Jason McBride spends some time with food writer Alicia Kennedy to talk about her new book, No Meat Required: The Cultural History & Culinary Future of Plant-Based Eating, and her deeply thoughtful approach to ethically sourced food.

Unlike most other food writers, frequently omnivores, who rarely address the thorny questions surrounding the production and consumption of food, Kennedy doesn’t eat meat and very intentionally, forcefully, dives into the environmental, labour, and cultural issues bound up in what we consume, and how.

No Meat Required is both the natural culmination of all this work, and an inspiring leap forward: a comprehensive, deeply researched, opinionated chronicle of vegetarianism and veganism in the United States. It’s also an account of Kennedy’s personal journey, from Long Island omnivore to punkish Brooklyn vegan. (She currently lives in Puerto Rico, and now identifies as vegetarian.) Along the way, she takes on Big Tech’s addiction to fake meat, wellness culture, and the transformation of plant-based cuisine from “hippie food” to luxury consumer good. Kennedy can be undeniably earnest—“Until there is a major reckoning with the cashew,” she writes in a chapter on non-dairy dairy, “questions on sourcing must be asked.” She is also funny, dogged, and compassionate, expertly synthesizing decades of history, cultural analysis, and political theory. The result is necessary and long overdue. If you grow food, buy food, or eat food, it’s a book you should read.