Molly Neuman — The Collapse Board Interview
by Bianca Valentino
Molly Neuman is one amazing lady! — a musician, the original Riot Grrrl, business woman and so much more. In the 90s she was a trailblazer — helping build the Riot Grrrl community, creating the highly influential fanzine Riot Grrrl which gave the movement its name, as well as co-writing the zine Girl Germs. As a musician she has recorded and toured the world with Bratmobile, The Frumpies and The PeeChees. As a business women she co-owns punk label Lookout Records – the label that gave the world first listen to bands like Green Day and Rancid – and started her own indie label, Simple Social Graces Discos. She has managed acts The Donnas, Ted Leo, and The Locust and is Director of Label Relations for eMusic (a subscription operated online music & audio book store) – often sharing her experiences and knowledge by speaking at music conferences and on DIY business panels.
Now, more often than not you can find Molly in the kitchen – the Simple Social Kitchen that is, a relatively new business venture she has started based in Brooklyn, New York that provides personal chef, catering and health consulting services with a focus on natural and whole foods. This year Molly created and spoke on a panel at SXSW titled Steady Diet Of Nothing which was aimed at educating touring musicians in staying healthy.
Have you always loved cooking?
Yeah actually I have, as far as I can remember. When I was about 10, I remember when I was at camp we had this cooking section. In the summertime you have different classes you can do like swimming, camping, and one of them was cooking. I remember it being really satisfying to be able to learn a recipe, learn to make something then to replicate that at home.
Do you still get that feeling from cooking?
Now that it’s more ‘work work’. Sometimes it just feels like any other work but it’s still pretty satisfying.
Can it be relaxing for you?
Again it depends, if it’s for a job or if it’s for dinner [laughs].
Who’s your biggest influence with cooking?
It’s a little different angle than that. For many, many years I was vegetarian, so you sort of have a different consciousness about food automatically because you know that there are certain things that you can or can’t eat. I was always, always interested in health and food — natural remedies. It wasn’t that I was opposed to western medicine but I was always just curious about ways that you could improve your health without taking a bunch of drugs.
Basically a number of years ago after many, many years of working in the music industry — 20-ish years — I was starting to think about my future and what laid ahead for me and where I would eventually end up with my career. In a ‘pie in the sky’ kind of way I thought, wouldn’t it be nice to have your own place and your own restaurant. I was thinking more along the lines of a BnB (Bed and Breakfast), something small. I looked into things and a friend of mine had gone to a culinary school here in New York that’s called The Natural Gourmet Institute — it’s about cooking with natural ingredients, whole foods, it’s a mostly vegetarian program. It was expensive but I felt like maybe there was a way that I could pull it off. I went part-time and decided that it had awakened a lot of different kinds of emotions, especially about health, wellness, natural food and natural treatments — the connection between food and everything. or basically how disconnected people, especially Americans,are from their bodies and overall health in the long term, in the big picture. It really invigorated me in many ways.
My passion is definitely about yummy food but I’m also fascinated about different cultures and different foods. The other angle that is really core to my energy with it is using natural ingredients, using natural whole foods, lots of vegetables – I’m not vegetarian anymore but I’m still obsessed with vegetables; I still see them as the key to one’s general health anyway.
Definitely, I’ve been a vegetarian myself for over a decade and been very fascinated also in food and how it fuels and heals our bodies. There’s many times in my life where I have been sick and been to the doctors and they’ve been unable to help me, but I’ve taken matters into my own hands, read about nutrition and listened to my body, adjusting my diet accordingly and healed myself. Things like juicing, lots of veggies, tofu, brown rice, fruit; things like yoga and meditation have all helped.
I think it’s very standard that vegetarians will eat a lot of soy, a lot of processed foods, and it’s like maybe in some degree it is healthier but there’s also a lot of side effects to that kind of diet as well.
I’ve been reading some interesting articles on soy lately, and it’s been talking about how it’s processed and grown, and it talks about how it can be equally as bad for you as other processed products. But because of the way it’s marketed, people may believe they’re doing something good for themselves by eating it when that may not necessarily be the case.
Mmm-hmm. I think a lot of people may lean on it. It’s tastier when you can eat the fake meats. You think it’s yummy, especially if you’re not eating junk food in other ways but — it’s junk food. It adds up and it has its effects, especially for women too — it can be a thyroid inhibitor. I’m not a doctor obviously, but these are the things that you learn.
What I’ve tried to follow, especially in the last few years, is not to follow one doctrine but just have as much variety as possible, colours, textures and different things that you can tell just makes you feel a little bit better. Personally I realised that my iron deficiency was affecting me, my mood and my overall blood health and that was something that I felt was easier and better for me to rectify with food rather than supplements and stuff like that. It’s been my choice and it works for me.
I never try to push what works for me on to other people. If people ask about it I’m glad to talk to them about it. I feel everyone needs to work out what’s right for their body, because after all we know our bodies better than anyone else. You just have to stop and listen and be conscious of yourself and choices.
When you started eating meat again after being vegetarian for so long did you have to put yourself into a new kind of mindset?
I eased into it a bit. One of the first meals I had was actually just seafood. It was in my hometown I grew up in. It was the local specialty and I was like I can’t see myself having a mushroom burger that I know won’t be tasty in this town. I knew the seafood was the specialty and it’s the freshest it could be. After 20 years [being vegetarian] it’s just a way of being, you’re like “Oh I just don’t do that”. It was a little bit like, oh this makes sense. A few months later I was in France and I had some more seafood. A few months later I realised my iron deficiency was pretty severe so it was like, OK I’ll have some beef once in a while and that will probably handle it. That’s sort of what happened. It’s been a couple of years now.
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I believe in thoughtful in-depth interviews! My blog Conversations with Bianca is my love letter to the universe. I am the 2011 Australian Zine Maker of the Year. My Conversations With Punx Project won an award for Best Zine Produced in Australia (as a series). Marky Ramone once told me “Your heart is in the right place.”