Archive for the ‘Segway hate’ Category

Perfection. That’s the word of the day.  I couldn’t feel more fulfilled or accomplished.  Today I spent about six hours at Alexanderplatz – the location of this years Vegan Summer Festival, a day of information, promotion, music, interviews and more. The weather was beschissen, a.k.a. straight-up crappy (ok, that’s not the translation of this German word, but I think you get the gist).  Rain, the entire day, although it wasn’t freezing, nor was it really storming, so it could have been worse.  That didn’t ruin my day at all though!  I love rain and clouds as is.

Bordering most of Alexanderplatz were booths and stands giving away TONS of free information, selling LOADS of vegan goods and merchandise (most of which were supporting local vegan operations, non-profits, and grass-roots initiatives like Sea Shepherds and PETA – and PETA2?), and the best part was being able to try (and discover) the different vegan options in Berlin.  This festival comes at a big time in Berlin (and Germany in general), as the country opened it’s first fully-stocked, strictly-vegan, super market (that’s right, an entire supermarket for vegans), which sells over 6000 different vegan products, featuring also a cafe with baked goods by vegan feminist celebrity Melisser Elliot (yes she was there, yes I watched the interview, yes she kicks some serious ass. But, chances are you may not know who she is – I didn’t, sadly, but I’m thrilled I do now – learn more about her here: Melisser Elliot and click on “About Me”).  What an intriguing and inspiring person, really!  Her advice for vegans everywhere included: mistakes happen, especially in the beginning; stay informed and connected with the vegan community! Read others’s blogs, share recipes, give (constructive) feedback; remember that being vegan is easy, and fun!  She also pushed the issue of a non-vegan diet being closely linked with anti-feminism and female exploitation.  I don’t want to give away all the good details, so consider buying her book one day!

So I spent a few more hours at the festival, watched vegan chef Björn Moschinski give some pointers in the kitchen and showcased some easy recipes (wasn’t really in the mood to stand there with my umbrella while I tried jotting down all the steps and ingredients…there are thousands of recipes out there, not worried about it).  Moschinski is opening an all-vegan restaurant here in Berlin during September. I may go if I am still in the city, as he said the kitchen will include all of the typical German meals (uuuh, vegan sauerbraten or schnitzel? Yes, yes please.), we shall see.

I also made a friend, w00t!  Such an interesting person (speaks Swedish, studied Germanistik, works for a radio station here in Berlin, and also for a crazy cool cosmetics shop called LUSH), and we’ll probably be hanging out this week sometime.  More to come I’m sure.

While waiting in line at the vegan döner stand (vegan döner!!), I randomly started talking to this lady behind me (long line, people tend to make jokes about waiting so long, etc. etc.); not an exciting story, but is was part of my experience, so a few highlights: she has been vegetarian for over 30 years (and can attest to the challenges a vegetarian faced many years ago, in Germany, makes me thankful that there are so many options everywhere today, for vegans); grew up in West Berlin and experienced the Wende (fall of the wall and switch to democracy and capitalism); complimented me on my nearly accent-free German, but told me I should at least try to keep a bit of an accent, because it was, in her opinion, charming.  What a sweet lady.  I love befriending people older than me, especially those who are even older than my parents, (almost) always a pleasure and an honor.

After spending a few hours at Alexanderplatz, mingling amongst like-minded vegan folk, I decided to walk around a bit and take some pictures – posted below.  Nothing spectacular, but at least a few shots of what I saw, which include: shots from the vegan festival, Der Fernsehturm (observation tower), Rotes Rathaus (red city hall), Neptunbrunnen (Neptune/Poseidon fountain), an evangelical church (not evangelical like in the US, much different…churches are just generally pretty in Europe), segways (grrr…see below), and a shot inside one of the subways I was on. Oh, and there is a picture of the delicious soup you’re about to find out about, keep reading!

After leaving the vegan fest I went home to find a completely clean apartment – go roomies!  We sat down and chowed down on the delicious soup I made the other day (what I thought was going to be an epic failed turned into an epic success! I do not, however, recommend making a pot of soup with less than 2 centimeters to spare at the top, dangerous business, but I managed to do it without making a mess…somehow). This soup was so good, I’m going to share it with you all right now (oh, well you’ll have to recreate it, it’s easy though!).  Before you start, make sure you have a really big pot, this makes a lot of soup (freeze it for late!)

Ingredients:

Veggies: 1 cup red lentils (or other lentils are ok I suppose); 1 can giant white beans; 2 zucchinis (you can always throw in an eggplant too, but make sure you don’t go overboard like I almost did); 3 big tomatoes (or 1 can of tomatoes, diced and whatnot); 3-4 good sized potatoes; 1/4 a head of cauliflower (or broccoli); 2 bell peppers (I used 1 green, 1 yellow, you can use whatever you’d like though!); 2 stalks celery; about 6 carrots (if they’re really big, maybe a few less, if small, maybe a few more) OR a sweet potato (or both? how big is your pot?); a big handful of greens (I used kale, although spinach would be wonderful, too); one big onion (your favorite variety will do); a shallot; 6-8 cloves of garlic – if you want to substitute some things or add others, I recommend peas, kidney beans or chic peas, ya know, keep it fresh and creative (and share if you try this at home!)

You will also need:

1 liter (maybe more) of veggie stock (I used the powder kind, seems to go further and is easier if you have a hot water machine)

handful of pasta

a cup of your favorite texturized vegetable protein (or, if you aren’t vegan…I suppose you could add meat, but I don’t recommend it – try something new! I promise you wont be disappointed with this 😀 )

2-3 teaspoons of provincial herbs/herbs de Provence – not sure what name they have back home

1-2 WHOLE dried chili peppers, depending on how much of a kick you want (1 is not that much of a kick in this big pot of soup, 2 is a little bit)

6 bay leaves

Sea salt and pepper (you be the judge here, ask yourself: how do I like my soup?  Just don’t add too much of either, it’s kind hard to get salt and pepper out once you’ve put it in…ok it’s practically impossible)

So what you do is start with the cup of lentils in the pot, add two cups of water and bring to a boil.  Once at a boil, bring to simmer.  Cut veggies how you prefer to have them in your soup fast, or get a head start before you boil lentils (don’t want to lose any digits in the process!). Once most of the water has been absorbed by the lentils, throw all your veggies in together, with the veggie stock, herbs, salt and pepper.  The pot should be pretty full.  Turn the heat back up to medium/medium-high and bring to light boil, don’t forget to stir frequently! Turn the heat down to a medium/medium-low.  Add more water (or stalk) if necessary. Now you take the chili pepper(s) and carefully make a few slits in the skin, with your nail preferably, so that the soup absorbs the spiciness but you don’t have seeds and pepper flesh floating around ready to attack an unsuspecting victim.  Let the pepper soak for 5-10 minutes (it should stay afloat and not sink, I let them sit for the remainder of the cooking time), then add the bay leaves (don’t lose track of them, please, I don’t want anyone to get sick making this).  In the last 10 minutes, add the pasta and texturized veggie protein.  Let cook until pasta is tender, remove chilies and bay leaves – enjoy alone or with your favorite bread (baguette is perfect).

So my roomies and I were eating this delicious soup, when I learned that one of my roomies now wants to try eating vegan (let me just say, having only been a vegan for a little less than a month now, this feels like a huge accomplishment, score for vegans!).  So my goal is to help her make the switch before I leave in September.  So many goals for such a short trip.

Before finishing off the night, I ate some of the vegan strawberry ice cream I made the day before and watched some Kathy Griffin videos. That woman is just…amazing, to say the least; what an American.  So after that I got ready to go out to a few bars.  Firstly, I can’t believe I forgot that no one goes out before 11 or 12 – lame – and secondly, no one goes out when it has been raining during the day.  Epic fail.  I did manage to find two bars with some life in it . The first was a sliver in a building, packed with at least 100 people in it – uncomfortable.  I spoke with a man here about being gay in East Germany, an interesting situation for him, although it was so loud I only heard part of everything he had to say.  Not feeling the vibe there, I went to another place down the street. Had the man talking to me in the previous bar not shown up after a few minutes of arriving, I would have left, slightly horrified.  It wasn’t until after I bought a beer that I noticed the adult-oriented nature of this bar, and I wish so badly I didn’t have to use the restroom during my brief stay.  My advice: don’t make wrong turns going to the bathroom, and definitely have a flashlight handy if you find yourself in the dark.  *shutters*

So I don’t think I am much of a bar person, at least not in this part of town.  Next time I will be exploring the techno/dance clubs that Berlin is so famous for, hopefully with more success and less fear.  After leaving bar 2 for the evening I walked home, although being slightly tipsy, I ended taking a rather long and not-so-direct way home due to not really knowing where the hell I was.  I did, magically, managed to navigate my way home without a map, and was safe and sound upon arrival.

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