I have lived in Arizona for one whole year now. There are so many incredible places to eat here, but this summer (insert drum roll here).....I went vegan. Now I know that it may sound extreme, but my body responds well to this, no more sinus attacks or lethargy....I just feel good. This journey is not for the faint of heart. When you slow down and think before you make your meal choices, it's easier than you think. It's also a challenge when your husband/wife/other is not eating the same way that you are.
If you are ever in Phoenix, there is a place that you have to stop and visit.
It's a sweet little spot on 7th Street called Green Vegetarian and it's sister sweets shop Nami. The owner's name is Damon, and he is a funky guy, very relaxed and easy to chat with. I thought it would be a great idea to interview Damon, to sort of pick his genius brain...and then share it with you.
Me: So, how long have you been vegan?
Damon: I've been vegan for 8 years but I've been a vegetarian for many, many years
Me: Is there any reason that you switched to vegan?
Damon: My roommate at the time was vegan, he said one thing, "you just cant eat meat here!" I asked him about it and he gave me the book "Diet for a New America" and my life changed. I grew up in the mid west and we CELEBRATED meat, we just loved meat and I had never thought about it any other way. That book changed my whole life and from there it just spiraled and I have been on my path every since. We also watched the movie 'Earthlings', it's an amazing documentary, if you haven't watched, I recommend it. My wife and I agreed that we would stop eating meat immediately.
Me: I've been vegan since July, so I'm still very new to the game. My 5 year old daughter is what concerns me. I'm wondering if you have ever had an occasion where you had a slip up? Fallen off the wagon? I've run into issues, but mostly when I travel. To Yuma, especially.
Damon: Never! Which is funny, because people that knew me well
assumed that this wouldn't last at all. I loved pot roast sandwiches, but I tried to assure them that I was serious. Traveling is tricky. I have 2 daughters, 9 and 11 years old. They struggle with it but for the most part we don't hide the reasons that we became vegan. We don't show them the graphic videos, but we do discuss our feelings with them in a very respectful way. When I am traveling, things like Chex mix, Swedish fish, Nutter Butter cookies just happen to be vegan. Pick up some granola, some fresh fruit. You are still new, so cut yourself some slack.
Mexican food is also a good choice, if they don't cook with lard, having a bean & rice burrito would be an option, lots of ethnic foods, actually like hummus. Know that you do have to prepare, especially with kids.
Me: Are you from Arizona?
Damon: I have been here for 20 years.
Me: Is there a favorite item on your menu?
Damon: I have LOTS of favorites. But if I had to choose, it would be the one item that is not even my own recipe...it's the Fighting Artichoke Salad. Our Big WAC (Vegan Big Mac...soooo yummy) is really good, as well.
I wanted to create a good restaurant that has a good vibe, good music, good food that just happens to be vegan.
Me: Any hopes of opening an additional restaurant?
Damon: I'll have to wait and see if the opportunity presents itself. I prefer to stay small. Stay true. I don't do this to become rich, I do this because it's what I love. Any growth that I have will be slow and steady.
Me: What's your favorite go to meal at home?
Damon: We cook really healthy food at home. Lots of steamed veggies, we throw some beans in the crock pot. Very healthy, very basic and fresh. We love it and the kids love it!
Me: Tell me about Nami. It makes me smile just thinking about Nami, it's my favorite place in the valley.
Damon: . We have vegan soy soft serve, tsoynami with yummy toppings, cookies, cakes. We make specialty drinks and coffees, but we have fantastic breakfast burritos, quiche, bagels and yogurt.
Just so you know, you are the life's blood of what makes this place so special. We truly appreciate that.
I just wondered how we could make this food appeal to omnivores. People will live a long time if they cut back on the meat.
We don't get food snobs here, we welcome meat eaters! This is a cross over restaurant, we want to appeal to everyone. I would never want to come off preachy. Everyone is on their own journey.
Me: What would you recommend for a first time visitor?
Damon: I think the buffalo wings, or the Wendy's pickle, which is a southern fried chicken sandwich with pickles. That flavor makes such a difference, it packs a real punch, I think people will like it!
Me: Is there a favorite ingredient that you use throughout your menu?
Damon: Garlic is a good friend of mine. We use lots of spice because we want to appeal to everyone, we love heavy spices, but Garlic especially.
Me: Any recommendation for my daughter?
Damon: My youngest daughter is 9. She has been vegan since she was 1. She is completely healthy and happy. I give them both the freedom to make their own decisions. When their friends ask them why they don't eat meat, they tell them that a chicken is an awesome animal, why would I want to eat a chicken? Their friends agree, yeah, you're right....chickens are awesome!
We just try to discuss and respect their decisions about food. We respect them and they appreciate that.
Special thanks to my new friend Damon for taking time out to speak with me.
You can thank me later
Published by Tanika Belis