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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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!
On Friday night I met up with my friend Rebecca at Let It Be (Treptower Straße 95). It’s a new vegan Creperie in Neukölln, just a few doors down from Sfizy Veg, the vegan Pizzeria, a staple on the Berlin plant-based culinary scene. Which BTW, is the only culinary scene that counts, the rest is just for vultures.
Let it Be, is a quirky, kind of Portlandia-esque Texas-fetishising little spot, with loads of kitschy decorations.
It was hard to decide, as the Erykah Badu also looked awesome, but I settled for the Woody Harrelson Ham&Cheese galette with a side salad. I inhaled it — it was just the junk-y, comfort food I craved. I was sweaty and starving after teaching three yoga classes and thinking about the ‘We Own the Night’ -race I will run in May.
After, we pigged out on a moist carrot cake drenched in a thick layer of fatty, tangy frosting.
Just coming up for air, and tummies swelling in our skinny hipster-jeans, the waiter brought us a freebie, the Frida Kahlo chocolate desert crepe.
Later, I got lost in Treptow on my way home to Prenzlauer Berg. Lucky for me I had enough fuel in my belly.
Set in a gorgeous location, sandwiched in between the coconut palm tree-lined Kerala backwaters and the sea, Amma’s pink ashram, a tray of cupcakes, left me both disenchanted and a little crazed.
My plan was to stay for week, but on Day 5 the mantra music that seemed to be playing everywhere, from early morning to way past nightfall had started to pulverize my brain and my ribcage, and the kooky followers made me both sad and disgusted. So I bailed one day earlier. Fled to the white beaches of Varkala.
I am generally a skeptical person, but I’m also curious. I wanted to see what the hype was all about. Does Amma really have some magical healing powers in her chubby arms than pull you onto her quite significant bosom for three seconds before her helpers drag you away? Could she heal my hurts? Coming there I still harbored a sliver of a hope that the answer to both of those questions would be yes. There’s still a possibility, of course, that she can or has tapped into some sort of higher energy, but i didn’t feel it. She made my hurts hurt more. I left wondering if there’s anything pure in this world at all?
For anyone that goes to Amritapuri, it will become quite clear that it’s a big business. You can buy Amma rings, keychains, t-shirts, posters, Cds, passport-sized photos of her feet, Amma incense and chocolate. Sure, she does charity work, but does she also pocket some?
The guru game in India and everywhere else is a very male-dominated business (because, yes, I think it’s a business). I am impressed that Amma, a woman from a poor fisher-family, has thousands upon thousands of men literally bowing down at her lotus feet.
I won’t be searching for a guru anytime soon though.