I know a fair amount about plants, and gardening, and the pending environmental disaster that we euphemistically refer to as climate change. In fact, I spent two and a half years as a small-scale organic farmer in Detroit, and could probably have thrown together a good 5,000 words about common household substances that not only support your gut microflora but will double the size of your beets—which’ll prove helpful in preparing for the next Ice Age. But what I really wanted to write about for this issue was my favorite, local plant-based restaurant.
The problem is, Chicago doesn’t have much in the way of plant-based restaurants—different from vegan places in that they avoid gluten and soy products, sugar, and refined oils, as well as dairy and meat, and use only minimally processed foods. Turns out I’m a bit of a bubble baby, and can hardly eat anything that most humans consider “food.” It’s not a diet folks tend to turn to solely for political or ethical reasons, because it’s not an easy way to eat. But it keeps me alive. And I like it. Making cheese out of nuts is a good time!
Hog butcher for the world, indeed. The lack of plant-based restaurants in Chicago is an odd blind spot in this otherwise food-focused town. Elsewhere such cuisines are easy to find. In Toronto, I dig Planta on Bay Street. In the Detroit area, there’s GreenSpace Cafe in Ferndale. In Vienna, Austria, I’m partial to Simply Raw Bakery. In New York City—not my favorite town, but there are a few solid plant-based eateries to choose from. And in LA it can be hard, let’s just say, to find a place to eat that doesn’t have a wide range of plant-based options. So why not here?
It’s a bit of a head-scratcher, and you may find it even more odd after you’ve read through the Plants Issue. Here you will read about all sorts of amazing qualities our rooted friends have and foster in others—they are healing, they are ancient, they cleanse the air and the earth of toxins. They are inherently political, and sometimes quite dangerous for cats. John Porcellino even drew up a “Sunday Strip” (read: full-color) version of Prairie Potholes for the issue, to introduce us to a few of his favorite leaf-covered buddies. Plants are fun, and pretty, and also a complicated pejorative when describing a certain breed of unusually popular hip-hop artist.
They are also extremely tasty. I realize that extolling the virtues of the world’s vast expansion of flora by describing how delicious plants can be when prepared unusually but properly is a bit like suggesting we save the whales to better preserve the ancient art of scrimshaw. But if a plant-based eatery opens up here in town someday soon, you’ll see.
Until then, we have jibaritos.
(I know I’m getting to be like Ben Joravsky and his TIFs with those amazing Puerto Rican sandwiches. By the way, if you want to read Ben Joravsky on TIFs, you can also do that in this issue.) v