Louisville Is For Vegetarians: Roots and Heart & Soy

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Earlier in the year I addressed the likely rumor that Louisville would be getting some sort of new vegetarian restaurant that would be making its own tofu. Well, this is full on reality, folks, and it’s opening tomorrow! With a soft opening this weekend, Roots and Heart & Soy are poised to be Louisville’s newest and greenest all-vegetarian eateries. I was lucky enough to speak with owner Huong “Coco” Tranh and manager Chris Sims as they took the final steps to open the doors to the public.

Roots takes its name from a literal interpretation: “Everyone has to go back to their roots,” says Coco. “And vegetables, plants…they grow from roots.” To her, it means that even the meat-like products they serve come from roots. This is plant-based to core! Coco was so excited to tell me about the different types of tofu and soy dishes, as well as salads and appetizers, that the more-upscale restaurant Roots will be serving: Clay pot tofu, crispy avocado and tomato rolls, fried oyster mushrooms, papaya/tofu/apple salad with peanut dressing, fresh udon noodles with soy protein and a chili broth…the list goes on and on. The menu is large and varied, with reasonable prices (nothing above the single digits) and a gourmet flair.

The restaurant has only one freezer, and it’s tiny by most standards. “We have no need for a large freezer…no meat!” Coco boasts. The walk-in fridge, however, is massive, and my eyes lit up when I saw giant chunks of tofu floating in black bins. Yes, the tofu is real, and made in-house. Real, local tofu. I can’t understate how awesome this is. The soy beans, which are non-GMO, come from Lima, OH, and go through an elaborate yet simple process that involves a coagulate and water. The result is what I would call “farm fresh tofu” that will be available for sale in the (meatless) deli area of Heart & Soy. Not only tofu, but soy milk and soy pudding will be available and served in the restaurants as well. This tofu production is the first of its kind in Kentucky; sure, there might be some die-hards making it by hand in their kitchen, but given that the equipment had to be imported from Asia, what Coco is doing is truly unique. Why don’t they use soybeans from Kentucky? Because all of our soy is animal-feed grade, fattening up cows for factory farms and other nefarious uses. Sigh.

Heart & Soy, which exists right next to Roots, is a faster, more street food-esque establishment that Coco hopes will inspire people to be more compassionate. “It is ‘soy’ because we use soy or tofu in almost all of our dishes, and ‘heart’ because it is good for your heart, and we make it with our heart.” She tells me that opening these new restaurants, when she already has Zen Garden and Zen Tea House (which is unfortunately on hiatus right now), is not about making money, but serving people healthy food, and making a difference. When a restaurant doesn’t serve meat, and uses minimal dairy (some cheese for toppings) – that makes a difference. When they use glass counter-tops that were pulled out of a scrap yard, and have recycle bins from inception – that makes a difference. And when the owner lets poke around the store and tells me with a smile on her face about her decision to go vegetarian and stick with it since 1998 – that makes a difference.

I’m really excited about these two new places, and while they aren’t 100% vegan, Coco’s heart (no pun intended) is in the right place. Roots and Heart & Soy will generate buzz for vegetarianism in Louisville, allow health-conscious locavores to buy local tofu and soy milk, and continue to show the country that we have people who “get it” in Louisville. This really is possibility city!

Roots (452-6688)
Heart & Soy (452-6678)

1216 Bardstown Rd
Louisville, KY 40204

Mon-Thur: 11am-10pm
Fri & Sat: 11am-11pm
Sun: 12pm-8pm

(Hours updated 02.03.12)

Website: heartandsoy.net/

How To Take Any Compliment

Free compliments

Free compliments

Through the readings of Don Miguel Ruiz I’ve come to realize that, as it is often remarked, a compliment “says more about the person giving it than receiving.” While you may disagree, consider that anyone who gives you a sincere compliment felt comfortable enough to do so, confident enough to do so, and had the foresight to deliver it in an appropriate (hopefully!) manner. For “fake” compliments, or those that you feel are sort of a societal expectation (“It was great to see you!”), there’s a way to appreciate those, too.

The solution here is, as agreement number two says, “don’t take anything personally.” Surely you’ve heard this before, usually in the context of some argument or disagreement: “don’t take it personally, they’re just going through a lot” or “don’t take everything he says personally! They have their own issues…” Notice how we always add a modifier to the statement, as if we shouldn’t take what people say personally only because they have something “going on.” Break-ups, anger, depression, job loss…this is used an excuse to “not take personally” whatever that person is saying, as if they’re taking out on you – but not really – because you shouldn’t take it personally.

But what of compliments? If you recount a tale of praise to a friend, saying “and then she said, ‘that was one of the sweetest things you ever did for me'” should your friend retort, “it’s okay – don’t take it personally – they’re a very loving person.” Here the tables are turned, but it’s a logical response to the above modifiers and excuses. If we shouldn’t take things personally because people have anger, then we shouldn’t take things personally because people are loving. This is hard to do, and seems extremely off-putting at first. It feels wonderful when some gives us a genuine compliment; who am I, or anyone, to cast doubt on that? Ruiz writes:

It is not important to me what you think about me, and I don’t take what you think personally. I don’t take it personally when people say, “Miguel, you are the best” and I also don’t take it personally when they say, “Miguel, you are the worst.” I know that when you are happy you will tell me, “Miguel, you are such an angel!” But, when are you mad at me you will say, “Oh, Miguel, you are such a devil! You are so disgusting. How can you say those things?” Either way, it does not affect me, because I know what I am. I don’t have the need to be accepted. I don’t have the need to have someone tell me, “Miguel, you are doing so good!” or “How are you do that!”

Need, validation, acceptance – these are all complex topics that humans explore on a daily basis. But what I want to get across is how to take a compliment, any compliment, simply by not taking it personally. Whether sincere or insincere, the compliment roots from the person giving it, not you. Consider the following: someone tells you that you are pretty, or handsome. Before they say that, you either 1) believe you are pretty, or 2) you do not. If you feel indifferent, pick a different adjective and feel on which side you come down stronger on. When they deliver this compliment, if you already believe you are pretty, the compliment is simply a statement about a reality, something you already know! Be happy, and joyful, that they feel open, loving, confident, comfortable, and determined to state this. If you don’t believe you are pretty (case 2), then there statement is a falsehood, in your mind, about the world. It simply doesn’t matter.

If someone says to you, “you are so ugly” and you believe it, then it’s very easy to take that personally. But while it says something about the person delivering it, it says something about you, too. They didn’t reveal a fact about the world that then hurt your feelings: you already hurt your own feelings by believing that you are ugly. If you don’t believe you’re ugly, then it doesn’t matter! They might as well be speaking gibberish. What they said comes from them, so don’t take it personally.

When someone compliments you, you can feel good. You can feel good because of the love that person is sharing with you – not necessarily romantic love – but joy, pride, confidence, aspiration, and so on. Don’t take it personally, and use their compliments to deflect what you believe, but appreciate their willingness to share, to be open, and to speak honestly with you.

All of this is easier said than done, but it provides a great awareness, or framework, for dealing with others. When my partner says to me, “I love you,” it’s very, very hard for me not to take that personally. In fact I do take that personally, and I often ruminate on what Ruiz would say about that. Use the above framework to take compliments (and ignore insults) from your acquaintances, new colleagues, and anyone to whom you have trouble taking compliments from. A simple “thank you” is still the best reply, but remember what you’re thankful for: you are thankful that they are sharing their feelings with you. You are thankful for their words, their honesty, and their love, however genuine or fleeting it may be. We can take any compliment simply by not taking it personally.

I highly suggest Ruiz’s most popular book, The Four Agreements. While I don’t align with all of the spiritual stuff, the practical wisdom is spot-on!

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Photo: Leandroid

Louisville To Get Local Tofu?

Is local soy milk in Louisville's future? (src)

I sure hope so! I recall this story from Consuming Louisville about 6 months ago on two new vegetarian (vegan?) resturants coming to Bardstown Rd (our “hip” district if you don’t live here). Even a year ago this plan was in the works: “Cafe Mimosa Site To Rise From Ashes.”

So, you can imagine how stoked I was to see this piece of news in the Courier Journal:

$100,000 loan to Heart & Soy LLC, 2240 Frankfort Ave., to allow owner Houng “Coco” Tran to open a restaurant and business that will manufacture and distribute tofu and soy products to supermarket chains, local specialty food stores and other local restaurants. The new restaurant will feature a vegetarian menu.

Not only are they going to distribute tofu and soy products, but the Consuming Louisville article claims that it will be local tofu – maybe from KY’s own soybeans? Let’s hope it’s non-GMO! This could all be hearsay at this point, but it looks like we are getting another veggie-friendly restaurant in Metro Louisville, and that’s a good thing! Along with Morels Vegan Food Truck (whom successfully met its goal!), 2011 is gonna be the year the ‘ville goes veg!

The Crazy World of Fundamentalism (Part 1)

The ever-liberal Huffington Post dropped two great pieces this week, setting straight some of the wacky fundamentalist remarks that two different Christian groups have made: one on how yoga is anti-Christian, and the other about creationism.


Heathens! Wait... (src)

A little background: a few weeks ago, the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (based right here in Louisville!), a one Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr., wrote about the “dangers of yoga.” In “The Subtle Body — Should Christians Practice Yoga?” he mostly quotes from Stephanie Syman’s book The Subtle Body: The Story of Yoga in America, describing how yoga “cannot be fully extricated from its spiritual roots in Hinduism and Buddhism.” After rambling on about ritualized sex, the spiritual connection, and heathenism, he concludes:

When Christians practice yoga, they must either deny the reality of what yoga represents or fail to see the contradictions between their Christian commitments and their embrace of yoga. The contradictions are not few, nor are they peripheral. The bare fact is that yoga is a spiritual discipline by which the adherent is trained to use the body as a vehicle for achieving consciousness of the divine. Christians are called to look to Christ for all that we need and to obey Christ through obeying his Word. We are not called to escape the consciousness of this world by achieving an elevated state of consciousness, but to follow Christ in the way of faithfulness.

If you think this is silly, you’re not the only one. Interfaith minister Philip Goldberg responded aptly:

What are they afraid of? Are they that insecure? Do they think so little of their flock as to fear that they’ll convert to Hinduism because they chant some Sanskrit mantras, or say “Namaste” instead of goodnight, or hear some tidbits of Vedic philosophy while stretching?

Goldberg makes the comparison that non-Christians are almost always under an indirect influence of the religion just by living in America. Christmas songs, holidays, greeting cards, even “bless you” – our lives our laced with religion left and right, and yet “despite the relentless exposure, there is no sign of mass conversion,” says Goldberg. Unless….is that the issue? Are people like Mohler and others worried about a conversion away from Christianity? Goldberg summarizes:

Old-fashioned religious supremacists are under threat not from yoga but from the currents of history itself. Reverend Mohler and his brethren may lament that, but those of us who welcome the rise of genuine pluralism and the advent of a rational spirituality can only say Amen.

Rational spirutality is another matter, and could be considered an inherent contradiction. Dr. Michael Zimmerman, who will be featured in Part 2, might agree that there is no such thing. Stay tuned!

The C Word

Does it offend you? To most, the word “cunt” entails foul language, reference to female genitalia, or a way of describing the most despicable of persons. But like religion or politics, most have a strong opinion on whether or not the word is acceptable. I think the exploration of this word is fascinating.

First, turn to Bill Casselman’s “Cunt: Etymology &Use of a Taboo Word,” a lengthy and informative piece on the origin of the word and why so many find it highly offensive. Casselman, a Canadian etymologist and author, writes

When the word’s profane thunder hammers the tin of an English sentence, women hear the hateful and total dismissal of what Goethe called “the eternal feminine.”

He makes the case that interpretation between men and women is highly crucial to the perception of the word:

Men, on the other hand, recognize something dark and redolent of body truth in cunt’s repellent monosyllabic starkness: namely, the male imperative to penetrate, ejaculate, and then make for the hills as quickly as possible in the hopes of chancing upon yet another opportunity to spread their insistent seed. No violins or perfumed love couches hover near the word. Cunt is a sex word with the romantic cloak of mutuality and lovingness flung off. This is also why men employ the word as one of the most frequent insults directed at women.

Unfettered by the extreme nature of the word, Casslemen explores the deep roots of the word, ranging from Ka-t in Egyptian hieroglyphics (meaning “vulva, vagina, mother and women”) to the Chinese Kun which an astute post-doc connected to “women” or “mother” in Ba gua. Both the researcher and Casselman posit that the trailing “t” alludes to a “standard marker for grammatical femininity.”

Still offended? Some want to take the positive slant (who can argue with “mother?”) even further by using the word “as a positive force to unite and empower women.” That would be Inga Muscio, author of “Cunt: A Declaration of Independence.” In a Bust review about the book, Ophira Edut writes

At its core, Cunt [the book] is a metaphor for unconditional self-love, a gentle call for women to embrace all things sacred and essentially female. And that’s not just lip service. Cunt does for feminism what smoothies did for high-fiber diets—it reinvents the oft-indigestible into something sweet and delicious.

London-based feminist Kate Allen claims that being offended by it is sexist itself, given our lackadaisical attitude towards “dick” or “prick”:

Opposing the use of ‘cunt’ is itself sexist, because it grants more respected status to a woman’s genitals than to a man’s. The extra level of offensiveness that many people perceive the word to carry implies a squeamishness about women’s bits – this attitude is in itself sexist or even misogynist! We’re beginning to get over that squeamishness, reverting the word back to its original meaning and reclaiming it as a descriptive term. This is a positive action, removing its negative connotations.

To the majority of US citizens, I doubt these arguments will go over well. We’re a society too shrouded in proper English, prudishness, and separate gender roles to unveil a taboo term into mainstrem society as a source of empowerment. But I like to think the movement will gain ground, sparking if nothing else a consciousness-raising effort of why we find some words heinous and others docile.

Note: producing an image for this post seemed crude…or is that my sensibility talking? Google the word for yourself and see what I had to work with.