is a real treat.

ALICIA KENNEDY: Oh, thank you. That’s crazy.