As the creator of Kale & Caramel, a site dedicated to affordable, all-natural body care and whole foods-based recipes, Lily Diamond is a kind of anti-Goop. She aims to level the playing field and ensure that everyone has an all-access pass to wellness. Part of that, is debunking the persistent myth that self-care means a $500 facial.
We got a chance to chat with the cookbook author, natural beauty enthusiast, podcast host, and equality advocate to learn more about her mission, the power of Instagram, and the DIY beauty ingredients she always keeps in her fridge.
What’s the story behind Kale & Caramel?
When I started the site back in 2012, I was living in San Francisco, working as a freelance copywriter and editor and I had just written a book that I didn’t want to publish yet. I was also publishing really angsty poetry here and there, and creative non-fiction pieces in literary journals, sort of living the freelance life.
So I am first and foremost a writer, which is why storytelling and narrative are at the core of everything that I do on Kale & Caramel. Food, travel, wellness, and DIY body and beauty are all the elements of the site that help me answer this question: How can I live in the most sane way possible, given all of the challenges that we have in our day-to-day life and our world right now?
It’s pretty clear that the places you’ve lived play a huge role in where you find inspiration.
I love Topanga right now. I moved in March of 2018 but had lived in Los Angeles for five years prior. I really struggled there. I am a country girl at heart. I grew up in the middle of nowhere up on a mountain in Maui and that’s really where I feel most comfortable, so I found this haven in Topanga Canyon, which is south of Malibu, north of Santa Monica over on the west side. It requires me to drive a little bit more but I feel so at home there.
What’s the last thing you ate that brought you joy?
I’m just sitting in the kitchen of the house where I grew up on Maui having a little bowl of my dad’s favorite combo: yogurt, fruit, spirulina, cacao nibs, and I usually add some Seed + Mill tahini.
I just went to Seed + Mill today and came home with a bag full of tahini!
Ugh, yes, Seed + Mill is the best. We are all one big world connected by Seed + Mill, apparently.
So yummy. Okay, so can we talk about something that’s so unique to Kale & Caramel? “Channeling wildness in the kitchen” — what does that mean to you?
First, it means having fun. So often we come into the kitchen and we’re exhausted or we have a lot of anxiety about what we are going to make. Maybe we don’t feel like we’re a confident cook or we don’t have a lot of ideas. For me, I’ve always wanted to find little points of joy or fun that make cooking and the experience of being in the kitchen wild — something I can look forward to, that surprises me and teaches me something rather than something that’s a burden at the end of the day.
So literally getting wild in the kitchen. I love that.
There’s another side of it too. “Re-wilding” can also mean connecting with nature and our food on a sensual level (taste, touch, feel, smell). Then there’s also understanding where our food comes from, who grew the food, and what it took to get the food from the ground to the table. A lot of the foods we eat, we don’t even know what they look like at their source.I was lucky enough to visit a bunch of lentil farms up in Canada recently. I had no idea what lentils looked like growing. We don’t think about that all the time. That’s an element of wildness.
The last part of it is that there is also this whole movement to “re-wild” our gut flora and biome. This is a big part of why we look to probiotics and fermented foods to help heal us. There’s something to be said about bringing that wildness into our internal ecosystems as well.
How did you discover your passion for wellness?
Food, body, beauty, and hair had always been a huge part of my life. My mother was an herbalist and aromatherapist, so I grew up wanting to see plants as my ally through her lens. My parents ran a body care and spa product company; my mom made plant remedies, tinctures, tonics, and salves; and we grew most of the food that we ate. That was the world that I grew up in and grew up knowing.
Pretty much everything you see on the site, that was its foundation. I was raised to have a sense of responsibility and stewardship for the land and to understand that if I am to seek any kind of refuge or nourishment from the land that I’m living on, that I should get to know it.
On Kale & Caramel, you have a comprehensive guide on how to wash your face with honey. You don’t just tell people to do it, though — you tell them in great detail why. Why is that so important for you?
I’m a nerd and I’m a skeptic, so if something is going to work, I want to understand why. It’s the same reason why I think people should be deeply skeptical about putting tons of chemicals on their face and their body. You wouldn’t eat that, so why on earth are you putting it in your body?
So by the same token, I’m not just going to say, “Do this” and expect people to take whatever “this” is at face value. There should be an explanation for why something works. I don’t want to strip the magic out of everyday life, but if there’s a remedy that works for me I want those results to be replicable for other people. I did that research on my own because I want people to say “Oh my gosh, this is research that has been set forth by the NIH; this isn’t some wacky lady telling me to smear honey on my face.”
So basically you want people to rethink the messages we’re being fed by the wellness industry?
One of the things that I’m most passionate about is making sure that people from all backgrounds feel like they have access to wellness and self-care and health in the way that they need. It’s really important to me to feel that people are aware that they don’t have to have tons of money in order to care for themselves at the same level that it appears you need if you want to shop at Goop or be living that lifestyle.
People feel like they have to pay money to have the fancy cream or whatever it may be or that it costs $100 to have a self care moment. This is a system that has been created and propagated by heterocapitalism and white privilege—and the complicity of white women. If this is what self-care is, I just don’t want to be part of that system.
To me, self-care should be accessible at any time. It’s taking a moment to breathe, going to my fridge, and grabbing an orange and honey and making a face mask. It’s choosing to eat a little bit healthier or not going out and spending extra money. It doesn’t mean that I have to go to the spa and spend $500 or get a jade face roller and get a crystal astrology reading. It’s none of that. It can be that, but that’s not what it is at its core.
What do you say to people who tell you to “stick to food?”
As I’ve grown my business there’s always a line to toe of creating content that people are going to respond to and want to engage with and at the same time staying true to the narrative components and parts of my work that are political at their core — the way we eat, the food we get, the choices we make, and the conversations we have around the table. Food is inexorable. To say that food isn’t political, well … even if we choose to grown our own food completely, that’s a political choice.
Your Instagram is a great example of this.
I learned, though, that when people are on Instagram they see what they want to see. If you post a picture of a pie and use the caption to talk about something political, a percentage of people are never going to read that caption and they are just going to double tap and keep scrolling. But I have noticed that as I have become increasingly political on social media, I’ll gain and lose followers in waves.
I’m not interested in living some kind of illusion on social media. It’s not how I want to use that space or my time. We are at such a critical juncture in the wold right now sociopolitically, and it’s important to share these things with my followers. It’s okay to disagree. That doesn’t mean that I’m not going to share where I’m at.
What’s next for you and Kale & Caramel?
The site as a whole is going to expand and get a little makeover shortly so that I can bring in other voices besides my own. Food, wellness, self-care, travel, body, and beauty will still be at the heart of it.
Thanks for chatting, Lily! Follow Lily on Instagram and check out her website, Kale & Caramel.
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