Bourbon 'n BrownTown

Ep. 87 - Democratizing Philosophy through Identity, Environment, & Ethical Food Pathways ft. Shanti Chu

Episode Summary

BrownTown listens, learns, and discusses how to make philosophy more accessible, environmental justice through animal rights, and ethical food pathways with Shanti Chu, philosopher, writer, speaker, and creator of ChiVeg, a dynamic food blog that focuses on ethical eating with vegetarian recipes. The team explores the topics' connections to each other through personal experiences and critical pedagogy while unpacking their relation to capitalism and white supremacy.

Episode Notes

BrownTown listens, learns, and discusses how to make philosophy more accessible, environmental justice through animal rights, and ethical food pathways with Shanti Chu, philosopher, writer, speaker, and creator of ChiVeg, a dynamic food blog that focuses on ethical eating with vegetarian recipes. The team explores the topics' connections to each other through personal experiences and critical pedagogy while unpacking their relation to capitalism and white supremacy.

Full Transcription Here!

GUEST: Shanti Chu is a published philosopher, writer and speaker on the topics of public philosophy, food, multiracial identity, and intersectionality. She is a philosophy professor in the Chicagoland area and makes philosophy palatable for everyday life through using innovative teaching methods. In addition to her scholarship and teaching, she is the creator of ChiVeg, a dynamic food blog that focuses on ethical eating with vegetarian recipes. Shanti also does freelance writing for TimeOut Chicago and Art News. When not actively philosophizing or thinking about food, she mixes lofi house, ambient, and moody techno under the DJ duo name Evanti. Follow her on her philosophy website and YouTube channel; follow ChiVeg on the site, Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest!


Mentioned in episode and other resources:


CREDITS: Intro soundbite from Pearl Quick on Ep. 78 - Black Farming & Finding Your Food Story and outro music The Guns of Brixton by The Clash. Audio engineered by Kiera Battles. Episode photo by Melody Joy Co.


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Episode Transcription

Ep. 87 - Democratizing Philosophy through Identity, Environment, & Ethical Food Pathways ft. Shanti Chu

BrownTown listens, learns, and discusses how to make philosophy more accessible, environmental justice through animal rights, and ethical food pathways with Shanti Chu, philosopher, writer, speaker, and creator of ChiVeg, a dynamic food blog that focuses on ethical eating with vegetarian recipes. The team explores the topics' connections to each other through personal experiences and critical pedagogy while unpacking their relation to capitalism and white supremacy.


(Bourbon ‘n BrownTown Ep. 78 - Black Farming & Finding Your Food Story)

[00:00:52] Pearl Quick: It is this beautiful understanding, and the Indigenous folks have been doing it forever. The Afro Indigenous folks have been doing it forever. That our land sustains us. And the more that we understand that, the more that we understand the soil and ourselves, the more that we understand our community and the more that we can do what is needed to make sure our people are whole and holistic and fed and fed well. Food sovereignty takes the ego out of food and labor and money and feeding our people, and really grounds us- pun intended- to this idea that we are part of land and that we must remember that.


[00:01:40] David: I'd like to welcome everyone to another installment of Bourbon 'n BrownTown. I am your co-host, David, coming out to you live. Well, from when I'm recording, live from the Malik Alim studio. Shout out to Let Us Breathe Collective. Always with my boy, Caullen. Caullen, man, how you doing? 

[00:01:54] Caullen: I am too stressed to be blessed. I'm gonna flip it on its head right now. No, been a long, tiring day. Mentally and physically. But in the grand scheme of things, I'm okay. I'm trying to do this thing lately that- shout out to my therapist, Blanca- I've been complaining to her about work stuff, and just being stressed all the time. And she's like, it's very easy to just count- not count your blessings, but, think about all the things you've achieved, and you've done, and the people around you. I'm like, you right, you right. So I was teaching today, teaching the fitness, and I was like, God, I'm so tired. I have so many timely things to do that would be cool otherwise, that I don't want to do. But I was like, Hey, gonna record later with the homies. We're gonna get a new physical office space for Soapbox soon. Things are good. Stop complaining. Stop being a little punk and be happy. And then it kinda worked for like 10 minutes, and then I gotta say it again. But we're rolling with the punches. We're figuring it out. Got an "Eat the Rich" shirt on. So, David, how are you doing? 

[00:02:51] David: You already know. Man, you know, we're doing good. I think to your point, we finally were able to spend sometime doing nothing. And by doing nothing, it's like, I hung out with my family, watch Mexico get their ass beat by Argentina. You know what I'm saying? And you know, we'll see what happens with Saudi Arabia, but alas, that's a whole other conversation. And so I don't know, I was able to do nothing, so in that, I think sometimes we get so tied into like, if you're doing nothing, you're doing wrong. So it's like, no, I am doing things. 

[00:03:17] Caullen: *whispering* Capitalist logic.

[00:03:17] David: And this other day I found a post of like, there's other ways to say that I'm doing nothing. Like, oh, I took a rest day, or I took a nap, or I was overworked- I was feeling overloaded, so I took time to decompress. I took a nap, et cetera, et cetera. So like, 

[00:03:29] Caullen: it's not even a synonym. It's like, you're doing something, you've just been told so often- I mean, our WORKepisode was all about this, right? That capitalist logic is strong. 

[00:03:36] David: Yeah. And I think we feel it also with like, the change in seasons. It's like, it's colder, it gets darker sooner, so I think, we're definitely doing a job. But to that other point, we're definitely, constantly grateful for the opportunities that we get to do what we love. As well as contribute in different ways and fashions to this end goal. So to bring us into that, we have a fantastic guest with us. You've probably seen them somewhere. To help us talk and discuss about the role of philosophy and the way in which it intersects into everything. 

[00:04:15] Caullen: For y'all that don't know, and you should, Shanti Chu- pronouns, she/her/hers is a published philosopher, writer and speaker on the topics of public philosophy, food, multiracial identity, and intersectionality. She is a philosophy professor in the Chicagoland area and makes philosophy palatable for everyday life through using innovative teaching methods. In addition to her scholarship and teaching, she's the creator of ChiVeg, a dynamic food blog that focuses on ethical eating with vegetarian recipes. Shanti also does freelance writing for TimeOut Chicago and Art News. When not actively philosophizing or thinking about food, she mixes lofi house, ambient, and moody techno under the DJ duo name Evanti. Ooh. Let's go! Shanti, what's good? 

[00:05:00] Shanti: Thank you so much for having me. I'm really excited to be here and have this conversation with you all about these important issues. Especially how philosophy can be palatable and applied in our lives, just because it has this reputation of being this unruly discipline that's just practiced in an ivory tower situation.

[00:05:18] David: Unruly. Okay. 

[00:05:19] Shanti: Yeah. So I'm really excited to have- to share this space with you all to talk about this. And yes, I completely understand the whole capitalist logic of overworking and realizing, No, it's okay to rest. 

[00:05:30] David: Yeah. We're very glad to have you here with us. And I think something that we'd love to do is kind of do a little check-in amongst ourselves.

[00:05:37] And so the question for today that we're thinking, and kind of in-line with our conversation, was what's your go-to meal to make at home. I know you, foodie. What's your go-to meal to make at home? 

[00:05:53] Caullen: Sounds like a slur. "Foodie!". 

[00:05:55] David: We'll talk about it. We'll talk about.

[00:06:00] Shanti: Yeah, I would say I have variations of using the same ingredients, but just in different ways. So usually it's like eggplant, broccoli, garlic, and tofu. Those are my go-to ingredients. But then the kinds of spices I use or the kinds of sauces I use differ. So it could be more of an Indian spice mixture with garam masala or cumin. If I wanna go more French or Hungarian, it's more like dijon mustard and smoked paprika. If I wanna go more East Asian Chinese then I'll do like tamari or soy sauce with a vegetable stir fry sauce. And so those are kind of the variations using the same ingredients. And sometimes it'll be with rice pilaf or couscous or basmati rice, or egg noodles if it's Hungarian. So yeah. 

[00:06:53] Caullen: Man, I need to change up my pop-tart answer. *laughing* I'm kidding, I'm kidding. Am I? 

[00:06:59] David: I was like, how much time do I have? That sounds like time- no.. 

[00:07:02] Shanti: Yeah. 

[00:07:03] David: But Caullen, what about you? 

[00:07:04] Caullen: It's not pop-tarts. No, every once in a while I'll see one, and I'll be like, fuck it. And I toast it, and it's really good! Get some oat milk. Anyway, I think that the most common thing I make at home, and thing I think I can make well: salmon, some quinoa, roasted brussel sprouts. It may not be amazing, like restaurant quality, but like, it's not- you're gonna eat them and be like, okay! You're gonna be like, okay! The high pitched like, ah, yeah! You know when you do that when people are impressed. 

[00:07:28] David: They're like, oh there's salt.

[00:07:29] Caullen: That's.. You put some spices on here, okay! And similarly, I mean, if I'm doing something where I'm like, roasting or pan frying something and they're using similar spices, like, all right, do I want this to be lemon pepper and more peppery? Or do I want it to be more spicy and get some of the, you know what I'm saying? So I got....I got my little ya digs in there, in the kitchen. 

[00:07:49] David: See, I think I'm thinking of- I'm still trying to find an answer. Cause I think when I hear two go, I hear two things. I hear about like, how much time do I have? And like.... How long ago did I go to the grocery shop? 

[00:08:03] Caullen: It's like your go-to meal, not like you're on the run. 

[00:08:06] David: Oh, okay. Okay. 

[00:08:07] Caullen: Your go-to. Not to-go.

[00:08:08] David: So I have everything at my disposal in my crib and I wanna make something? 

[00:08:10] Caullen: Yeah. 

[00:08:11] David: See, well, I mean, I like- I've always been good at- well, I mean, I don't know. So I learned this recipe from a family member, but like, chicken tinga. And like, I like spicy foods. So you know, you grab your whole chile chipotle and I'll grill that entire thing; onions and, you know, chicken, and then put that on a tostada. So like a large nacho. 

[00:08:31] Caullen: Our listeners know what tostadas are.

[00:08:33] David: If some don't. No I'm kidding. I'm just teasing.

[00:08:34] Caullen: I apologize on behalf of David thinking y'all don't know what tostadas are. 

[00:08:37] David: No, but I think that would be my to-go. Cause- but I think with that, it's like I've... I tried to meal prep. Meal prep doesn't really work. But like, I'll cook a bunch of chicken, so I'll be like, all right, I have a bunch of chicken; just fuck it, I can despedasar, take it apart, and then like dump into the sauce and boom, we got food. So it's also like something that's rather quick. But I don't know, I think it's interesting. And so I appreciate all of y'all indulging us with that question. But to kind of bring us back, Shanti, how did you first come to where you are today? Yeah, take it from there.

[00:09:10] Shanti: Yeah. So when I was an undergrad, I- my plan was to just major in psychology and be a psychologist or therapist, but I was required to take three philosophy courses as part of my major. And it was the second philosophy course that I took where I fell in love with philosophy because I realized that philosophy was not just a theoretical discipline. And while I do love theory, I realized that it could be applied to understanding social justice; and not just recognizing the ways in which things operate, which I think psychology and sociology have helped me with, but also trying to understand how did things come to be? Should they be this way?

[00:09:47] And so it was an ethics class where my professor talked about applying ethical issues and ethical theories to modern day social justice issues and to cross-cultural ethics. And so that's when I realized, wow, it's not just something that is fun to think about, like, this can have real life implications for people. And I came to philosophy through Marxism, so, 

[00:10:09] Caullen: hey, shout out. 

[00:10:11] Shanti: And the idea of philosophers not just theorizing about the world, but also changing the world was something that really resonated with me. And then I just went into the further, I guess, further exploration of philosophy and took feminist theory classes and classes on political philosophy. And so that's when I decided to also study philosophy. And I wanted to- after I went to grad school in philosophy I realized that I wanted- I loved teaching. 

[00:10:39] And just the idea of the classroom being a space where you can have that active praxis is, through a lot of many thinkers that we will talk about, but I think Paulo Freire and also Marx have specifically at that point in my life impacted me where I thought about, okay, this is a way to engage in social change and to have people kind of question the realities and their purpose and meaning and constructing that purpose and meaning and considering authenticity in their lives. And so that's how I came to philosophy. 

[00:11:14] David: Crazy. And I think something that you mentioned that I think is is interesting- and I hear this often when you have conversations with other folks about like, coming to it and making something that is digestible. And I think, for me, I definitely, being born in this like cult-like religion, I've constantly been told to question everything, right? And so from from the get-go, it was like, all right, cool. And then I started questioning my own upbringing, the cult that kind of surrounded and created a lot of, now I'm looking at it as like, turmoil and...harm.

[00:11:49] From there, when I was in undergrad, I was the only freshman in a senior political philosophy course. And at first I was like, I was a little intimidated on that, but like, this is literally something I want to do. So I intentionally went to Columbia College Chicago, shout out. And so they had a bunch of crazy shit like that. So I was one of- I wish I was in your classes cause I'd be one of those students who like... I wanna talk about this shit. And I think what's interesting for me is like, after I took four classes there wasn't really anything else for me that I felt I gravitated to. So unfortunately I didn't- I mean my thesis was in poiesis. So I took, you know, poetics, which is... what our philosophy of poetry. But I don't know, I think it's so interesting and I'm so glad that you're here so we can talk about some of these ideas and how we bring it more to the real world and the everyday. But Caullen, I'm curious about you, how'd you get- or what's your intersection with philosophy? 

[00:12:42] Caullen: Mine was similar to both of yours; in undergrad. Honors philosophy class at DePaul, shout out. And Dr. Howard Peter Steeves, super dope. And side tangent about him, cause my email coming into this- like, you can date my radicalization periods- my email coming from college into- sorry, from high school into college was Huey Newton founded the Panthers in '66 with Bobby Seal. And so, everyone was like, oh, you need to get a professional email, you're in college now, make it your first name, last name at Gmail. And I was like, fuck that. I'm radical, ah! Eventually I changed it. But... emailing him, he was like, Hey, I noticed your email, is this what you're referring to? This is cool. I'm like, that's right. Anyway, he was just a great teacher in general. And was fun and engaging and accessible. And I, at some point during the quarter, I've always been a nerd and liked school, so at some point during the quarter I stopped taking notes. Which sounds like an intentional choice, like, I don't wanna do this. His lectures were just so good, I would take notes in class on what he was saying, but I didn't need to do the readings cause he was so effective. 

[00:13:55] We would watch movies a lot and do the philosophy of Fight Club, which is something you can obviously see, it's kind of definitely intentional in that film if you've seen it. But we also did the philosophy of Total Recall and some of these, you know, late '80s early '90s blockbusters and stuff. Which is like our abolitionist tech 2.0 episode or parts of episodes. Essentially me just talking about movies for an hour. And a lot of that's cause of him, cause he broke down these movies so well, and these movies that you tend to look at in a low-brow kind of way. Like, oh, it's Arnold Schwarzenegger killing people, and going into space and whatever. And it's like, no, there's a lot of stuff embedded here that's like, world building, talking about how people value each other or don't, and what does a colony somewhere else mean? And what are we doing now? 

[00:14:35] World building, encoding values, how do we practice and act on them? And as we talk about in this podcast all the time, Soapbox is a film and production entity. We talk about movies quite a bit now, I mean more so in Bourbon 'n BrownTown. But, all of these things are reflecting what's happening in the world, in very very real ways. Like, colonies on Mars, or not treating the Earth well, it's like, we're doing that now. If you've- not necessarily a spoiler, but the Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, the CIA just very casually mentions doing coups. And it's like, yeah, John Bolton said that a couple months ago on CNN, and no one batted an eye. Like, that's real. And so it's like, we need to take these things more seriously before they... before we don't have na Earth to care about anymore. So I've always enjoyed pop culture, movies, and deeper discussions and stuff, and he planted that seed really early on. 

[00:15:26] David: And so, and I'm curious for some of our listeners, what are some of the ways in which you have taken a subject as vast as philosophy and made it, you know, palpable for everyone?

[00:15:39] Shanti: Yeah, so I teach introduction to philosophy and ethics courses, and one of the first things I teach in Intro is about Plato's allegory of the Cave. And, some of the... some of the other dialogues by Plato. But what I ask them is, what does it mean to live an examined life in our contemporary society? And if Plato, if specifically if Socrates were alive today, how would he be treated? Would people be critical of him? What would he think of social media? So just kind of placing some of these ideas and figures in our contemporary society, and asking students how their theories resonate with them? How does it... how is it different? How is it similar? 

[00:16:21] And a lot of the questions about ethical theories of what should we be doing, or utilitarianism versus Kantian theory- the idea of the greater good versus individual duties that we have to other people. I ask students to apply that to the pandemic and the idea of like- especially those earlier days of the pandemic- like, wearing a mask, getting vaccinated. Do people have a duty to do these things? I ask- I pose those kinds of questions to have them think about like, okay, our decisions may be seemingly individual, but they inevitably impact other people. 

[00:16:56] And then, at the end of the semester, or I guess I would say the second half, it gets more applied. So we have these theoretical concepts, but then students have these tools to apply it to these markers of class, gender, race, through existentialist theory or through Marxism, or through Plato's theory or through Cartesian theory about the mind and the body. And... in so far as we're thinking about identity, I try to encourage or invite students to consider their relationship to their own identities. If they really feel like it's a choice. And depending on what even facet of identity we're talking about, clearly that question- or that answer is going to differ. But the dynamic between free will versus determinism I encourage my students to think about in relation to class, and gender, and race, and purpose and meaning in life, too. Are you...Do you feel like you are really... have you been able to craft your own purpose and meaning in your life? Or do you feel like it's been forced upon you? 

[00:18:01] David: And what do you feel is the reception for the average Joe Schmoe in your class? 

[00:18:08] Caullen: or Jane Schmain 

[00:18:09] David: or Jane Schmain. That was good, though. I like that. 

[00:18:14] Just curious, like I said, I can see that. And some people are bit like... they don't... Like, I ain't got time for this. I don't know. It sounds like what you're proposing can may, to some folks, feel or seem overwhelming. And so I'm just curious about what is some of that reception that you've received from past experiences?

[00:18:34] Shanti: I would say yeah, most of my students have jobs. Some of them have families that they're taking care of. So I definitely understand that perspective of just like, oh my gosh, I have to take this class to fulfill a humanities elective. Like, this has nothing to do with my major. And then I try to, I guess, encourage them to think about how philosophy isn't necessarily- and this is a little bit diverting- so I'll...but how philosophy isn't necessarily related to someone's career trajectory, and it doesn't have to be for it to be valuable. But like, because it is such a pliable and flexible and fluid field, it can be applied in different ways to our careers; especially with ethical dilemmas. 

[00:19:15] And I think at the beginning of the semester, like... on the first day of class, there's different kinds of reactions I'm getting. So one reaction is like, oh my gosh, what am I here for? What am I doing? And then other reactions are like, oh, this is exciting. And I think when I first started teaching- I mean, it's been, I've been teaching for 10 years now, it's crazy how fast it's gone- but I think at first I was much more lecture heavy and kind of not using a Socratic method. And then throughout my time teaching,'s much... I've encouraged much more active learning where students are in groups, or I ask students to ponder these questions in their groups rather than me talking about it. And I think that garners much more interest cause they're seeing like, oh, someone here who is in this class with me, one of my classmates has this idea rather than this person standing here.

[00:20:07] Caullen: Yeah. There's a power dynamic there as well. It's like... 

[00:20:09] Shanti: yeah. 

[00:20:10] Caullen: Yeah. I feel like I'm weird. I like being lectured too. Maybe I just don't like- 

[00:20:15] David: I like good lectures. 

[00:20:16] Caullen: Good lectures. Oh no, for sure, for sure. Yeah. I think maybe it's like, nowadays where I'm like, I don't want to do anything extra. I just wanna go to this panel, don't ask me how I feel, just give me information.

[00:20:26] But I remember that's like.... half, half a joke. But I had a class in grad school. I went to grad school at DePaul, again, for Sociology. And...- did you just boo sociology? Why? 

[00:20:40] David: DePaul. I'm just kidding. I said Columbia prior. 

[00:20:42] Caullen: Oh columbia. We got like, this fake rivalry that doesn't exist. The point being, we had a qualitative methods class. I'm like, oh, I love qualitative methods. I was like, that's my jam. And it was like, over... they overcorrected the participatory learning. It was only like, what do you think? I was like, girl, I'm not paying myself. I need something. So I'm not like... it was just... I just didn't appreciate that experience.

[00:21:02] David: No, and I'm, for example, I'm thinking about... so... I'm talking about this freshman year course, and I'm even trying to think about the professor and I don't remember his name. Because he was kind of lecture-y, but kind of to your point, kinda just let us just read. 

[00:21:16] And so what really came to me from that course was like, the spectrum of work starting with Plato. So we read Plato. He didn't paint it as pretty or whatever, but I do remember when I was talking about it, I constantly connected it to my personal experience with the church. And being like, this is what this entity that I grew up told me was the world, and is the shadow truly. And even the light, like, even then they're not really holding a light. So it's like, I don't know. I think it's so... I think it's important, I think it's wonderful to hear that you have sometimes, students are like, all right, I'll fuck with this. And even those that feel challenged, I think the challenge is good, right? It's part of that process. And I think the final thing that you're doing that I think is interesting that I think failed, in at least that political philosophy course I had, was bringing it to the today, right? And we did end with Marx and I thought that was cool. But even then, at that moment, I wasn't, you know, a revolutionary, if you will. And so when I read this context, I was like, man, this motherfucker's crazy. To a degree. But I was like... it's also then my biases...of like, Russia, or what I assumed Russia was. And also the professor seemed a little bit nationalistic. So, you know, he kind of... not that he discarded Marx necessarily, but we also had the shortest amount of time with him out of everyone. But we spent a month and a half with Plato, you know what I'm saying? So I thought that was interesting.

[00:22:37] But I'm naming all of this to say, I think it's really exciting that we have various opportunities to engage in something as vast, once again, as it; but we can also be enamored by it. I was thinking about, originally, when I was like, what is philosophy? I was like, it's the art of thought, right? I was like, someone fucking said that. And I'm like, that's probably true. But I think we can still take these things that were said by, you know,- example: dead old white guys, and they can still manifest themselves in various ways through our experiences, et cetera, et cetera.

[00:23:09] Cause I think, you know- I'm curious for us... as we start shifting our conversation from our personal experiences with philosophy and how we've seen it intersect in our personal experiences. What I'm interested in, in hearing a little bit more, and you know, I'll pitch it to you at first and then we can kind of talk about it- you did mention film and the aspect of the way philosophy can kinda... is intersected with that. But I'd be curious to hear, in terms of academia and philosophy, what...for example, what are some of the intentions you have with staying in your community college in comparison to a high school class? 

[00:23:52] I think one of the things- one of the podcasts that I listen to was the democratizing philosophy with a gentleman. And he was very fascinated by techniques that you use in your courses or in your syllabus about engaging folks. And so I think- you talk about how some of your students are parents, or they got three jobs and shit, and so making things accessible, not only with the way in which you lecture and you provide this information, but the way in which they interact with stuff. So you talk about your blog posts. Can you speak a little bit to- for listeners who have no idea what the fuck I'm talking about right now- can you speak a little bit to that and why that's a method that you choose for ways in which your classmates, in this example, participate in this concept?

[00:24:34] Shanti: Yeah, definitely. I mentioned before that my teaching methods have changed a lot. And I think it's funny that you said you like lecture because I liked lecture a lot too when I was in college. And I think some of our biases when we're teaching, our biases are manifested through our preferences as a learner can be carried through when we teach. And so I've become much more aware of definitely much more active learning. And then also in terms of the kinds of assignments and assessments, I would say I used to assign- my courses used to be a lot of papers, or much more... heavier in that way. 

[00:25:10] David: Brain to pencil to paper. 

[00:25:11] Shanti: Yeah, like, okay, this is a philosophy course, let's have lots of writing and trying to cover so much reading in a short span.

[00:25:19] Caullen: Oh, it's insane. 

[00:25:20] Shanti: Yeah! And so I've definitely varied the kinds of assignments. So I have my students, instead of doing longer papers, they can do podcast, or visual posters, or photography, or little shorter video essays. So those kinds of teaching methods or assessments, I think, are not as biased towards learners who might thrive with writing assignments. So trying to be more inclusive with different learning styles. 

[00:25:49] And then also, with some of my classroom policies, I used to be more of a stickler with due dates. And then I realized like, this doesn't make any sense and this isn't helping people. And I was in this grading for equity reading group back in 2020, and that was pretty astonishing in terms of the ways in which we are not inclusive towards our students who might be teaching material that may seem inclusive; but in terms of how we're grading our students, it's not inclusive. And so I realized that my due dates are not inclusive, and especially in the setting where I'm teaching it, in a community college. So what I've started doing- well, I've been doing it for the past few years, is soft due dates. So it's like, okay, you have a week from when the arbitrary due date I've set is due, but I don't really, I don't take late points off. And what I see happening is that it's not as if students are taking advantage of it, and exploiting the policy, and never turning in the work- they turn it in, it's just on their own time that works for them as busy working students with families. And I think that has been a lot better. It's been a better classroom policy.

[00:26:56] So that's been like a major change I've made. And then assignment revisions, assignment rewrites- instead of saying like, oh, this've turned it in one time, or just in the beginning of the semester you can rewrite it. No, it's like, anytime you wanna rewrite something, you can. And so those have been the ways in which I've modified what I'm doing to try to be a better educator and help cultivate more success among my students. 

[00:27:21] Caullen: When in school, I think I was really much like, trying to get my stuff done on time. Wish I had that now as an adult. That would be better. I'll show up when I show up. It's okay. 

[00:27:30] David: Well, we can have soft deadlines moving forward, I think. 

[00:27:33] Caullen: David's like...-this is not weekly meeting, David's like, riiiight??! But some- I mean, I feel like we do a pretty good job of that. When we need to. 

[00:27:41] David: No, but, I do think it's important. And I think- this is- for all of our listeners, definitely check out, we'll have all of the information regarding what we're talking about on the episode notes. But I would love to kind of move us. And I know you- once again, we just talked about how philosophy can be ingrained in everything, right? And so the first point I'd love to talk about, and you've mentioned it oftentimes, is identity. And so... to you, and I mean to each of us, how do we see this intersection between philosophy and identity play out today? 

[00:28:13] Shanti: I think that my own relationship with my identity is how I first became interested in philosophy's relationship with identity. And I think it's really liberating to talk about like, oh, this is my personal story and this is how it intersects with my academic interests, cause that's not really... you know, celebrated in academia to talk about your own personal stories and things that aren't necessarily related to philosophy in the third person.

[00:28:42] So I- for identity, specifically, like, my racial and my ethnic identity was something that was always challenging for me. Just having come from a family where my- both of my parents are immigrants, but from different countries. My mother's an immigrant from Hungary, and my father's an immigrant from India. But then they divorced, and then I didn't grow up with my father, so I grew up in white suburbia with my white mom, but she wasn't... it's not like she- she was very intense in some ways and perpetuated some ideas of like, this is what you need to do as a child of an immigrant. And so I think I felt like an other, in terms of my family, but also just in terms of the spaces I was in, where people would always ask me like, what are you? Or like, where are your parents from? And just like.... 

[00:29:31] Caullen: Connecticut. 

[00:29:32] Shanti: Yeah! *Laughing* So that kind of led me to think more about like, am I an other and what does that mean to be an other? And then in my feminist philosophy course I read Simone de Beauvoir's The Second Sex, and that's where she talks about how woman is other. And then I applied that to being a woman. But I also- it really resonated with me with my racial and ethnic identity, and not feeling like I belong in Indian spaces, not feeling like I belong in white spaces. And so having kind of that idea of hybridity, that was something that post-colonial theory helped me grapple with too. And that idea of like, multiple- not belonging... or- and also not having a unified sense of self, I think. And so that was also a Buddhist concept that resonated with me; where there isn't this essential self that's unchanging. 

[00:30:30] So those are- that's kind of how philosophy has helped me grapple with identity and- with gender, the idea of, yes, I'm socialized as a woman, I identify as a cisgender woman, but then how are- what are some ways in which I'm choosing to be this way? Or how has my family or my cultural background impacted what I do and the ways in which I express my gender identity. For me it's like, yes, this is what I'm used to, this is what I feel comfortable with, but why do I feel comfortable with this? And the idea of like, is there really an authentic self? Or for me in my situation, like, do I really have an authentic gender? That's how philosophy has helped me grapple with personal identity questions. 

[00:31:09] Caullen: I'm thinking about all the things. 

[00:31:11] David: Yeah! Same. I'm just thinking about my personal experience. 

[00:31:13] Caullen: I'm trying to think about what we haven't mentioned about ourselves on here before. Thank you for sharing this, a lot. I know you've talked about that somewhat often. And then also use yourself as an example and kind of brought it down to the macro level- which I think, I appreciate, I think we appreciate on this podcast and Soapbox as well; it's like, how do we use. personal stories, and storytelling, but also like, you're not the only person who's had these thoughts before, right? So like, how do we look at all these different things, and how everyone has those thoughts to varying degrees? And if you don't, you probably are in an environment or a world that says that you are right as a certain identity, rather that's cis, white, straight, whatever, the list goes on. 

[00:31:47] Yeah. And I feel like when... there's a moment where anything- whether it comes from academia or comes from the grassroots of organizing or activism or whatever- there's a word or a term and it gets co-opted and kind of mainstream in a way. Where it's like, great, people are using it; but then also it's like, ah shit, now they're gonna start bastardizing it. I think of like, "progressive" from 20 years ago to now, and how like, Obama was on The Daily Show the other day, he was like, "we progressives...", I was like, "we progressives, bro?!?". 

[00:32:17] David: We??! 

[00:32:18] Caullen: We??! Who is we?! Anyway, that's interesting. 

[00:32:21] David: Trevor Noah was like, yes. 

[00:32:22] Caullen: Yeah. Like, Trevor. He... 

[00:32:23] David: well, you know, he's leaving, so it's fine.

[00:32:25] Caullen: But I say all that- there was tangents, but intersectionality and folks would be like, oh, I'm not intersectional, I don't have intersectional identities. And it's like, wow! 1) you're wrong, but like, the power and priveledge you have to not even to understand your identities or how you were raised or socialized, and just think that's normal. And the normalization of all those things and the myths that perpetuate from that, and the harm that they perpetuate from that. So I've heard you talk about that before, but I appreciate you sharing again and getting into the weeds about it. And like, it's weird to extrapolate our own experiences to a macro level. And that was kind of some sociology stuff for me... But, I've talked about myself before on here. So I wanna- I feel like you were itching to get into something, David? 

[00:33:14] David: I mean, I was just curious. I'm literally reflecting on your personal experience and kind of connecting it with mine. In the concept of like, oftentimes I think- I know for a lot of first generation Mexican Americans, we're like, not Mexican enough, but we're not American enough. And I was like... and I've always grappled with that idea. That's why like, I prefer the term Chicano; cause I think it embodies things differently. But it's like, I also see folks that don't give the light of day to understand or care about why it can be an issue, even within Mexican Americans. And so, I don't know. I think it's wonderful, once again, we're looking at philosophy and the way it intersects with all these things. So it's like, identity I think is a core thing. And I think from there, we stem into a lot of other places. But. 

[00:34:04] Caullen: And you speak not just before or on the podcast, but like, how you came to kind of owning and liking Chicano versus Mexican, Mexican American, whatever. And there's a history there, right? There's a strong organizing activist, like solidarity, giving power to that name in that word. 

[00:34:22] And this may be a reach, but I wanna try to move us in a certain way- one of the things I've heard you talk about before, Shanti, on one of the things I watched or heard from you talking and also right now, is the post-colonial... post-colonialism, I guess. And one thing I've been thinking about a lot lately from talking to my uncle about LGBTQ+ people, like trans folks just existing and them being more salient to him, I guess, right? Him being like, pro-Black in the- I don't wanna say "hotep", but pro-Black in like, the old school kind of way, right? 

[00:34:58] David: Uncle Hotep! *laughing*

[00:34:59] Caullen: No, he's not... he's not Uncle Hotep. 

[00:35:01] David: Nah, just teasing him. All love, uncle. All love. 

[00:35:04] Caullen: But when thinking about pre-contact and post-colonial histories, especially I'm using Black folks as an example, and African diaspora, but also I think Indigenous folks and a lot of different cultures across the globe is that these ideas about gender fluidity, these ideas of veganism, which I know we'll kind of get into, and that "plant-based diet". And these ideas that are seemingly either new or more in the forefront to folks who aren't used to it; I'm seeing it like cross-generationally. One thing I've been kind of using as a, like, hey, this is... the gender binary? That's new. That's like... that's encoded in white supremacy. That's a new thing. If we really are pro-Black and using that as an example, it's like, then we're gonna go back and understand that was all made up. We have like- the gender... this thing is fluid. 

[00:35:58] And Pearl mentions this, shout out, on the episode she was on, when I asked her about what does she say to folks who wanna go vegan, or go vegetarian, what have you; when she makes this other discussion about the problematization of it being co-opted in this way, and she's like, well that's where we started. That is our people. And it's- a lot of people across the diaspora of Black folks, and Latine folks, and across the board. And so it's the idea that all this... the system we often talk about, that are intersected as well to oppress us, they're new and those interpersonal things and those identity things, as far as which identity has power in a structural way and interpersonal way, and which identities don't, and the framing of it are new. And those are the post-colonial things. And not that our ancestors didn't ever have problems or conflicts, but restorative justice and the talking stick, those are like- "restorative justice" is a term we use now, but that was just how we resolved conflict back in the day. And there was a communication and love that came out of it. And we learned capitalism, we learned violence, we learned all these hierarchies, and they're hard to break- to David's point earlier about feeling bad about resting.

[00:37:14] So I wanna leave that there. But I want to kinda move us into that conversation about where do we apply some of these practices of philosophy or sociology or what have you in social justice or in how we want to live ethically; whether that's how we eat, whether that's the environment or what have you.

[00:37:34] David: Well, I mean, I feel like we can go multiple ways. So why don't we start with food? And like, that's why I was really glad that we were able to talk a little bit about identity, because I think oftentimes food is part of that in terms of both personal as well as cultural identity, and how it works. So for our listeners here, could you give folks a little bit of context about how you come into the food work that you do? 

[00:37:58] Shanti: Yeah, definitely. So food has always been important for me. It's been a sight of nostalgia with- that was, you know, we had family dinners and my mom would cook this delicious food and it was our time to like, feel like we were a family and bond. And I remember as a child, we had food journals- or no, we didn't have a food...- sorry, I had a food journal. And we had- 

[00:38:20] David: no "we". 

[00:38:20] Shanti: We used to- yeah *laughing* 

[00:38:21] David: me, myself and I.

[00:38:22] Shanti: Yes, exactly. We used to have to journal about our weekends and then report about it on Monday. And I talked about, I remember talking about food a lot cause it was just such a fun and exciting, but also a way to connect with community and family for me. And so that was something that I still carry with me today. But then in terms of food being...- like the food work I do- I, when I was 17, my mom adopted our first dog. I had really no connection with animals until our dog Athena, RIP. And so I had... I started to read more about animals and the factory farming industry. I have a friend who was vegetarian back even when we were in high school. And I realized that something just didn't sit right with me being so in love with my dog and then eating meat. And, you know, I grew up in a family where we ate all kinds of meat: red meat, poultry, seafood, et cetera. And so when I was 17 or 18, I told my mom I wanna be a vegetarian, I don't wanna eat animals. I don't see a relevant moral distinction between a dog and the farm animals that I'm eating. And so, understandably so, she's like, you're just trying to go on this trend, I'm not going to start cooking vegetarian. So I'm like, okay. I put that on the back burner, but I did stop eating red meat, that was something that I was able to do cause we didn't really eat that much red meat growing up. 

[00:39:54] And then when I was in college, I got more into my feminist vegetarian consciousness. And I read this book called The Sexual Politics of Meat. And it talked about the ways in which women and animals are objectified; where there's this concept called the absent referent where our body parts, or a non-human animal's body parts, they're just viewed as being separate from that animal, or from the woman, or the person who's being objectified. And as I got further into that, I realized, oh, I'm in college now, I can be vegan. So I just went vegan cold turkey when I was 19. And the food and plant-based landscape was very different back then. And I was also living in dorms. And it just, it was terrible, and it just got really challenging, but I was just responsible for myself. I wasn't...- I was working, but I didn't have a family or anything like that, that I had to take care of, that I had to care for. And then that's when I started cooking, cause I didn't really cook before. And whenever I would ask my mom how to cook something, she's like, you just eyeball it. Like, just throw this in here. And I'm just like, okay... 

[00:41:03] David: Plenty of people would disagree, but, *laughing* 

[00:41:06] Shanti: Okay.... So that whole like, chosen veganism path that I did that led me to really just cultivate a passion for cooking. I'm like, this is my space, this is my choice. It made me feel empowered. And then I think a couple years later I just went back to being vegetarian cause it was just a lot easier with my lifestyle- rather than being vegan and not eating dairy, not eating eggs. And so since then I've always loved cooking. And I found it to be a way to express my love for people, a way to also try to engage in self-care; and just like, oh, I'm so tired, I'm gonna cook this delicious meal and listen to a podcast or listen to music. 

[00:41:48] And when I... I guess it was 2016 when Trump was elected, and it was a really, really dark time, like really sad, and I wanted to figure out like- philosophy can get deep and heavy and that's why I love philosophy, but at the same time sometimes I need a break. And I just felt this intense despair with what happened with Trump and everything. And I know it wasn't necessarily surprising, but the reality of everything kind of coming into place was a lot. And also being an educator and thinking about like, how do I talk to my students about this? And knowing that I have some students who are Trump supporters, and it was a lot. So I feel like food, for me, was a way to combine my passion for philosophy and thinking through what we're doing and this notion of trying to live an ethical life where you can feel like you're attempting to live through your principles rather than those being separate.

[00:42:43] And then I decided to do my food blog because I had been living in Chicago for, I guess, three years at that point; and I really felt like, okay, it's really interesting, Chicago's known as this foodie city, but when I would go out, it's like, oh, I don't know... bone marrow was really in then. Or like, you go to these restaurants and everyone was like, oh, this restaurant is so great. And it's like, okay, well there isn't really anything exciting, or like, their vegetarian stuff. Like, why don't- 

[00:43:11] Caullen: Here's this leaf. Or nuts. 

[00:43:12] Shanti: Yeah. Like, why can't you season the vegetable like you do with the meat? Like... it's like, I don't understand. And so I started my blog as a way to kind of... it was therapeutic, but also a way to think about how we can try to be ethical in our daily choices. And I'm always afraid to kind of.... it's not as if the-...there are structural and systemic ways to change things and I fully believe that, but I also was trying to figure out like, what is something that I as an individual can do, just like in my day-to-day life in a way that's very tactile and concrete, that wasn't super overwhelming for me? And so that's how that blog came about. And thinking about, what does it mean to be an ethical foodie? Cause I always felt a tension with being a foodie, cause it felt so hedonistic and shallow compared to being a philosopher. *laughing* And so it was a way to combine that.

[00:44:04] Caullen: There's one's like, too academic and heady, and one that's like- I think of.. what's the guy? Guy Fieri. Like, hmmm, how do I not be that? But also not be that? And make it... yeah. 

[00:44:12] Shanti: Exactly. And that's why I like watching Top Chef with Padma Lakshmi. Seeing her, and she talked about how she was a vegetarian and all this stuff- that was exciting to see representation. Cause that was so rare, especially back then. But yeah- and with my food blog I was assessing like, okay, what is the vegetarian or vegan or ethical eating landscape in Chicago? And also like, how can I post my recipes? And I have a lot of students, and have had a lot of students who are like, yeah, I'm wanting to go more plant-based, but I don't know how to do it, this is kind of overwhelming. And so my recipes, a lot of- I would say a good portion of them started when I was broke and in college and trying to figure out, how can I do this? But also like, maintain my budget and be kind of "healthy"? Like, how do I do all of this? And so that's where my recipes are kind of coming from. Or like, how can you cook this on a busy weeknight?

[00:45:08] Caullen: Hit your macros. Very important. Very important. *laughing* 

[00:45:13] David: Well, I mean, I'm curious for you Caullen, you've talked oftentimes, your mother's a nutritionist. 

[00:45:18] Caullen: Lies. She's a dietician.

[00:45:19] David: God damnit. 

[00:45:20] Caullen: She's a dietician. 

[00:45:21] David: Sorry, mama Hudson. 

[00:45:22] Caullen: She's a registered dietician. With hella letters after of her name on LinkedIn. 

[00:45:25] David: She does nutrition... Hella letters. 

[00:45:27] Caullen: I say that because nutritionists aren't certified, and it's like, not their thing.

[00:45:30] David: Tell 'em, tell 'em. 

[00:45:32] Caullen: I mean, you go back and listen- she was on the podcast as well. Y'all can go back and listen, hear the difference. ...I'm sorry, I totally interrupted you. You asking about like, how it was growing up and stuff, or like? 

[00:45:42] David: Kind of like, in connection to, or kind of...-because I didn't think about food ever until I saw the McDonald's movie that they show in high school, or some shit. 

[00:45:52] Caullen: Supersize Me

[00:45:53] David: Supersize Me. And it was crazy cause when I saw that shit... I think everyone in my class, you know, we all went- we didn't eat meat for like a couple days. But it wasn't like- it still kind of, to me at least, I was like, all right, cool, I know this thing does this. We were 16 years old or whatever. Like, all right, cool. So you try to get some type of an understanding, but like, as folks know, Mexican cuisine is heavy on steak, heavy on beans as well, which, we can talk about the types of beans and then rice. So it's like...there's components to it that are already- some would say better than the American diet, but it's still very heavy. It's like there's still a lot of things to it. And so, to me, I think that was my moment of like, okay, this shit is going on. And then, you know, I think the biggest thing that sticks with me was like, the way in which chicken nuggets are made or whatever.

[00:46:45] And to a point, I think it's those type of things are important. Trying to get at is like, that's kind of where, to me, it became a thing. And then, you know, I think it's interesting you mentioned- once we leave the house, and we have to be the ones to control what we eat, I think it's interesting how much... is just muscle memory. Or, I remember... I no longer drink- we used to only drink 2% milk at the crib. Cause we didn't have whole milk, and my dad said skim milk wasn't milk. So it's like, all right, so we drank 2%, right? And so that's- and I didn't realize that I did that just like, until- I don't know who I was with. Mind you, I tried to be vegan for three days for somebody. For somebody. And that was the issue, right? Cause I wasn't doing it for me. I wasn't doing it for them. Now I know that. But I was 18, and I was in love, and so it didn't work clearly. Clearly it didn't work. But I'm getting to the point of, you know, as I'm growing up, you're developing sort of decisions and someone asked me, they're like, "yo, why do you drink 2%?" And I was like, "I don't know why I drink 2%." It's like, "you like whole milk?" I was like, "no, I think, isn't it too thick?" And so then I had that... there was then another moment in which I'm talking about shit that I had never questioned in my life. I'm like, why the fuck am I drinking this 2% milk? And then, you know, then we made a decision. 

[00:47:55] So, Caullen, that was kind of where my question came from. Just listening to, I'm curious with the background that you've had, if there was moments like that, or is it really just your mom being like, yo, this is healthy for you, this is not healthy for you... you know, your control for your diet. Also, given your extracurricular activities in the fitness world, I'm just curious on how that distinguishes from Shanti and myself? 

[00:48:17] Caullen: Yeah. I mean my mom has been a dietician for like, since I was a child. And so, and she always loved cooking a lot. And so it wasn't necessarily as much- cause we did make meat at home, but not a whole bunch. But she was just a good cook. And so I think for us, it was like, she would make meat before. 

[00:48:36] It's funny talking about from childhood to now, what comes with food and what's popular as far as like, veganism, vegetarianism- soy back in the day was like, the only mainstream substitute. Now it's like, soy is bad. And like, 10, 20 years ago, that was the only thing you get like, as far as meat substitute, what have you. So, you know, in the '00s, she would make ground turkey for tacos, whatever. And season them really well. And try to like, almost fool us if we could tell if it was beef or not. And that was ground turkey, it was still meat. But that was a jump then, at least in our household. And folks that we knew and stuff as well. It wasn't a normal thing. 

[00:49:11] My fondest memory is like, just wanting normal peanut butter. Before any peanut butter was natural, we went to some health food store that has like,, four different layered peanut butter that had warm-up and mix-up. And I was like, mom... I just want some Jif. What is going on? So I mean it's long story short... for her cooking most of our meals and stuff growing up, it was healthy. There was still... you know... put that in quotes, however it makes sense. But she knew what she was doing to make the food. But there was meat in the diet. And I think for us, you mentioned fast food, we didn't eat a whole bunch of fast food growing up, but we still had it. And so when folks were like, oh, your mom's a dietician, you must only eat kale and grilled chicken- and I'm like, no. She would do this thing where I would- 

[00:49:57] David: It's on Thursdays, sir.

[00:49:58] Caullen: Exactly. I mean, kind of .... Friday she got in from school, she's like, all right, it's Friday, you have good grades, pick your poison. Like, very specific words. I was like, okay, I can get like Taco Bell or something. And in a way, this is more talking about my mom or some food and growing up and stuff, but it's like, when I got to college it wasn't like- some went crazy eating out or eating bad food. I was like, okay, I know what's good and what's bad. And you know, there's a whole thing about like, "clean eating", what have you. And the language we use is kind of problematic as well. But it's like, okay, I have something that's maybe high calorie content, whatever, whether it's meat based or not. But also I- my palate is to a point where I like the food that is "healthy for me" and stuff. And I think that's kept for most of my life now. 

[00:50:42] I'm putting myself in your shoes, Shanti, a little bit too. Cause I feel like I've listened to folks ask you similar questions. You kinda talk about your journey and everything. Knowing David and I a little more now, and then seeing the prep we kinda had to have this conversation, are there any things that you want to bring up or you want to pose, either to us or generally speaking, as far as anything we've been talking about so far, or are planning to kind of get into?

[00:51:10] Shanti: I guess going back to the post-colonial theory stuff and food, I think that has a really important relationship; and as I've been vegetarian I've read more and more about that relationship. And I think it's really frustrating with the white co-optation of veganism and plant-based eating. And what is especially frustrating about it is like, when I was doing research for the article on nonviolence through veganism... I was familiar with how South Asian cultures, prior to colonization, are more plant-based. But I wasn't familiar with how Indigenous cultures were more plant-based. And I'm not necessarily saying they were vegan or even vegetarian, but just the idea of having more like, beans and greens in one's diet; and how eating meat and dairy were part of the colonizing force, in a way... like, capitalism and speaking English. That was like, I kind of read more about that. 

[00:52:11] Caullen: Come for English! Come for it!

[00:52:14] Shanti: So... the whole idea of plant-based eating, veganism, et cetera, it's unfortunately been- it has a really bad reputation of being a bourgeois white thing. And as someone who doesn't necessarily come from that background, and who has found it to be empowering for me as a woman, as a multiracial person... I tend to associate the ways and the way we eat meat in America, specifically. 

[00:52:44] Caullen: For sure.

[00:52:45] Shanti: It's really excessive. But at the same time, it's frustrating that it's viewed as a privileged thing. But it's been set up to be a privileged thing. It doesn't have to be a privileged thing, but the lobbyists and like, the ways in which food is grown, it's turned into that.

[00:52:59] Caullen: Yeah. I appreciate that note. Cause talking about that with Pearl, and then- but also we didn't get into as much of that conversation with like, we know this is not the case, is- to the point you made on a different podcast- like, a stereotype, but also there's truth to a lot of it. And especially in the levers and the way the material conditions are organized around making it inaccessible in certain ways.

[00:53:26] And with that, I feel like it's not unique to.... cuisine or like, hesitant to say, trends. You mentioned growing up certain things were popular- weren't as popular as they are now and stuff. And that's... I think that's real. I remember when a lot of folks were going gluten free. Some folks had Celiac disease- didn't respond well to gluten; other folks heard gluten was bad and just didn't eat it. And so I mentioned before- when that happened, big huge companies would re-engineer bread to be "gluten free" in a way that was so fast, and skipping processes that were still bad for you. And so one thing when I think about the individual as far as moving ethically, especially with food and hearing your journey, it's so interesting to me cause it intersects with so much stuff. And you're very conscious in that, and unpack that as you're telling it. That, and then also, the systems that play. And knowing that like, yes, moving individually, in a way that you feel is ethical, but also not being so hard on yourself if a chicken nugget, you're's an end game. But also knowing that like, at the end of the day, this is about a system and... it's a hard thing to tackle, but we have to get at that in some ways.

[00:54:41] I think teaching philosophy or getting folks and the masses to think better and more deeply about these things is important. And so one thing I always think about when- not to, like, not to let myself off the hook for eating meat, but if the levers of capitalism, globally, still exist and the whole world is vegan harm, violence, exploitation will still be done...cause that's the system that we live under, right? From animals and people. And so I guess I'm always like- similar to other environmental justice conversations that don't include capitalism or white supremacy in their analyses as like, stop drinking with straws, recycle. It's like, I'm not saying don't do that, but if the billionaire class exists and it's still... regularly get fires in the Gulf and it's gonna be a normal thing. So I'm always thinking about that tension. And like, not just thinking about just one is the answer, but we always have to be in conversation with the macro, the mezzo, as well as the micro. And that's tough. And it's that tension between the... I don't wanna say the Guy Fieri and the armchair intellectual, but it's like, it's some kind of weird thing between thinking about it all the time and challenging yourself with people around you who you love and you care about who's gonna listen to you, more so than someone on Facebook or something. 

[00:55:59] With the pre-contact pre-colonial conversation too, thinking about Indigenous folks and our ancestors, probably everyone in this room, but the... like, were they always vegans or vegetarians, did those words exist? Like, no. But I think about- even in school, learning about white settlers and Native Americans, and when Native Americans did eat a buffalo or something, they ate the whole-ass buffalo. You mentioned bone marrow earlier, it's like. So, they were still eating animal. 1) It's like, one, it probably was more necessary to survive; but also it was a relationship to the land and living beings. Like, okay, I'm going to kill this buffalo, but it was a connection to the buffalo, and gonna use all of it, and use the hides for winter and like... and then contrasting that with white settlers who killed it just for sport, just to see it, die in a certain way. And I think that's important, right? As far as that relationship with like, where we are and appreciating things even if we are harming or killing or interacting in a way that might seem harmful without the context or the appreciation. And also the need being there versus not really the case now. 

[00:57:08] David: Yeah. And I think that's something that I really have appreciated hearing from Shanti. In the fact of like, oftentimes people will ask, how do I help take the system down? You know what I'm saying? And I think- 

[00:57:21] Caullen: Give Soapbox $20 a month. It's giving Tuesday, y'all. Need that bag. 

[00:57:27] David: At least when we're recording.

[00:57:28] Caullen: Caullen needs to eat!

[00:57:29] David: At least today. But to the other point of like, this is a way in which, you get in where you fit in. And I think it's such a, to me, it's such a new- not super new, but really being that much more conscious of what it is that we're eating and why it is that we're eating, right? I think some of the things that's interesting is like, with terms of fast food and stuff, I think sometimes we can look at- I know you talk oftentimes about class and how that relates to the type of cuisine that we're engaging in. Or, then we go to geography and...- I know we've talked about food deserts oftentimes on BnB. And so, what I'm curious in posing some other question, and this is really like, hearing from your students, when you engage them with the philosophy of food- which at first if I ever heard I was like, what the fuck are you talking?... philosophy? We're gonna philosophize the food? 

[00:58:23] What are some of the pushbacks that you hear from some of your students on that topic? 

[00:58:29] Shanti: Yeah, I definitely get a lot of pushback. And I think... and I do wanna note, when we're talking about animal rights, animal ethics, environmental ethics I definitely try to not pose it as like, you should become a vegetarian and you should drive a hybrid or walk everywhere, ride your bike, otherwise you're evil. Cause there's always that fear of sounding pedantic and like I know everything, and that's definitely not what I'm attempting to do here. But just like, okay, if one does feel or assess the factory farming industry to be unethical, or the methane emissions that come from the factory farming industry being pernicious for the environment, what- do we have a moral duty to do that? Let's think about the idea of Kantian duty. Do we want to live in a society where everyone is engaging in this way? Or do we want to treat animals solely as a means to an end? Or if we're thinking about utilitarianism, how would we think about the greatest happiness principle and who are we all considering in that? Are we only considering humans? Are we only considering- or are we also considering the environment and non-human animals? And so posing it in those ways. Like, here are the facts; like, this is what climate change is, this is what's happening with the factory farming industry, do you..- what are the implications of this ethically? 

[00:59:43] And then yeah, the pushback is like, well, this is just how things have been for a while. Other animals eat animals... I don't have a lot of time to do this. I need meat for nutrition, or for sports or for working out...I live with my parents- like, all very valid and understandable. 

[01:00:06] (laughing)

[01:00:06] Caullen: Are you buying my meals, Shanti? Not coming over dinner tonight? No? All right. I don't wanna hear it though.

[01:00:13] Shanti: Yeah. So yeah, just definitely a lot of material conditions preventing- I think, adding a lot of obstacles and barriers. And also people..- We've definitely... in our society we have a very, I guess bias perception, just mainstream of nutrition. Like, "you need so much protein and it can only come from meat" or like, "you need iron..."- we do need iron, but it can only come from red meat. And it's like, no, it can come from leafy greens. I'm doing okay. 

[01:00:41] David: I got a pill. 

[01:00:41] Shanti: All this stuff- (laughing)

[01:00:44] David: I got a pill to take for that. 

[01:00:45] Shanti: Yeah. I think I also present it like, there's three different tiers that I think about when it comes to eating sustainability. And in my personal experience, I first became vegetarian for animal rights reasons, just because of the idea of sentience and that they can feel pain and pleasure. And I don't care if they're rational or if they can speak, that's not relevant when it comes to what's happening with the factory farming industry. And then the environmental aspects of it; with the methane emissions, which are more potent than CO2 emissions. And then the health stuff is the bottom just because I'm not an expert by any means. And everyone has a different body and different kinds of diets work for different people. So I think that... thinking about the intent of why we're eating things, or why we're not eating things or beings; and then how are we eating them, and how... it's so complex. 

[01:01:42] And so, I think sometimes, just in random conversation with a stranger or something like, oh, why are you vegetarian? They kind of think that I'm doing it cause it's like, oh well, cause I wanna be healthy or something. And I think that's way healthier than eating meat, and that's not where I'm coming from. And then I get the whole like, well processed Impossible meat and Beyond Meat's really bad for you. I'm like, yeah, I'm aware of that.

[01:02:03] Caullen: Did I say I eat that all the time? Tom? 

[01:02:06] Shanti: But it's... and it's also thinking about the net benefit of like, okay, I know that these companies like Beyond Meat and Impossible are coming from an environmental perspective rather than an animal rights perspective, but they're not saying that it's necessarily healthier. So I think those kinds of, you know... just having students consider what kind of mark do you wanna have in the world? How can you embody that mark through your daily actions? And of course it's not solely our individual daily actions and what we consume; but it's just like, here's a tactile way of doing it that can fit in your own life, in your own situation. 

[01:02:46] Caullen: I like that. You can't just throw up your hands and be like, oh, it's capitalism, so I can't do anything about it, fuck it I'm eating. Like, no, you can't do that. You can't do that as responsible folks. One thing I had to think about as far as material conditions and moving ethically, whatever that means to you, and the life that you live and the body that you live in. And also systems and also like the....not to be a... word cop, but like, food desert, right? It's like, it's... you know.. It's food apartheid. Food- 

[01:03:19] David: It's a literal thing, yeah. 

[01:03:20] Caullen: Well, no, it's not- it's like, deserts are kind of natural- for the most part natural, whatever. But food apartheid, "food deserts", are intentional. They're created that way. Because of white supremacy, and capitalism, and making certain neighborhoods where they're supposed to be, planting certain trees in white neighborhoods and not planting them in Black neighborhoods; doing that intentionally, you know what I mean? All of it's just very intentional. 

[01:03:41] And so...part of what I think about, for what we do at Soapbox, and storytelling, having these conversations, and not being overly... word policing, right? But it's like, how are we encoding what actually is, and how we're talking about it? And encoding intentionality in the things? I try to say like, instead of "normal" work hours, "normalized" work hours, just cause- 9-5, how many folks actually work a 9-5? Maybe a lot, but not everybody.... Just all the little things. 

[01:04:11] And maybe that's me just being in my head too much; but how to be like... If we're in the business of breaking these myths, as storytellers or as philosophers or just getting people around us to- including ourselves- to unpack everyday life, the macro, the mezzo, the micro all the time- it's gonna happen to our language as well. This colonized language that we're all talking right now. It's like, okay, how do we call it out but also use it to our advantage in a certain way. So that's one thing I just thought about, trying to link the dots between systems; what you can do with what you have, and also in how we're talking about it. Cause I think that helps a lot. 

[01:04:50] David: And they don't make it easy. Like they... I know there's a part of it like- we've talked about the way in which certain groups commodify language. And so, looking at organic food- 

[01:05:01] Caullen: what groups, David? what groups? Call 'em out. 

[01:05:03] David: Chad! No... well, I mean.... I think you can speak to it, right? It'd be like, whether it's the beef industry, to your point. Which we also like- or the agriculture industry, which, I think we've touched on in various points, but it's been so capitalized. And they don't make it easy. And specifically "they" we're talking about corporations. Like know, like big pharma, but for meat. So if that helps folks. 

[01:05:28] Caullen: Big meat. 

[01:05:29] David: Big meat. I mean, deadass. 

[01:05:30] Caullen: That's probably- is there... is that the name? Is that what you say? 

[01:05:32] David: It's probably. And it's probably like, two companies and it's Joe and Todd. 

[01:05:35] Caullen: Or Big milk. Everyone thinks you need milk for calcium. For years. 

[01:05:38] David: To the point of that's like, the system also does a wonderful job of making it difficult. And so I think about sometimes some of the language that we've been using. I remember earlier on, so I'm thinking about- okay, cool, I don't, can't eat McDonald's no more. All right, so what can we eat, it's like, oh, well, I like bananas. It's like, oh yeah.... but there's organic bananas, and then there's like- 

[01:05:57] Caullen: there's cream bananas, son. I went to Hawaii, there's cream bananas. 

[01:06:00] David: Bro, I'm talking about the language that they use to tell us what is a healthier banana than another healthier banana; or than another banana. Then I found out bananas are cloned, and I was like, the fuck!? So like, I... what I'm trying to get with that is, I think the system does a difficult job sometimes- does a good job, of making it difficult sometimes for us. 

[01:06:17] And so what I'm curious in hearing is, what are some of the things or what are some of the advice that you give to some of your students or your followings and people who come across your stuff to not feel overwhelmed? And/or feel like this is a good initial step to handle this behemoth of a problem?

[01:06:37] Shanti: Yeah, I think in something that we do talk about in my ethics class is Aristotle's virtue ethics; and the whole idea of the golden mean can be really helpful with trying to figure out what is the best thing for us to do that is relative to the situation, that's relative to our lives, that's relative to our state of mind, that's relative to the context. And so if we're assessing what we're eating, how we're living, other kinds of ethical decisions we might come across, then how do we do it in a way that... from- for example, virtue ethics, in a way that is virtuous but also not excessive or not deficient. And how can we make that pliable to our lives where it's not one size fits all, or everyone has to be vegan, or everyone should eat meat. Making universal claims I think is where things get really problematic. And so that's why this idea of doing something that's relative, but at the same time, having an understanding of what virtue is, or what- and also what works for you as a person can be a way to assess, okay, how can I do this in a way that is beneficial for other people or the environment or animals or whoever I care about in this case, but also for me, and that also works within my life.

[01:07:54] And that, I think sometimes when one might first hear about the factory farming industry or the environmental catastrophes, like, okay, I need to become 100% vegan and this is gonna be really hard. And then, oh, I had is slip up two days ago, I failed. And it's like, okay, it doesn't have to be this way. Try to practice some self-compassion. Everyone has a different journey with what they're eating and how they want to be an "ethical" person. And how they want to embody and live in a way that's consistent with their principles and with their ethical perspectives. And so if that means just- I know that this might sound cliche, but like, if that just means doing a meatless Monday, that's fine. That's... If that's what works for you. But I think what is essentially important is being just more thoughtful and intentional about our lives in terms of how it's impacting other people, other humans, animals, the environment and also how it's impacting us. And are we reliving the lives that we are being fulfilled by? 

[01:08:51] And I think that idea of existential bad faith where we feel like we're being hypocritical and inconsistent, it's such a challenging feeling. And so in order to kind of rethink or refrain from that or walk away from that, just leaning into trying to assess what are our ethical beliefs? How do we live in a way that's consistent with our principles and how do our actions impact other people? So it doesn't have to be an all or nothing thing. It doesn't have to be like, I will absolutely stop eating meat and all animal products, or, I will eat everything. It's just... what is gonna work out for you in this situation in a way that is consistent with your ethical views. And I know that can kind of collapse into ethical relativism and someone can say, well, cannibalism could be ethical then if you think about it through that way. And that's not- 

[01:09:39] David: I had someone tell me that. Deadass. 

[01:09:40] Shanti: Yeah. 

[01:09:40] Caullen: WeLl iF yOu ThInK aBoUt iT. 

[01:09:42] David: No, for real. And I was like, uhhh... let me ask her. (laughing)

[01:09:44] Caullen: If someone says, well if you think about it.. I'm like, 

[01:09:46] David: so I'm glad you brought it up. No, I'm just playing. 

[01:09:49] Shanti: Yeah. So I think it's that idea of doing something that is relative within certain boundaries of, okay, these are real life implications. I think we do have some universal ethical principles in our society, like cannibalism is bad, murder of innocent people is bad. But then what are other secondary ethical principles that are not as universal, and how- such as what we eat, I think for a lot of people it's more of a relative ethical principle. So how can we kind of figure that out and grapple with it; but also knowing that we don't have to be married to it. It can change throughout our lives, depending upon what situation we're in. 

[01:10:24] David: So you see that- think about everything and don't let it stress you out.

[01:10:29] Caullen: that shame spot was real, for everything, but especially what we were talking about too. It could be not helpful. 

[01:10:35] David: But I love it. Give yourself grace is what it's all about. Shanti, thank you so much for being with us. I think it's been absolutely fantastic. I was curious, I was like, okay, we're gonna be philosophizing. Falafel.

[01:10:45] Caullen: Falafel? He's hungry. David's hungry, y'all. 

[01:10:48] David: No, no. But to that point, we definitely appreciate you being here with us. I do wanna give you an opportunity to give a shout out to any of the homies out there who might be listening, or anyone you wanna show a little love to. 

[01:10:59] Shanti: Yeah! Thank you so much for having me. It's been really incredible being able to have this conversation with you both about these important topics and issues, and hear your perspectives about it too and your own histories with it. Yeah, I guess there were multiple, I guess, institutions I'd like to give a shout out to and also authors. But one specific person: A. Breeze Harper, is a professor, and she wrote Sistah Vegan, and has a Sistah Vegan blog and she talks about Black feminism and intersectionality. And I think that her work has been really helpful and really productive in a way that demystifies the idea that plant-based eating is something that's just for bourgeois white people, and how it can be a means of decolonizing one's body and a way to have agency or assert agency over the situations we're born into.

[01:11:51] And then I also wanted to give a shout out to the Factory Farming Awareness Coalition. They're an educational nonprofit. They come to classes and they provide presentations on the environmental, human, and animal impacts of the factory farming industry. And so I think that the fact that they provide this educational awareness is really powerful.

[01:12:12] And also Plant Chicago, they work on sustainable food production... not too far from here actually. And the idea of trying to create one's own food and within a closed loop production, rather than having it travel from far away- that also has a myriad of problems associated with that. So I want to also wanted to give a shout out to them. And I'm sure there's many other individuals that I'm not talking about right now, but yes, thank you. 

[01:12:41] David: That's alright, they're thinking about you. 

[01:12:42] Caullen: All the homies are out here. We're at Let Us Breathe Collective, there's a garden in the back. Selling some tomatoes in the summertime. They're out here. 

[01:12:49] David: But yeah, once again, thank you so much for joining us. Thank you to our listeners. As always, stay tuned with all the things we're putting out. 

[01:12:57] Caullen: And if this is your first time- if you're listening cause you wanna hear Shanti, which totally makes sense, just go ahead and go subscribe to Bourbon 'n BrownTown on Spotify, Apple Podcast, Google Play, wherever you find your podcasts. Find us on on the socials as well- Bourbon 'n BrownTown, all the things. No o's on Twitter. If you're trying to support the broader Soapbox- It's giving Tuesday, so I'm trying to do all the plugs. All the plugs, y'all. 

[01:13:24] David: But other than that, there will be all the information in the episode notes, so feel free to definitely check those out as you're coming to a wrap here with us.

[01:13:31] And so from Bourbon 'n BrownTown, as always, stay Black, stay Brown, stay queer. 

[01:13:35] Caullen: Stay tuned, stay turnt. 

[01:13:37] David: See you for the next one.


(Music: The Guns of Brixton by The Clash)