Let’s see if I can recollect my memories here…about 11 years ago this beautiful tall dreadlocked queen walked into my newly opened café in Baltimore, The Yabba Pot…coming in just to check us out…she said. Her name was Ayoluwa, which honestly took me some time to pronounce correctly. She was from Milwaukee and had recently moved back to Baltimore after briefly attending Morgan State University. We talked that very first day and I hired her almost immediately!
Over the years that I was in business at 2431-33 St Paul St, she helped me to grow my dream into a thriving success. The Yabba Pot was an extremely special venture for me and made me grow up fast! Ayoluwa was there with me just about all the way and saw what it took to create an amazing Vegan Business. One of the many things I loved about Ayoluwa was her ability to create beautiful menu boards, because I was determined not to have a menu that did not have all the ingredients…so we made up the menu daily. Her handwriting was impeccable and artistic too. She was sincere and kind and levelheaded and a plus to have around…especially when I was running around like a Chick-un with my head cut-off!
After about 7 years of this venture I was complete in my mission to help Baltimore have healthier vegan options and to be a space where community folks can come and chill. I left and sold this establishment and moved to Puerto Rico. Ayoluwa continued working for the new owner until they closed…and decided to open her own location in a smaller spot down the block.
She called her new spot, the Grind House Juice bar where she features juices, smoothies, and vegan wraps and snacks. She also hosts community events, like bead making, juice cleanses, and other workshops and programs. She has been open now for several years and clearly needs more space so she is now getting ready to move…GUESS WHERE?? In my old location…2431-33 St Paul St! Home of the old Yabba Pot!! Isnt that Fantastic!! Im so excited for her and want her venture to be successful.
She has a fundraising campaign going on right now to raise the monies that she is going to need to make that move. The space is about 3 to 4 times the amount of space then her current location and Im sure she is going to need to get tons more furnishings, equipment and supplies to make it happen. Please support this venture by sending in money to support and by posting this story in your social media platforms. #vegsuccess101
This is in response to the article written by Norman Weiss (Suggestions), Weaver’s Way Co-op (Phila., PA) purchasing manager, in the Aug addition of The Shuttle (pg 19)? Quite an interesting read. I was all in except for his disturbing answer to Devon’s question. For some reason, the energy that the first part of the article was written was absolutely opposite the last part. Granted Weaver’s Way is a business and when it comes to making business decisions…the bottom dollar always wins when it comes to making conscious choices about the health and welfare of our community and the earth in general. I just thought that his answer to her was a bit harsh…and I could even read into it more deeply to say…that the entire reason of creating a community based food co-operative was just flushed down the toilet with his answer. Let me dig deeper:
Norman says: “Stop persecuting GMO items.” Why? How are we going to change the system if we don’t stand up for what is absolutely wrong on all fronts. Why are other (entire) countries burning down crops of GMO foods and refusing GMO food donations even though most of their people are hungry? There is something to be said of the little staffer girl in a small community who speaks up for the entire world. (Give her a raise!)
Norman says: “We are and inclusive, tolerant and diverse organization that welcomes all God’s children.” <<< Is Weaver’s Way a church? And if this is the sentiment of all of God’s children…then recognize that GMO foods are not from God. So I could argue that they are not of God’s children but of Man’s children…or like some people like to call GMO…the Devil…which is far worst.
Norman says: “We have to have some white sugar or the shoppers will rebel.” <<< No they won’t! Most folks know where to get cheap GMO white sugar…Acme, Shop Rite and any other corporate conglomerate that doesn’t care about the people, just their bottom line. Like was mentioned in the article, Weaver’s Way doesn’t have the resources to do a full on investigation of all the products it sells, however the mission of Weaver’s Way clearly states that it strives to educate its members and community about consumer issues and the cooperative movement. Not to mention that the mission also states that WW is committed to the Environment…in these words: We work to sustain a healthy planet, promote environmentally sound products and practices, encourage and support local and organic farming, and try to act with environmental consciousness in all our endeavors. Im sure the members will be grateful to know that their co-op supports the earth rather than the profit.
Norman further states: “I don’t know of a non-GMO sugar-beet-cheap white sugar we can get.” Um…is this the purchasing manager speaking here? There are plenty of non GMO sugars out here: Agave, Coconut Nectar, Stevia, etc…But if someone wants cheap white sugar, there are other places to go….Shop Rite. Here is where education is needed…folks need to really stop buying it altogether.
Oh yeah, and this is the part that inspired me to write this. Norman finally ends his answer to Devon about her post on the GMO Hellman’s Mayonnaise (and white sugar) that Weaver’s Way sells:
“Please remember that exploitation of the Earth and its people is what helped make this country great and allows us in the middle class (read: privileged) to enjoy a lifestyle we’ve all come to cherish.” <<< When in history does the exploitation of people and its lands benefit a country? Thoughts come to my mind: Slavery, “Third” World Debt, China, Indentured Servitude, Walmart…you get it! Someone saying that exploitation is what gives us this comfortable cushy life where we can buy Hellman’s GMO Mayonnaise and Cheap GMO white sugar if we choose to is great and something to cherish is…all I can think of…Scary!
So how did this article get passed the Editor? Doesn’t Norman’s answer to Devon come as a red flag to the integrity of the organization? To the community? To others (non-middle class)? To members and non-members who appreciate the fact that this awesome organization offers something more? Hey! I’m not interested in Norman’s head on a platter… but I am just responding to the contradictions that his answer implies to the mission of the entire organization. Im just wondering why, when a simple and profound statement is brought up to the purchasing manager of a small (yet revolutionary) organization answers like this are acceptable…and printed. Plain and simple, Norman’s answer was absolutely horrible! I hope this letter connects to the members and inspires to raise awareness not about the fact that Weaver’s Way sells Hellman’s and other GMO brands (well, yes, that too), but to realize that this is the type of organization that is pivotal in creating change in this society and to use these types of opportunities to educate and advocate for our community, our environment and our world in general. Hopefully something wonderful can come out of this!
OH BOY! Don’t get too rowdy now! The answer is NO! But before you get all up and out of your seat, hear (read) me out. First of all let me give you my basis from where this comes from. Although, I’m not anti-Indian food, it is one of my favorite of all ethnic foods in the world. That and Ethiopian…but Ethiopian wins over because it is much healthier. The flavors of Indian food win, as well. But when it comes to everyday living and what matters most is how healthy the food and the people are.
Now before you start pulling out your arguments as to why Indian food is healthy let me address what you may be thinking and why I think differently.
So, most people know that most Indians are Vegetarians…and tend to have lots of vegetarian choices in their restaurants. Yes, very true! However, the problem I see with most of these Vegetarian dishes is that mostly all of them are extremely high in fat. Remember Vegetarian doesn’t mean Healthy. These high fats that they use are not only from the ghee, butter, coconut cream and oil that they use in their cooking but also from the tons of cheese that they cook in their dishes as well. And a High Fat diet in any language in an unhealthy one.
Another argument that you may try to make is that the foods that are made in the homes of the traditional Indian family are very healthy and not like those that are found in the local Indian restaurants that are found in all major cities. Ok, let’s be real. How many people are either Indian or have Indian friends whom you frequent their homes where the mothers and grandmothers are cooking for hours from scratch. Not even here in the US are they cooking like that on a regular basis, most likely due to the fact that modern Indian families (especially the women) are busy with corporate careers…and have assimilated very well into the American Fast Food Culture. I have firsthand knowledge of this from the many Indian families that I met on vacation in Puerto Rico. Most of them told me that they do not cook traditional Indian foods every single day. And if and when they do, it is probably on the weekend just like most families who get to cook large meals and dine with the entire family. So, for arguments sake the food we are talking about here in the kind you typically find in a modern restaurant style here in America.
These restaurants tend to make foods that swim in oil. If the food item is not roasted in a Tandoor oven which seems to create a drier food (less greasy), then the sauces and stews seem to be swimming in some type of grease. That is most likely why it tastes so good. Seriously, what doesn’t taste better with fat in it? Nothing! There is nothing you can say to the way fat flavors food. And Im not saying that I don’t like..in fact love…the flavors of Indian cuisine. Like I said before, it is among my favorite of all foods in the world. I love Indian food (and culture) so much, I am ready to take a flight over there to see what it is like. Food, people, culture…everything. It’s just that fat is fat and too much is not good for you.
Another argument that you may or may not have even thought of are the health statistics of most Indian peoples. Now even in India, where there food should be healthier and more authentic the death rates are rather low: 52.8 years for men and 53.5 years for women. But these numbers are also indicative of an under-developed society that is also plagued with a high rate of communicable (environmental) diseases. Even those Indians who have migrated to America, their adjusted life expectancy is 67.5 years for men and 72.6 years for women.
Health problems prevalent among Indians include hypertension and cardiovascular disease, rheumatic heart disease, nutritional deficits, and high risk behavior such as alcoholism and cigarette smoking…pretty similar to the same health issues (and lifestyle behaviors) as Americans in general. So traditional (restaurant style) Indian food is not necessarily adding on years to one’s life, let’s just put it like this. Another thing folks need to be mindful of is…Indians don’t eat a lot of green leafy veggies…especially raw. Occasionally you will find a good Indian restaurant that serves a salad, but that is not very often. And in my humble opinion, if you are not eating as much raw leafy veggies as you can get inside of your system there is going to be an imbalance there. One of my favorite Indian dishes is Palak Paneer…which is in fact a spinach dish. But let’s face it. As good as it is, there is not much to be left in the way of nutrition. Indians cook their food to death. Im sure this is to bring out, what would be in most cases, what is most important in their cooking: Flavor! Yes, and this does work. But something about food that comes out of countries that have a high incidence of environmental diseases and plagues…like China, and countries on the Afrikan continent: Folks don’t eat food in the raw. I think all this cooking as something to do with a mixture of those environmental factors and maybe their Ayurvedic philosophies as well. And when you travel there they tell you to make sure you eat everything that comes out of high temperature cooking…so to make sure that any problematic food borne issues are irradicated. But Im sure you know by now, that here in the US, we have a different criterion of environmental health and eating fresh and raw foods should be eaten in abundance. Lots of leafy green veggies and of course low fat is the better choice.
Now on the other side of that coin, Ayuvedic eating is super healthy…and you should investigate it. Their ways of treating sickness, preventing sickness, is very holistic to me. But once again, we are not talking about Ayurvedic cooking here.
So now that I have come off as completely Anti-Indian cuisine as I possibly can, let me explore what I think is eating Indian cuisine (from a restaurant) in a healthy way. Veena Prasad from Chowhound recommends these ideas for healthy Indian consumption:
DO ask if you can get pappadums that are baked rather than fried. DON’T choose pakoras or samosas as they are deep fried, or see if they can bake them, as well. DO order tandoori roti instead of naan as its made with unleavened whole wheat. If they smear on butter, ask them to leave it off. DO enquire if brown rice is an option. Brown basmati rice is becoming widely available nowadays.
DO order at least one healthier dish if ordering more than one. Daal or saag (minus paneer and when cream not added) are yummy and healthy too. If the restaurant has vegan options, select one dish that is vegan to avoid excessive cream and butter.
DO order tandoori chicken or chicken tikka. They are marinated with yogurt and spices and cooked in a clay oven – relatively healthy. DONT order rich Mughlai curries. This cuisine developed in the kitchens of the Mughal emperors are made to befit a royal table. Though deservedly alluring whether you’re of royal blood or a commoner, curries made mughlai style are laced with cream. Avoid if possible. DON’T order anything with korma in the name or dishes like butter chicken, tikka masala, and malai kofta. I know, they’re yummy but they’re also laden with cream and thus lots of calories.
DO order spicy food if you can take it. The heat will kick your metabolism into gear. A vindaloo is a great option. It’s spicy and there is no cream in the gravy. But please don’t set your throat on fire.
DON’T order desserts or if you do, share. Indian desserts are rich and sweet. All that sugar will convert to fat in your body if you don’t burn the calories right away. DO end your meal with finishing up a side of yogurt. It will cool your stomach down and with its probiotic powers will help digest that yummy meal you’ve just had.
(Hope that helps!)
I think it does! Thanks.
Also, another thing I can mention about indulging in some amazing Indian food where you are not adding glut to the fire is that many many many Indian restaurants tend to be set up as a buffet. So going to the Indian all you eat buffet can be a delicious affordable option. But that doesn’t mean you have to go up to the buffet 5 times. By then you would have eaten all the calories you need to consume in the whole day…and maybe the next day. And with that being said, going to the Indian buffet occasionally won’t suffer you. In other words, its okay to indulge and have fun once in a blue moon. Its okay to every now and then break the calories bank and go overboard…just know that for several days after that you are going not only very low cal but very low fat also.
So there, that’s my share. I just felt the need to express myself. What I find funny is that people never want to put down something we love. They think it is sacrilege or something like that. But I feel like as intelligent beings we should be able to scrutinize everything and take it for what it is. Indian food is one of the world’s most flavorful cuisines in the world. It is just not one of the world’s most healthiest! Ashe!
Did you get a chance to peep my new book? Im so proud of me….check it out! THANKS!
ORDER IT HERE: http://amzn.to/13BDrQe
Its an eBook on Kindle but you can download it on to your laptop and read it through Cloud Reader. I will soon enough print it…and Im gonna get it translated into Spanish for all my Puerto Rican compadres!
Whether you live here or are visiting, being a vegetarian in Puerto Rico is like an oxymoron. The concept is so foreign to the greater population, people who ask where can they get a Vegetarian meal get the crazy look. Its sad and unfortunate because when one finds out the health statistics of this island, one tends to wonder why Vegetarianism isnt more popular. And it really isnt that hard to be one either….Why? Because EVERYTHING grows here. There is an abundance of fresh tropical fruits available all year…especially during the summer time when mostly everything is available…like Mangoes.
The typical Puerto Rican diet doesnt even incorporate veggies or fruit of any kind. Puerto Ricans are very proud of their typical cuisine…Criollo. It consists of lots and lots of fried doughs and meats, rice and beans, root veggies, soups, roasted pork, and candied anything: green papaya, coconut, almonds…etc. Hopefully this description of the PR diet doesnt come off with any type of demeaning energy…not the intention. Its just that for a seasoned vegetarian, folks tend to get this feeling that folks here could really eat so much better…if they were opened to it…or maybe even educated about it. If you ever try local Criollo, believe me, its very tasty…the vegetarian components that is…however, after a while you get this feeling inside of you that you need to eat something GREEN! And unless you prepare your own food…it is nowhere…nowhere…nowhere to be found. Unless you are okay with going to Subway to get a salad…but then the Subway’s here do not have Spinach as one of their lettuces like in the states. So, what are you to do?
If you find a health food store, usually a safe haven for vegetarians, you will quickly realize that you have just walked into a supplement shop. “Where is the food?” None there either. A few of them do have small cafe’s in them, like the FreshMart’s that are located all over the island…however, they are not strictly vegetarian…except the one that is privately owned in Aguadilla…(Tom Spontelli owns Natural High Cafe in the back of the Freshmart in Aguadilla). We live closer to the east coast of the island and there is NO vegetarian cafe’s for what seems like hundreds of miles. The FreshMart in Carolina does have a pretty decent cafe, but they also serve chicken and fish. There food is fair to partly cloudy. I wish someone would tell them not to boil their veggies. I cant stand to see frozen veggies swimming in water…reminds me of a jail cafeteria scene.
The few vegetarian spots you do find tend to focus on the vegetarian version of the Puerto Rican Criollo. Well, it may be vegetarian, but it wont be healthy. Puerto Ricans have this wonderful connection to the fryer. They love fried food. And with the rate of heart disease on this island, one would think that avoiding as much fried food as possible would be smart? Go figure!
There are a few spots that I must mention, that are doing the darn thing in the vegetarian world, or should we say, PR:
La Mesa Verde: In Old San Juan, the owners have this neat little space not in the mix with the crowds of Old San Juan so you have to search for it. There food is a bit pricey, but considering the quality ingredients, the charm of OSJ, and the ambience of the place…it gets an A.
Natural High: located in the back of Fresh Mart in Aguadilla, possibly the only place to eat on the West side of PR. They have a complete menu, hot entree’s, sandwiches, juices and smoothies…etc. Food here is very good!
The Veggie Garden: Awesomeness! They have veggie samosas, vegan pizza, salads…what else can I say. They have this Indian/Buddhist vibe that is fabulous. Its hard to find, if you dont know the place, but they are located in Hato Rey somewhere.
Roots and Fruits: Well, this is our place. Located right on the way into El Yunque in Palmer. We feature strictly vegan entrees, wraps, raw desserts, juices and green smoothies. And we are also the only spot located on the entire east coast outside of San Juan. And we have also incorporated some Yoga classes too.
Well, hope to see you sometime. Remember when you come down to visit or even if you live here, support the vegetarian movement. Its small but its about to EXPLODE! YAY!
This pie is so sweet naturally…many people have never even thought of using Breadfruit (or Pana…here in PR) as an actual fruit. It is mostly used as a starch. My advice…let your fruit ripen! Nature has a way of cookin with the Sun! YAHOO!