RAW DEAL: NEWTON’S PRANA

I first became aware of the health benefits of eating raw food when I read Meat is for Pussies by John Joseph (read my book review here). The legendary hardcore front man and lifelong vegan and fitness enthusiast put it simply: “Organic, raw foods are a great way to lose weight, stay healthy and kick your libido into the fucking stratosphere. These uncooked unprocessed vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds contain live enzymes, are super-healthy and are easy to digest….I never feel bloated after a raw meal.”

The internet is inundated with websites dedicated to raw food and each one of them, from rawfoodhowto.com to geniraw.com all convey similar messages—cooking over a certain temperature depletes essential vitamins and nutrients in our food. Notably, enzymes die off and our bodies are forced to compensate for the loss of energy that we are suppose to obtain from the plants we eat. There are also miracle stories of how switching to a raw food diet changed or even saved lives and cured cancers. In Meat is for Pussies Joseph talks about Angela Stokes, the author of Raw Emotions. Stokes had menacing weight problems that restricted her every day activities, but she switched to a raw diet and lost 160 pounds in two years. “To me, the thing with raw food is that it just makes sense. It’s simple and natural, eating food straight from the Earth. There’s no rocket science, no mystery…Once you understand the simple principle that no other animal in the wild eats cooked or processed foods. That’s it,” Stokes said.

While Boston is making serious headway in the vegan restaurant department, it is a city sorely lacking any establishment that specializes in raw vegan food. Fortunately, just outside the Boston border is Prana, a clean and classy joint in Newton that dedicates nearly half its menu to raw cuisine.

It was St. Patrick’s Day and although I like to toss a few back when I get the chance, and I do have some Irish blood coursing through my veins, I’ve never been one to get tanked/wasted/obliterated on Boston’s favorite and most raucous holiday. Instead, I went to the gym, biked to Armageddon records and then high tailed it to Allston, where I caught the 57 bus en route to Newton.

Prana undoubtedly satisfies the holistic side of the upscale Newton crowd. It has clean hardwood floors, paintings of Siddhartha Gautama (the Buddha!) on the walls, and large windows that face the street that afford a decent view of the sunset, minus the pesky Bertuccis in the way.

All the food is vegan and each entrée and appetizer is labeled on the menu to indicate whether it is raw, not raw, or gluten free. According to the owner Bruce, who went from table to table during dinner asking the clientele how everything was, the original owners of Prana who run a yoga studio of the same name, next to the restaurant, had a menu that was 99 percent raw. “We wanted to maintain the integrity of the menu,” he said, but at the same time Bruce wanted to give it some mainstream appeal so vegans could bring friends in that didn’t subscribe to a raw food diet.

One of the non-raw items on the menu is the Naan Pizza. Naan is an Indian bread that Bruce procures from Brighton and the cheese on the pizza is made from tapioca root.

I ordered the Pesto Primavera, a raw meal, which was made of zucchini pasta, seasonal vegetables, almond and cashew cream sauce and spinach. It tasted like an ultra-green pasta salad with crunchy chlorophyll in each bit. I was impressed.

The chef also sent over sunflower kale chips. According to Bruce they are his answer to sour cream and onion chips. The kale is dehydrated instead of cooked, so it doesn’t lose any of the nutrients. They had the same dry flaky composition as the Lays junk food, but their leafy shape betrayed the stark difference between them and their high-fructose-infused bagged contemporaries.

Prana specializes in solid and liquid form raw foods. While beer, wine and coffee is available on the menu, the specialty beverages at Prana are the smoothies and juices, and each one is a unique concoction of ingredients that seems to promise physical well being.

I asked the server which smoothie he would recommend, and he said either the SuperCharger, which contains young coconut meat, coconut water, cacao, dates and cashew, or the Strawberry Banana, which has strawberries, bananas, lucuma and coconut water; I went for the Strawberry Banana. The smoothie had a strong primary strawberry taste, but the coconut water left an interesting after flavor—it was an unlikely synthesis between two very different fruit juices.

Before I left Bruce had me try a sample of the mango sorbet. Prana received a batch of ultra ripe mangos from Mexico and they had to do something with them right away before they went bad. The sorbet was basically frozen mangos with coconut water, and like everything else I tried at Prana it was delicious and naturally flavorful.

Although I hope Prana thrives as a business, I would not mind seeing some healthy competition in the raw vegan department in Boston. It would be nice to have a variety of healthy, natural, cruelty-free, uncooked foods to pick from when going out to eat.

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SHOUT OUT: WILL TRAVEL FOR VEGAN FOOD

Eating vegan on your home turf is always easy, you know what spots to hit, what to avoid, and at the end of the day you can resign yourself to that overpriced apartment (hello Boston!) for shelter and company. Throughout my veg adventures I have done some traveling and tasting, but every once in a while I have to tip my hat to a fellow vegan who has put his/her self out there and logged some serious miles.

Meet Kristin Lajeunesse, a profound pounder of pavement, dedicated vegan, scribbler and all around entrepreneur. She is the founder of Will Travel for Vegan Food, a cross-country crusade to visit all 50 states and eat at each one’s respective vegan restaurants, while documenting it all on her website.

At sixteen-years-old Lajeunesse began her dissent into the world of vegetarianism when her brother, followed by her parents, made the plunge. In 2006 she decided to go vegan when she saw George Eisman, an esteemed R.D. who preaches the health benefits of a plant-based diet, speak at a veg fest in Syracuse, New York. Lajeunesse describes listening to Eisman’s “Dairy Is Not Necessary” talk as, “like in a movie when that ethereal creature walks toward the main character and the rest of the world fades away…and it’s just the two [of] them.” Needless to say, Lajeunesse was transfixed and garnered some good advice as to why she should drop the dairy. That night she ate her last piece of cheese pizza, and has never looked back.

Since then Lajeunesse has racked up some serious vegan credentials. She worked at Vegan Mainstream, World Society for the Protection of Animals, New England Anti-Vivisection Society and is the founder of the website Rose Pedals Vegan Weddings—for all the cruelty-free kids looking to get hitched!

Lajeunesse is completing the Will Travel for Vegan Food mission in a ’95 Chevy sports van she affectionately dubbed Gerty. The stipulations of her journey are that the restaurants she visits must have a 75 percent vegan menu and if she can manage, she wants to dine at every single 100 percent vegan restaurant. She finds out about the eateries through a series of networks and websites, notably VegDining.com, HappyCow.net, facebook posts and emails with suggestions that she is constantly receiving.

The original plan for funding the excursion was a work as you go, freelance on the road deal, but with all the time and effort it takes just to keep WTF Vegan afloat, Lajeunesse rarely has the opportunity to write for cash, “Between the planning, writing, interviewing, editing, picture taking, socializing, finding places to sleep oh and and eating.. yeah, it’s a LOT of work,” she writes in an email interview. She accepts money via paypal and in place of money, she lets supporters buy her dinner. The Rose Pedals website has also brought in some supplementary income through vendor listings and advertisers.

Lajeunesse can’t pinpoint when she decided to take up the nomadic lifestyle, she knew she always wanted to roam, but like many stagnant Americans, the main thing standing in her way was…herself, “I would categorize myself as someone who said that they’d love to travel but would then follow it with a list of reasons why it wouldn’t work out,” she says.

A series of influences began to shift her mentality and travel ascended her list of interests and priorities. Lajeunesse recalls a coworker at the New England Anti-Vivisection Society who came back from a month long hiking trip in Australia, and how amazing her stories and photos were. There was also literature that helped make travelling a priority—there is always literature. First it was Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, and then 4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss and Crush It! By Gary Vaynerchuck. She claims the latter two helped ease the pressure of maintaining a job while traveling: “I read these two books within a few weeks of each other and they completely, totally, overwhelmingly shook my soul and made me realize that I could in fact travel.”

Social media and the internet have been a positive contributing factor for Lajeunesse, whether it is for contacts, updates or donations, but it has also been a source of inspiration. “At some point I jokingly wrote on my Facebook wall that I’d like to eat at all of the vegan restaurants in the country. It triggered an overwhelmingly positive stream of replies. Between this response and my mind now being set on creating a mobile lifestyle I began to think more seriously about a potential road trip,” she says. After she spent two weeks in Turkey, Lajeunesse was committed to the idea of traversing America.

According to the Will Travel for Vegan Food official website, Lajeunesse has made substantial progress but still has a long ways to go—she has been to Maine, Massachusetts, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, Indiana, Illinois, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, as well as Móntreal. Gerty (the van) is doing well after many visits to the mechanic, and Lajeunesse’s spirits seem to be high.

When asked about what she will do when she hits the states that are less metropolitan and less likely to have vegan food, her response is one of lemons into lemonade—or soy beans into soymilk if you will—“I look forward to those areas because I’d love to have time to explore and be more ‘touristy’ at some points. Go hiking, site seeing, adventuring, etc. There are no parts of the country I’m worried about at this point. I’m confident that I’ll make all this work, no matter where I am.”

Editor’s note: Donate or buy Kristin food! She will mention you on her website and there is no such thing as too much good karma!

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YOU CAN’T FAKE US: VEGBOSTON HITS THE NORTHERN BORDER

It was 3’oclock in the afternoon on Friday the thirteenth when we started our venture north, way north. I sat in the passenger seat of a tiny pick up truck, ironically dubbed Big Red Jezebel. Next to me manning the wheel was Alexander Herbert, a pseudo-intellectual of Russian culture, my longtime friend, cohort in punk rock and veganism and committed partner in crime. Stretched out in the tiny back seat behind us was Ryan Jackson, another friend of many years who is a full-time front man of life and the stage, and could be described as a Kerouac of the twenty-first century persuasion (excuse the cliché comparison).

Our itinerary spanned four days; it started in Attleboro, Massachusetts, we would visit Toronto first, then on to Montreal and our trip would culminate in Quebec City. The drive from Attleboro to Toronto was nearly ten hours. We took turns at the wheel, each of us battled the precarious weather and near zero visibility made worse by the frozen windshield, weak beams of Big Red Jezebel and haze of American Spirit smoke. At one point I could see only a few feet in front of me and relied solely on the white striped lines to keep me on course. Every bathroom stop and gas-up revealed colder and colder temperatures, but spirits were high and the Ipods were charged, and the border patrol paid us little mind.

We arrived in Toronto a little after twelve and our first stop was Yahn’s apartment. Yahn is a twenty-nine-year-old Canadian/Russian who Alex met last summer while he studied abroad in Russia. Yahn met us with a bottle of whiskey and a smile, in the cold parking lot of his complex. We found a cheap motel on the outskirts of Toronto, on a street that according to Yahn, used to be filled with seedy nightlife, bikers and brawls. He recalled filming scuffles from his apartment window when he was a kid. That night we sat in the cheap motel and gaily plowed through the whiskey Yahn provided. We cheered our plastic cup elixirs of cola and alcohol, free-styled and listened to Yahn’s homegrown jokes that pushed the boundaries of what we American’s deem politically correct.

The next day we plunged into the center of Toronto. We parked the car, paid the meter and walked about. Alex was on a mission for thrift stores and a local passerby obliged us with directions to a nearby street called Kinsington. Kinsington was lined with trendy colorfully painted boutiques that sold second-hand wares. We bounced from shop to shop but barely relinquished our cash.

We did get hungry, so Alex and I decided it was time to find a decent vegan place. On our way to a vegetarian burrito joint that was recommended to us by a lady in a tattoo shop, we stumbled upon a restaurant called, King’s Café. The King’s Café we found in Toronto is one of seven branches, each of which is located in Canada. The atmosphere inside is refined but not too formal and the cuisine is strictly Asian. The menu is fairly extensive, it offers appetizers, dim sum, soup, sushi and entrees like Enoki Mushroom Balls, Schezuan Style Spicy Tofu and “Sweet ‘N’ Sour Bites.”

Inside the regular menu near the center, was a paper booklet that read “Winter Special.” Alex and I looked for the most affordable thing that would fill us up and came across the “Veggie Submarine Fort Bread With Noodles.” It contained, “A delicious fresh bread with spices and sour vegetables, green pepper, red pepper, soy steak mixed with fried noodles,” and it was just under $5 dollars. We couldn’t object.

King’s café is the spot to go for tea enthusiasts. A large portion of the restaurant was used for shelving and selling a brand called Zen Tea. The walls were lined with shelves, and each section had a metal canister that contained a different tea. The array of teas were divided into genres: green tea, white tea, oolong tea, black tea, dark tea, kings pink rosebuds, blood health herbal tea, evergreen herbal tea, longevity herbal tea, pure lotus leaves.

There was a chart that cited the health benefits of each one. For example, “‘Lotus leaf helps to raise up “Yang Qi” (Yang Energy), lower’s one’s blood lipid levels, treat obesity (slimming effect) and dissolve blood clots’…Lotus leaf is also used for treatment of heart stroke…”

As a tea rookie I was fascinated, I never knew how deeply and complicated teas got, and was completely unaware of the subtle differences and seemingly remarkable health benefits that each beverage offered—although I did remain skeptical of their superpowers for fear of turning into a naïve victim of consumerism.

The sandwich itself was excellent and filling. The veggie steak had a great texture and taste, the sandwich was the perfect level of spicy, and it was the first time I have ever eaten noodles in between bread. Midway through the meal the crumbly bread fell apart and I was forced to use my chopsticks to pick up the remains, but there were no complaints. Alex and I decided to go for the organic green tea to accompany our meal and we were pleased with the decent sized pot they gave us, and overall we were satisfied with our meal, from start to finish, from taste to price.

We soon left Toronto, but I will not recount the details of the days that proceeded, partly out of fear of legal reprisal and mortification, but mostly I want to avoid boring you with memories that would mean little to you but much to me. Cheers.

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GOOD LOOKS GOOD VIBES: BOSTON’S PURVEYOR OF CRUELTY FREE CONTRACEPTIVES

Veganism is no spectator sport. To thoroughly give up animal products, one has to get dirty and do some serious digging, find out what every day, inconspicuous items are built on the backs or from the hides of animals. Like all human beings riddled with hormones, vegans harken the cry of copulation, but to follow the veg lifestyle in toto, you must come to the realization that even the sex industry sneaks animal products into its goods; this is especially true with contraceptives.

Good Vibrations is an international sex store with five west coast locations in northern California and one in Brookline’s Coolidge Corner. Good Vibes is Boston’s most tasteful and well-lit sex store, an arena where it is right to be risqué, and it is not imperative to look over your shoulder or don a disguise just to browse for goods that cater to sexual sensibilities, but most importantly, it is a proud purveyor of vegan condoms.

When most people learn that condoms are not vegan, they usually act surprised and at times are flustered, but always curious as to why they are not veg-friendly. According to Coyote Days, the “Purchasing Manager” for Good Vibrations, most condoms are made with caseine, a dairy derivative, rather than pure latex, a material that the Medical Device Index website (medidex.com), says comes from the rubber tree, Hevea brasiliensis.

Vegans need not despair, for safe sex is a fair game, and certain brands have made a conscious effort to exclude animal products. Glyde condoms, as mentioned in a previous post (see: Veg Erotic Draws Issues) are a leader in the field. The company started production in 1996, and according to their website, they substitute caseine with, “a vegetable extract taken from the thistle family.” Glyde is also registered with The Vegan Society, an education and charity organization based in the U.K.

Good Vibrations also carries the Sir Richards brand as well as Kimono from Japan, both of which are vegan. Not only is sensation not sacrificed, but neither is price; the Brookline store sells the contraceptives for a dollar each. While some might be leery about the inexpensiveness of something so vitally quality-worthy, Days explains that price has little to do with durability and that all condoms are FDA regulated and undergo, “A lot of endurance testing.”

Good Vibes also stocks other vegan goods, all you have to do is type “vegan” into the search bar of their website and a profusion of items turn up, from a whole slue of lubricants (ironically one is “BaconLube”), dental dams, and even a vibrating corsette harness (enjoy!).

Days also claims that the feathers used in Good Vibration’s products do not come from birds that were singularly killed for that purpose. Good Vibes also carries Cherry Bombin’ wrist restraints, a product that Days personally attests to, “I really love her restraints, they are fashionable, they are comfortable,” she says in a phone interview from her California office.   Cherry Bombin’ is a company based out of Phoenix, Arizona that makes wallets, wrist bands, belts, bicycle accessories, clothing and other goods from recycled bicycle tubes. Days lets on that within the upcoming months, there will be two new products added to the roster from Cherry Bombin’, a result from a collaborative effort with Good Vibrations.

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VEGAN VENTURES ACROSS THE POND PART III: BARCELONA

The last leg of my trip, it all terminates in Barcelona—a choice city, where the party starts at two in the morning, and prostitutes and pickpockets are just as much of the city’s cultural repertoire as Picasso and Ghadi architecture.

When I first stepped off the shuttle bus that took me from the airport to the center of Barcelona, I was struck by the heat. London and Paris had been tepid, always cool enough for a sweatshirt, while Amsterdam constantly chilled me with its and refusal to quit raining. Barcelona on the other hand seemed like a tropical island with its high temperatures from dusk ‘til dawn, and palm trees that protrude from the pavement of the city’s streets.

My hostel sat in a courtyard that bordered the infamous Las Ramblas—a nauseating tourist trap of a street. Lining the sides of Las Ramblas are shops stocked with kitschy paraphernalia and obnoxious shirts that cater to the lowest common denominator. Cutting the street in half is a strip of pavement designated for kiosks, street performers, street vendors, and at times, three card monte games played for €50 Euros a hand.

Eatin’ on the Cheap (again)

Although I did my best to budget throughout my trip (see eating lentils on Paris sidewalk in rain), I still knew my savings were wearing thin, so I returned to my old friend, fallafel. Fortunately for me, Las Ramblas is blessed with two Maos falafel chains. I made great use of them and dropped €5 Euros for a sandwich packed with as much salad, hummus and tahini as I could fit, many times for breakfast lunch and dinner.

For snacks or mid-morning hangover meals, I sometimes bought a stale baguette and an avocado. During my twenty-two years in the U.S. I rarely ate avocado, except when I ordered guacamole on my burrito. In Barcelona my newly acquired friends and hostel roommates, who also happened to be vegetarians, introduced me to its merits, notably its health benefits.

In Massachusetts, the imported avocado appears puny, shriveled, and overpriced, but in Barcelona it is a common commodity sold cheap and ripe at any market. Besides a delicious taste, it has numerous health benefits. According to Health Online Zine, it controls blood pressure, helps keep your heart healthy, regulates blood sugar levels, increases nutrient absorption, and for those of us who sometimes do not adequately pack on the pounds, it helps with weight gain, “The avocado has 200 calories for 100 grams. Due to the high amounts of calories, avocado is a best diet for people who want to gain weight. Avocado is a healthy source of calories, unlike many other calorie-dense foods that may contain excess saturated fats and sugar.” Wow!

Juicy Jones

The walls of this hippie-esque joint, were painted a vibrant pink, blue and green, slightly messily but obviously with the intent of portraying a fun and carefree atmosphere. The main seating was a metal bar with stools that served as both the place to eat and the place to serve food. Cheery lounge music from the earlier half of the twentieth century intermixed with humming of blenders and the sounds of passerby tourists.

Juicy Jones ‘s name was fitting; much of their menu was comprised of different fruity concoctions. I chose manzana kiwi. For lunch I ate a tofu sandwich, which came with two thick and slightly hard pieces of bread, a generous portion of well-prepared tofu and an excellent spread. Also on the menu were other bocadillos (sandwiches), tapas, desserts and milk shakes.

Cat Bar

I like to think fine vegan food comes to you when you are ready for it, and sometimes you need to stumble upon it by accident, to make it that much better. One evening while I tramped about the city and bounced from one bar to the next exploring streets and neighborhoods, I walked past a bar and noticed the word vegan on the sign. I immediately inquired the hip couple sitting next to the entrance what the address was of where I stood. “I’m vegan and I want come back here tomorrow,” I explained. They handed me a piece of paper that said “Cat Bar” at the top and towards the bottom had a tiny map showing the establishment’s whereabouts—right off Via Laietana near the Jaume metro stop. Perfect.

The next day I did return and was pleased to see a simple menu with a fine selection of dark and hardy beers. I ate an excellent vegan burger with fries for an affordable price, along with a heavy brew that acted like the metaphorical cherry on top. To make the meal even better I ate with a fellow American and vegan. He was a landscape architect from Portland, Oregon (the second vegan from Portland I met in Barcelona) and he was in Spain to rock climb; supposedly there are rock faces over the ocean where you climb and then fall into the water. He made good conversation and had no qualms in discussing his hard line stance towards eating local, eating earnest, and his approval of direct action.

The end of the trip had come, signified by the ATM telling me there was no more cash to dispense. I slept in the airport the night before my journey home, sad that my first cross-continental adventure had come to a close, but happy to come home to a girlfriend, friends  and a city I did not need a map to navigate. Cheers.

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BOSTON TO BROOKLYN: FOODSWINGS

New England winter–when the mercury drops, the wind picks up, and the hours of daylight dwindle to an infantile amount. It’s easy to throw your hands up in surrender, call it a day and huddle indoors, with nothing but the same television shows and facebook updates to keep your entire cerebrum from slipping into a state of white noise.

That’s one way to go. Or, you can give yourself the cabin fever vaccine: self-perscribed adventures across state lines, with new experiences to combat the cobwebs. When my girlfriend asked me if I wanted to go to P.S. Elliot’s (one of her favorite bands) last shows in Brooklyn, I conceded without hesitation.

We took the Fung Wah to Manhattan. We courageously navigated the New York subway system–a series of colored and lettered lines that intricately snake, merge and diverge, twist and spawn their way across the five boroughs in such a way that it makes navigating the “T” look like child’s play.

Our gracious host lived in Green Point (a neighborhood of Brooklyn for all you NYC novices), so we stopped at his apartment for a Brooklyn Lager and directions, and then were off again.

A short ride on the B62 bus brought us to our destination, Death By Audio. Death By Audio reeked of DIY aesthetics, with its unofficial looking staff, skillfully spray painted walls, circa 1980’s video games, and bar that consisted of a table and a mini-fridge packed with Pabst Blue Ribbon and Brooklyn Lager. Smoking was allowed; my respiratory system was mighty vexed but my indulgence for nicotine was amply satisfied (not proud of it).

P.S. Elliot, a contagiously catchy female-fronted pop punk band, played their last show with panache, skill and fervor, and every thick-rimmed, spiffy-dressed hipster in the packed room, bobbed and bounced to the songs they might never hear live again.

Before Veggie Galaxy was the new kid in town, vegan food in Boston was mostly limited to pizza, sandwiches and Asian-style cuisine. For a long time, I heard of the fabled Foodswings, a restaurant that markets itself as a “Vegan Fast Food Joint,” and I always pledged to visit. My time had come.

Foodswings is one of many vegan restaurants in Brooklyn. It looks inconspicuous on Grand Street, with nothing but a black awning and chalkboard A-frame on the sidewalk to distinguish it. Inside is simple, black–black floors, black tables, black chairs, black counter and black wall behind the counter where the menu is written in fluorescent chalk. The restaurant’s soundsystem played New York style hardcore, rife with breakdowns and down tuned guitars, as the tattoo-clad cooks in the kitchen labored in back.

Some vegan restaurants shy away from labeling themselves as vegan or vegetarian, for fear of driving away the common carni/omnivore. Foodswings pulls no punches when it comes to their message. An endearing aspect of their setting was on their walls, pictures of revered men throughout time that each practiced a cruelty-free diet. With these pictures was a quote relating that message in their own words. Above our table hung a picture of Leonardo Da Vinci’s “Vitruvian Man” and below it were the words:

“I have from an early age abjured the use of meat and the time will come when men such as I will look upon the murder of animals as they now look upon the murder of men.”

I placed my order with the server/cashier, and before long, my meal arrived. I got the Metal Fries, Cheese, Buffalo Sauce and Bleu Cheese Dressing and a Chick’n Cordon Bleu Sandwich, Breaded & Fried Mock Cutlet, Soy Ham & Daiya Mozzarella Cheese w/Lettuce, Tomato, Onion & Foodswings Dijonaise on a Roll.

Foodswings’ menu is staggeringly broad, it includes salads drumsticks, hot/cold sandwiches, burgers and hotdogs, a slue of fries (cheese fries, chipotle cheese fries, “Disco Fries,” “Pizza Fries,” “Punk Fries,” “Metal Fries,” “Surf Fries,” chili cheese fries) and other sides, as well as a section labeled “Good Random Shite!” which has nachos, personal pizzas, chili with seitan and potato skins that are labeled on the menu, “4skins,” an allusion to the almighty English Oi band.

Foodswings has a score of milkshakes, each one more tempting than the next, bearing names like “The Tank,” “Jailbait,” “My Little Pony,” and “Trainwreck”. My girlfriend ordered the “Vegan Hurricane” and it came with mint ice cream and cookies. It tasted like a liquified version of the thin mint cookies that bolster a majority of the girl scouts’ sales.

Foodswings was worth the anticipation and lived up to its far-reaching reputation. If you happen to make it to Brooklyn, pay a visit, and do not be afraid to gorge on everything an omnivore claims you miss out on.

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POTLUCK PUNX: FOOD, RECORDS, AND UFOS

My girlfriend and I ventured to Cambridge’s Democracy Center for the vegan potluck with our tofu stir fry dish in hand. We arrived punctually at seven o’clock, but the hall looked vacant, only a few people with patches, and a theatre group lingered about. If you have ever been to a show, you know normal time and punk time are usually not in sync–the latter typically takes place many minutes (or hours) after the former. We did not fret, but went to Charlie’s Kitchen to get a drink and wait.

By eight o’clock, more people arrived, via skateboard, bike, moped, and a cramped hatchback. The Cesar Chavez and Rosa Parks rooms were filled with conversation, vegan food, and ironically…leather. A television sat on a table and played a live DVD of the almighty DISCHARGE, next to an impressive spread of donated vegan food, some of it homemade–vegan pizza, rice and bean dishes, banana bread and fruit salad, while some of it was not–V8 Splash, soy milk, coffee, swedish fish (the vegan go-to gelatin-free candy). Everything with honey was marked and everyone had their fill.

This was the second vegan potluck at the Democracy Center, and the turnout was remarkable for a late night event in Cambridge on a Sunday, but people had their reasons to come, “Free food,” remarked one attendee, Scud Vile.

The event’s coordinator Ellie, a vegan tattoo artist, wanted to create an event similar to a basement show, but instead of everyone consuming alcohol, cruelty-free food was the main course. Many of the participants weren’t vegan, but that was the function’s intended function. No preaching to the proverbial choir.

Food was the main order of business, but record selling also took place. The climax of night was a guest-speaker. One might concede that the punk subculture is derived from the alienated, and many a vegan might feel (at times) alienated. So what better person to speak to room full of punk rock vegans, than an expert on, aliens!

For the last hour, veteran UFO investigator Chris Pittman from the television series Ancient Aliens, spoke before an eager crowd about his eerie experiences with UFOs, and his supernatural encounters. His grim exhortations were peppered with bits of black humor, and his stories, although bizarre, took on a believable tone. But this is a discussion for a different post on a different blog. Nevertheless a unique way to end the night.

Hopefully this will be the second of many succeeding successful vegan potlucks! The kids had their say, and their fill. No qualms, just aliens.

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