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Arrivés à Montréal!

Thanks to a few friendly Quebecois vegans and a vegan Czech transplant we were warmly greeted at a nearly entirely vegan triple decker in Rosemont. A winding road through social networks led us to Daniela, our hostess for our stay in Montreal.

When Kristin and I started out on the journey, we began to receive moral support from all over and Kristin keeps a little folder of all those who reached out to us. Even though, we initially set out to cover the United States we couldn’t resist an invite to one of the raddest cities in North America. It came time to dig into that folder and pull out the contact info for Élise Desaulniers, who recently has been promoting her book Je mange avec me tête: Les conséquences de nos choix alimentaires. {I Eat with My Brain: The Consequences of Our Food Choices.} Note: The literal translation would be “I Eat with My Head.”

Je Mange Avec Ma Tete by Elise Desaulniers

Élise was kind enough to do a brief interview with us. Wish her luck on her new book! :

When did you decide it was time to change the way you eat and what were the events which led up to that decision?
It was about 4 years ago. My husband who’s a philosophy teacher had ordered a few books on Amazon and I had his books in my bag while waiting for a friend in a cafe. I started reading about animal ethics… and I became vegetarian. A few months after, I became vegan! So basically, I came to change my eating habits for moral reasons. And it is this rational thinking I wanted to share in my blog and in my book.

So, what book did your husband have in your bag? Did the two of you choose veganism at the same time?
It was “Éthique Animale” from Jean-Baptiste Jeangène Vilmer. The first French book on animal ethics. Jean-Baptiste is now a close friend of us. Funny. At first, Martin (my husband) used to say that he was practicing veganism without beleiving in it. But after a few months, he also read on the topic and also became a real vegan. He now teaches it in all of his classes and wrote a few papers about it.

Unfortunately the book is not yet available in English and I am many years removed from high school French lessons. Could you give a brief synopsis of your book?
If I translate the title, it would be something like “I eat with my brain: the consequences of our food choices”. I’m very close to Peter Singer’s “The ethics of what we way eat” [The Ethics of What We Eat: Why Our Food Choices Matter] (not available in French). I cover most aspects of food ethics: animal welfare, workers conditions, environmental issues, etc and I give to the reader the tools to make their own decisions. One of the most popular chapters is “A dinner with Sarah Palin,” where I imagine being invited to Sarah Palin’s house and while having dinner together she gives all the arguments we hear all the time to defend meat eating: it’s natural, animals would eat us, etc. I reply with philosophical arguments.

Have you had shocking reactions to your work both for and against? Have you met any interesting people from within and without of the veg community as you continue to promote?
The reactions are more positive than I thought. It’s the first “vegan” book to be published in Quebec and I was really scared at first… But most journalists and readers are telling me that even they can’t change the way they ear, they agree with me. Fascinating.

What is your favorite meal around town?
Hard to tell… I would say the Dragon Bowl at Aux Vivres. That is my favorite comfort food ever.

***

So not only do we thank Élise for the invite and the interview but we also must thank her for introducing us to Alex, our new friend and guide on our trip around Montreal. Alex is multitalented and humorous. Between his design, cooking and musical skills, he also is ready to roll; for instance, Alex was quick to deal with my incessant hockey jabs, a la Bruins v Habs, and constant quizzes on English, French from France (Parisienne) and French from Quebec (Quebecois). Here are some words from Alex about his place in Montreal’s vegan community.

An interview with Alexandre Gagnon, vegetarian extraordinaire:

Could you give us a brief history of L’Association Végétarienne de Montréal and your role in the Association?

I discovered the existence of vegetarian/vegan societies by joining veggiedate.org around 2001. Since there was no vegetarian society in Montreal I decided to take the first steps to create one. I created its first webpage in 2003 and it took about a year or so for people to find it and to get in touch with me. In september 2004 we had our first meeting and in december 2004 we were doing our first event. In august 2005 we were officially registered as a non-profit.

I’ve done various things as a volunteer for the MVA: webmaster, secretary, vice-president, graphic designer, writer, event planner, twitter account manager, photographer, musician, french subtitles for the movies Meat The Truth and Sea The Truth and more… Volunteering makes me happy and helps me keep balance in my life.

MVA’s goal is to promote vegetarianism, and by vegetarianism we mean that a 100% vegetarian lifestyle (vegan) is the desired goal. Educating people about veganism is not an easy task. It’s challenging, and people who say going vegan is easy are a bit delusional. In a society where 98% of the population is not vegan, it really is a big challenge.

MVA has about 350 members now and it’s still in a growth phase.

What are your observations of the vegan community in Montréal over the last few years?

I’ve met many new people through the years. I’ve attended vegetarian/vegan events in NYC, Ottawa, Toronto, Germany (IVU congress 2008) and I can safely say the Montreal community has it’s own ‘flavor’. I would lie if I said that we’re one big united community. There are many small groups that do different things.

Students tend to hang out together and they’re kinda transient. They usually come from out of town and student vegan groups cater to their need to meet like minded students. They generally leave Montreal after they get their degree. Groups like Animal Liberties in McGill University, CARA in Concordia, EPAUM at Université de Montréal help students meet their veg fellows on campus.

Food Not Bombs, The People’s Potatoe, The Montreal Burrito Project, The Midnight Collective are charitable organizations that feed people at low or no-cost with vegan meals to students or less fortunate individuals.

The vegan restaurant scene is growing and thriving.

Hockey Player George Laraque brought veganism to the mainstream by advocating in favor of animals and by narrating the movie Earthlings in french and hosting many free screenings.It made headlines and got more and more to talk about animal issues in Quebec.

My answer wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t talk about the language. There are three kinds of Montrealers : the french, the english and the bilingual. For a number of reasons, some people aren’t fluent in french or english as a second language, and they tend not to mix with each other, and well, that’s just the way it is. Let’s just say they’re shy not to be fluent in a second language.

I’ve heard about a vegan commune/coop called la coop généreux but I haven’t been fortunate enough to meet with its members yet. The raw vegan community is quite succesful, they have a small group doing raw vegan potlucks monthly and people are very friendly. There is also a vegan community of Yoga/meditation practitionners that do potlucks on a regular basis that operate through a FB page.

MVA attracts mostly young adults that care about health/animals/the environment, as our motto/slogan suggests.

Lots of young vegans like to go and do volunteering at Teja’s refuge about 50 minutes from Montreal on the weekends. PETA volunteers make demos in Montreal on a regular basis and mostly collaborate with the student groups. There are plenty of ways to live and express your veganism in Montreal.

Last year, Viva Vegan boutique opened on St-Laurent boulevard and is now known as sort of a meeting point for vegans. And not to miss is the annual Montreal World Vegan Day Fashion Show organized by actress Melissa Galianos in collaboration with CARA (Concordia animal rights association)

Being the main founder of the MVA got me to meet with many friendly people that either were interested about the MVA or just doing their own thing and befriended me.

I guess a diversity of groups is needed to satisfy a diversity of vegan personalities. Montreal is a very diverse city and so is its vegan community.

What are some of your favorite meals out at restaurants in Montréal?

I’m a bit of a “gourmand” meaning I’m not really a gourmet or a food snob although I can appreciate the finer dining and really enjoy it more than comfort food. I really don’t consider myslef a foodie. I do take pictures of my food once in a while, but I think there is more to being a foodie than feeling the urge to take a picture of what one eats. Let’s say, my life is not “food oriented”.

Here is a top 20 of my favorite vegan meals in Montreal restaurants. They’re the first 20 that came to my mind in that specific order.

1-Ginger Tofu at Commensal – It never gets old. I could eat some every day.

2-Falafel sandwich at La Panthère Verte – Best falafel in town, best pita in twon and best tahini sauce in town. Truly the best overall falafel in Montreal and I’m not saying this because it’s in a vegan/organic restaurant.

3-Vegan Gyro at Aux Vivres – They should actually call it ‘vegan souvlaki’ but nontheless, the vegan tzatziki + seitan cubes + thick pita bread are pure awesomeness.

4-Tom Yam soup at Chu Chai – Cocunut milk + chili soup that warms body and soul.

5-Vegan Tourtière at Commensal – Tourtière is a traditional québécois holiday meat pie with potatoes – the vegan version made by Commensal it truly delicious and very well spiced. They only offer it during the holiday season though.

6-Viva Vegan’s pizza rolls – It’s better than sex! It’s like a cinammon bun with vegan pizza topings instead of cinammon and sugar. It’s insanely good!

7-Waffle breakfast at Aux Vivres – Maybe not the most extraordinary waffles, but the cashew cream they serve with it mixed with maple syrup is a heavenly combination.

8-Tacos at Burritoville – Custom made tacos with a choice of sauces and various flavors of corn chips to go along. Very satisfying.

9-Oriental tomato soup at Su Shian Yuang – Heartwarming and unique.

10-BLT at Aux Vivres – One of their most famous sandwiches – Vegan version of the Bacon Lettuce Tomato sandwich served in a chapatti bread roll with smoked coconut replacing the bacon. Surprizingly light fresh and tasty.

11-Mekong sandwich at Aux Vivres – Oriental sandwich in a chappati bread roll, wiht daikon, tofu, coriander and peanut sauce. Very yummy.

12-Tempeh burger at Aux Vivres – The best veggie burger in town. Simply the best.

13-Végé pâté from Bistro Chez soi – The best végé paté I ever had in my whole life.

14-Devil eggs from Boudha d’cuisine – An amazing and unique imitation of hard boiled eggs… only better than the real thing.

15-Bombay Banane smoothie at Aux Vivres – Banana, ginger and garam masala are the ingredients to my favorite smoothie.

16-Crudessence’s cashew “chessecake” – The smoothest creamiest cheesecake imitation in Montreal.

17-Fake beef skewers at Chuch – A spicy sweet treat that will fool any meat lover.

18-BBQ wrap at Cagibi – One of the juiciest tofu sandwiches you can find in Montreal.

19-Lentill curry at Pushap – One of the spiciest lentil curry in Montreal.

20-SPicy tofu sandwich at Casa del Popolo – I always order mine on pumpernickel bread. It’s really spicy and their salsa dip for the corn chips that come along is delicious.

Read that again and you will find what restaurant is my favorite

VEGAN FOOD IN OMNIVORE RESTAURANTS IN MONTREAL – LAST RESORT VEGAN EATS IN MONTREAL

Let’s say you visit Montreal with difficult travel partners. They absolutely don’t want to go to a veg restaurant. Here’s a few suggestins.

1-Ethiopian restaurant Nil Bleu offers an amazing vegan plate

2-Vegan brunch at Patati Patata consists of a delicious tabasco flavored tofu/veggies fricassée

3-General Tao style Tofu at Chinese restaurant Café Mei deserves a mention

4-Chick Pea + pumpkin purée Roti at Jardin du Cari comes with the spiciest caribean chili/citrus sauce

5-Tofu wrap at Arts Café is amazing

It’s hard to get vegan food in : Vietnamese, Classic French, Slavik, Greek, Portugese restaurants, Sport Venues, Wine bars/bistros, Summer festivals

It’s relatively easy to eat vegan in : Mid-Eastern, Italian restaurants, Modern french/fusion

It’s easy to eat vegan in : Indian, Thai, Chinese, Caribean, African

AND WHAT ABOUT VEGAN POUTINE?

Ok, poutine is THE most typical québécois meal. It consists of french fries, gravy and curd chesse. In my opinion there is no restaurant in Montreal that offers a satisfying replacement to that meal. The poutine they have at Aux Vivres is light years from the original greasy spoon classic. You’ll have to make it from scratch with your choice of french fries and Dayia cheese + gravy you can get at Viva Vegan.

AND WHAT ABOUT VEGAN SMOKED MEAT?

Aux Vivres used to offer an amazing imitation of this Montreal specialty. Montreal smoked meat sandwiches are quite the tourist attraction. Aux Vivres had their version that could rival the original superbly. I hope they bring it back.

Where were you the night of November the 21st between the hours of 7pm and 10pm?

I was in my living room with my friend Renan Larue. We were watching the Bruins vs. Habs game on television.

Ah, yes! I believe the Bruins won that night! Wink. Wink. Nudge. Nudge. Thanks for providing amazing pre game poutine by the way!

***

So, Élise put us in touch with Alex who we then burdened by asking if he knew anyone with a driveway where we could park Gerty. Amazing as it seems, yes, there was! Alex rang up another new friend of ours, Daniela! Daniela is a passionate vegan who is currently negotiating her way in to the vegan restaurant and catering world. We’ll let you know of the progress. She takes a very European approach to cooking, and she can cook! Daniela makes vegan dishes one doesn’t usually see in North America. I really hope she shows off her pastries. Her kitchen is filled with good food and books on animal rights and vegan living.

 

Small Vegan Czech Pies!

vegan czech pies in montreal

 

Quinoa and Bean Medley

quinoa and bean medley in montreal

 

Lentil and Root Vegetable Soup

lentil and root vegetable soup in montreal

20120112-160323.jpgVegan Propaganda!

 

As you can see from the photos below, Gerty shared a driveway with some like-minded motoring friends! :)

 

vegan bumper sticker

vegan bumper sticker

vegan bumper sticker

vegan bumper sticker

Come Back Soon for the coverage on Aux Vivres, ChuChai, Crudessence, La Panthère Verte and more!

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Comments

  1. I hadn’t had the chance to reading your Montreal posts yet.

    I really enjoyed the top 20… I know what to try next in a couple of restaurants.

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