A Conversation with Andrea Hernandez
Talking to the writer, designer, and brand wizard behind Snaxshot.
You're listening to From the Desk of Alicia Kennedy, a food and culture podcast. I'm Alicia Kennedy, a food writer based in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Every week on Wednesdays, I'll be talking to different people in food and culture, about their lives, careers, and how it all fits together and where food comes in.
Today, I'm talking to Andrea Hernandez, the oracle behind the newsletter Snaxshot, which explores food and beverage trends with humor, broad insight, and gorgeous graphics.
Nothing about the conversation went according to plan. I had to reschedule because of Puerto Rico's archipelago-wide blackout, my usual recording software wasn't loading, my laptop and Andrea's AirPods were dying, and we went totally off the prepared script to discuss the limits of tech that doesn't cross borders, having to be self-motivated as independent workers, adaptogens, commodification of culture, and much more.
Alicia: Hi, Andrea. How are you?
Andrea: I'm good. I'm actually doing good. [Laughter.] Thanks for asking me, how about you?
Alicia: I'm good. I'm good. I know, you've had some power problems lately.
Andrea: I was honestly, yesterday, I was like, Oh, God, because yesterday, I woke up with no electricity. And then at night, the power went out too. And I'm like, I don't know if we're gonna be able to do this. I was gonna have to— I don't know if tomorrow will be okay. But thank God, there's been no issues. I don’t wanna jinx myself. [Laughs.]
Alicia: Right. Well, yeah, we rescheduled this because there was a blackout in Puerto Rico and then there have also been problems in a lot of other places as well. It's interesting, because someone messaged me in the Pacific Northwest, in Oregon, and was like, “We're having bad weather, I don't know if the power is going to hold.”
And I feel like this is something that's underestimated and that's not as discussed, I think, because people in New York and LA don't have these problems right now, you know, and so I did want to talk to you about that, about how do you get your work done, and how do you keep your kind of resolve because also, as independent writers—as I know, of course—we are self-motivated completely with kind of, these unpredictable issues that happen.
Andrea: Yeah, it really sucks at times when, at night, because it's like, well, I don't really have anywhere else to go. My phone has been sort of like what I default to, which is, like, so funny that you put yourselves in these positions, like I've literally, like, learned to do like, writing on Substack on my phone, which is like the most tedious thing—I wish they would like improve upon that experience. But I'm also, you know, before my laptop battery died, I will literally use my phone as a hotspot, for whatever, [how long] it can last.
But yeah, I think—it's just so funny, because I talk to a lot of people from literally all over the world, people from Sydney and London and all these places. [And] they are always surprised. They're like, Wait, like, you're in Honduras? And I'm like, yeah, and they're just like, so shocked. They can't believe that someone from an unknown hub could be putting out work that's recognized in their places.
So I think, to me, it's like, you mentioned something, like the self-motivation. It's so true. I talk to people, constantly, that there's no hack. You need to get the work done. Nobody else is doing it for us; we don't have a team so that we can default to—it's on you. So you have to figure it out, and I think growing up, my parents taught me that sort of resiliency of, you have to figure it out. Like, there's no backup. So, you have to…there's a saying, it's called the “the law of the wittiest,” “la ley del mas vivo” in Spanish, which is like you just have to be streetwise and figure out, Okay, this isn't working, let's try to figure out which angle to work at, whatever. And so I think that's my approach to everything. And I again, we’ve got no power—okay, cool, my phone. Like, there's no, Oh, you know what, let me just, I'll nap and see if something happens. [Laughter.]
Especially growing up in countries where you don't have infrastructures to depend on. Like, you can’t depend on your government; you can’t depend on the infrastructures. Even growing up in a politically unstable country has taught me I can't even rely on there being peace. There's gonna be unsettling things that happen and you kind of just have to figure out how to work it out. And also the emotional toll that these things take on you. I think I addressed this last week. I feel like I've internalized these things, but the reality is, it fucks with you. It’s like shit, you know, I am not really competing, because I don't see myself and I'm like competing with mass mediums, whatever, because I'm like, kind of the antithesis of that. But I'm like, yo, there's so many people with so many resources out and I have to figure out how to, on top of all the shit that I have going on, like, Oh, fuck, I don't have like electricity, so does that mean that I get to miss out on publishing this on time or whatever.
And I think it's something that's not really talked about because a lot of the main publications or people who get clout or—it's so funny when people send me examples of like, Oh, look at how these people are using Substack and yo, I don't even have the ability to paywall Substack, a lot of people don't even know that: having Stripe is a privilege in itself. And I've been very vocal about how it's frustrating; it does take at times, an emotional toll, but it's not like I can be crying and just sitting down, being like, Oh, look at how unfair life is like no, it's like, you have to work with what you got. So, yeah, I mean, that was a long-winded answer to your question. But yeah.
Alicia: And how do you deal with—because I mean, we'll get to obviously, my normal questions and everything—but how do you deal with people probably assuming you do have a team, right? And people assuming that you have all these resources? It's an interesting space to be in, because as you said, you can't even paywall your Substack because of their weird national borders that they maintain—
Andrea: Yeah, I don't even get it. I'm like, Why the hell do you tie your platform to just one thing? It feels like excluding the majority of the people. It's a fucking paradox: You're supposed to be an equalizing career, whatever, but it's not really true.
But yeah, it's so crazy, that at the same time validating, I literally had people say, I thought you were a team of 20. Like, I thought you were an actual publication. Like, there's no way that you could be doing all this, like as a one-person team, like, I had people telling me like, I can't believe that—I refuse to believe that, because it's not possible.
And the funniest thing that happened to me was at this conference Expo West that I got a free press pass to, and I was going to be a speaker at a panel there. So I was there and I was walking and I remember someone coming up to me like, Oh my god, you work for Snaxshot? What part of Snaxshot do you work at? And I was like, That's so funny. I even joked that I should have brought all these different changes, like clothing changes. And I could have dressed up like different people…
When you have a fire lit up under your ass, you have to wear all these different hats because it's your default mode. And I think to me, it's just been extremely validating that you think, like that people think that this is, like the work is so—that I have value and that it’s got that much quality, that people assume that there's more people behind it.
But at the same time, I want to highlight just how much respect I have for people who have to do everything themselves because they don't have the resources. And also they have to deal with, on top of being underresourced like that, they have to deal with like fucking infrastructural problems. To me, those people are like: mad respect. Who gives a shit, you know, if you're, like, in The New York Times, whatever…like that, to me is like, okay, cool. They are a fucking corporation, whatever. But like, I'm more about mad respect for the people who have to be doing their work on top of all these other things that serve as obstacles.
So I don't know, I feel like I love to tell people like, Yo, if I could do this with the bare minimum, and on top of that, fucking things like not having electricity, what's stopping you from doing it, dude? Like, seriously, especially Americans—like just fucking go and do it. And I talked to Gen Z a lot about that, because I'm like, Stop letting people tell you that you have to be struggling and working without pay to get yourself somewhere and that they have to give you permission to make your space in this world. And, I think that I have also been able to prove that as someone who's living outside of a usual hub of where like, you know, media is a thing. And to show people like, I've scratched my way in dude. Yeah, it's possible, so anyways—
Alicia: But I love it because you're such a success story for—and like you're saying, there are so many limitations that I think we have to be talking about when we're talking about, to use that construction, these new ways of ‘supposedly’ equalizing the field. Because you know, Substack gives itself a lot of credit. We're on Substack platform; Substack is paying for this podcast to be edited. But, Substack is using a payment processor exclusively that isn't available to everyone.
And you know, for me, of course, Substack has been such a great opportunity for me to make my career, basically. But at the same time, you know, I'm aware that because of that, I think more people should have access to that around the world, too, because also considering you're going to be able to make money from currencies that might be valued more highly, for whatever reason, than your local currency. And you'll be able to really like…do something, you know, for yourself in a way that—that's what this should be about. It shouldn't be about the same people in the same places being able to continue to make money.
Angela: And I'm not gonna lie, I feel like Substack is lending itself to perpetuating that, more than the other way around. I love your story, I feel like to me, and I keep saying now, I feel like, you were also sort of an inspiration of, whoa, this person is literally breaking through from like, the established sort of ‘circle jerk’ of same things. It's true.
And, you know, I feel like I love to be able to see that happening, and that I can see people that I want to sort of emulate sort of the same thing, where it's like, when I start, it's natural. And I remember, I don't want it to be the same, Oh, people are pitching to me. And they think that they can flood in and, you know, whatever.
I have actively remained with that sense of like—I don't do sponsorships, I don't do advertising, because I'm like, How do I break this model? And how do I even, if it's hard, how do I test it to keep some sort of—how does it look like community validating a medium? How does it look like when I'm actually able to speak freely, without having some sort of conflict of interest, or whatever, or feeling that I have to censor myself?
And I had publications come to me and ask me, like, Why don’t you pitch for us? We're talking like really big ones—I'm not gonna say names. But I've literally been like, after they've talked me through the process of pitching and the editing, by the time that you're done with it, that's not me. You literally trickled away the authenticity from me.
So it's not valuable to me, and I have had some sort of—I don't know, for some reason, the younger generation, really loves to read Snaxshot. And I have literally 17-year-olds, coming to me, and college students, whatever. And I have had publications tell me, we want to bring you in, and we want you to pitch stories, whatever, because we want to see if we can draw that younger audience. And I'm like, Yo, you can't buy that shit; it has to be like an authentic thing. And if you can't, if you have to continuously be extracting that and like, how do I keep getting more from you, without giving in return? You're not gonna make it with this new generation, because this new generation is all about more of, Let's level here. Yeah, you know, we call the bullshit—
Yeah, it's been very interesting to see how Substack emerged as a creator thing, but no hate, no disrespect. But all the people I mean, I subscribe to the emails and all the stuff that I get, it's like—this person was a New York Times food reporter and now it's like, Oh, the food coverage, whatever, this person is coming from, then it's the same people who already had the platforms in the first place. So you know, Substack, obviously, I'm on that platform. Because, you know, it's easy and convenient for me, unfortunately, you know, obviously I had to find loopholes around trying to find ways to monetize it. But yeah, I feel like I would love to see more people, more success stories from people who weren't already in this industry in the first place.
Alicia: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. No, and it's really interesting to me how self-perpetuating those things are, and like you're saying, maybe we're gonna see a change in that from the younger generation. You know, what are you—because I love that you're very in tune with what people want, obviously, that's your whole job. And also seeing these patterns and these trends in a way that isn't tacky. Like that isn't like, it's not like these, you know, press releases I get where it's like, This is gonna be the flavor of the year because McCormick says so, but you really have your finger on the pulse in a real way.
And what are you seeing? Are you seeing that, you're saying this—that people are getting back into maybe wanting to see that kind of homegrown authentic, maybe weird—
And I was thinking about this because I was reading an interview with Hilton Als, the writer from The New Yorker, on Dirt, which is another great newsletter, and it was about his Instagram and how it's like very old school in that he'd kind of just post whatever—he doesn't think about the algorithm. He posts kind of any image he wants to, long caption, short captions, not thinking of it. And he said, you know, the culture was different at a different time. And when I was growing up, you know, I read magazines to find out about things I didn’t know yet. And I feel like now, a lot of the cultural tide and the coverage has turned to be about telling people what they already know. And like, you can't write about things that are an unknown quantity. And so how do you approach this?
Andrea: Oh my god. You hit it like—this—just like, yes. Because I had this on my mind because Taylor Lorenz, I also love the way that she basically made her own beat. She wrote about that, she's like, Journalism should not be about telling people what they already know. It should be about the stories that don't want to get—like that people don't want you to know. And I was like, That's it, dude! Because I literally [wrote] about this. I'm like, Why are we regurgitating the same shit? I think that's why the appeal of it: well, no one's saying this and I appreciate the ability to be able to do so because it is important.
So one of the latest issues that I wrote was on how I believe that Expo West and all these fancy food conferences are actually a way of gatekeeping diverse founders, because they're so expensive. And you know, the majority of them, who the fuckcan afford $20,000 for the starting cost of a booth, you know? And so I wrote about this, and I just really let it out. And I was like, Dude, no one goes there to see—you cannot go predict what's coming up next there. Why? Because it's fucking gatekeeping to like, people who already have the means for it. And I wrote about, and the title’s called, “This Could Be a Future,” because I'm like, our future should look diverse. Not the same fucking people who just—the ex-CMO of Pepsi went and launched a fucking snackbar, like, that's not the future. It shouldn't be.
And so you know, I wrote this really just heartfelt, like my experiences. And I was like, no disrespect, you know, but to be honest, it felt like these conferences are losing the relevancy, whatever, especially amongst the younger generation. And one of the reasons why is because they don't see themselves reflected and represented, which makes sense. So, I wrote about that and every other Medium piece was “Five Trends That I Saw At Expo West!” [Laughter] Dude like, by the time that people can afford $20,000 worth of a booth, these companies already have venture money; they're already in Whole Foods—it's not a fucking trend. You can't go and say… So I just got kind of pissed. That's just you regurgitating the fucking obvious.
And so like, yeah, I 100 percent think that you hit the nail on the head right now. It's like, we lost the ability, one, to think, the ability to say so like, these publications can't say shit because they're so constricted with ad money, whatever. I do love how Dirt has used that web3 dynamic to improve upon, how do you go about financially sustaining media? Like, you know, a media that's different. That's not archaic [or] tied to engagement and views or whatever. So yeah, I think what you said is so fucking important. I'm glad we brought this up. Because yeah…
Alicia: Well, I mean, to get to Web3, too, because I wanted to talk to you about this, because of course, people are very, you know, make a mocker. I make fun of it too and I'm skeptical, of course. But there are people like Daisy Alioto from Dirt, like you, who are talking about Web3 in positive terms. And I'm like, I think I'm definitely missing something if smart people are saying this… But I want to hear from you about what's going on, basically.
Andrea: Yeah, no, no, no, no. Skepticism is necessary in all things, by the way. And when I wrote the piece about it, I was like, We do need necessary—it does have its necessary criticism. It does. 100 percent. I'm not your crypto bro about to shill you into some fucking like, you know, like scam or whatever.
So, literally, the thing is that you have to see this less about the hype. Web3 is not McDonald's putting outa fucking NFT of their McRib. Like, who the fuck wants that, right? To me, Web3 is about, how does this dynamic improve upon, or even better, disrupt whatever it's trying to be used for? I'll give you—I guess I will say the rise of the DAO activism, like, why don't we take community and add economics into it in a way that's more transparent? And it's not tied to red tape, right? Because like, you go and try to open a bank account, like all the stuff that you have to give, whatever. So, to me that's one reason why this type of organization makes sense in the first place, right?
Then second, I've seen people use this application in a way that's trying to go against, you know, the structures in place that continue to prey upon—I'll give you an example: Farmers Market-verse. At first your like, what the fuck is this? There's like farmers and whatever and you think like, just some sort of like, you know, another JPEG scam, whatever. But the reality is, like the thesis behind this, it's a bunch of small farmers who said, We'll use the capital we make from these NFTs that we're selling, and we have our own treasury, and they take some to mitigate the cost of running the organization. And the main idea behind it is to put a battle against ‘big agriculture.’ And so they are using that dynamic to empower themselves economic-wise. And, you know, really be more of like: Okay, we are aware of the collective and how do we help each other out? And it's not also tied to anything that's local.
And so, you know, I spent some time in their Discord. And I really loved it, because you can tell that there's that intentionality of like, help thy neighbor, right? They have, they choose, they do voting, and they choose, I think, each month or I don't know what the dynamic is now, but they choose, who do we help? Like, whose farm needs help? Like what organizations that are really trying to help our mission, can we benefit… It's like, literally an online farmers’ market and like, they post about what they're doing or whatever. And to me when I see that I'm like, that's the beauty of it.
Austin Robey, one of the founders of Dinner DAO, which is like this dinner club that's Web3, he wrote about how DAOs and co-ops have similarities and what they can learn from each other, it's an incredible piece—highly recommend it. And then even Dinner DAO, which is a supper club that meets like this sort of dynamic. I love the idea of like, dude, we’re taking something that's very simple, but we're making it, we're improving upon it. So like, they're launching their second season soon. And what it entails is that you buy sort of the membership as an NFT. And it comes with, you get assigned a table, a group of people, and you get an allocated amount, and you can use that in however you want. Whether your group wants to use it all in one fucking fancy restaurant, or you guys want to have like multiple meetups, whatever—that's pretty cool. You know, and you don't have to be worrying about whose card is going to be used, whatever—it's more about, like we’re doing this, and we're exploring the concept of what it looks like to use this dynamic to have an experience of community around food.
There's another example, Friends with Benefits, which is the most well-known crypto-community that has been profiled now by The New York Times and all these other publications—and I'm part of it. I was graciously donated a membership, because I obviously could not afford it. But the community came together, a couple of people from the community came together and they donated whatever was needed for me to be part of it, which I greatly appreciate. And I have experienced their events and stuff and so, firsthand. And the latest proposal that they have as a collective is to buy and restore this like Chinatown, LA restaurant, and they want to convert it to a venue, whatever, but they want to use all the funds, or the stuff that they gained from that, not just to use within the community, but to properly restore something that's a historical place in downtown LA.
You know, like those kinds of things, to me, they serve as a—look what we can do without all the red tape of having to subscribe as an organization, and everything can be traceable through the blockchain, which is basically receipts that can be viewed by everybody that has access to the internet.
And, you know, there's another one, a guy that works in the spirits industry in LA, who's coming up with a project that is going to help bartenders in general to be able to, like pursue their passion and whatever else or you know, they're wanting to develop, and it's going to be sort of its own fun, but it's going to be tied to a physical spirits bottle.
I 100 percent agree that there's a lot of skeptics, like the fact that you are spending half a million dollars on a fucking JPEG. Well, that's ridiculous. I'm more bullish on the things that are really being disrupted, that are giving me a better hope of—we don't have to be like, strapped again to Stripe; Web3, crypto helps that in so many more ways, where it's like, the regulation isn't as tight. So like, look at Dirt, they're exploring how to make a medium that is not dependent on advertising revenue, whatever, that's more in pro of whatever the community is wanting.
Do I believe it's gonna be a solution to everything? No, but I think it's an improvement and an exploration of what does it look like when we don't subscribe to archaic structures? Right, that we know that they're decaying, right? And people think for example that Twitter is the one to blame for a horrible attention span or fear-mongering, whatever. Yeah, well, I studied communications; I can tell you the history of 24/7 news, like it was not about keeping people informed. It was about, How do we share more fucking ads on TV? Oh, we keep the news going the entire fucking day. I feel like we just have to be a lot more like, conscientious, it's not going to be like one day everything solved. But I am very in pro ‘if this is giving me the ability to see what lies beyond having to succumb to these structures that are so predatory, then fuck it, dude,’ what else are you gonna—what else can we do? You know, like—
Alicia: Exactly, and that makes sense. And it's interesting, because I think this is a way I'm starting to think about things a little differently, too. Where it's like, just because the narrative tends to be that one thing is going to solve every problem that we have as a society doesn't mean that we have to think of it that way. You know, because I was on a panel last week with like, a grass-fed beef rancher, and lab meat—Isha Datar from New Harvest and other folks who are working, you know, to try and fix the way people eat meat in the United States, basically.
And I, you know, I came away from it, thinking, you know, Why am I always taking such a hard line about these things, when maybe what we do need is to just stop pretending there's a silver bullet for climate change, and for our relationship to meat and say, let's use a combination of approaches to solve for this problem? It’s like, let's not just, you know, we don't have to say lab meat is the answer, because it's not because of scale, because of still using energy that's fossil fuel intensive, because of—maybe people aren't going to want to eat it, for all sorts of reasons. And also there’s still ethical issues in terms of how they even take cells from the animals. Like, they have to kill calves.
And so and then, maybe, you know, protein cakes, like Impossible Burger and Beyond Meatm are part of a solution, and those SIMULATE chicken nuggets—maybe they're part of a solution, and maybe grass-fed beef as part of a solution. And maybe, you know, heritage pork and all of these things are part of a solution. Maybe these all work together to get us to a place where we stop killing the planet. And you know, and stop overconsuming.
Andrea: I think it's very important, too, to say, why are we also punishing sustainable cultures, and cultures who have historically worked with using every ingredient in the animal, you know, even kosher, which is like, supposedly like a more ethical way of making sure the animal doesn't suffer. And like, why are we casting upon these people, and in the same way…God, you're gonna love this. There's a newsletter called Goula, which is a lot of Latin American writers that are chefs and all these different backgrounds in the food industry. And I read an issue where this guy who's a chef, is talking about his experience in Oaxaca, the mushroom festival. And why I'm bringing this up is because he talks about how the Mixtec is the culture there, they don't call it hallucinogenic. They're like, this does not cause hallucinogens. We don't believe that, we believe that it amplifies your vision. So he talks about like, how are we so [hypocritical] with drugs, we don't even understand, like, the relationship to psychedelics in the Mixtec culture, Aztec culture, stems I don’t know, like thousands of years. It's literally in the Códices, like the Aztec Códices, which is basically hieroglyphics or the codes that they used to use—he talks about that we are trying to frame something that we don't understand, with lack of understanding.
And so I think that the same happens with meat, right? Where it's like, I'm blaming, and I'm punishing a collective when it's—the reality is the meat industry complex is, what, like four or five businesses? So it's like, the same way that the whole carbon footprint came about as an advertising campaign for Procter & Gamble, to sort of put the blame on the consumer and not really focus on the negative externalities of this fucking corporation that owns what, hundreds, if not thousands of brands that contribute to that, that I think that dynamic, we don't explore it as much.
And I try to bring attention to it just from my background, working in marketing, and having gone to school to study that and study communications and the history of it, and no one's talking about specifically in the U.S., like, how the deregulation of children's advertising in the mid—’80s affected millennials and our overconsumption culture. No one talks about these things as the core root. It's more about like, I have to adapt and you know, buy expensive shit because I'm bettering the planet. And it’s like inaccessible to the majority of people, you know? Yeah, you're going to Erewhon and you're feeling good about yourself, but who the hell can fucking buy like a $25 shake, right? Or like now you're going to like McDonald's and you're getting yourself like an Impossible, or Beyond Meat—what, so like, it's vegan, and it's ethical because it’s no animal harmed, but what about the exploitation of the worker? Like, does that make you feel good? Or is that like, do you know?
So I feel like you said, there is no like black or white, it's very much about a gray area. And I think that we're, we're losing each other and fighting in trenches, when we should be bridging further and further toward the solution. And so I think what you said is 100%, where it's at, it's like, there's no one solution for it. Parts of the solution—yes. But at the same time, I would want for us to start sort of peeling back the bullshit of these narratives. You know, like, what does it mean that Amazon's plant-based patty— it’s not going to save the world like, yeah, it also has to be like, very much like skeptical that that's going to be what solves our problem.
Alicia: Yeah. No, absolutely. Well, to start the interview the way I usually do, now that we've talked for like half an hour, but [Laughs] can you tell me about where you grew up and what you ate?
Andrea: Oh, yeah, well, I mean, I'm still in my city, Santa Pedro Sula, Honduras. I grew up eating beans, rice, plantains—lots of plantains, the sweet kind, more than the other though. As I grew older, I did [get] a knack more for the salty plantains.
But I grew up very close to my grandmother, very close to her and seeing her cook. One of my favorite memories is watching her pick out the beans, big plants, and the little rocks. She would go to the market every Saturday, she would bring us crabs, fishes and stuff; she’d make crab soup. She's from Nicaragua originally, but she came after the Civil War. And she had a lot of connection with food; she was the sole provider. She was not really divorced, but she ended up after the war, like her husband left them, her and my mom and my aunt.
And so they were in Honduras; she was a sole provider, so she was basically the one who did everything, so she did all the meals, etc. And she was living with us when I was growing up and I loved just sitting—it was a kind of a meditative thing. Like you're just sitting there, you're picking apart a little bean. And also undoing the kernels of the corn. And I love when she would bring the corn becauseI didn't know this but maize has different colors and stuff like that. I was like, Wow, you look at all the movies and stuff, especially when you're growing up with only American channels because we don't even have, you know, TV shows of our own, and you grew up with the yellow one. Like you see that everywhere now we'd just be like, Wow, the corn is white and purple? And like all these different weird mashes of color. And so yeah, you're picking up these little things.
And also, she would bring them to a molino—I don't know how to say it, like a mill? And I was like, That's so fucking cool. Like, it would come in a powder. And she would also do, I don't know what it's called, but it's also like a corn-based drink, but the powder is made to use the drink. But she, yeah, so I grew up seeing the way that she prepared food and just taking a lot of like, even how to make the tortillas and stuff like that, and a lot of her, even remedies that she grew up with, for cramps, or tummy aches, whatever. Like, I don't know, I was very much, grew up close to that.
So that's sort of how I came to be very interested in doing my own things. And, you know, I grew up with a lot of seafood for sure. Because my city is 30 minutes from the coast. We would go to the beach and have fish and—to me, it was never, because you're growing up and I would go to the market, too, on Sundays with my mom and she would be like, go, and I was the shyest person, she’d be like, here's money, go barter with the tortilla lady and make sure she doesn't charge us more than that.
Because, you know, we didn't grow up rich; we were four kids. My mom was like, you know, always very much trying to save costs, whatever. And I love that she taught me how to barter when I was a kid. And I think that's one of the skills that I appreciate so much from her, but I remember going to the market and seeing these kids do tortillas, whatever, and then stuffing them here and there's people with half an avocado open, like trying to show you all their vegetables and fruits and stuff. And like all the fruits are laid out on newspapers, whatever, that's still here, that's still happening—
No, I don’t know. I just feel like I was very lucky, in a sense, even though, you know, I grew up with a lot of different things in Honduras that weren't that nice, to be able to experience that sort of connection to the people who were making the food that I'm ingesting, that I'm putting into my body. And it's such a sacred experience that we don't really think about, that's literally the pillar of our lives—putting food in our bodies, without that process...
And I think that to me, when I think about whether or not I subscribe to the idea of veganism—I get it, I understand it. It's horrible. It's horrific. The fact that you know that the mass industrial complex of this has created this monstrosity, but at the same time, when I grew up, it was more about, you knew the person that was giving you the crabs, and it was much more sustainable. But that was obviously when I was growing up.
Yeah, I feel like I grew up very much experiencing sort of an array of flavors, obviously very acidic. Citric has always been where I gravitate towards. Spice. And yeah, I'm very thankful that I was able to come up with that, because I was never a sweets person. I was like, Oh, my God, we have a word for—it’s called empalagado, when you had too much sweet and you just feel super sick, you're like, Ah, I can't. And so I don't know. I think I was born in the perfect place. I have a theory that I used to be an iguana in a past life, because I thrive on sunlight. I have to have sun.
And so I think I grew up where I was meant to, and it also gave me a really rounded experience of what it's like to live in two worlds, especially as a bilingual person, where it's like, one language gives you an access to a different dimension, you know. It's like, whoa, as a writer—I don’t consider myself a writer, I consider myself a professional shit-poster—but that my voice has a lot more, hits a lot more in this language than, you know, if I were to speak in Spanish. Unfortunately, that's just the dynamic that we live in.
And I have been [advocating] about, like, why do we do this in the first place as a person living in a country where this language isn't needed? But you know, it gives you access to see, and I think that it has given me—this is tying it back to Snaxshot, why I have been able to pick up on stuff. Whereas U.S. people are very myopic as in, we're centric to ourselves beyond anything else, that I'm like, Well, this is all happening in all these different places. Let's see, you know, how, if this is playing out in the UK, is this playing out in Australia, is this playing out in Latin [America]? And then that's sort of how that seer, oracle, premonition kind of thing. Well, it's just paying attention to what's happening around you. Yeah, so I guess, you know, I grew up with an array of, I guess, Latin American…Mesoamerican, I would say, inspired flavors. Coastal, too.
Alicia: And so how did you get so into snacks? Where did the—where did the snacks start to come in for you?
Andrea: Yeah, I would say that, since I do have friends that live in the U.S., I had been seeing—and again, because I can see two different sides of it. I’m like, Wait, like, why is ginger being made into this all-in salve—you know that you can just boil the ginger, right? All you have to do is like, peel it and put it in water and heat it up.
And so yeah, so I feel like I don't know. I feel like after seeing things like “Meditiation in a Can” and stuff like that, I just—because of my background, again, marketing, knowing what goes behind building brands, that I was just like, it feels like we're going through something and I want to know where it's coming from. But at the same time, I wanted to see if it's happening somewhere else.
And so I don't know, it just [became] all about—I remember doing Twitter threads at first and people would be like, Whoa, I would love to learn more about this. And shit, I may have landed on something.
But yeah, it was more about getting sort of like, am I being catfished by brands? And if so, who was writing about this? And so, I don't know, it started off of that. And it felt like we entered sort of like a parody state, where it's like, I have to label water again, like thank you for letting me know I'm not sucking on bone broth. Fucking marketing, right? I don't know, I just wanted to use sort of that parody. And that's where the persona the SnaxBoi comes to be, which is the Erewhon meets Fuck Boy persona, where it's like, you know, that person that spends too much time in the beverage aisle, spending so much money deciding between CBD and Nootropic, or THC adaptogens, like, Bro, like, you should be doing the same, but in therapy. [Laughs.] These are not solutions for your problems...
But so yeah, I just wanted to talk about what I was seeing and, you know, making space for us to talk about, what is an adaptogen? You know, what's the idea behind them? Is that a novel thing? Why is it being attributed to fucking Gwenny ‘Goop’ Paltrow instead of talking about how it’s been used by so many different cultures for centuries and thousands of years. Why is it that we're white-washing all of [these things]? And we're not understanding that we're trying to get back to our roots, that we're doing it in a way where it's the commodification of knowledge that's inherently human and that's been used by so many different cultures across the history of the world. I don't know, it just felt like the conversation was very much skewing towards the ‘Gwenny Goops,’ instead of, let's figure out where this is coming from.
Alicia: Yeah, there's so much, and I found this out, because when Eater gave me [an] assignment—I wrote about wellness drinks a couple of years ago, and they gave me this assignment; it wasn't really my idea. But I saw these new drinks, the new adaptogenic drinks as kind of a commodification of these older techniques, like you're saying. We used to love kombucha, and like fire cider and like these other things that anyone can make in their house. And then now we're like, No, you need this specific blend of adaptogens. And then I talked to an herbalist for that.
And it's always stuck with me, I talked to an herbalist who is like, You can't willy nilly give people these things. They are powerful, and they will have an effect, but they might not have the right effect. You want to know what you're putting in your body when you're using, you know, herbs that have had real purpose and you want to work with someone who knows what they're doing and to get it to you.
And so, I love that you do criticize this kind of vision of the world, but then you also come at it with such love and appreciation too.
Andrea: Yeah, because you know what, I like to be bridging that there is a reason and validity behind this. Just because scientists told you that psychedelics were like—you know, because I think about that. I think about that a lot, Why is it—and I wrote about this in my psychedelic issue, I was very skeptical—I was like, I'm skeptical that they're pushing for deregulation while there are big silos, that I call it, like all these corporations now set to gain from the deregulation of psychedelics. So you're telling me that something, not for what, half a century now, you've been telling me that is bad. Now that it's convenient to you guys, where we have Peter Thiel trying to patent like guided trips, like, fuck off dude. Like no.
And so to me, it's more about like, Guys, of course, there's validity around adaptogens. But when it's been thrown [around] like a marketing buzzword where it's like adaptogen this, adaptogen that, where I joke that it's not really functional that doesn't come from La Fonction in France then it’s BS, you know, and it's a detriment to the movement in the same way that cannabis has experienced that backlash with the term ‘CBD’ where it's become devoid of meaning. We did the same thing with ‘organic.'
I think to me, it's more about like, how do I do this a service and pro, where it's like, I am trying to parse through the BS, but because there is validity. I think that we also have to mention about the appropriation of where this is coming from, like the fact that everybody's making Oaxaca like a fucking Mezcal Sonoma—nobody's talking about that! Instead, you're seeing the brands be like, Ooh, come stay at this luxury $1,000 new hotel in Oaxaca, whatever. And it’s like, what the fuck, $1,000 a night in fucking—I'm sorry, what?
Seeing like brands be too comfortable using ethnic aesthetics, like, I got blocked by Kendall Jenner. I guess that's my claim to fame, because I called her out. I'm like, is she brownfacing? Why is she wearing braids? Why is she wearing a poncho? Why is she on a fucking, like, horse through agave fields, you're not fooling me—I know exactly what you're doing. And, you know, playing upon these aesthetics in a way that makes me feel uncomfortable, that it's normalized, right? Like, that's not okay.
And I think that there are some people like Yola Jimenez from YOLA Mezcal, who are doing it in ways where it’s like, she's not even having to hone in on like, Mexican aesthetics, that you know—that's where she's from. Instead, she's using this rise and popularity of mezcal to empower women in a region where women get screwed over. There's a lot of femicides that [are happening]—that to me is, that's how you do it. And if someone can do it, the same way that you know, Tony's Chocolate came out and said, like, Ooh, yes, it's only one percentage of child slavery—but it's good because then we can point it out, and it's like, Fuck you, dude.
Like, there's literally brands right now—there's a brand called Cuna de Piedra in Mexico, based in Monterrey. They work with Indigenous communities that have used the cacao practices that stem thousands of years. Like if they can be like intentional about forcing their shit. There's another one based in the U.S. called Sonhab—she worked with the Bribri community in Costa Rica. If small brands with lesser resources than you can do it, then fuck you, dude, and your narrative that you’re trying to do some, like sort of service, you know, for the betterment of the world.
So, I don't know. I feel like not just to be incendiary, but it's more about, can we just be having a conversation where it's like, I get it—PR dude, that's a huge thing, but just let me critical think like: Did we not make almond milk unsustainable and you're trying to tell them that 100,000 different plant-based brands are gonna be how we get ourselves out of fucking extinction? I don't know, man, I would be a little skeptical. [Laughs.]
Alicia: Well, thank you so much, Andrea, for taking the time today to chat. This has been great.
Andrea: Thank you for thinking about me.
And yeah, let me know when we can have a part two, I know we kind of like, went all over the place. But you know, it's a good time. You know, I love—I love when it flows. But thank you so much, Alicia.
And thank you so much for the work that you do. You're also helping pave the way for people like me to also, you know, hone in on their own space. So, I appreciate you so much for that.
Alicia: Aw, thank you.
Thanks so much to everyone for listening to this week's edition of From the Desk of Alicia Kennedy. Read more at www.aliciakennedy.news or follow me on Instagram, @aliciadkennedy, or on Twitter at @aliciakennedy.