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Spiral Diner: Organic and Vegan

on | in Everything Else | by | with 12 Comments

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.

Our Lunch

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.

The Verdict

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.

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12 Responses to Spiral Diner: Organic and Vegan

  1. Mae says:

    I think it’s interesting you think the price is fair. Their hummus is some of the most expensive around, and I just cannot justify paying for it, when we make it [better!] for $.95!
    Also, there are many of our friends who eat there while cleansing. When I was cleansing we thought we would go and try because everyone else did. We got online to look at their menu and there was soy, wheat, beans, corn, and various other “off limits” foods that Standard Process frowns upon. I’m glad I’m not the only one in DFW who doesn’t think that place is Mecca ;]
    .-= Mae´s last blog ..Yo no soy for Soy =-.

  2. Heather says:

    Mae – I am used to paying high prices for hummus. For all intents and purposes, I am a vegetarian when I eat at restaurants (unless I know the meat came from a good source.) In my opinion, it’s worth the expense to be able to enjoy a meal with friends, still get protein in my diet, and not have to eat CAFO meat. The meal prices were less than what is charged at traditional restaurants like Chili’s. That’s what I’m basing my “fair price” statement on.

  3. Kristin says:

    Hey Heather- Have you ever eaten at Bliss Raw Food Cafe in Dallas? Its definitely pricey but an interesting experience and the coconut curry “soup” is delicious (but not hot).

  4. Heather says:

    Kristin – It’s on our list. Trying to juggle our daughter’s naptime schedule with this adventure has made trekking out to Dallas a little difficult, but we’ll get out there soon ; – )

    Having briefly lived the raw food diet for a few years back, I know it is an expensive way to eat. I’m not surprised it’s pricey, but I’m sure I’ll love it!

  5. Scott C says:

    I enjoyed Spiral (been once…the Sweet Luv’Us Hummus Wrap.. good) and while I’ve not done the SP cleanse, I know it is pretty easy to modify anything on the menu. I think I remember getting a spelt tortilla instead of wheat…

    Two short comments that I will not elaborate greatly on:
    1. I am appalled at the idea of animal rennet (sourced almost exclusively from the lining of calf stomach) and the idea that most cheese has it as its starter culture. The ONLY cheese I buy is Organic Valley’s Raw Cheese… animal rennet free [this comment just ‘cuz of the whole veg-whatever conversation]
    2. All of he vegans and vegetarians that I know have taken in such amazingly unhealthy amounts of wheat and gluten including TVP, seitan, bulgur… I don’t know how any educated foodie/healthie could think that much gluten is good for anyone, especially considering most wheat (well, the gluten) is rancid by the time it reaches the consumer. People often seem to make decisions for social reasons to the detriment of their own health. I elaborated a little more. Oh, well.

  6. Meredith says:

    Make sure you follow them on twitter – @spiraldallas. I have found (although I probably don’t have to tell you this because you are married to the twitter guru), that places like restaurants and stuff are liable to ask for your opinion and advice about good canges to the menu when you put it out on twitter. A few health food store here have started carrying some of my favorite organic items because I twittered my dissatisfaction with it. Amazing stuff. Technology, that is :-)

  7. Vickie says:

    Very interesting perspective. I have started reading some of your blogs because Cindy keeps posting different ones, and I find that I am liking them more and more.

    You present an opinion that’s not condemning or offensive. You state things in such a way that allows people to read it and actually contemplate it, rather than run away from angry statements and unsupported biases.

    • Heather says:

      Thank you, Vickie. That’s very encouraging because I definitely don’t want to come across as judgmental. It’s not always easy to tell how thing will be received, but I have enjoyed the dialogue that has been inspired so far.

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