Thug Kitchen, one of 2014’s bestselling cookbooks, arrived on my doorstep last week encased in its Amazon cardboard wrapper.

It’s a fucking good thing, too.

Months ago I offered to host a dinner for 14 Pomona College students in my home. I felt generous of spirit, eager to learn from and share with young people attending my alma mater, and happy to support their “Alternabreak” volunteer activities at several L.A. nonprofits. The uplift! The good karma! The networking!

Well, here we are the week of—in fact they’ll be here in 48 hours—and I couldn’t be less prepared.

I blame expectations. Expectation #1: Take-out won’t be served. Expectation #2: The house will be clean. Expectation #3: Sparkling conversation will occur.

I’m having a hard time moving from frazzled and paralyzed to eager and productive. My week has been busier than expected; I’ve also successfully procrastinated for several evenings in a row. Worst of all, I can’t decide on the menu.

And did I say one of the students is lactose intolerant?

Say a huge fucking prayer for Thug Kitchen. Published by Rodale in New York, the 212-page book is written by Thug Kitchen LLC. That caused a bit of a double-take when I first read it. Is that a person? A club? Some Girl Scouts? Google says it’s Matt Holloway and Michelle Davis, whoever they are, but I rather like how TK puts it on their website: “This site is here to help your narrow dietary mind explore some goddamn options so that you can look and feel like a fucking champ.”

Well, then.

All the recipes are vegan and the book, which looks and feels great, has one of those durable matte, full-color covers that makes you want to pet it and dive right in.

The tone of the book, like the site and the blog and the posts and all that other crap, is hilarious. More importantly, it’s wise and straightforward and encouraging. The intro serves as their manifesto—why they feel everyone, not just fancy people who talk a certain way, should and can make tasty, healthy food without killing themselves and the planet. I like this Every Person ethos.

I also like the writing, especially when they’re explaining something to a cooking newbie: “If you don’t like an ingredient, say mushrooms, then don’t try a recipe where the main ingredient is a motherfucking mushroom. And don’t go thinking you can just leave out some core ingredient like that and the dish will still work out. That shit is not going to fly in any recipe. EVER.

“Don’t fucking email us when you try switching bananas out for bell peppers and you’re disappointed with how it tasted,” TK continues. “You did that shit. Not us. Own it.”

I could keep typing lines from the cookbook all day, but I’ll stop. Needless to say, after much page turning and calculating, I finally came up with the following Amazing Dinner Plan:

* Ginger-Lime Sparklers

* Creamy Black Bean and Cilantro Dip

* Baked Spicy Plantain Chips

* Creamy Peanut Slaw

* Tortilla Soup (“This old-school Southwestern soup is so goddamn good, even your grandma would approve. Just don’t let her catch you swearing in the house.”)

* and, for dessert, Chocolate Fudge Pops


I don’t swear this much in a calendar year, so there’s something cathartic about reading lines like “You are going to be one clever culinary motherfucker when we are done with you. Let’s get to fucking work.”

Yes, ma’am. The clock is ticking.