Interview: Vegan Leah Patriarco Gets the Peanut Butter Panicks

leahderbyMost of the interviews at Weird! Why Aren’t You Vegan? are with people who are unique and different (read: not vegan). This has the normal people (read: vegans) feeling a little left out. So, to appease the masses, we now – once a month – feature a regular old, nothin’ special, run-of-the-mill vegan. This month, we meet Leah Patriarco.

I met Leah at a vegan meetup in Saint Louis. Yawn. We ate vegan food and talked about being vegan. Totally ordinary. It was at an Ethiopian restaurant called Meskerem. I’m dying from boredom… Okay, nope. I can’t even pretend that Ethiopian food is anything but amazing and exciting and delicious. Go get some and bring it back to your house. I’ll wait.

Okay, back to the introduction. Through no fault of her own, Leah sometimes makes people uncomfortable. I’ve felt it. Maybe you’ve felt it. She’s perfectly friendly and, aside from having a congenital condition known as “Daria Face,” Leah is really approachable and easy to talk to. The problem some people seem to have – myself included at times – is that Leah walks the talk. She cares about the world’s issues, she talks about them, and (here’s where we slackers start feeling judged) she does something about them. She is vegan. She rides her bike most places. She speaks up (and writes up) about race issues. She gives talks about street harassment. She attends anti-war and anti-violence protests. She hosts potlucks and makes weirdo non-vegans feel welcome. The list goes on. Leah is an incredibly inspiring and active person, and the only reason you (we) ever feel judged is because by being so active, she serves as a metaphorical mirror to show us all the things we aren’t doing for the world. To summarize, shame on you for not being Leah. But seriously, the vegan thing is totally uninteresting. Like, who isn’t vegan these days?

Meet Leah Patriarco.

What is the most exciting thing you’ve ever done on stage or in front of a podium?
I have done a lot of weird things on stage including playing a character who was playing a character who sang in a French accent, performing in head-to-toe silver (including silver body paint on all exposed skin), and doing improv. Improv is always weird. The fact that none of these things seem exciting enough probably means I should find more things to do on a stage.

Do you do your own laundry? If so, describe your process and tell us what your biggest laundry mistake has been.

Since I have the use of my own body and a strong desire to not have servants, I do my own laundry. The only part of my process that’s unusual is putting the basket of clean laundry down, watching a cat immediately jump into it, and thinking, “She looks so comfortable. I guess I could wait until later to put these away.” All of my laundry mistakes have been normal and not worth relating so instead I will tell you that I have an irrational fear of accidentally washing one of my cats. That would be a colossal laundry mistake.

You share your home with some non-human animals. Tell us a funny story about them.
I live with three dogs and four cats. They’re known for near-constant snuggling (with us and each other) and eating each other’s puke. Most of the funny stories revolve around Voltaire, and by funny I mean “frustrating but we laugh because we have to keep loving him”. Voltaire is a feisty cat who seems to thrive on being annoying. He enjoys eating caulk out of window frames, demolishing headphones, and putting things in toilets that don’t belong there. Like clocks.

Do you share your home with any fellow human animals? Tell us an embarrassing story about them. Just kidding, tell us one about you.
I live with my special man friend Dan and our platonic friend Heather. Why can’t I tell an embarrassing story about them? Dan does lots of embarrassing things. Ok, fine: I play roller derby but most of my bruises are from running into tables and door frames because I apparently don’t know where the outside of my body is. That’s better than one embarrassing story because it happens pretty much every day.

Some readers have indicated they’d like to know about your veganism. That seems weird to me, since being vegan is the norm and not very interesting, but here goes nothing.

leahlisaWhen did you become vegan and what motivated you to do so (aside from the fact that being vegan is pretty much a given nowadays, and that there are a hundred reasons that support the decision and none against it)?
When I was 16, I bought a vegetarian cookbook while killing time at CVS (This was a thing my friends and I did for fun. I promise I have grown). I had already been vegetarian for 7 years but had never heard of veganism. The cookbook had a two-paragraph section on why some people choose to become vegan, namely how egg-laying hens and dairy cows are treated. Since I was vegetarian because I didn’t want to harm animals, being vegan made sense to me. I started right away but didn’t actually know how to pronounce the word. I told people I was “vej-un” until I met another vegan months later, at which point I pretended I’d been saying it right the whole time to seem cool in front of my new vegan friend.

What is your favorite meal? It can be real or made up.
Most Fridays we do spring roll night at our house. So far I have not gotten sick of them so I’m pretty sure that makes spring rolls my favorite meal. I think that has a lot to do with the peanut sauce we dip them in. I could eat peanut sauce every day of my life.

What food item do you always have in stock in your kitchen?
Lots of them because I’m a human with privilege who always has lots of food around. But I start to feel a little panicky when we get low on peanut butter. Not because I’m worried about protein. I’m not. That’s rarely a thing. It’s just because peanut butter is delicious and I eat it every day.

Do you just eat vegan (aka, the bare minimum) or do you also speak out against cruelty? If so, what do you do? If not, what is your problem?
I don’t think it’s possible to just eat vegan and not speak out against cruelty because when you’re vegan people ask you questions about it, from the rude, “Isn’t your life terrible now?” to the sincere, “Will you teach me how to make vegan cookies and then can we eat all of them together?” Every question is an opportunity to get people to think more about their choices. I used to actively go out and do vegan activism but as I started learning more about how different kinds of oppression relate, my intentional activism broadened. Currently I spend more time working on issues related to racism but I also have all sorts of conversations about sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, speciesm, and how they relate. Basically my Facebook timeline is full of articles about things that are going wrong in the world interspersed with adorable pictures of the non-humans I live with and occasional stories of my own clumsiness.

What is the easiest thing about being vegan?
This question is hard to answer because it’s weird. Being vegan isn’t something I analyze and think about every day. It’s just what I do because eating animals doesn’t make sense to me. So I guess the easiest thing about being vegan is not having to feel like I’m being hypocritical every time I eat. I care about animals and don’t want them to suffer so I don’t eat or wear them or things that come from them. I feel like trying to explain to myself at every meal why I’m eating animals even though I don’t want them to suffer would be really exhausting.

Out of the one and only reason it’s hard to be vegan (the people around you, of course), who is the worst offender and why?
My sister used to moo at me when I ate but now she’s vegan (I win!) so I guess I have to think of someone else. I got really frustrated recently with someone who made a series of excuses for not being vegan and then when they realized their excuses weren’t logical just said, “Actually, I don’t care if animals suffer.” It seems like if your excuses don’t fit with your own worldview it’s preferable to say, “I guess I should go vegan” rather than, “I guess I should convince myself that I’m a sociopath.”

(Also, my sister is actually the best and she was like 15 when she mooed.)

Thank you, Leah!

Song: “Overlap” by Ani DiFranco
Recipe: Tiger Balls for the Holidays (they contain peanut butter!)

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