Sadie and Joe, those Intrepid Herbivores, are talented, passionate Portland-based vegans capturing their love for travel and vegan food in a new series, which they’re sharing with Vida Vegan Con attendees (and family & friends!) who are in town early Thursday night.About the screening: This unofficial-but-welcome addition to the Vida Vegan Con agenda will be shown Thursday, May 23, at 6pm, immediately following our Meet & Greet, a bit further south at People’s Coop. There is no admission fee, and the event is all ages. Details and RSVP are on their facebook event. To get a better idea of what they’re all about, we did a Q & A with Sadie, the host of the growing series (more to come on that!) to discuss filming, finding vegan food around the globe, inspirations, and of course, where she likes to dine in Portland, OR. She’s also shared two clips, so read on…
Interviewing The Intrepid Herbivores
Sadie Bowman (host) and Joe Bourguignon (cinematographer par excellence).
How would you sum up this project, The Intrepid Herbivores, in one word?
How did this idea come about?
I love to travel and love to eat, and after some bad experiences I realized that I had a habit of going on a trip and simply ranging around, hoping I would just discover awesome regional cuisine that I could eat as I wandered about. I often fell flat on my face when this delicious food didn’t materialize of its own accord, feeling hungry, cranky, and disappointed for missing out on the cultural experience that comes with eating like a local. I realized I had been overlooking the step of actually researching ideas of what to look for and ways to ask for what I needed…On the day I met Joe we actually started talking about traveling, and he mentioned an independent idea he had about a documentary film on a similar topic. Eventually, we decided to join forces.
Even better, it has become a confluence of everything I love most—food and travel, obviously, but I come from a comedy and performing arts background so I get to employ some of that, and I’ve had a long-time hobby of studying foreign languages (which typically pans out to learning bits and pieces of many while mastering none). We incorporate vocabulary tools into the show to empower the viewer to ask questions and communicate their needs through a language barrier.
Everything about this is super awesome fun for me.
What do you hope people take away from it?
I want people to be excited about international tourism, and I want people to see how rich and varied the world of plant-based cuisine is. A lot of travel shows right now focus on cheese, meat and bugs (or other foods with a “gross-out” factor), and I just want people to know that you CAN eat incredibly well without all that, and that it is not a sacrifice.
I hope that omnivores will be intrigued by all of the choices that are out there, and I hope vegans and vegetarians will feel empowered to explore the world without fear of compromising their ideals.
As vegans who have traveled the world a bit, do you pack any “vegan emergency rations/treats,” and if so, what are they?
Oh, yes. Much as I try to make it easy for myself, I know better than to not bring snacks everywhere I go! My standard is as many Lara bars as I can fit in my luggage. They are great not only because they last forever, but are super easy to tuck into the pockets of every day pack, purse, camera bag, etc, that you might be out and about with. Finding a previously hidden energy bar in your fanny pack during a time of need can be absolute deliverance. Not that I wear fanny packs.
What have your travels taught you about flavors?
Many parts of the world have produce and ingredients in common, but every culture I’ve visited has their own way of presenting the same things in their own ways. For instance, two places I’ve been in the past two years are Thailand and Mexico. Both share some common staple flavors such as chili, lime, cilantro. But Thai food tastes nothing like Mexican food. The addition of salty soy sauce to those three standard ingredients takes your tastebuds to Asia, while adding something earthy like cumin or oregano gives you a taste of Mexico. I love encountering exciting new-to-me ways to experience familiar ingredients.
Where do you want to explore next?
We have plans for the first season of the show to do a loop around the Mediterranean–visiting Morocco, Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, Greece and Turkey.
What have you learned about international veganism?
There is definitely a visible vegan movement in all of the places I’ve visited recently. A definite uptick in the presence of specifically vegan and vegetarian restaurants. I was in Italy about a year and a half ago and tracked down this awesome vegan cafe in Florence where I got to eat ravioli and tiramisu. There are a ton of vegan restaurants in Mexico City where everything is based on regional specialties, same in Chiang Mai and other parts of Thailand. These are businesses that recognize their potential as destination restaurants for a growing vegan community. While I’m sure they cater to a lot of tourists, I also dined in the company of locals while I was there. Clearly this is not a Portland-contained bubble of a phenomenon.
I did have an interesting conversation with a young woman in Thailand. She told me she is vegetarian because she knows that a lot of restaurants in Bangkok harvest stray dogs and cats from the streets, and she couldn’t bear to take the chance of eating meat. Say what you might about this “speciesist” stance–that she isn’t willing to eat a cat or dog but would eat a different kind of animal–but I was shocked to learn that this is a real practice and not just an ugly stereotype I had heard about Asian food. This was only one person’s reason for eschewing meat in her own culture, but it was an interesting phenomenon to learn about.
Also I’ve come to realize that a lot of cultures have their own historical or spiritual traditions that aren’t called “being vegan,” but largely run alongside that guideline. For instance, in Thailand there is a sect of Buddhist monks who eat a “jay” diet; which is essentially vegan. In Mexico, there is a recent re-emergence of traditional pre-Hispanic indigenous cuisine, which is mostly plant-based. Finding these little categories can open up a lot of choices that you might not find by going around asking for “vegan food,” but they just happen to be meat and dairy-free (or easily so adapted).
What tips you have for others wanting to create their own vegan shows?
1) Know that you are part of a rising tide. I am so excited by the emergence of veganism into mainstream media. Even two years ago, when we were getting ready to film the pilot, this felt like a very fringy, very niche genre we were trying to nestle into. Since then there have been more and more personalities popping into mainstream consciousness and it is clear that the culture at large is on its way to shifting its focus, or at least enlarging its focus, to a point that includes veganism as a prevalent, normal way of life instead of an extreme “lifestyle.” So make a vegan show. America is ready for it, the world is ready for it.
2) The more shows the better.
3) Have fun. Don’t be preachy.
4) Invest in whatever you can to assure good production quality.
What are you making for your next dinner party?
I’ve been really into the recipes in Terry Hope Romero’s new book, Vegan Eats World. I had guests last night for whom I made refried beans and seasoned jackfruit from that book, along with my own hibiscus and onion tacos, and fried plantains with cinnamon and agave for dessert. Because my most recent excursion was to Mexico I am still riding on all the exciting things I learned to love on that trip.
What’s your go-to Thai dish to create for others?
While my heart lies in a red-hot bowl of chilis and I always prefer a spicy dish, my go-to for friends is almost always coconut sticky rice. It is easy to make and I don’t think I’ve met anyone who doesn’t love it. Here in Portland I usually top it with sliced bananas instead of mangos, as it is easier to get fairly sourced organic bananas here than some other tropical fruits.
We have to ask: Where’s your favorite Thai food in Portland?
Vege Thai on Hawthorne. Not only can you go in there and order anything you want and know it will be free of fish sauce and other undesirables, (with the exception of I think one or two noodle dishes which contain eggs), it is good food and the staff is great. Pete, the owner, is a Bangkok native and was actually our language and culture consultant when we were planning our expedition to Thailand. He was very keen to help us and gave us some invaluable assistance.
Your favorite vegan-friendly restaurant and cart?
Oh boy. I’m assuming this is limited to the scope of Portland city limits. I love Los Gorditos (both their restaurants and their cart) for absolutely addictive Mexican fare. Nicholas on NE Broadway has a fantastic vegan mezza that will adequately stuff two people. I know you didn’t ask for a million responses, but it’s so hard to narrow down “favorites” in the Portland vegan food scene. I mean, seriously…are we talking about ethnic food? Raw food? Brunch? Indulgent desserts or baked goods? Bar food? I have favorites in all of these categories!