Berlin is hot. Berlin is on fire. But soon it may burn up, burn out. Rents are increasing and baby strollers multiplying. The starving artists types will soon go to Leipzig, Belfast, Shanghai. My name is Victoria Larsson and my most prominent weapon is my endlessly expansive curiosity. Here I blog about yoga, vegan food, cafés, bars and black metal in Berlin.
To continue the discussion about whether it’s right to procreate or not, or whether I’m a total bitch …
A friend of mine forwarded me this description of a play called Lungs, now showing at Schaubühne in Berlin.
A queue at Ikea where two, more than imperceptibly neurotic, educated, fair-trade coffee drinking, twenty/thirty somethings in love are questioning whether or not to procreate. He asks her if she wants to and she responds, “It’s like you punched me in the face and asked me a maths question.” Their concerns aren’t how a baby would change their lives, but rather how a baby would ruin the world by leaving a larger carbon footprint then flying from London to New York everyday for seven years. Katie Mitchell directs the first German language premiere of Duncan McMillan’s Lungs, a love story that wittily, honestly and darkly asks, can one be a “good” person and have a baby?
Right it seems that half of all my female (soon to be ex-)friends are wobbling around with big fat bellies. My problem is I don’t get excited when they proudly announce their ‘happy’ news. And this is a big problem, not wanting to say ‘congratulations’ with a big smile when they tell me. Instead, my first and true reaction is to want to delete their contact info. Because I know our friendship is about to be over, or at least forever change. And the sad truth is that I won’t have to delete their numbers from my phone, or their email addresses from my gmail, because as soon as that baby sees the light of the world, they will disappear into a world of expensive show-off strollers, diapers, stretch mark creams, playgrounds etc. And when they do suggest a rendez-vous, they will be tired and want to go home early, or they will be distracted, constantly checking their phone, worrying that something will have gone wrong while their spouse was in charge. And I will be bored too, as I’m not the least interested in looking at pictures of their offspring’s first tooth or them playing the keyboard with their little pink paws.
What I must do though, is to de-follow them on my instagram, or else my feed will be hijacked by a never-ending stream of child photos, that are completely irrelevant, except for the grandparents maybe, who feel that grandchildren are ‘life’s dessert.’
My best friends will always be the ones who have chosen not to do what everyone else is doing. And being a woman who’s actively chosen not to pro-create is a difficult choice, a choice that, depending on where you live, potentially could turn you into an outcast.
My best friends will always be humans who want to keep on having interesting conversations, uninterrupted by toddlers, that sometimes last from dusk to dawn (and sometimes involve large amounts of alcohol, and maybe even drugs).
My best friends will always be women who attempt to live a life less ordinary. Even when it’s hard. Straying off the beaten path always will be.
My best friends will always be those who have chosen not to burden our already near depleted and totally overpopulated planet with yet another child.
I know, I know, it’s biology; the urge to procreate. I’m just a weirdo, an anomaly, a deviant, who never heard the ticking of the so-called biological clock, even though I’ve passed into my forties. I should just accept, and even respect that this is life, this is what you do. This is what women do. The ultimate proof that you truly are one. We are programmed for it. It’s an instinct.
Still, just because you have a strong urge to do something doesn’t mean you have to. I constantly hold myself back from doing things I want to do, like kicking the side mirrors off SUVs that drive dangerously close to me when I bike around Berlin or having one more drink or telling someone to fuck off or to eat bread (even though gluten makes me feel crappy).
And why put a child into this mess of a world? Does anyone honestly believe that the planet really stands a chance? Why not adopt a child that’s already been born and who needs a loving home? Or why not care for a foster child?
Women who don’t want to make babies often get accused of being selfish. I think it’s the other way around. I think that, in the first world, having an own child is just about the most selfish thing you can do. To the planet. And to your fellow human beings.
I think that it’s quite obvious that an own, biological child is the ultimate extension of the ego.
Watching the Swedish party leader debate via web TV last night, it struck me that it is this building of the nuclear family that makes society unfair. Someone who doesn’t believe in private schools will change their mind as soon as they have children. Maybe not in theory, but at least in practice. Of course MY kid should have the best possible education, fuck the rest …
According to Eastern philosophy; Hinduism and Buddhism for example, true love is realizing that everyone and everything is connected, that there is no separation. Not between me and you, him or her, the tree and my arm. My child and her child. But the animal instincts will kick in when someone becomes a parent, and it will get increasingly harder to find the way to this state of consciousness, to samadhi, yoga (union). Because a parent will put their kids’ needs before other kids’ needs, leading to the unjust societies we now have, in Sweden, everywhere, with shitty, failing inner city public schools, where most of the pupils are of a non-European background, because all the white educated parents who love their offspring more than they love everyone else’s, have taken their kids and put them in private schools, far away from the ghettos and the broken Swedish.
I feel nervous and slightly nauseous about writing this on my blog. Because it’s super-taboo to not be happy about your friends having babies. I feel nervous that one of my friends will read this and feel hurt. If one of all of you pregnant friends happen to read this, I’m sorry, I feel bad too, that I can’t be happy for you. Part of my problem is that I’m a selfish cunt, and that I’m just sad about our friendship changing. That you won’t be as much fun anymore. That some little creature will be way more important to you than I ever can be. That’s one part of it. The other part is the moral aspects of procreating when the world is what it is.
Still, I need to try to respect my friends’ desires and choices. I need to try to feel their happiness and their humanity, and still support them in their decisions. I am trying with varying (bad to shitty) degrees of success. But I find it really hard.
I am truly so much more interested in other peoples’ dogs than their children … I’m always up for cute dog pictures clogging up my instagram feed. And when a friend decides to adopt a puppy I’m truly ecstatic … no need to fake it …
I’ll end with a list of childless badass women!
Simone de Beauvoir
A few weeks ago I went to the Way Out West Festival in Göteborg, on Sweden’s so called ‘Best Coast’ (A.K.A Da Front-ass!). The festival has an environmentally-friendly vibe, and doesn’t serve meat or fish — which is pretty great, but what isn’t so great is that vegan stuff is semi-hard to come by, even at a vegetarian hipster music festival, crawling with Brooklyn beards, cute boys with nail polish and girls with nineties bare mid riffs.
The best thing was the oat lattes and cortados for the bargain price of 20 SEK served at the festival, by Oatly, a Swedish oat milk brand, clearly looking to reach a new audience.
It doesn’t get much better in the city proper. Gothenburg is Sweden’s second largest city and according to Happy Cow there is one vegan café; Rawfoodbaren (Viktoriagatan 18) Which, according to my friend Lois is an over-priced and mostly take-away raw juice bar type place.
There are quite a few vegetarian restaurants though. But most of them seem to be trapped in the 1970’s vegetarian cooking where everything is earth-colored mush the texture of baby food.
My old friend Fredrik, took me and his daughter Iris out for lunch at En Deli Haga (Haga Nygata 15). The place serves middle eastern/Lebanese-inspired meze plates. Many of the dips, stews and salads were vegan on the day I ate there. Everything tasted fresh and the sourdough bread I helped myself freely to was delicious — even though I aim to be gluten-free … It’s hard with such temptations around. A crazy rainstorm kept us lingering too long.
Still, I wish the vegan cuisine could be a bit more inspired and modern. Come on Sweden! I thought we were a progressive land!
Pope Francis may be the coolest pope ever (not that it takes that much, but hey!). Especially if you take *family* to mean family and friends. Families with two mothers or three fathers. Or with one mother or a sprawling collective of loving, caring people. Or one human and three dogs and two cats and a hamster.
These are his ten advice for a happier life.
1. “Live and let live.” Everyone should be guided by this principle, he said, which has a similar expression in Rome with the saying, “Move forward and let others do the same.”
2. “Be giving of yourself to others.” People need to be open and generous toward others, he said, because “if you withdraw into yourself, you run the risk of becoming egocentric. And stagnant water becomes putrid.”
3. “Proceed calmly” in life. The pope, who used to teach high school literature, used an image from an Argentine novel by Ricardo Guiraldes, in which the protagonist — gaucho Don Segundo Sombra — looks back on how he lived his life.
4. A healthy sense of leisure. The Pope said “consumerism has brought us anxiety”, and told parents to set aside time to play with their children and turn of the TV at mealtimes.
5. Sundays should be holidays. Workers should have Sundays off because “Sunday is for family,” he said.
6. Find innovative ways to create dignified jobs for young people. “We need to be creative with young people. If they have no opportunities they will get into drugs” and be more vulnerable to suicide, he said.
7. Respect and take care of nature. Environmental degradation “is one of the biggest challenges we have,” he said. “I think a question that we’re not asking ourselves is: ‘Isn’t humanity committing suicide with this indiscriminate and tyrannical use of nature?’”
8. Stop being negative. “Needing to talk badly about others indicates low self-esteem. That means, ‘I feel so low that instead of picking myself up I have to cut others down,’” the Pope said. “Letting go of negative things quickly is healthy.”
9. Don’t proselytise; respect others’ beliefs. “We can inspire others through witness so that one grows together in communicating. But the worst thing of all is religious proselytism, which paralyses: ‘I am talking with you in order to persuade you,’ No. Each person dialogues, starting with his and her own identity. The church grows by attraction, not proselytising,” the Pope said.
10. Work for peace. “We are living in a time of many wars,” he said, and “the call for peace must be shouted. Peace sometimes gives the impression of being quiet, but it is never quiet, peace is always proactive” and dynamic.
The Queens of Sweetness — meaning the French ladies who run Ohlala (Mainzer Straße 18) have stepped up their game a bit. The ever-popular weekend brunch is now not only vegan, but also gluten-free. Two things I aim to be to the max.
I especially enjoyed the nougat mousse with hazelnut crocant and the shots of berry smoothie.
Now also more and better seating.
I just received my first pair of Teeki yoga pants in the mail the other day. They are made from recycled plastic bottles and look and feel pretty damn swell. I don’t think this is my last pair.
Prenzlauer Berg has been blessed by a new veggie eatery, TTCCH (Schönhauser Allee 9). This white-washed spot is housed inside a container next to the Platoon Kunsthalle.
I visited a sunny Sunday, after a birthday binge that had left me sleep-deprived and slightly delirious with happiness. I mean, I got to enjoy vegan gourmet breakfast with my lovely friend Lois (someone who’s known me for over twenty years and somehow still is my friend!), and Augusto, an awesome man I’ve only known for a little more than two months, but already is falling madly and deeply in love with.
We sat on the patio, shaded by a leafy tree and dark sunglasses.
The proprietress was both friendly and helpful, and everything we ordered was tasty, if a tad pricey. The coffee is made french-press style and there’s almond milk instead of soy. The detox juices where desperately needed and the bread our sandwiches came on was baked by Sironi, the Italian baker in Markthalle Neun.
My only wish is they would go all vegan. I mean, the cows wanna come home, right? Not be raped of the milk they produce for their babies …
I remember the early days — my youth — living in NYC in the nineties and thinking about going vegan and every now and then making a pathetic attempt to. I would last for an average of three days and then give up because I ended up hungry in a café and succumbed to a cheese sandwich. Yeah, I was a lazy bastard pescatarian, who enjoyed the gorgeous plant-based offerings at Angelica’s Kitchen, and the vegan pizza slice at Two Boots.
These days it’s hard to make similar excuses. At least if you live in Berlin. The vegan scene is expanding quickly, and if you are in the ‘right’ neighbourhoods, nearly every café/restaurant offer something for us to eat. Gone are the days when I became euphoric just because a café offered soy instead of cow milk for the espresso drinks.
Yesterday, on my way back from teaching at Soundcloud’s new swell office digs, The Factory, I decided to try lunch at Fast Rabbit (Eberswalder Straße 1). The place is cute and cosy, with local art on the wall, and the typical Berlin second-hand slightly mis-matched furniture. The Rabbit specialises in wraps, but there are also soups, fries and other snack-y things on the menu, as well as desserts. I decided on the Mexican roll (€4.50), stuffed with beans, rice, guacamole, coconut chutney and salsa. It was definitely quite tasty, and the wrap bread was much better than the average.
But did it blow me away? No. I’d much prefer a big bowl of Vietnamese curry, or a falafel teller. But that’s just me. Wraps and sandwiches are not my favourite thing, especially not now, when I’ve figured out that gluten seems to be my enemy. But I welcome and applaud every new vegan venture. We need to get the world on our side.
Since I am way more into checking out cute bicycles and dogs than boys, I am very excited that classic bike accessory company Brooks England
Finally started producing a vegan bike seat, Cambium. I was super-tempted to put it on my credit card this morning, as my old vintage Selle Italia Turbo leather seat is crumbling apart, and little pieces of foam are leaking everywhere. But the €150 price tag was a bit too hefty for a poor freelancing freelancer like myself, so I settled for another used leather seat.
Yesterday I had lunch at Angry Chicken (Oranienstraße 16). The place specializes in Korean Fried Chicken — something that should make every vegan wanting to stay far, far away. But I was sleep-deprived, and when that happens I have an insatiable appetite for fried foods. A and I both got the Vegan Burger Menu with fries. The vegan burger was composed of a fist-sized polenta-tofu-kimchi patty, topped with baby spinach, grilled onions, wasabi mayo and served on weird orange, but really tasty bun. It was hard to fit the thing in between my lips to take a bite, but when I managed I was pretty damn pleased. Had I not been on my way to teach yoga, I would have tried a Soju Pop in a bag. I have heard about this strange thing before — a soju (Korean booze) cocktail served in a cardboard package. Easily brought into places where no alcohol should go. Like a yoga studio ;)
A cold rain sprinkled down upon us as we sat there, keeping Heinrichsplatz under surveillance. I became very preoccupied with this chubby beggar who always hangs out on the corner, in front of the Bio Laden. He appeared to have come across a sweet spot. Every other person, it seemed, had something for him. Coins or cigarettes. At least a smile. It made me think of my previous home town, cold, stiff and conformist Stockholm, and how few people even has a smile to offer a human asking for change on the street or in a train station.
Although I don’t have the ‘if-it-ain’t-broke-why-fix-it?’-mentality (I love to try NEW places and the LATEST!), I also stay loyal to the places I love. Burrito Baby (Pflüger Straße 11) is one such gem. This tiny place decked out with a couple of blue booths (my favorite restaurant seating arrangement), and some outdoor tables, serves ‘Mextralian’ food. Meaning, Australian veggie takes of Tex-Mex classics, such as burritos, tacos, nachos, guacamole and so on.
It will surely disappoint Mexicans and Americans used to more authentic offerings, but it sure as hell satisfies my palate, especially when I’m hungover.
I’m especially partial to the Al Junior tacos; marinated soy meat, guacamole, salsa and cashew sour cream. Paired with lots of hot sauce and a Rhabarberschorle, it makes me very, very content.
I just returned from a strangely sunny Stockholm to a gray and rainy Berlin. Still, I feel so much lighter here. Sweden gives me existential anxiety. Most everyone I know there lives increasingly more ordinary lives. The rebellion of the youth is fading fast, and everyone seems to do what’s expected of them. When you do the same things as everyone else, how do you know that you have chosen your own life?When you keep eating meat, consuming endlessly at all the hollow depressing malls and then putting new life onto this dying earth? Did you choose to make interior design the meaning of your life or did someone force-feed you the desire for yet a new kitchen table?
One of my Swede friends, who is a free thinker and an awesome oddball, just turned me onto Vali Meyers, an Australian artist, animal lover and style icon I’m now obsessed with. Watching a documentary on her makes me feel deep inside that my path leads into the forest …
Just listening to the Swedish radio where they keep talking about how we need to stop eating animals. And how can we find a replacement for the protein we need? Previous discussions have included growing meat in laboratories. Now they talk about eating insects. Why do we need any of that when millions of people live well (way better!) on a hundred percent plant-based diet? Good for you, for the animals and for the planet. Why not take the plunge?
In Stockholm I ate at a new, sweet raw spot in über-hisper-y SoFo, Matapoteket Kram (Bondegatan 6). My friend Camilla and I ordered the tapas plate with dessert. Out of the three dishes on the lunch plate, the Brazil nut pie was awesome, the corn chips and salsa good, but not that exciting and the cole slaw bland and uninspired. The cake was to die for though. I could easily have eaten about three more pieces. The staff was sweet and I liked that they wore nurses’ uniforms. Food can be the cure, is the cure! The tiny spot is really and live things grow everywhere. I’ll be back for sure!
The next edition of the black light/yoga/dj extravaganza. New and improved! Drinks and chill session afterwards!
Saturday May 31st, 21:00-23:00
OSHO Studio (Schlesische Straße 38, Kreuzberg)
email me to sign up: email@example.com
It’s almost summer, it seems, but as crazy as the weather is these days I know that a backlash may come, will come and I’ll need my mittens and fleece socks again. But right now it’s glorious!
I celebrated with dinner at an Ethiopian restaurant, Langano (Kohlfurther Straße 44) near the Ufer last night. I love love love Ethiopian food, but haven’t had any since I moved to Berlin. My friend and amazing yoga teacher colleague Kirileigh,knew about this sweet little spot, just off Kottbusser Damm, near the canal.
We ordered the vegetarian plate for two (€18.50, just ask for it without cheese). It came out in one of those big woven basket-things with a Sombrero-looking lid. A huge slab of spongy Injera-bread loaded with different fragrant bean and lentil stews, salad, pickled beets and curried potatoes.
The sweet mango bier served in a coconut shell is a perfectly complimentary drink.
I can’t wait to eat here again!