Strategies Against Amateurs: Four questions for Joshua Ploeg

joshua ploeg in a candid moment

I just spent an entire month in a smelly van with wickedly funny rocker and vegan chef Joshua Ploeg, author of four Microcosm cookbooks, going around on the Dinner and Bikes tour. Tour life is a mixture of hectic and regimented, and in that time we never got a chance to sit down and do a proper interview. You can follow Joshua’s schedule here, keep track of his doings here, and buy his new album here (vinyl) or here (digital)

You’re the Traveling Vegan Chef—and that’s so much more than just going places and cooking. What does it mean? How is what you do different than, say, a catering company or a chef who works at a restaurant?

Well, I go from town to town, usually on public transportation or rideshare… I don’t really bring any gear, not even my knives lately. I cook often in apartments or homes for dinner parties, sometimes in random facilities for multimedia or art events and presentations, sometimes popups in restaurants, and occasionally a wedding thrown in there. It’s pretty ramshackle… the good things are I get to hang out and party with the hosts, I don’t have a boss and the trips usually cover themselves as I go along. I’ll spend a few days to a few weeks in each town then move on to the next. In a way it’s sort of a medieval model crossed with a punk rock touring concept.

What was the first cookbook or cookzine that you wrote? How many have you made since? Any favorites?

The first one was a comb-bound, photocopied tome called Something Delicious This Way Comes: Spellbinding Vegan Cookery. It was fun. That’s why I started touring with dinner parties, I was trying to sell that thing. Although I had been doing random events and regular dinners already for several years before that started, I just stayed mostly in my own area (the Pacific Northwest) before. I’ve made I think eight since then, with several more in the queue, with two publishers and still some self-made items as well. I like This Ain’t No Picnic a lot because it has some fun photos, interesting commentary, playlists, etc. It’s fun conceptually and is fairly interactive and involved a bunch of friends in the whole affair. Also So Raw It’s Downright Filthy which I like because it has pictures of garbage and is a garish colour.

Your band Select Sex has a new album! Tell me about it!

Yes, comes out end of June/early July! It’s on the German queercore label Our Voltage. They also put out Vow, Body Betrayal, Red Monkey, Wishbeard and our Select Sex 7″ so far. Vinyl will be limited and is an import. People will be able to mail order them, or can get them at our live shows. The download will be easier to come by, the label should have a link to that. The record is called Strategies Against Amateurs. You’re welcome! It’s good hardcore with some pretty melodic parts, I think it’s my favorite thing I’ve been on so far. Catchy and moody but also pretty brutal here and there. Live show wise, I have some exciting things planned for the next year as far as performance. Gonna take it up a notch. You’ll see. (Update: You can now get Strategies Against Amateurs on vinyl or as a digital download.)

Can you talk about how your music and your cooking are connected? Logistically, thematically, methodologically, however else you’re thinking about it?

My music has always been chaotic and not pretty, so is my life, so is my cooking. It can be challenging, I use weird but functional methods sometimes. I believe in using what you find around you and living in the circumstances you find yourself in and shopping where the people in each place shop and selling your stuff at a reasonable price. Sometimes things are abrasive or challenging, not everyone is going to like everything I do. I don’t try to alter the course for greater demand or pay any attention to trends. I do this more or less how I want to do it and it is generally only affected by logistics. If it is too screwy for some but inspiring to others, fine. It ain’t pretty but it is beautiful.

This interview with Joshua Ploeg is part of our ongoing series of author interviews. The previous one was with Teenage Rebels author Dawson Barrett. The next is with cartoonist Bikeyface.