I have to admit right from the start of this article – I eat meat. That might make you think I’m not worthy of writing this article, and rightfully so. But I do practice conscious breathing, attend yoga classes once in a while and have read the Power of Now by Eckart Tolle, Peace is Every Step by Thich Nhat Hanh, and The Tao of the Jump Shot by John Fitzsimmons Mahony.
Another confession – I had forgotten to live many of the key principles I learned from the above to the point where writing an article on slow food and vegan eating was giving me writers block. As a matter of fact, it wasn’t until I visited the Slow Food USA website and read the following excerpt that I remembered what all this was about:
“Slow Food is also simply about taking the time to slow down and to enjoy life with family and friends. Every day can be enriched by doing something slow – making pasta from scratch one night, seductively squeezing your own orange juice from the fresh fruit, lingering over a glass of wine and a slice of cheese – even deciding to eat lunch sitting down instead of standing up.” Those words struck my conscience like a bell calling the monks to meditation, and then the words began to flow…”
I experienced a perfect day in Miami vegan-style through the eyes of a dear friend of mine a while ago (I often looked on while she made home-made seitan, and through her friendship I gained a decent knowledge about vegan living) and I recently retraced that day so I could share the experience with you.
I still remember the very first time we took her old Jeep down to Coconut Grove to visit the Glaser Organic Farms Farmers Market in The Grove. “Oh and you HAVE to try the ice cream” she said. Ice cream? Huh? “I know what you’re thinking, but there is no dairy in it.” Huh? Ah, Tofutti right? “No, it’s really awesome. It’s not Tofu based – it’s made from different nut milks.”
I thought to myself, “Talk about slow, how do they even find the nipples on those things? It must take forever to milk all those nuts!” And then we pulled up to the market. Wow! I had been to the Green Market in Union Square, Manhattan, but until now I had never seen such colors in fruits and vegetables, nor had I ever seen so many delicious looking dishes in one place, all without a hint of animal in it.
Gourmet salads, a raw-foods deli, fresh squeezed juices, squeeze-ur-own wheatgrass shots, vegan tiramisu and cakes, and fruits and vegetables I had never even heard of before. Things like Nori crackers, chickpea carrot croquettes, flax seed crackers and Essene breads. I was blown away. “Try a Temple Ball” she said. Temple Balls are all-raw, premium almonds, raisins, medjool dates and walnuts rolled in sesame seeds. And they are delicious and satisfying.
As my friend shopped for her weekly vegan-cooking staples, I headed over to the vegan ice cream section to have a taste. I grew up in Wisconsin so I know a little about dairy, and I promise you that in a blind taste test I would not have been able to pick the difference between the chocolate vegan ice cream and a pint of Hagen Daaz.
Although they wouldn’t share the secret recipe, they explained that when blended to an almost liquefied puree, many nuts have an almost milk-like quality to the oils in them that can be used to substitute milk for many raw foods.So much for my nut-nipple theory…
As I was devouring my vegan “ice-cream”, I met a woman on vacation from Canada that harvests pure honey-bee pollen by hand, and after a taste of it and discussions with her I bought the last two pounds she had brought down with her on vacation. For the next month I lived off of roughly four tablespoons of pure (non-washed, no heat applied) bee pollen, Temple Balls, and one regular meal at dinnertime. My skin cleared up, my energy level was high, and I lost some un-needed pounds at the same time. That one afternoon at the organic farmers market literally changed my life.
As I was about to dig into some more of the vegan goodness, my friend grabbed me and reminded me that we had early dinner plans at the Garden of Eatin’ in Little Haiti. Miami, you should know, has many “little” sub-sections. Little Havana, Little Haiti, Little Russia, Little Argentina, all so dubbed from the concentration of diaspora from those regions that settled there.
Although the Garden of Eatin’ is located in Little Haiti and Haitian owned, and Haitians are more often known for ties to Yoruban Orisha practices, this vibe was pure Rastafarian, and decorated with Rasta decor and pictures of H.I.M. Haile Selassie and the Ethiopian Royal family. Ah, the islands mon….Talk about the essence of Slow Food.
In my experiences with many friends from the Caribbean I have learned that time does not carry the same weight as it does here in the U.S.. My saying about Jamaican time – “Jamaican me crazy with how slow we be goin’ mon!” But in regards to Slow Food and the understanding of putting one’s self and one’s love into a dish, The Garden of Eatin’ has it nailed tight. No menu, no reservations and when it’s gone it’s gone. The food is cooked fresh daily with literally a religious fervor for purity and Slow Food consciousness. This cash-only establishment is a long-standing Vegan haven in the Miami area.
Garden of Eatin’ was my first experience with seitan, a wheat-gluten based protein that to me had a much more meat-like consistency than any tofu I had tasted in the past. The seitan I had was barbequed with Jerk spices and once again, if you had told me I wasn’t eating meat I probably wouldn’t have believed you. I also had a delicious soup made of puree of carrots and potatoes that was hearty and fulfilling, even to my meat-eating palate. The service was also warm and inviting, even though I clearly didn’t fit in amongst the locals nor the non-local patrons (which I think I made obvious by continuously asking “what’s that” and looking like a red-faced meat-eating Irishman). The Garden of Eatin’ also holds various types of poetry readings and mini-music festivals, and is really as much about the spirit of conscious living as it is about conscious food.
So there you have it. One perfect vegan day that changed my life forever with savory foods and a way of life that opened my mind to the possibility that preparing and eating food with consciousness could not only be good for you, but also a delicious and non-sacrificial way of life.
What & Where:
Glaser Organic Farmers Market (3300 Grand Ave, Coconut Grove; 305-238-7747)
Garden of Eatin’ (136 NW 62nd St, Miami; 305-754-8050)