Wildeküche Isn’t Your Typical Vegetarian and Vegan Joint.
It’s easy to roll your eyes at a sharp-tongued Vegan. They’re all razor-elbowed and simmering with anger, ready to strike their hand across your fork as you dive in for another round of Camembert. “Yeah, I get it. The world’s gonna end if we don’t take care of it,” you hear yourself grumble, mid-cheese-gasm. If loving this is wrong, I don’t wanna be right.
But dammit, it’s true. With each bite, we’re destroying the earth. We’re giving lifeblood to capitalism. We’re bulging out our hungry-hungry-hippo bodies.
But how will the world change? Not with a bang, but with a helluva veggie burger and some killer “fake meat,” says Wildeküche.
The veggie and vegan women of Wildeküche—Nelja, Inga, and Patricia, are NOT annoying as hell, like those other ones. Not in the least.
My meat-eating co-writers fall head over heels for their witty banter, their stories, their knowledge of spices and how to cook almost everything in your garden (down to the roses). Throughout the conversation, the women simmer with life and vitality. Like many other vegans, they attribute this joy to their diet alterations. But they don’t extend this thought in a violent way.
“We’re ravers,” they tell us, after we try to label them. Instead of, say, the negativity of the punk movement, they believe instead in the positivity of the rave. Of peace. Of love. Of wide-open arms and dancing till dawn.
“We’re not against things. We’re FOR things,” they state. And for this reason, they’re FOR meat eaters coming into their restaurant, sampling their fine-tuned recipes. They want men and women from all walks, from all opinions, to think twice about their daily food and lifestyle choices. And they sense, as we all should, that a smile, an open door, rather than a volatile “DON’T YOU SEE HOW DESTRUCTIVE YOU ARE!?”, might do the trick.
Nelja, the head chef, discusses the menu as you might discuss something literary. It’s lined with references to artistic techniques (she’s trained in painting, photography, and video) as well as ways other people run their kitchens across the world. I’m particularly interested in her mention of the power of men in both the kitchen and art world, and how she strains to craft an ecosystem without this toxic tug-and-pull.
On Nelja’s menu, simplicity comes first: basic herbs, basic vegetables. She shows us a near-perfect salad of finely-sliced beetroot, mint leaves, lemon, pomegranate seeds, and walnuts. The enriching flavors stir together on the palate—the many paints of the artist’s paintbrush.
Not everything on the Wildeküche menu is vegan. The “tuna balls,” for example, are vegetarian. Incredibly, they taste just like tuna, right down to the “fishy” aftertaste. But Nelja, Inga, and Patsy explain that this veggie-not-vegan status is quite all right with them. It’s a first step to draw meat-eating lunatics (like writers Tom and Andy) into their spider-web of good health and environmentalism. It’s alluring.
The boys take to the veggie burger with a zeal not unlike theirs for a 3 a.m. kebab. “It tastes even better than some beef burgers I’ve had in Berlin,” Andy sighs, his mind lost to the near-perfect spices, the crunchy pickle, the whole-grain bun. We dip the thick-cut fries into homemade vegan mayonnaise-like sauce, and feel very much like we’re saving the world.
Tom digs into the Buddha Bowl, a selection of spiced chickpeas, wild rice, hummus, broccoli and cauliflower, and snaps bits of snapped tempeh from a kebab stick. He’s just a few days from leaving Berlin, and already he’s rethinking his life. Should he stay in his Kreuzberg apartment forever? Should he start eating rose petals, like Nelja says? Which brand of eggs is okay to buy, again? Is Lidl really destroying the earth?
Silence falls. But in our hearts, and the hearts of Inga, Patricia, and Nelja, the rave bumps on. We’re more open to this universe of peace, of healing. And especially of eating together beneath the Berlin sun.