Interview with Marie and Butterfly, Founders of Solfood Catering and Cafe Caravan
By Natalie Blanton
I grew up in a sleepy, conservative, violence- and hunter-centric Utah mountain town. Unintended teen pregnancy and deer-skinnings in the front yard were visible and rampant. It was this environment that cultivated my awe, wonder, and full alignment with ecofeminism, veganism, liberationism, and the diverse feminist fights occurring across society today.
A few weeks back, I was contacted by a pair of women identifying as Marie and Butterfly of Solfood Catering, hailing from Little Rock, Arkansas. They spoke my language. They were working directly with Carol Adams, author of The Sexual Politics of Meat, the mother goddess of all my ecofeminist ideologies; and shared my passion for the inextricable ties between plant-based diets, animal liberation and women’s liberation.
Marie and Butterfly are currently on tour as Café Caravan, with their remarkable ability of creating delectable vegan food, bringing people together with a liberationist message, and bridging the divide between human and nonhuman animal rights.
I had a chance to interviewing these two wonderful women about their tour, their involvement in the Animal Liberation Movement, and their stories:
NB: What made you originally go vegan?
Both: Health reasons, initially; but then, personal research and experience led us to other avenues of vegan outreach and activism.
Marie: I was in Egypt when I encountered a horse in a cramped corner market. It was harnessed with blinders on, undernourished, and looked generally miserable. I could feel its presence, though—more than animals ever before. I remember thinking, “What is your name?” to the horse, and the response came back overwhelmingly: “I don’t know.” I decided right then and there that we do not have to treat other beings like this.
NB: What did you think when you first heard of veganism?
Marie: I thought it was so extreme and only raw foods.
Butterfly: I thought it sounded like something I wanted to try—but just couldn’t because it would be too expensive or too hard. When I gave it a try, my joint problems, insomnia…everything just stopped. It heals the body.
NB: How did this vegan outreach come out of Little Rock?
Butterfly: It began with the raw food movement and public support at farmer’s markets on the weekends. People would smell our food and not believe it was vegan.
NB: How do you equate feminism with veganism?
Marie: Read The Sexual Politics of Meat—once you have read that, you cannot forget it. People think that dairy products are “so humane,” but this could not be less true. Kept constantly pregnant and lactating sounds worse to me than death. By making a slave of the cow and then killing the body once it can no longer produce—that is how you get your dairy.
Patriarchy couldn’t survive without this enslavement and cooption of female bodies. People no longer have to do that work—these creatures are simply fed into the machine and forgotten.
Butterfly: The humane meat movement is ridiculous. You think it’s better to treat someone nicely and then kill them?
NB: What are some ways in which your business has supported, or seeks to support, feminist groups, actions and initiatives?
Both: Our business supports feminist actions by offering plant-based nutrition workshops to populations of underserved mothers and women, thus sharing with them the ideals of how their tation in life is connected to the liberation of other species.
We give workshops on women's health, for example—fibroid elimination and cancer prevention. That workshop gives them a plethora of information, from how to eliminate the actual fibroid to how to heal themselves mentally and spiritually. We reiterate that diseases that affect women aren't just physical ailments—they are often self-esteem driven and/or environmentally driven.
Focusing on what things in our lives are no longer valid and hold us back, making us feel less than, and then taking steps to rid ourselves of them helps us to become viable, contributing forces in the world and for ourselves. Self-care is important, and most women have not a clue. To be a feminist/activist, you have to first love yourself. Otherwise, you won't be around to make a difference for women—or anybody.
NB: I have received many critiques of animal rights activism as being a classist, white, privileged movement. Can you comment on this for me?
Marie: Go ask 500 million Hindus and the rest of the world who does this all of their lives. Some of the world’s poorest are thriving off of this lifestyle. If meat is eaten in these communities, it is a fraction of their intake. Everybody in the village can be fed off of a few grains for weeks. Take a look at tofu’s protein and nutrient make-up and compare that to the same amount of ground beef. Then we can have this conversation of price comparisons.
NB: Do you have any advice to offer to liberationists organizations regarding how they can better embrace communities of color, and/or how to reach across classes, here in the US?
Both: Yes, and in fact we were just discussing this challenge a few days ago! These liberation organizations need to strike while the iron is hot, so to speak, with the topic of police brutality having its day in the sun in national media. There are so many disaffected young people of color with no purpose, calling or motivation that have so much energy that can be channeled in a positive direction. There should be outreach programs that specifically target these communities. Take it to the schools, take it to the corners, take it to the churches.
Everyone wants to talk about there is no food, there are no jobs, etc. Taking time with young people to teach them and engage them in the arts, including gardening, gives them direction, focus and something to do.
We ran a program a couple of years ago called Fresh Start, where we worked with a group of young women of color to plant a garden in the yards of people from our community. We had two volunteers who allowed us to come into their homes and lay out plans for a garden. The girls not only dug the gardens and planted seeds with us, but they were also responsible for the filming of this process. Teaching theses two skills has given them something that they can take and make their own. We can't just sit by and say, “The youth are causing problems; they have no direction.” We have to be bold enough to seek them out and give them something worthwhile and productive to do. If we don't, someone else will.
NB: I am curious as to how the South of the United States responds to veganism?
Marie: We have been keen and aware of this as well. We have been showing low-income parents these “Cooking Matters” classes.
Butterfly: We explain to them that if they live in a resource or food “desert”—an environment or city that does not have walk-able resources (within 1 mile), such as fresh fruits, vegetables, or grocery stores—like many of us do in the South, by grabbing bulk non-perishable legumes you can have meals for weeks. Try your local Mexican or ethnic markets for legumes (dried beans, etc.) they are inexpensive and last forever. Try twp bags of lentils, seasoned; put some grain and lettuce in with them, and you have meals for days.
Marie: In areas with high minority concentrations, farming and gardening continues to be connected to slavery. There is stigma against growing your own food, and it is almost a status symbol to be able to go to the grocery store or through the fast food drive-thru. In Little Rock, there is a center for Urban Farming and Ecology with different organizations doing outreach regarding how to grow for yourself and your family; but there is such a resistance. You cannot be an outsider who thinks they can make a change—you need to be there for years.
Butterfly: Teach your kids to play in the dirt. They need that tactile connection to the earth. We need to teach new generations of people to live off of the land and be willing to work in urban farms.
Marie: Once young people get to high school, it is too late. Arkansas has a summer program called Learning through the Arts. I teach the culinary arts and 95% of my students, from low-income and rougher pasts, do not understand what average vegetables look like or where they come from. They couldn’t identify anything beyond green beans.
NB: How do you think veganism and your movement can aid in combating hunger?
Marie: We get this “escapism” mentality in November and December. We allow ourselves to indulge and escape from the humdrum everyday reality and world.
Butterfly: Everything gets all glossy this time of year—but come January 1st we are right back to where we were.
Marie: There is a stigma attached to being poor, and a lot of people will not ask for help; but just like there is no shame in helping others, there is no shame in being poor. People across the spectrum are working equally as hard; there needs to be redistribution of wealth. Businesses, corporations, and farms need to be a part of this redistribution, and not just write it off.
Butterfly: Empathy and compassion are lost when there is this solution—making everything a tax write off. It is hard to think about people in your own community being hungry when there is a new iPhone coming out. This is escapism; this is what consumerism and capitalism is built around. Got to give them something, right?
NB: The Internet world would have it known that these are all currents of influence that will eventually and inevitably fade. Is this all a fad? Feminism? Veganism?
Marie: Well, you know feminism isn’t a fad.
Butterfly: Veganism is not a fad; but there is always going to be somebody who wants it to remain unpopular because it is trying to change their ideas. It works; healing our bodies and our planet is not a fad.
NB: What do you want to say to feminists who are not vegan, or who refuse to equate animal rights with human rights?
Butterfly: I have two words for these people: Rape Racks.
Marie: Yeah, tell them about the Rape Racks—the dairy farmer slang for the mechanism used to artificially inseminate and perpetually impregnate mother cows. Also, encourage them to read The Sexual Politics of Meat and then see where they stand. Simply observe your environment. Where did that milk and cheese come from? How do we have this constant supply of milk? Why are we the only animals that drink milk into our later life?
We also need to encourage empathy for all animals. If you can have empathy for your dog or your cat, you can have it for a cow or a chicken.
Here’s to you, Marie and Butterfly of Solfood Catering and Café Caravan. Thank you for sharing social justice and vegan love in such a unique way. These remarkable ladies are currently on tour, and may very well be coming to a city near you. I could not encourage you more to take this opportunity to catch up with them in person, or on their Facebook page. You can also donate to their initiatives here.