Funky Meets Freaky
A word from Daddypotamus: I think the highlight of the day was a quote from our waitress: “I LOVE Satan! I put Satan on EVERYTHING!” What do you say to that? I just looked at her dumbfounded.
Of course, she was talking about SEITAN, not the accuser of the brethren. Seitan is another name for wheat gluten, and is used as a substitute for meat in burgers and sandwiches. Then again, the guy at the table beside us was wearing a black tee shirt with a pentagram made of red forks that read “praise seitan.” Somebody feels clever. Um… yeah. Moving on. Heather?
Vegan = Soy
Voted “Best Vegetarian Restaurant” by the Dallas Observer, Spiral Diner uses mostly organic ingredients to create eclectic dishes in an open kitchen. The hip, casual atmosphere invites you to sit down and relax awhile. I immediately liked our server and the rest of the staff. It was easy to tell they were passionate about their work.
If I weren’t pregnant, I’d love to stop in once in awhile to sample their many fair-trade teas and organic beers. Maybe even one of their no-added sulfite wines. However, the rest of their menu gave me the heebie-jeebies. There was SOY everywhere. The “cheese”, “meatballs,” “mayo” and even the “ice-cream” were made of soy. This really surprised me, because I thought almost all health-conscious people were aware of the evidence against unfermented soy as a health food.
Always up for an adventure, Daniel ordered the Ate Layer Burrito – Organic tortilla stuffed with taco “meat”, mexican quinoa, black beans, tomato, diced red onion, avocado, corn, black olives, sour cream, and chipotle “mayo”.
I went for the Hot Hummus Wrap – Organic tortilla stuffed with hummus, grilled veggies [broccoli, black olives, carrots, corn, and green peas] black beans, pine nuts, and avocado with tahini dressing.
Daniel was a fan, I was not. Maybe the taco “meat,” whatever it was, made his taste better ; – )
A friend later told me I should have ordered the Sweet Luv’Us Hummus Wrap or the Pasta Primavera, so maybe my wrap was just a fluke. She also told me the kitchen is pretty flexible and can substitute other ingredients for soy. That’s good, but overall I wouldn’t recommend this restaurant to someone that is new to the health food scene. It takes a pretty sophisticated knowledge of how things are made to avoid hidden soy.
Clash of Ideals
I get why the owner, Amy McNutt, went vegan. From their website:
A few years back, while making a short film about factory-farmed cows in California, Amy learned about the heartless practices of the dairy and egg industries. Overnight this experience turned the long time vegetarian into a vegan. Amy began to research and study the plight of animals, soon extending her studies to environmentalism as well. She began to take part in educational activism and tried her best to keep an open dialogue with people about Veganism and its relation to the environment. In doing this she discovered that most people, once they have a total understanding of Veganism, agree it’s a necessary step for survival on this planet.
Like Amy, I am totally repulsed by CAFO’s (meat or dairy). I agree that it’s wrong: for the animals, for our bodies, for our environment. However, I don’t agree that veganism is the answer. As Barbara Kinsolver wrote in her wonderful book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle:
I respect every diner who makes morally motivated choices about consumption. And I stand with nonviolence, as one of those extremist moms who doesn’t let kids at her house pretend to shoot each other, ever, or make any game out of human murder. But I’ve come to different conclusions about livestock. The ve-vangelical pamphlets showing jam-packed chickens and sick downer-cows usually declare, as their first principle, that all meat is factory-farmed. That is false, and an affront to those of us who work to raise animals humanely, or support such practices with our buying power. I don’t want to cause any creature misery, so I won’t knowingly eat anything that has stood belly deep in its own poop wishing it was dead until bam, one day it is.
But meat, poultry and eggs from animals raised on open pasture are the traditional winter fare of my grandparents, and they serve us well here in the months when it would cost a lot of fossil fuels to keep us in tofu. Should I overlook the suffering of victims of hurricanes, famines and wars brought on this world by profligate fuel consumption?
Bananas that cost a rain forest, refrigerator-trucked soy milk, and pre-washed spinach shipped two-thousand miles in plastic containers does not seem cruelty-free, in this context. A hundred different paths may lighten the world’s load of suffering. Giving up meat is one path, giving up bananas is another. The more we know about our food system, the more we are called into complex choices. It seems facile to declare one single forbidden fruit, when humans live under so many different kinds of trees.” (Emphasis mine)
But wait!! Even if it is a huge waste of fossil fuels to ship tofu around the world isn’t it still more environmentally friendly than raising livestock? New research indicates the answer is NO. Again, from Animal, Vegetable, Miracle:
But globally speaking, the vegetarian option is a luxury. The oft-cited energetic argument for vegetarianism, that it takes ten times as much land to make a pound of meat as a pound of grain, only applies to the kind of land where rain falls abundantly on rich topsoil. Many of the world’s poor live in marginal lands that can’t support plant-based agriculture. Those not blessed with the fruited plain and the amber waves of grain must make due with woody tree pods, tough-leaved shrubs, or sparse grasses. Camels, reindeer, sheep, goats, cattle and other ruminants are uniquely adapted to transform all those types of indigestible cellulose into edible milk and meat.”
It’s that simple. Or complex, depending on how you look at it. It’s hard to imagine in our melting-pot society, but there is a reason that food cultures have historically been distinct for different regions. Olives thrive in Italy, not Russia. Trying to apply one “ideal” menu to the entire planet just won’t work. Many indigenous groups would simply starve without the animals they raise.
I would have given Spiral Diner rave reviews if it were simply vegetarian rather than vegan. Add some real mayo, cheese, and eggs and we’d probably eat there a lot. The prices are fair, the ambiance is unique and vibrant, the people are, well, unique. There aren’t enough non-soy options on the menu to warrant many return visits, but I hope somebody clues me in if they ever change the menu.