Because it’s Portland, Oregon, nothing even remotely related to food is simple. A personal-finance website ranks Portland the runner-up best U.S. city for vegans and vegetarians (slotted between New York and Orlando, Florida), and you’re dropping down a rabbit hole trying to figure out what it means.
“Easy Vegan Baking,” co-authored by Portlander Daniele Lais, offers 80 recipes for cookies, cakes, pizzas, breads and more. The book promises easy-to-find ingredients and straightforward techniques.
Courtesy of DK
Of 100 cities, Portland is not among the five best or worst in a variety of categories, though the survey’s research analyst pinpointed it at No. 1 for community gardens per capita and No. 79 for the affordability of groceries for vegetarians.
With data sources ranging from the U.S. Census Bureau to Grubhub food delivery, it’s hard to know exactly what the numbers signify. But ask Emiko Badillo, co-owner of a pair of vegan Food Fight! Grocery stores in Portland, about the scene here and your assumptions might be upended.
Badillo started the group Portland Vegans of Color in 2013.
“I wanted to find my people because I started to feel very alone in veganism and in Portland,” she said. “I wanted to have a space that we could all get together and talk about our shared experiences.” White people in Portland can’t know what it feels like to be the only person of color in a restaurant or grocery store, she said.
Badillo grew up in San Antonio, Texas, and later lived in Queens, New York, both racially and economically diverse cities. “My dad’s Chicano and my mom’s Japanese from Japan,” she said. Badillo became vegan as part of the radical politics and alternative scene of Austin, Texas, in the late 1990s.
Emiko Badillo, co-owner of vegan Food Fight! Grocery, stands outside its second location on outer Northeast Halsey Street. Observing customer habits is one way Badillo has seen the Portland vegan scene change over the last 15 years.
Moving from Queens to Portland in 2002 “was just a huge kind of personal wake-up call for me,” as she experienced “a lot of different forms of racism … the microaggressions that I had never even knew existed.” Badillo described “people coming up to me asking where I’m from, if I spoke English, — you know, ‘What are you?’”
Veganism’s shift toward a mainstream lifestyle orientation reflects a culture dominated by whites who see food through “colonized eyes” and taste it through “colonized palates,” said Badillo. But members of Portland Vegans of Color were able to connect animal liberation with human liberation, she said. Animal agriculture is “straight-up murder of animals and sentient beings that have feelings and thoughts and emotions like we do.”
“So if the humans are struggling and oppressed and we’re in charge of the animals, we’re not going to make these positive decisions for them as long as we’re being killed, too.”
Vegetarians do not eat any animal flesh. Vegans, in addition to abstaining from meat, do not eat dairy products or eggs and do not use other products — such as clothing — derived from animals.
The group has run out of energy, she said, due to “the lifestyle thing, the lack of a political movement, and then … a lot of the vegans of color that were involved in it, or that I knew, have moved away from Portland because Portland pushes out people of color.”
Badillo is not immune to the twin ironies underpinning her business and her life. One is that as an animal-rights activist, she personally is not that interested in the whole vegan food thing.
The other is trying to support an ideological mission “working within capitalism, which is super, super evil and the cause of pretty much every bad thing in the world.” She and her longtime partner, Chad Miller, opened their first store in 2003 to provide vegans with one-stop shopping and to show that the food wasn’t bland or boring. The store moved to inner Southeast Stark Street in a neighborhood that has “blown up” and gentrified around it.
While the original location draws more workers, passersby and single residents seeking lunch or snacks, the Halsey store — opened in 2017 — attracts more families and people buying a week’s worth of groceries, she said. “And then we moved out here, bought a house in East Portland, you know — we’re the gentrifiers as well.”
Watch: Portland’s Vegan Moment Is 100 Years In The Making
Badillo believes veganism has plateaued, although “billionaires will keep making money off vegan food, vegan products.” She has gotten involved with groups like Social Justice Fund NW and the Portland chapter of Asians4Black Lives. One way Food Fight tries to give back to the community is by choosing a monthly beneficiary of tips and money from store donation buckets; December’s organization is Out to Pasture Sanctuary in Estacada.
But Badillo hopes for a resurgence, citing organizations like Hip Hop is Green and La Raza for Liberation “doing work with veganism and human rights and struggles of brown and black people.” She pushes for more attention to “POCs and black people in veganism because that’s, I feel, where veganism … needs to grow.”
Food Fight had a table at this fall’s popular two-day Portland VegFest, selling tote bags and a few food items, including vegan marshmallows that can be hard to find in small towns and rural areas. “It’s cool to see more POC come in to VegFest every year,” said Badillo. “So that’s, like, my favorite part of it.”
The 14th annual event — produced by Northwest VEG, a nonprofit based in the Portland-Vancouver, Washington, area — included speakers, classes, cooking demos, film screenings, kid and teen activities, a fitness area and around 200 exhibitors at the Oregon Convention Center.
Horns Up for Veganism is one of many messages circulating in an Oregon Convention Center exhibit hall on Oct. 21, 2018, during the 14th annual Portland VegFest.
In the Pear Room, Portland transplant Daniela Lais demonstrated a couple of recipes from “Easy Vegan Baking,” a collection of sweet and savory desserts, breads and a few main dishes. The cookbook’s goals include recipe simplicity, easy-to-find nonexotic ingredients and flavorful, texturally satisfying results.
“It’s not a bigger deal than baking with dairy or with eggs, you know. It’s just another way to do it,” Lais said in a Skype interview while visiting her parents in her native Hoerbranz, Austria. “You just mix things together and it’s done within 15, 20 minutes.”
The book includes rundowns on equipment and pantry essentials; techniques, tips and tricks to avoid sad outcomes; plant-based equivalents for animal products (this facilitates reversing recipes to nonvegan); ingredient glossary and where-to-buy guide; and clarification of terms.
“I worked on this dough forever, to have simple ingredients,” said Lais. “And you can find them everywhere … you can go to Fred Meyer or you can go to Walmart and buy flour, sugar, soda, a plant-based milk.” Her personal destination for vegan dark chocolate and other particulars is People’s Food Co-op in Southeast Portland. “I mean, there are a few kinks with special ingredients, but the whole thing is to make it easy.”
This appealing, holiday-friendly gateau does not have any professionals-only techniques but map out your schedule to allow for crucial cooling and chilling stages.
Brigitte Sporrer/Courtesy of DK
Lais switched from vegetarian to vegan overnight about 16 years ago, although “it took a while to change my cloth from leather (some shoes) and wool (some pullovers) to vegan,” she wrote in an email. “My reasons were ethical reasons. It was all about avoiding animal exploitation.”
After establishing herself as a baker and journalist in Austria, Lais first came to Portland more than five years ago on a Workaway cultural exchange, living with a family. Despite periodic back and forth travel, she has a fiancé here. Meanwhile, she has co-authored two vegan cookbooks — published in multiple languages — with German chef Jérôme Eckmeier. “Easy Vegan Baking” is the translation of “Einfach Vegan Backen,“ which won a silver medal at the Frankfurt Book Festival in 2015. “There’s pretty much no day I don’t work on recipes,” said Lais. “I’m a little bit a nerd. It’s just my passion.” She said she has created enough recipes to fill a raw-vegan cookbook, an “Easy Vegan Baking 2” or an “Easy Vegan Baking Gluten-free.”
Dark Chocolate And Raspberry Gateau
“This thoroughly chocolatey gateau with its dark sponge cake, delicate chocolate cream, and sublime raspberries will add a touch of extravagance to any dessert table.”
Daniela Lais uses So Delicious coconut-milk cocoWhip! for the filling’s soy cream. She likes Rapunzel organic baking cocoa powder but says any unsweetened nondairy 100 percent cocoa powder is fine. You can make this gateau nonvegan by subbing just a few ingredients (use whipping cream for soy cream).
40 minutes prep + 40 minutes baking + at least 3 hours chilling | Average difficulty
12 servings (9-1/2-inch (24 cm) springform pan)
For the base
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup fine cane (granulated) sugar
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup vegan cocoa powder
- 1-1/2 tablespoons cider vinegar
- 1-3/4 cups soy milk
- 2/3 cup canola oil
For the filling
- 1 pound (450 grams) vegan dark chocolate
- 2-1/3 cups soy cream, suitable for whipping, well-chilled
- 1 pound (450 grams) raspberries (fresh or frozen), plus
- 2 ounces (60 grams) fresh raspberries for decoration
- Vegan chocolate flakes (grated from a bar)
- Preheat the oven to 350˚F (180˚C). For the base, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. Sift over the cocoa powder and fold it in. In a separate bowl, stir the cider vinegar into the soy milk and leave to thicken for 5 minutes, then stir in the canola oil with the balloon whisk. Quickly combine the liquid and dry ingredients with a large spoon.
- Line a springform pan with parchment paper, transfer the cake mix into the pan, and bake in the center of the oven for about 40 minutes, until a skewer inserted in the cake comes out clean. Remove from the oven and leave to cool completely.
- Meanwhile, prepare the filling. Roughly chop the dark chocolate, melt it in a double broiler, and stir until smooth. Whip the soy cream using an electric mixer on its highest setting. Quickly beat in the chocolate until you have a uniform cream, then chill for 2 to 3 hours.
- Slice the cake in half and place the lower section on a cake plate, surrounded by a cake ring. Spread a thick layer of the cream mixture on top and cover with the raspberries, followed by about half of the remaining cream mixture. Put the second cake layer on top and press down slightly. Cover the surface of the cake with the cream mixture, leaving some left over for the sides.
- Remove the cake ring and spread the remaining cream over the sides of the gateau. Scatter with chocolate flakes. Distribute the remaining raspberries on top and refrigerate.
Tip: Prepare a day in advance to let the flavors develop overnight in the refrigerator. Vary the fruit depending on the season; another great option is cherries (fresh or from a jar) with some kirsch drizzled over the cake.
Excerpted from “Easy Vegan Baking,” reprinted by permission of DK, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. Copyright 2018 by Jérôme Eckmeier and Daniela Lais.