In San Francisco, vegetarians are as normal as gay couples holding hands.
We recently booked a group dinner at a restaurant and noticed that in our party of 20, there were six vegetarians. Vegetarians aren't on the outskirts of many walks of life in San Francisco. These city dwellers are generally liberal and well-educated people, and they know what have to worry about in the industrial food age here in the US.
More so than in New Zealand, there are very real health concerns around eating meat in the US—mass industry results in human deaths by E coli, and mass industry means that hormones and antibiotics are pumped from birth into the animals that humans then eat. Cattle stand in feed-lot mountains of their own manure. And cattle eat corn in feed-lots—corn their bodies weren’t designed for, that they can’t digest, and that was itself intensively raised.
Aside from the health impacts, the standard practices above result in ever-less happy cows. Cattle are often ill, they suffer because of it, and they aren’t necessarily slaughtered humanely. The list goes on.
So what to do? We opt for knowing where our meat comes from (see Meeting our meat), but others opt for vegetarianism or veganism.
A search on Happycow.net returned 31 results for the city of San Francisco, with more in the surrounding bay area. Yes, herbivores in this city have a myriad of vegetarian-only restaurants to choose from. And having long since passed the critical mass scale, they’re as normal around here as a gay couple holding hands—so rest assured every catered event and restaurant offers a prime selection of vegetarian alternatives.
More impressive still are the vegan options. At the delicious Herbivore restaurant everything on the menu is vegan, including mac and cheese. Huge lines form at burrito joint El Papalote that sells Soyrizo Fo’ Shizzle (that’s soy-chorizo sausage, for sure) and tofu alternatives with delicious vegan sauces.
Then, in a realm of its own—in more ways than one—there is Café Gratitude. This café has five locations dedicated to vegan and raw food. Mains include 'I am Passionate' and 'I am Whole'. Upon being seated we were asked to ponder the question of the day: “What makes you fulfilled?” and given the option to tell the answer to each other or to our waitress as well.
Being treated as one of the family is part of an overall 'well-ness' approach that permeates through every element of this café. Ingredients are organic and sourced locally, and once you too have consumed 'I am Graceful', a bowl of Indian biryani (red rice and seasoned veggies in a coconut curry sauce), followed by 'I am Super', a power ball of nuts and cocoa nibs, you too will most likely feel cheery and more than a little ‘fulfilled’.
Our single gripe was that it wasn’t cheap to get a bowl of raw food, until we stumbled across the Café’s 'I am Grateful Bowl' available on a sliding scale—allowing all walks of life to eat well. Those who pay more for the bowl help subsidise those who can’t pay much. Now that’s sustainable.
If you find your herbivore existence tough, go to sleep knowing that fulfillment is out there. Here in San Francisco, you’re already mainstream.