Photo courtesy of Kate Berlant

"Oatly with frozen banana and peanut butter is exquisite in a way I wasn’t prepared for."

Ryan Grim
September 11, 2018

Kate Berlant is a hilarious actress and comedian who I first saw in “Paris,” a YouTube video she made with her frequent collaborator John Early. She recently played a creepy manager at an evil company in Boots Riley’s anti-capitalist dark comedy Sorry to Bother You and just did a month’s worth of Communikate shows at Edinburgh, Scotland’s Fringe festival. The New York Times loves her. Berlant is also very good at Twitter and Instagram, and I noticed that she was posting a lot about her deep love of oat milk. I wanted to know more, so I got in touch with her and we had a long phone conversation about oat milk. This was edited down from a 3,500-word transcript that’s all about oat milk. A lot of times, in the introduction to an interview, the writer will be like, “We talked about A, B, and C," listing three different things that the interview is about. In this case it’s, “We talked about oat milk, oat milk, and oat milk.”

Extra Crispy: I noticed your Instagram stories were full of these oat milk photos and videos. How did you first get hooked on it and why do you love it so much?
Kate Berlant: Oh my god. I wish I remembered the first sacred moment when I bought it. But you know, it's somehow creamier than milk. It's incredibly creamy. I’m sorry, I'm making myself laugh talking about oat milk like this. I just was taken aback because I cannot believe what it made my coffee taste like. There's this one brand, Oatly. There are other brands, but Oatly is the one that you see that you see at the counter at La Colombe, or Erewhon. I've only been able to find it at Eerewhon, which is such a… my relationship with Eerewhon is so complicated. Do you have Erewhon in New York? No? Erewhon is this astronomically expensive one percenter health food store that literally has 20-dollar smoothies. And like, it's such an upsetting wasteland, like a dystopian wasteland of luxury, and the ruling class—the vegan ruling class. And there's one over here by the mall, the Grove, so sometimes, to self harm, I'll go to Erewhon and walk around and try not to buy anything. But anyway, that’s where I first had Oatly. And I was like, if it's here, it must be cutting edge. 

I know that I love oat milk beyond reason because I don't care what’s in it. I was posting about oat milk, and a friend of mine DM'd me like, “Is it good for you?” And I was like, “I don't care. I don't want to hear about it.” And they were like, “What’s in it? Are there additives or preservatives?” And I'm like, “I'm not ready to explore what it's in Oatly. I'm just concerned with the feeling it gives me."

You’re still in the honeymoon period. If you were and Oatly were in a relationship, you wouldn't be concerned about its past yet.
Right. I've already been like, Oh, am I going to sue Oatly in eight years? Or in 20 years, will I sue them? Will I be the Erin Brockovich of Oatly? Will I bring them down? One complaint I have about Oatly is, are they hiding something? It seems too good to be true, the creaminess. It seems like they could be hiding a dark underbelly, a sordid truth. Because the copy on the carton, in the nutritional information, it says in drippy Halloween letters, “The Boring Side.” Like, nothing to see here! Who cares about what's in it! Move along! And then it's like, "We promise to be a good company." When you say that, it makes me feel like you’re hiding something.

Would you call yourself an oat milk proselytizer?
I would, yes. My favorite use for oat milk is—and I love it in coffee—but where it's really incredble is when you want to make a non-dairy milkshake. Oatly with frozen banana and peanut butter is exquisite in a way I wasn’t prepared for.

Would you do Oatly ads for free?
Absolutely not. But I did post a thing. I got Oatly for my parents. Their fridge is filled with so much milk, it's bizarre. It's just them in their house, and they have so much mik. And I was like, “I'm gonna get you Oatly because you should get off dairy.” They're older and have inflammation and stuff. I'm like, “You should stop drinking dairy and see how you feel. Get some Oatly.” So I shot a video of them trying Oatly for the first time on my phone. My mom loved it. My dad is just addicted to milk. They have since not repurchased Oatly, to my devastation. So I posted this video and tagged Oatly, truly, boldly expecting... you know, I'm gonna get home and there's gonna be a six pack of Oatly on my porch. But actually, I did it from the goodness of my heart and the raw enthusiasm that I have for oat milk. I was devastated to only receive a heart emoji from them in my DMs, which as we all know is lacerating. So, yeah, they'd have to pay for an ad. But I'm available for payment.

Photo courtesy of Kate Berlant

Could make up an ad for Oatly right now, like one you’d hear on a podcast?
A long ad?

It doesn’t have to be long. Whatever you want.
I'm trying to think of some taglines. "Oat milk: It’s so creamy you'll leave your wife." That makes no sense.

The only downside to Oatly I’ve found, and this is a perpetual issue with nondairy milk, is that it says on the box, “consume within seven days of opening.” And I'm setting this up like there's a huge payoff from this sentence, but it's going nowhere. So I make a lot of chia pudding, which oat milk is incredible for, but I find there is a yellow tone to the Oatly that's been sitting in the refrigerator, and it can make it unsightly. And you have to manically stir it to reincorporate the creaminess. But yeah, I'll sue them if they don't send me free oat milk now.

So there was this article in The New Yorker about oat milk shortages. Have you ever tried to get it but the place was out?
I haven’t had that happen. I was just in Scotland for a month, and I was absolutely panicked because of my oat milk addiction. Because I'm going to go from this absolute love affair with oat milk to having to pretend to be in love with almond milk again if they didn’t have it. But turns out, not only do they have oat milk, they have more variations of Oatly than I’ve seen here. I couldn’t believe it! My first day in Scotland I went to a health food store, and I saw all these Oatly’s. And I grabbed someone who worked there, and I was like, “I'm so happy! I'm so relieved!" And they could not care less.

Can you rank all the nondairy milks from best to worst?
Oh my god, it would be my honor. Oat milk obviously right now in my life is number one. And then two would be almond milk. The Califia barista blend is the best. That Califia seven-inch bottle. You know what I’m taking about?

Yeah, it’s like a little Tropicana bottle, but it's got hips.
Yes, it's very sumptuous. Now that I’ve tasted oat milk, it has ruined almond milk for me. I will return to almond, but right now it feels like... My boyfriend is groaning in the other room. He can’t believe this interview.

Oat milk is number one, clearly. Almond milk, two. Cashew milk, three. Not to brag, but I have been known to make my own cashew milk, which is the easiest of the nuts milks to make at home because you don’t have to soak them if you have a powerful enough blender. Hemp milk would be four. Rice milk is not even on the list. It's sub-rank. God, what else is there? Macadamia nut milk? Soy milk is also not ranked.

What about coconut milk?
Oh my god. How could I have been so bold? Coconut milk is ahead of macadamia.

Let's talk about oat milk's perception. Is it cool? Is it no longer cool? Is it so uncool that it's coming around to being cool again?
Well, people are still discovering it. It’s still new. To us, having talked about it, it's played out. But people continue to discover it. Is it mainstream? I don’t know. It may be.

I think this summer it just tipped into the mainstream, at least on the coasts.
Yes, totally.

I noticed that Oatly is from Malmo, Sweden, where the author Karl Ove Knausgård lived at one point. Do you think there's a bigger significance there, or is it just a coincidence?
There are no coincidences, as we know, so there has to be a link there.

What’s your favorite breakfast spot in Los Angeles?
So this paints me as a crushingly predictable person. I'm a white woman living in Silver Lake who loves oat milk. My favorite breakfast place is Sqirl, which is a five-minute walk from my house. And guess what, I don’t even know if they have oat milk, I've been gone for a month. My boyfriend just texted me after hearing this milk conversation, “I have no choice but to leave you.” Which I completely understand.

I'm sorry if this interview caused you any personal problems.
That’s OK. I'm moved to talk about oat milk. And you know, what's next? What’s the next milk? I don’t know.

That’s a good question. There was all this talk about cockroach milk a while back.
Ohhh god. What about tree milk or something? Something like....

From sap?
Like paper milk? I don't know what the next milk will be. Oat milk was such a logical next step for the milk community.

This isn’t a question, but what’s interesting about Oatly to me is that they run out of oat milk because their process is so painstakingly small batch and homemade.
Oh yeah.

They haven’t scaled up to the point where they can never run out.
That’s what you want to do, right? They're creating scarcity.

Yes, it's better for them to under-supply a little. It creates a mystique around it. Oh, it’s pea milk! Pea milk is another new milk.
Oh, yeah.

Ripple, that company.
I hear Ripple is bad.

I think pea milk is gross. We get a lot of new milks here in the office, and we always try them.
Oh my god, that’s so fun.

The pea milk was gross. There's also a company that’s been making peanut milk and they call it milked peanuts.
I hate that. I saw a carton that said milked cashews. Absolutely not. Also, I want to let the record show that I enjoy actual milk too. Cream, milk. I love dairy.

I can make sure that's in there.
Leave that in. I love real milk, too.



 

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