The Corner Café is going meat free for COP17

image courtesy elledecoration.co.za

One of my favourite little cafés is going all out to raise green awareness around the COP17 conference that’ll be taking place in Durban later this month.

 

Firstly, they’ll be leaving meat off their menus for the duration of the conference. As the Café’s quirky proprietor Juddy Poo points out, leaving meat off your plate is one of the best things you can do to prevent global warming and world hunger.

 

They’ll also be selling trees at cost price to help customers offset their carbon footprints, plus they’ll throw in a free coffee. You can take the tree home to plant in your own garden, or sponsor it to be planted around the city. The fact that all the trees will be christened “Juddy Poo” is a little odd, but then even odd-balls do their best to help the planet. For more info check out his blog.

 

What is COP17?

 

COP17 is the 17th Conference Of the Parties (COP) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). It’s also the 7thconference serving as the meeting of the parties (CMP7) to discuss the Kyoto Protocol (KP). They sure like their acronyms (TSLTA’s).

 

This year they’ll be converging on Durban’s sunny shores, starting 28 November. For more information, check out their website.

 

What are you going to do to make a green difference over COP17?

 

Do you have plans to make a special difference over this period of heightened environmental awareness? Or is this a bit like an ecological Valentine’s Day, where too much emphasis is placed on a single day when we should be show our love for the environment every day?

Guilt-free getaway?

God bless our children and all that, but even a Veggietot Mom needs a break once in a while.

 

So it was with great excitement that I prepared for my night away at Duma Manzi Eco Lodge and Spa (those last two words being a very strong draw-card for me!)

 

First thing’s first – I kidded myself that this luxury getaway was classified as research because of the lodge’s commitment to preservation of nature through energy-, water- and resource-saving practices.

 

The lodge runs entirely without electricity – solar panels on the roofs provide most of the energy, with a generator to pick up the slack if necessary. No aircon, no TV, lots of natural light (and energy-efficient bulbs), and gas for heating and cooking.

 

 

The structure itself is built largely from natural materials from the environs, including a stunning boma made from river stones and a bar built from uprooted alien trees. You can read more about the lodge’s efforts to go greenhere.

 

Duma Manzi means “thundering water”, and this theme is carried through everywhere, from the river on which the lodge is set and from which they draw and purify all their water, to the streams and fountains trickling through the property, to their focus on indulgent (but water-saving!) bathroom features. Each suite also has its own tiny private pool fitted with an innovative chemical free ozone aerator. The lodge has installed a grey water system to recycle water, for example, for laundry and gardening, and all their towels and gowns are made from a light bamboo weave which requires less water for washing – and less time for drying.

 

 

All this water is enough to wash away pretty much any problems you may have, but for those stubborn niggles there is the most fabulous little spa I’ve come across in a long time.

 

Again, the focus on water is evident. Set on the river’s edge in a thicket of acacia trees, the spa is a haven. You’re welcomed with a luxurious foot wash, and then left to relax in the open-air Jacuzzi, plunge-pool and steam-booth.

 

 

It’s not often one feels so indulged and yet so utterly virtuous at the same time.

 

The spa uses only organic products, with a focus on the Dr Hauschka range. The gentle facial almost relaxed me into a happy little coma!

 

The lodge also has its own range of beauty products called Instinctive by Nature, made of 95% natural ingredients. This is the result of the owner’s daughter’s matric project – it seems both ingenuity and concern for the environment run in the family.

 

 

 

And if all this isn’t natural enough for you, the lodge is set on 5000 hectares of game farm. On the 45-minute drive from the gate of the property to the door of the lodge, I spotted zebra, nyala, impala, giraffe, warthog, blesbuck, wildebeest and mongoose – there are also buffalo, kudu, waterbuck, eland, oribi, reedbuck, blue duiker, bushbuck, wild pig and hundreds of species of birds.

 

The food also merits a mention, I feel. The kitchen staff all come from the local community but have been so well trained you’d be forgiven for thinking they’d been imported from France. Breakfast comprises a continental buffet and hot goods on order (the clincher for me was the impeccably poached eggs – with the telltale aroma of vinegar promising no cheap cheats of microwaves of little plastic poachers so common in commercial establishments these days).

 

 

Lunches and dinners change according to season and produce availability. My midday repast was a wholewheat butternut and pecan quiche and salad, followed by home-made ice cream and I swear I have never tasted such ambrosia in any specialized ice cream store (and I’ve tried a few!)

 

Dinner was a three-course affair complemented with local wine (we picked a Ken Forrester Chenin Blanc and a Newton Johnson Sauvignon Blanc). The butternut and macadamia soup was outstanding, and the mushroom risotto which followed really hit the spot. I had to be a piggy and try both desserts because I just couldn’t choose between the mini malva pudding with mampoer custard and the amarula crème brulee. I toddled off to bed slightly sozzled and extremely satisfied.

 

All their eggs and meat (should you be so inclined) are 100% organic and free range, and their vegetables are grown and sourced locally. They have a kitchen garden, though they “don’t do” pest control so the mongooses, birds and other animals sometimes interfere with consistent supply (I can so relate, with my own monkey problems  at home, but I respect their approach of just leaving nature to be).

 

I think what really did it for me was the attention to detail, and the personal touches. The staff are all friendly and chatty, and I soon felt like I was right at home (except being waited on hand-and-foot, which was a nice change!). The little extras like bubbly and choccies in the tub, and home-made chocolate brownies at bedtime, didn’t go amiss, either. My table setting was marked with a river stone painted with my name. Said stone now sits on my desk holding down my collection of URGENT and TO DO scraps – a little reminder of the tranquility of Duma Manzi brought home to the bustle of everyday life.

 

I think that’s what it’s all about, really. We can’t live in the lap of lux all the time, but we can try to bring little pieces of it into our daily lives – modest reminders of how life can be.

 

Eating Veg in the Zulu Kingdom

Anne Stevens I’m not, but I spend a fair amount of time eating out. Durban has a fair amount to offer the vegetarian diner, from a couple of dedicated vegetarian restaurants to plenty of places that are “vegetarian-friendly” (for tips on how to eat in non-vegetarian restaurants, click here).

Here are my TOP TEN personal favourites.

Of course this list is by no means exhaustive – there are plenty of wonderful eateries that didn’t make it onto this list at this point. Time- (and budget-) willing, I’d love to expand the list. And I’d love to know your favourite places so please leave a comment!

 

These are in no particular order:

1. Earthmother Organic  

106 Bulwer Road, Glenwood (031) 202 1527

This unique café-cum-health-shop-cum-alternative-massage-therapist-cum-local-designers-emporium-cum-farm-stall is totally vegetarian and organic. It’s kiddie-friendly too. Try the “full of beans” toasted sandwich with a freshly squeezed fruit and veggie juice. And the brownies – oh, the brownies!

2. Vrushiks Vegetarian Foods 

Mangrove Beach Centre, Somtseu Road, North Beach (031 368 7443)

This ancient hole-in-the-wall produces fresh karma free food daily, from breyani and traditional curry dishes to more modern menus with vegetarian “mince” and “prawns”. The only drawback is their use of polystyrene dishes, even for eat-in customers. But if enough people ask for it, we may get them to use real plates!

3. The Arts Café

166 Bulwer Road, Glenwood (031) 201 9969

Their lentil burger is something special (enough to share if you’re looking to graze), and they have a great veggie-friendly kiddies menu. I love meeting fellow mommy friends for a snack and catching up while the little ones play on the jungle gym.

4. Nino’s

Cowey Park Centre, Cowey Road, Berea (031 207 8516). Also all over Durban.

The Nino’s franchise has earned a space on my Top Ten simply for its efforts to vegetarianize traditional café fare. Nino’s now have a special focus on vegetarian meals (click here for more info) and they offer Fry’s vegetarian substitutes for nearly every meat wrap, sandwich and omelette. I mean, at what other mainstream joint can a vegetarian order pasta Bolognese or a cheese burger? Ra, Nino’s.

5. Plaka

Palm Boulevard, Umhlanga (031) 566 7456 

This elegant establishment epitomizes perfect customer service. I have neverhad a bad experience there. Plus, they offer more than 20 vegetarian dips, mezze items and meals (but their vegetarian mezze platter is enough for a main meal for two and is a veritable explosion of colour and flavour). Dolmades are to die for.

6. Indian Connection

485 Windermere Road, Morningside (031 312 1440)

Their vegetarian menu is almost as long as their non-vegetarian one! This poses a huge problem for me, as I’m used to having to choose from one or two (at a push four or five) items. We frequently have to order extra beer and poppadoms to sustain us while I decide on my order…

7. China Plate

Park Boulevard Centre, Browns Drift Road, Riverside (031 564 6437)

My non-vegetarian husband and I always order the exact same selection to share: sizzling tofu, stir-fried bok choy, and deep-fried walnuts. You haven’t LIVED until you’ve tried these walnuts!

8. Mamma Lucianos

48 Florida Road, Morningside (031 303 8350) Also in Glenashley.

It’s hard to go wrong with a decent pizza or pasta, and this place does both. I also love the romance of the red-checked table cloths out on the pavement, and their good selection of local wines. My personal favourite is their gnocchi.

9. Butcher Boys

170 Florida Road, Morningside (031 312 8248) Also in Umhlanga, Hillcrest, Pietermaritzburg.

Don’t laugh – they do the best butternut bake in town! I must admit that I could live without the crime scene in the glass case, but their wide array of veggies are all excellently cooked, well flavoured, and presented with flair. Stings a little that I can only order off the “side dishes”, but I thought I’d just put it out there…

10. Corner Café

Corner Brand/Cromwell Roads, Glenwood (031 201 0219)

Whilst the Café isn’t 100% vegetarian, there is an emphasis on healthy, ethical living (and all eggs/meats are free range). They also support Meat Free Mondays. Their slogan, “saving the planet, one cappuccino at a time”, sums up their green approach, which is followed through with a “no plastics” policy, linen napkins (and eco-detergents), and a wormery which feeds their own herb garden. I like.

11. Café 1999

Silvervause Centre, Corner Silverton/Vause Roads, Berea (031 202 3406)

Yes, yes, I know I said Top Ten but this one’s worth its own posting. For fine dining and individualized service, this place is hard to beat. The chef is creative and accommodating, and while there are always one or two cordon bleu veggie options on their menu, they are also more than happy to put together something to suit your diet and taste.

 

Perhaps one day when I’ve become rich and famous off my blog I will take on Mrs Stevens with a purely vegetarian Eating Out in the Zulu Kingdom. Until that day, however, you’ll have to keep logging onto Veggietots to get your fix:-)

There’s also a listing of veggie- and vegan-friendly eateries, shops and accommodation on the Vegan SA website:

The veganism directory for South Africa

I’d love to know of exciting places to eat in other cities. What are your favourites?

How to eat in non-vegetarian restaurants

Photo courtesy http://lancebreger.blogspot.com/2007_10_01_archive.html

 

There was a time when vegetarians dining out were restricted to the salad bar, or the ubiquitous token “vegetarian platter”. Today many establishments provide exciting vegetarian options or even whole vegetarian menus (click here for some great spots in Durban), but even those that don’t are usually accommodating to all their diners’ needs.

 

Try the following tried and tested tips to make the most of your dining out experience:

 

Research: There is an increasing number of vegetarian (or vegetarian-friendly) restaurants. Google prospective eateries and see if they display their menu online – many do.

 

Call ahead: Most chefs want their customers to be happy. Given a day or two’s notice, any chef worth his salt can whip up something to suit your dietary requirements (this trick also works for diabetics, allergics and even just-downright-fussy eaters).

 

Replace: Adapt existing menu items by replacing bacon with mushrooms, chicken with cashews, cheese with avo – anything according to your taste. Scan the menu. If beetroot is offered in a salad, for example, it can be used to replace a beef patty.

 

Pick and choose: Say the restaurant serves lamb with herbed mash, fish with a lentil compote, and chicken with roasted veggies. Mash, lentils and veg – sounds like dinner to me! Play around with the items that appeal to you and ask the chef to make you a platter.  

 

Ask: Be an informed consumer. Check whether the soup of the day contains chicken stock; enquire if the eggs are free range. Even certain after-dinner mints contain bovine gelatine (that’s cow’s feet), so reading the label will equip you with the facts to make an educated choice.

 

Speak up: Let the restaurant know your preferences – they might consider this feedback when they review their menu. Better still, take a business card and write to the manager telling him of your experience, praising where deserved and making suggestions where necessary.

 

Share: If you’re enjoying your meal, offer your non-veggie friends a taste. They may just order it in future, and the more popular vegetarian food becomes, the more prevalent it will become on menus.

 

Salad: Sometimes dining out is more about the company than the food. If someone else has chosen the restaurant and the vegetarian pickings are really slim, there is always the trusty salad. It’s healthy, can be really tasty, and it’s far better, say, than ruining a friend’s birthday dinner by kicking up a fuss about the catering.

Local school makes sustainable living cool

Veggietots is about raising planet-conscious children, so I’m always on the lookout for other events and organizations that echo these values. Yesterday we attended the Green-Fest at Eden College, Glenwood. I heard about it through friends, and thought it would be a pleasant, child-friendly way to pass a Sunday morning, and that it might be a bit educational. I was righter than I could have imagined.

 

There was a full progamme of educational lectures and demonstrations for adults, as well as an entertaining line up for children boasting theatre productions starring “Streetwise the Free-range Chicken” (I hope the Kentucky reference was lost on the audience…) and “Dora the Dungbeetle”. Workshops catered for all ages and covered areas as broad as tree planting, waste creation craft, Sounds of Nature Dance and yoga.

 

I wasn’t able to attend every item on the agenda, but I was impressed to see that they offered a Green Symposium for high school students and an inter-school Eco Quiz for primary schoolers.

 

An eco flea market in the main hall provided a platform for several local green organizations to punt their wares and services, including wormeries, green toiletries, eco booksellers, solar panels, and sustainable alternatives to plastics. For an observer like myself, it was a wonderful exposure to all the green options available in the city at the moment, in their varying degrees of accessibility.

 

But the part I most valued was the input of the youth. Students themselves reworked recyclable waste into arts and crafts and the proceeds of sales of these items went to the charity of their choice, the Reach For A Dream Foundation. What a wonderful way to instill so many good values: creativity, sustainability, entrepreneurialism, and charity.