Now in its fourth year, Montral's Les Vivres is run by a collective of homegrown hippies, who use the restaurant as a way to promote veganism "through the love vibration."
"We feed people with love," says Stanley Steel Stan, a long-standing collective member.
Eating at Les Vivres is a colourful event. The giant paintings that hang on multicoloured walls are humbled by the playful fashion of the staff themselves: floral-print bloomers poke out from jeans cut off at the knee, rainbow socks fold over old army boots, an old flannel shirt serves as a bandana for a full head of dreadlocks. As likely as not your meal will be brought to you on a silver platter by a man wearing a long skirt and a pink lace-trimmed apron, with his ponytail sticking out of a baseball cap. The clatter from the kitchen includes singing and flute playing and the clinking of dishes as they are handwashed in an old porcelain sink.
Next door is an empty lot that the collective has transformed into a garden and play area. Last year they excavated two vans and three cars, cleaned up all the plastic bags, newspapers and used needles, brought in a load of soil and transformed the lot into a small urban park. They built a swingset for the children who attend the daycare next door, painted murals on the surrounding walls and planted a garden. In summer the lot blooms with basil and mint, red and green peppers, squash and cucumbers, and of course many sunflowers.
In the hopes of maintaining the garden and playspace, Les Vivres has proposed that the Montral municipal government purchase the land as park space. Stanley Steel Stan feels hopeful that the garden will survive. "Everything can be transformed with a lot of love."
Les Vivres makes its sandwiches on freshly made chapatis. Stanley Steel Stan suggests adding lettuce and sprouts to help digest the bread and to give the sandwich a crisp, fresh bite. For a sandwich spread he gave Kuanyin's Kitchen the unusual but delicious recipe for vg-lox, which makes great use of leftover pulp from juicing carrots.
végé-lox (vegan smoked salmon)
1 cup organic carrot pulp
1 T. lemon juice
2 T. olive oil
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
2 T. dulse flakes (You can find dulse, a seaweed, at your health food store. In order to make dulse flakes, dry it in a warm oven and grind into a powder.)
1/2 t. salt
dash of liquid smoke
- Mix together all ingredients.
- Adjust condiments (lemon, olive oil, and salt) to taste.
2 1/2 cups organic whole wheat flour
handful of poppy seeds
1 cup water
pinch of salt
- Place the flour in a large bowl and make a well in the centre. Throw in a handful of poppyseeds if desired.
- Dissolve the salt in the water. Pour half of the water into the well.
- Using your hand mix flour and water together to a mud-like consistency. Before the dough gets too firm, add a bit more water and work into the dough. Keep adding water in small bits until it is all added. Then continue to knead the dough for at least another 20 minutes, until it has a smooth, elastic consistency.
- Using liberal amounts of flour to prevent sticking, roll out small rounds of dough into flat, circular chapatis. The chapati should be thinner (2mm) if you're going to be eating the chapati flat, or thicker (5mm) if you will be making sandwiches.
- At Les Vivres, they cook their chapatis in a pizza oven at 600F. Stan suggests using your home oven on broil, and watching the chapati carefully for the 5-7 minutes it will take to cook.