Moby has figured out the vegan croissant thing. Moby Knows How to Make a Vegan Croissant. “Restaurants are like airplanes,” activist-musician Moby recently told me via Zoom from his home in Los Angeles. “They should be led by people who understand what they are doing.” We’re talking about our current situation and how the pandemic amicably ended his partnership with Little Pine, a vegan comfort spot in Los Angeles that he had owned for several years. It’s now the subject of a cool new cookbook, which serves as a recipe and story memory book for the artist Richard Melville Hall and his Silver Lake canteen.
Moby has been a vegan for over 30 years, beginning his plant-based journey when the diet consisted of soft bread and nut butter, as well as the Amy’s Kitchen frozen meal, rather than the smart and deliciously egalitarian cooking at Little Pine. “It was just a regular thing where someone would pull them aside in the parking lot and say, ‘Hey, I’ll give you a hundred dollars if you give me the chocolate chip cookie recipe.’” Now that the restaurant’s chocolate chip cookie recipe is no longer a state secret, Moby is embarking on an exciting new project, in a talk that ranges from “didactic and shrill” moments of activism to contemplating the plant-based croissant.
In February, I saw your Instagram post about “soup in the suburbs,” which I loved because, shit, Moby is making soup in the suburbs! Do you enjoy cooking at home?
When I became a vegan, I began cooking for myself. I had been eating a very conventional suburban diet of Frosted Flakes, Burger King, and salami sandwiches up until that point, and I never had to think about cooking because there was so much junk food readily available. And then, in 1987, I became a vegan, and there were almost no vegan restaurants in the world at the time, so even if there had been vegan restaurants, I wouldn’t have been able to eat at them. I was living in an abandoned factory at the time, which limited my cooking options even further. So, in one fell swoop, I eliminated meat and dairy, and I was left with a toaster oven and a hot plate.
I don’t want to boil it down to a single quote, but what motivated you to become a vegan at the time?
At the time, it was an unavoidable realization that I couldn’t care about animals while also contributing to their suffering and death. I tried to avoid it because I loved going to Burger King at the time. I enjoyed having Stouffer’s French Bread Sausage Pizza. So I had no desire to become a vegan. But I realised I couldn’t get around the fact that, as someone who had so much love and gratitude for animals, I couldn’t be involved in anything that caused or contributed to their suffering in good conscience.
What are your thoughts on artists refusing to use animal products in their performances? Morrissey comes to mind as someone who has become well-known for doing this, and I tried to find out if you had done it at any of your shows, but it doesn’t appear that you have. Is it something you’re thinking about? Are you for or against it?
Vegan activism is the guiding principle in my life. Of course, there’s a part of me that understands why Morrissey or Paul McCartney would insist on vegan venues. In some ways, I’m thrilled, but I also like the idea of meeting people where they are, and obviously, we vegans have a reputation for being didactic and shrill at times.
And I’m prone to being didactic and shrill. You have to be at times. When discussing a deeply held activist belief, you may come across as didactic and shrill at times. So it’s just part of being an activist, but I have to try to remember who I was before going vegan and how I would have reacted. If I had been 18 years old and went to a venue and was told that the entire venue was vegan, I would have been annoyed at the vegans. It would not have made me more open to what they were saying; instead, it would have made me more dismissive and defensive.
Are you a fan of dinner parties? Or do you cook daily? Or do you hire people to prepare your food, which I think is understandable for someone who is extremely busy?
No, I enjoy doing housework. So I clean, I landscape, I cook, I shop, and, in terms of cooking, I’d say that 99.99999 percent of the meals I’ve had have been cooked by me at home, especially since the pandemic began.
Little Pine makes a vegan croissant, and I’m like… vegan croissant? Is it possible to make the laminated dough without using butter?
I had a French girlfriend who lived in the United States in 1987, and I saved up money and traveled to France with her. We also spent a month in Paris. Fortunately, we lived rent-free and cooked most of our food, but I was a vegetarian at the time, so I could still eat French pastries. And I remember we had this ritual, she and I, where we would go to a different tea salon almost every day—I had no idea there was such a thing as a tea salon, but we found these different adorable tea salons.
L’Ébouillanté was our favorite. And we’d get pots of tea and croissants with various spreads and just sit there for hours, and it was truly idyllic. Reading books and conversing, perhaps with Erik Satie or Claude Debussy playing in the background of the tea salon. So, in terms of croissants, that was my point of comparison. And I remember thinking, “Wow, this is legit,” when the chefs at Little Pine invented the Little Pine croissant, and I remember Dita Von Teese, the performer, who isn’t vegan, but she would come into Little Pine regularly just for the croissant.
When you see someone with that ingenuity and invention in a restaurant setting and start reading the recipe, you think to yourself, “This is special.” When you tried it for the first time, it had to have taken you back.
Yeah. And it’s true that a lot of the food in the cookbook, as well as a lot of the Little Pine food, has a dangerous element to it because a lot of it is extremely indulgent. And it was because it was inventive and indulgent that we were always very busy when I owned it.
Which wasn’t always the case with vegan cuisine…
As we all know, the vegan world has spent a long time attempting to make everything virtuous. As a result, you had carob chip cookies with spelt flour that were nearly inedible. But then there was a shift when many vegan chefs realised, “Oh, just because it’s vegan, it doesn’t have to be austere.” So, when we created something like a chocolate chip cookie, we threw out any notion of virtue—aside from the fact that it’s vegan. But there’s sugar, fat, and white flour in there because that’s what makes a great chocolate chip cookie.
You are correct that the carob craze of the late 1980s was a dark period for American pastry.
It was—I made peace with it—but I have to say, it’s nice to be virtuous and healthy most of the time; if you go out to eat and order dessert—we’re all adults, we know what we’re doing. And when you order dessert, you want an exceptional, indulgent experience. If you don’t want that, skip the chocolate chip cookie.
Take me there—was it like a protein trail mix or nuts?
Amy’s was, in fact, a major fixture. I’m not sure when Amy’s began selling frozen foods in health food stores, but by 1999, the freezer on my tour bus was full of Amy’s, and it felt magical. Having a delicious, organic, vegan microwaved tamale with brown rice and black beans in a terrible parking lot somewhere, in a terrible place.
Their enchiladas are legendary.
Yeah. By 1999, I’m pretty sure I ate microwaved enchiladas on the tour bus at Woodstock.