“In case I haven’t mentioned it lately,” says Debbie the bus driver through her microphone, “I love my passengers. Yee-haw!”
Hey, it’s okay. This is the 35, the O.B. bus. People are allowed to be spontaneous.
Debbie drops me right where I want to go. Newport and Cable. The Wednesday farmers’ market. Trying to buy local. Support San Diego, right?
The tents fill up the street. So does live music and lively talk. Everybody’s yapping, while the farmers yell to sell their cauliflowers and lettuces, and a llama-shaped inflatable bounce-room echoes with kids’ shouts. Real live llamas stand nearby, waiting to have kids plonked on their backs. It’s starting to feel like a regular South American mercado.
But it’s the first tent gets my attention. White, with a green-and-red sign hoisted along its side.
’Course I have to investigate. I mosey up to the tent. The two dudes working the counter fit the part. J.P. and Jeff. Specially J.P., who’s somewhere there in the middle of a big ol’ beard and reggae-style knitted hat. Looks rangy, thin, like a gentle-but-hungry lion.
“So what’s Peace Pies about?” I ask.
“They’re to promote peace, in a healthy way,” Jeff says. I think he means if you eat organic pies, you won’t be full of poisons that make you wanna rush off and kill someone. Or make a preemptive strike on some unsuspecting country.
I look over the selection. Just in case I decide to test the theory. Something for Carla, perchance? “Organic, vegan, gluten-free,” says J.P. “And all raw. So the enzymes are alive.” At the far end of the counter I spot what seems to be a piece of quiche, and next to that, pizza, with a brown base you’d swear was baked pastry. It’s spread over by some kind of hummus, with cucumbers and little tomatoes and spinach leaves on top. “Cashew hummus pizza,” says J.P. “It’s $3 a slice. You’ll be surprised how it fills you up.”
Next to the pizza is a wrap, a big, veiny collard leaf wrapped around a tahini-looking paste. All of these are $3 a slice each. On the near end, I see sweet vegan things, like $2 cinnamon rolls, a banana-berry coconut pie, a banana-carob coconut pie, an apple pie (all $3 a slice). What I don’t understand is how they can look so normal when they haven’t been cooked.
So, guess I’ll cave. First up, I’ve gotta taste this quiche. I worry it’ll be purest cardboard. I hand over three Washingtons, take a bite, and try to sort out the flavors. It’s…savory, in a nutty, pleasant sort of way.
“The crust on the quiches is mainly puréed onions,” says J.P. “And then we use ground flax seeds to bind it, as well as a little bit of ground-up sunflower seeds. And then we dehydrate it overnight at 100 degrees. Then we grind up the cashews, similar to the hummus. It makes, like, a cashew cheese. We use cashews, fresh bell pepper, fresh onions, sea salt, lemon juice, and then fresh spinach. So we grind that all up, stuff the quiche crust with the filling, and then the top is decorated and garnished up nice and pretty.”
Who knew? I tell you the first effect: it does fill you up a lot quicker than you expect.
But still room for a collard wrap. I order one. Another three bucks. It has a beautiful “pâté” that makes me think, well, tuna salad. “We use sunflower seeds for our base,” J.P. says. He also uses flavorings like fresh dill and dulse — seaweed.
Mmm. This is all so fresh and tasty. And then I go a little crazy and order a slice of the pizza. It doesn’t have the same flavor burst. I mean, it’s still nutty, but…Maybe, because I’m getting full, a) the “pastry” flavors seem pretty much the same, and b) my, how those seeds, maybe sunflower, stick in your teeth. It’s good, and you know it’s doing you good, but you start to pine for some other flavor.
So I figure, how’s about something sweet now. I ask for a slice of banana-carob coconut pie ($3). Boy, what a relief. Easy on the teeth, rich, squelchy with coconut shavings and carob flavoring. Okay, now its coconut shavings are clogging ye interstices. But it’s worth it.
Ya gotta hand it to J.P. He’s a one-man movement trying to save us from our greasy-spoon selves. He’s a chef, an alum from O.B. People’s Organic Foods Co-op on Voltaire, someone who understands the hell of allergies and other limitations. “I grew up in Rhode Island and always wanted to be a chef, but I was also lactose intolerant. That’s how I became vegan and organic and began searching for alternatives and going raw.”
He says he doesn’t just talk the talk. He chews the chew. Eats what he preaches. “Today, I have had a couple of collard-green wraps, two bananas, and two slices of banana-berry pie. I’m full.”
He buys nothing from regular supermarkets. “Vons?” he says. “Vons will never see me.”
This gig at the O.B. market is haphazard, though. They haven’t secured a permanent spot. And they don’t have their own kitchen to prepare these dishes. Right now, Stephanie’s Bakery on Voltaire lets them prepare their food two nights a week, but J.P. is working on finding his own location. They sell at the Hillcrest and North Park markets, too.
But will these guys always be fringe? Actually, Jeff trades stocks by day, so he ain’t no way fringe. And J.P. thinks people are gradually accepting vegans and vegan ideas as mainstream. “Raw’s just the next step. Sure, we can survive on it. How do you think our ancestors got along before they tamed fire?”
Love it. The lion raws.
The Place: Peace Pies, O.B./Hillcrest/North Park farmers’ markets, 619-618-6960
Type of Food: Raw, vegan, organic, gluten-free
Prices: Cashew hummus pizza, $3 slice; collard wrap, $3 slice; raw quiche, $3 slice; cinnamon rolls, $2 each; banana-berry coconut pie, banana-carob coconut pie, and apple pie, all $3 slice
Hours: O.B. Market, on Newport between Cable and Bacon, Wednesdays, 4:00 p.m.–7:00 p.m. Also at Hillcrest market, DMV parking lot, 3960 Normal at Lincoln, Sundays, 9:00 a.m.–1:00 p.m.; and North Park market at University and 32nd Street, Thursday, 2:00 p.m.–6:00 p.m.
Bus: 35, 923
Nearest Bus Stop: Cable and Newport