Earlier this year on a hot (ha!) day in Portland OR I was eating ice cream with my friend Jason on Alberta and he mentioned that people are always comparing Portland to Austin. This comes up for me all the time, maybe just because I spend time in both places. Of course there are the obvious similarities; lots of food trucks, the keep ____ weird slogan, and the bearded young gentlemen milling about. In a lot of ways, though, I really don’t see it. Austin is really liberal…for Texas but Portland is one of the most liberal places I have ever been to. They have a citywide composting program and they pay people to recycle. I swear you won’t find a styrofoam cup in the city. We have the whole live music thing and our awesome movie theaters and the world’s best spring-filled swimming pools. But really I feel like the biggest difference is that Austin is swarming with people who are trying to live the healthy lifestyle. I don’t know if it’s because it’s so hot that you have to take your clothes off a lot or it it’s Lance Armstrong or the fact that Whole Foods comes from here but people are really, really in to wearing the tiniest, tightest, most florescently garish outfits and riding their bike around. I told this to Jason and he proposed that it was just my friends that were lazy. I don’t buy a word of it because although my friends are indeed lazy (that’s how we became so close) that whole time we were sitting on the curb having our little convo I didn’t see one jogger sweat on by. I didn’t see one stroller that looked like it was made for babies to be pushed in a marathon. I did see people loitering about and slowly riding bikes in regular earth-toned clothes.
I think that has really made a difference for the vegan food cultures in both cities. In Portland it seems like wherever you go you can always easily find buffalo tofu, chicken fried tempeh, corndogs, chocolate covered doughnuts, or waffles with vegan breakfast sausage. In Austin you are often stumbling past lots of oil-free organic local kale, raw food, juice stands, and freaking sprouts on your vegan tacos. Not that there isn’t tons of crossover, of course there is, we all love kombucha, but Austinites are obsessed with being healthy even though we are all going to die soon enough.
A long intro to get to a little food cart on Barton Springs called Mister Fruit Cup. While fruit stands are common in Mexico and other Latin American countries, you don’t see them very much in the US, especially ones with vegan whipped cream and waffle cone crumbles. Mister Fruit cup even has a separate vegan menu even though it’s a fruit cup stand. It’s right by the hike and bike trail on Jesse with a few other vegan friendly food trucks. I tried some of my friend’s “traditional” cup and it was fantastic.pineapple, watermelon, cantaloupe, orange, cucumber, chili lime seasoning, lime juice, and coconut flakes. All the fruit was perfectly fresh and made me feel healthier just looking at it.
Even though it was really good, really perfect fruit, I still got the ice cream next door. Maybe I don’t belong here at all.