WHILE MOST OF US are pondering things such as how to prepare a lamb roast or bunny-shaped marshmallow treats as Easter approaches, a growing number of people are, for philosophical, environmental and/or health reasons, seeking ways to eat well without -- without meat, gluten, lactose, nuts, shellfish.
Kirkland is no exception, now home to a large population of culturally vegetarian immigrants, largely due to Microsoft’s and other tech companies' employment of Indian and east Asian workers. Certainly, expose documentaries like “Food, Inc.” could cause even the most ardent meat-eaters to think twice.
There are also a growing number of people avoiding specific foods because of allergic reactions. According to a CDC study, there was a 20% increase in reported food allergies between 1997 and 2007. It used to be that peanuts and shellfish nearly completed the list of known allergy-causing foods. In 2004, Congress passed the FALCPA act, requiring companies to inform consumers on the label in plain language if the product contained any of the top eight allergens: peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, milk, wheat, fish, shellfish or soy.
As the British proverb goes, “One man’s meat is another man’s poison.” It might be that the food is not the problem, but rather the pesticides, herbicides, genetic modifications or chemical fertilizers used in its production -- hence, the rising popularity of organically grown food.
Health food stores and restaurants used to be hard to find and generally ignored except by commune-types. But these days, every supermarket has at least some “natural” food choices, and Kirkland boasts alternatives for eaters when it comes to “living without.”
In 1997, Taiwanese transplants Chin-Juei and Chih-Chen Chu Chang opened their vegetarian cafe on Kirkland Avenue. The tiny storefront houses seating for about seven customers and only enough space for a truly efficient Chinese cook to make piping hot, fresh food in the kitchen.
But Cafe Happy has grown a loyal following, and many of its customers are not vegetarian at all, but simply enjoy stopping in regularly for a completely healthy and tasty meal.
Chin-Juei was in the fresh vegetable wholesale business back in Taipei, while his wife, Chih-Chen Chu, was a stay-at-home mom, according to their daughter Yung-Hsiu, who translated their story to me. Lifelong vegetarians for all possible reasons, the Changs opened Cafe Happy with only a small menu. Over time and with customer input, the menu now offers dozens of items, including tofu fried rice, curry vegetable stir fry, several soups and even sandwiches. Fresh squeezed juices, bubble tea and ice cream are also available.
Somewhat curiously, none of the dishes include garlic or onions, which are two ingredients associated with meat-eaters in Chinese culture. According to a Chinese legend, says Yung-Hsiu, a Chinese monk ate a piece of meat and vomited up both the onion and garlic plants. Both roots are members of the lily family and contain antibacterial properties like sulfur and trypsin that can ward off potentially harmful pathogens.
But the Changs believe those effects are only necessary for meat eaters.
Way before "organic" became a commonplace term, Kuang and Jean Lin began peddling Henry's Internal Cleanser, raw juice and herb vitamins to skeptics and converts alike. They immigrated to the United States from Taiwan several decades ago and opened Greenline Organic Health, a raw juice and supplement shop on Rose Hill, in 1996.
Kuang is an enigmatic story teller, full of enough energy and vigor to power a man twice his size. He comes by his interest in the human body from watching his grandfather, a doctor in Chinese medicine. Combined with the Western practice of naturopathic medicine, Kuang strongly believes that, "the body is strong, with self-healing powers."
His theory is that most of our ailments are caused by toxins in the colon that are circulated through our bodies daily as our blood is continually recycled. To be healthy, our blood needs to remain at a pH of between 7.35 and 7.45.
"We change the oil in our cars every 3,000 miles, but we never think about cleaning our insides," says Kuang. The liver and kidneys clean our blood, absorbing toxins and chemicals that are then sent to the "exit." However, if the colon is clogged from years of fermenting processed foods, the toxins simply get recycled back through the body's system.
Kuang sells Henry's Internal Cleanser, a "nothing bad added" high-fiber powder, to scrub out the colon. The thick book full of customer testimonials, including many before-and-after photos, are convincing evidence that a healthy colon can cure eczema, constipation, balance hormones and even shrink tumors.
Greenline Organic Health Inc. sells a variety of raw juices, produce, supplements and tubs of Henry's Internal Cleanser ($50.50 plus tax). But, Kuang provides more than just health products: he educates, consults and listens--"I enjoy what I'm doing, because I see people change their lives."
Maybe gluten-free is enough for some people, but allergies seem to come in packs for many--chances are high that if you have to avoid wheat, then eggs and dairy aren’t far behind. All of the products at Redmond’s Flying Apron bakery are gluten-free, vegan and mostly alternatively sweetened.
And while it seems like a bakery that prides itself on what isn’t in its products could be a bore, the recipe testers have been perfecting delicious baked goods for several years. Sweets like cookies, cupcakes and pies, and savory items like Shepherd’s pie and macaroni and “chez,” soups and salads comprise the large menu. They even sell a cookbook--get ready for some arrowroot and xanthan gum!
The Pacific Consumer Co-op was started by 15 member families in 1953. Today, the more than 45,000 members own nine stores in the greater Seattle area making it the largest cooperative in the United States, according to its website. Because of very strict purveyor standards, customers at PCC are assured of no genetically modified products, no products with high fructose corn syrup and a huge range of organic produce and meat options.
Each store has a gluten-free expert on staff and free store tours are given to any customer. PCC offers more than 3,500 gluten-free products that are clearly marked with an orange tag. Even many deli and bakery items come sans gluten. Lifetime membership is a fully refundable $60--you can even pay in $6 quarterly installments. Though anyone is welcome to shop at PCC, members enjoy a monthly 10% discount coupon among other benefits.
Nearly all of the raw ingredients that go into Chef Holly Smith’s dinners are organic. This is one of the few restaurants that truly goes out of the way to accommodate food allergies. While many dishes are already gluten-free, other modifications, including vegetarian options, can easily be made if the staff is alerted at the time of the reservation. There are even several gluten-free desserts--imagine ordering something other than sorbet!
As mentioned in a previous article about , and both offer gluten-free items.