Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Raisin' Hell & Eating Well in DC

As soon as I heard the faintest suggestion that there would be a march in Washington DC after the election, I raced to my computer and bought two plane tickets. The march wasn't a well-formed concept yet, but I was pretty confident that if everyone else felt the way I felt -- the march was gonna happen. And boy-o-boy, did it happen!

Immediately after booking our tickets, I reached out to the International Society of Awesome Vegans (aka my FB page) and asked "Who lives in DC? Anyone willing to host us for a few nights if we come for the march?" And just like that, an excellent pal from the PPK and her husband (we'll call them Ms. A and Mr. Z) offered to host us. That really made our trip so much more fun since we got to make new friends - plus it was way more affordable too!

We got into DC the night before the march, and our wonderful hostess made us a delicious dinner (the Pumpkin Ziti from Veganomicon, a vegan classic!). We spent the evening organizing our plan for getting to the march, making sure we all had each other's phone numbers, and gathering up our snacks...


The WOMEN'S MARCH ON WASHINGTON

I know this is a food blog and not a political activism blog - so I won't go on forever. You can skip down a little if you just want to read about the food!

We got an early start in the morning, and by the time we got to the metro station, we had to park on the very top floor of the parking garage. From the top of the parking structure we could see a crowded sea of pink pussy hats trying to (politely) cram themselves into the tunnel to get on the Metro. Wowsers! We started to have a feeling that this might be pretty big. We did get on the train eventually (helped greatly by Ms. A who had procured our metro passes in advance!)... by the time our train was about half way to our destination, it was packed full with marchers and pink hats about about 95% women. The announcer came on to say that more empty trains would be coming. Now we were getting even more of an idea that this was going to be a big event.



After we exited the train, the streets were filled with marchers and pink hats and lots of signs. We had no signs, and when we saw a woman selling some nice American flags for just $5 each, Ms A and I each bought one. In fact, I don't think we saw anyone else all day with an American flag - and marching felt like a surprisingly civic and patriotic act. I was glad to have my flag to wave. We were also glad to have our flags because they made it super easy to find each other every time we'd get caught up in a swamp of people - we'd just stick our flags up high until we found our way toward one another again. Perfect!

the four of us 

"We want a leader, not a creepy tweeter!"

The march was a sea of people - so many people that it wasn't even really possible to find the "official starting point" of the designated route. It seemed like several streets had official marches and they all converged at some point. It was amazing to be marching and look over and see the office building for the EPA... and then to march past the White House and see all the streets for several blocks in every direction completely shut down with swarms of protest signs, chanting marchers, and pink hats -- and to know that this action simply could not be ignored.  

I found the crowd to be pretty diverse -- older people, mostly women but also lots of men, families, children, college students, babies, Native Americans, African Americans, Latinax people... but I also followed with humility and great interest the online conversations about the march. These conversations were around the inclusivity of the march - and the degrees to which women of color and transgendered people felt welcome or not welcome to participate. I have a lot to learn about intersectionality and feminism, and I am eager to expand and improve my understanding. For me, the march was a meaningful civic action, and also a very engaging learning experience. I am so glad that we were able to be a part of it.


The FOOD.

Mr. Vegan Eats and Treats *insisted* on sticking his finger over the word "finger."
Get it?! It was driving me nuts, and yet he cleverly snuck that little finger into every picture I took!

After a long day of marching and chanting and walking and carefully managing our position amongst hundreds of thousands of people, we were ready to eat! We had brought some snacks with us... but we had accidentally left 3 of our carefully prepared PB&Js at home. So we shared what we had, ate our snack bars, and bought some pretzels from a vendor at the march (smart fella). If there's one place every vegan told me to find in DC, it is without question Sticky Fingers. Sticky Fingers is practically a vegan legend! So we all four made our way there, tired but buoyed by our big day.


So much yum!
I definitely could have tried harder to take pretty pictures, but I was quite focused on eating.
sorry / not-sorry.

When you walk into Sticky Fingers, you're greeted with a huge bakery display case FULL of goodies and with a big menu up above offering an array of savory food. So many choices! 

We were *so lucky* that it didn't rain or snow on us marchers, but it was still a pretty chilly day, and I was eager to warm up. After some debate, I ordered myself a big almond latte, a chocolate chip cookie (never even had a chance to have its picture taken), a blueberry muffin, a Tempeh Reuben, and a side of spicy chickpea soup came with the sandwich. Let's just say, there were no leftovers. Ha ha. It felt so good to sit down and eat and talk and rest our feet. We also got straight to work posting pictures and stories on social media! ha ha. 

The food was great! Mr. VE&T got some chili that he said was really incredible too. The inside is casual and cozy. There aren't tons of chairs and tables (we were lucky to score a spot!), but it has a congenial and friendly low-key atmosphere. After you order at the counter, they will bring the food to your table. Even on a busy day, the food came quickly, which was much appreciated! 



I accidentally booked our plane tickets for one day more than I intended to... but our wonderful hosts were gracious enough to let us stay another night, and we also got to spend a couple days exploring the culinary and cultural sights of DC.

The day after the march, we all 4 headed into DC for a fun day together. Our lunch spot that day was an Middle Eastern spot called Shouk -- it's 100% "plant-based" (aka "vegan"), and the food there was outstanding! You can select from a variety of interesting fillings and either have it in a Pita bread or in a rice and lentil bowl. They also have several salads and some side dishes.

I ordered the Cauliflower Pita (bottom left) - with roasted cauliflower, tomato, scallion, tahini and parsley. It was so damned good. Kind of my idea of a perfect food. First of all, I must comment on the outstanding quality of their whole grain pita bread. Holy Moly it is so fresh and perfect. And the filling inside was a perfect harmony of seasoning, textures, sauce, veggies, flavors... so good. In fact it was so good that Mr VE&T took one bite of mine and had to go order himself one too.

Mr. VE&T and Mr. Z both chose the Fennel Pita (fennel, potato, red pepper, pistachio pepper), and Ms. A had the Chickpea Pita (chickpeas, preserved lemon, olive, seaweed, potato, tomato, cucumber, and tahini). We aren't dummies so of course we ordered some sides too: an order of the Cashew Labneh with Pita -- so creamy and topped with olive oil and delicious zaatar, and a few of their *outstanding* cardamom chocolate chip cookies. I must remember to try adding some cardamom to a future batch of choc-chip cookies! Honestly, pretty much every single item on the menu here sounds so good, I wish I could go back again and again.




Later that night - after a long day of DC fun together, we had dinner at one of DC's many great Ethiopian restaurants: Dukem. I've heard about all the good vegan Ethiopian food in DC from several people, but especially from my friend Kittee. Mr. Vegan Eats and Treats ordered his own non-vegan dish, but the rest of us split two huge platters of delicious food. So many flavors and spices and textures all in one meal! We don't have any Ethiopian restaurants in Santa Cruz, so it was a fun and special treat to go out and not have to cook it all myself if I wanted to eat Ethiopian food. Plus, when there are 3 vegans eating together, you can order a metric ton of food and you get to try so many things!




Another fun spot we hit up was Hip City Veg, a 100% vegan mini-chain with 3 spots in Philadelphia and 1 in DC. They offer a pretty big menu of vegan "fast food" -- burgers, salads, fries, wraps, and drinks. They also carry a few baked desserts from Sticky Fingers, with different ones every day. It was hard to pick something from the menu -- so many choices! -- but we actually ended up both ordering a Massaman Tofu Wrap - "curried organic & local tofu, sprouts, spinach, tomatoes, cilantro-white bean puree, and cucumber raita." Just thinking about it makes me wish I was eating it again - I thought it was super well seasoned, and I loved the combo of the warm, cooked tofu and sauce with the fresh veggies inside. Also the warming curry flavors were great since it was a cold and rainy day that day. This is another spot I would love to go back to and try more items off their menu! 


The infamous Peanut Chew!
plus me with morning bed head.
I may or may not have eaten a peanut chew with my breakfast 

Here is another special thing we got to eat while we were in DC: the famous Peanut Chew! I've heard about this accidentally vegan candy from my east coast vegan pals for years now, but I had never had one. After the march, Ms. A took us to the HUGE super grocery store (Wegmans') near their house. Holy selection, Batman! I couldn't believe the huge vegan cheese selection! They had more choices at their "mainstream" grocery store than we have at our health food store. Wow! Plus, importantly, they had Peanut Chews in the bulk bin. Let's just say that we went back for more before we flew home, and they are, *cough* already long gone. Those little suckers are good! They're a lot like how I remember Snicker's tasting... but vegan and with dark chocolate. 

Ms. A with her yummy latte and a vegan cupcake

One more cute spot of note: a locally-owned cafe in downtown DC called Bakers and Baristas. They had great coffee and a sea of baked goods, including two different vegan cupcake flavors. How cool! We all got something hot and toasty to drink, and then Mr. Z and Ms A cooled their heels for a little while, and us two took off for some evening explorations of the many remarkable monuments in DC. 


The SIGHTSEEING.


The day after the march, we visited this relatively little-known museum dedicated to the Suffrage Movement. The museum is housed in the actual house where the suffragettes gathered, planned, built community, and worked together. The displays inside the museum were quite moving and inspiring, and I was touched by the perseverance and vision of the (white) women who worked so hard for the (white) women's right to vote. I was bothered by the conspicuous lack of transparency about the connections between the suffrage movement and racist ideology. Many (most?) of the suffragettes held racist and exclusionary views towards women of color and certainly were not concerned with their rights. In fact, I got in contact with them and learned that they are very aware of this issue and working to address it. Even with those issues in my mind, the museum felt relevant on the day after such a huge Women's March on Washington, with hundreds of thousands of women marching and chanting through the streets of Washington, demanding visibilty and rights. 


Washington Monument

The Washington Monument is quite a visual landmark. On a drizzly evening walk, we got to explore it (from the outside). Of course I did a headstand! Can you see my little Chesire Cat smile down at the bottom of the picture?

this is what it looked like as we tried to take that picture!
ha ha



The Memorial that I wanted to see most of all was the MLK Jr. Memorial. Last time I went to DC was about 30 years ago, when I was only 14 years old... and this memorial did not yet exist at that time. I had seen pictures of the memorial online, and didn't really know what to expect, but I found it quite moving and powerful in person. I also found the memorial particularly poignant and solemn since we visited it (and several others) at night - there was an extra sense of quiet, very few people, and time and space to reflect. 

I didn't get a good picture of the beautiful sweeping walls at the MLK Memorial, but on either side of the big statue are walls containing many quotes from him - many of which are famous quotes, and others less so. It was particularly inspiring and challenging to read his words on race and activism and social justice and social upheaval while we held the experience of the march (and the conversations about the march) so freshly. 

top left: MLK Jr. Memorial
top right: US Capitol Building
bottom left: Jefferson Memorial
bottom right: Lincoln Memorial

Besides the MLK Memorial, the other thing I really wanted to see was the relatively new African American Museum. I woke up at 6:30 am to get in the online lottery for same-day tickets and managed to get some! That museum is extremely impressive: moving, expertly curated, poignant, powerful, upsetting, empathizing, humanizing, and I could go on and on. I cannot recommend it strongly enough, and I wish we could have had much more time there. I look forward to an opportunity to return again. There is so much to see and learn and reflect upon.

After our time at the African American Museum, we walked over to see the Jefferson Memorial. When I had visited DC as a teenager, this was the memorial that I found most moving and powerful. I particularly remember memorizing the quote that goes around the inside of the building in huge letters: "I have sworn upon the altar of god eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man." That's still a pretty amazing declaration, but it's a *whole* lot more uncomfortable, upsetting, complicated, hypocritical, and compartmentalized after considering the 600 slaves that Jefferson owned (and the 1 he had several children with.) 

The Lincoln Memorial is quite stunning - and it's beautiful at night. It has a sense of majesty and presence, and it was powerful to think of Martin Luther King Jr standing on those very stairs and addressing a sea of people with his famous speech. 

Other fun things we saw: The International Spy Museum, The National Portrait Gallery, and the Smithsonian American Art Gallery. Guess what, almost all the museums and attractions in DC are also free! How cool is that? 


Smithsonian Air & Space Museum

On our last day, Mr Z & Ms A took us to the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum in Virginia, right next to the Dulles Airport. I'm not at all a plane nerd, but - wow! - this was quite a remarkable place. We took a free tour and our docent was wonderful - he had so much knowledge about every single plane or space craft we saw, and was able to talk with decency and delicacy about some of the more challenging parts of the tour. We spent the most time looking at the Space Shuttle Discovery, which I thought was pretty cool. (far left and far right) It's just pretty trippy to look at it and think how many times that very contraption has been up in space!! There's a lot more I could say, but planes aren't vegan food, so I'll keep it short. I definitely recommend this as a stop though, even if you don't think it's up your alley. It might surprise you, like it did for me.


Beautiful Lola

I'd be remiss if I didn't include a picture of our beautiful and friendly hostess kitty, Miss Lola. Apparently Ms. A and Mr. Z have a second cat, but she is very shy and even though we stayed with them for 4 nights, we never saw her or heard a peep from her (!). I believe them though. Lola made up for her reclusive sister by sleeping on our guest bed and looking beautiful all the time. 
mystery cat

9 comments:

  1. What an interesting, inspiring and thoughtful post, Amey! I love seeing you and Mr. VE&T marching in your pussy hats! It is clear (and disappointing and scary, etc.) that there is so much work to be done, and it is inspiring to see so many people eager to do it in whatever way they can. So many mixed emotions!

    BUT, no mixed feelings about all of that yummy food you got to enjoy while in DC! That cauliflower wrap looks especially good right about now!

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  2. How fantastic you made that long of a trip! I heard it was massive, even though most cities had their own.
    I'm a fan of DC (& its Ethiopian food!) but didn't get to try all the places you mentioned here. Sticky Fingers, though, YES. I'm trying to go down in July and will have to remember Hip City Veg.
    Haha, glad you got some Peanut Chews!! Those are my faaaavorite accidentaly vegan candy.
    Beautiful kitty too. Sounds like an all around positive stay - if we keep taking care of each other in the way it sounds like ms. A + mr. Z did, we should be okay these 4 years.

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  3. Ohh I wish I knew you were coming to my neck of the woods! I went to the march too and it was an incredible experience! It felt amazing to be united with thousands of people. I remember how caring everyone was, it was just amazing. Also, I love that I get to see some awesome vegan places a little closer to me than Cali ;)

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  4. O(h) M(y) G(od)...that finger gag is soooo funny!!!! Too much!

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  5. OK, I feel rather stupid but until I read this post I had no idea Peanut Chews were only a Mid-Atlantic thing! No wonder I haven't been able to find them since I moved to California! (Hi from the East Bay, by the way!) I moved here from the DC area and miss Dukem and the other Ethiopian restaurants, though the #1 thing I miss the most is WEGMANS. Thanks for sharing your lovely pictures and adventures, and I really enjoyed reading about the march, which many of my East Coast friends attended but I couldn't make.

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  6. Only five comments on this outstanding post?! You jumped in feet first at this remarkable moment: activism, connections, discovery, and always vegan goodies. XO

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  7. I'm glad you got the chance to go! I didn't even make it out of the house that day, I was so upset about everything political. DC is only two hours south of me, and you flew all the way across the country to take part! It makes me proud to flip through my feed and see that I am friends with amazing smart and fierce women who were able to be strong that day when I couldn't be.

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  8. I love everything about this post Amey! Yay for marching and yay for delicious vegan eats (of which there are just too many to mention. Mental note: Visit DC ASAP!). Lola is a cutie and I love the drawing of mystery cat almost as much as I love your headstand monument picture!

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  9. Another wonderful Amey post! Your blog has been one of my favorites for a long time.

    Sticky Fingers was the first all-vegan restaurant that my husband and I ever visited... This was years ago. We were staying with a friend who lived quite close by, and he told us we should check it out. I remember walking in, squinting down at the bakery case, then squinting up at the menu board, then looking to the helpful person behind the counter and saying, "Um, do you mark which things are vegan?"

    And she said, "It's ALL vegan."

    !!!

    Can you believe it? We'd never visited such a place. It was like magic. It was ALL VEGAN. Wow! I might have to plan another DC trip soon...

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