I thought it would be fun to interview local vegans in Salt Lake City since we're the "Best Greatest Vegan City in the World" or whatever. I've got some interesting people lined up for the next few weeks!
Crystal Hammer has been vegan since 1997 and volunteers at Ching Farm Rescue and Sanctuary. I was so excited she agreed to be bugged for an interview. :)
Questions for vegans!
1. In one sentence, why are you vegan?
Since humans do not need to eat meat and animal products,
there is no good reason to cause so much undue suffering and pain; especially in our modern first-world
2. Why do you think Salt Lake has such a big vegan
I honestly do not know why Salt Lake City has blossomed
into such an amazing vegan haven, but I’m really glad that it has.
I can speculate that it might have to do with those crazy vegan straight-edge
kids in the mid-90’s who first started getting other kids involved
in Animal Rights, and it just exponentially grew from there.
I spent a lot of my time in my 20’s moving around.
I’ve lived up and down the Wasatch Front (Logan, Brigham City, Ogden,
Layton, SLC) , I lived in Connecticut (Wilson, Norwalk) for a year,
and after all that spent an amazing 3 years in El Paso, Texas before
returning to Utah. When I first moved to the east coast, my mother
said to me, “Oh, there will be more of your kind of people there” but it was not true. I found Connecticut to be the
most hostile to the vegan way of life. If I was at any social gathering
I was often told I was just “out of luck”for food options and I
had to commute into “the City”(what they call NYC out that way)
half an hour by train plus lots of subway rides and walking to
get to any decent vegan restaurant. El Paso was certainly NOT
vegan friendly either, but it was so foreign and new to everyone I met
that they were super polite about it and would go out of their way to
make sure I had something to eat. But of all these places, plus
other places I’ve traveled to and visited, SLC has been the easiest
to be vegan in and has the largest variety of vegan food culture.
3. Do you consider yourself an activist? How so?
I certainly consider myself an activist, to a fault!
I spent every waking moment working on some project or fundraiser, well,
until I adopted my two doggies and two kitties this last year.
They take a good chunk of my time now as well (first ones ever in my
whole life, my mom didn’t allow pets as kids, and obviously my living
situation was too unstable for companion animals until now). My
primary outlet for activism is thru the Ching Farm Rescue and Sanctuary
(“Ching”. This non-profit is by far the best one to help out
in my opinion. They are local, they are farm animals so don’t
have the support of the kitty and puppy people, they advocate a vegan
lifestyle and all tours of the facility are educational tours where
everyone has to hear about how goats are the number one eaten meat in
the world, how Ching is overrun with roosters from the backyard chicken
trend, how pigs and cows are friendly and loving as much as any dog
or cat, etc. Lastly, but most importantly, Ching provides a lifelong
home for farm animals that directly need rescue and need care for the
rest of their lives! That is a huge commitment and creates an
ongoing and consistent need for volunteers, donations, and just plain
help and support.
4. What is your favorite place to eat for the following
(and why?) …
- breakfast - Vertical
Diner - their breakfast plates are heaven. The Avalanche with
pancakes, soy sausage, hash browns and tofu scramble is AMAZING, The
Mountain and La Mesa aren’t far behind in awesomeness.
- lunch - Union Street
Eats - gotta love Larayn and James, and they support Ching with every
spare penny and every leftover tortilla shell. Not only that,
but for a street cart they serve up some gorgeous gourmet dishes that
are all made fresh to order. Not many people know that Larayn
is a graduate from The Natural Gourmet Institute for Health and Culinary
- dinner - Do I have to
choose one? Sage’s Cafe is probably at the top of the pile,
certainly on Tuesday nights for their all-you-can-eat gourmet pizza.
I don’t know if that counts though because I haven’t been in a long
time. The boyfriend is a big part of that, he does not like Sage’s
and it is no fun to go alone. The last place I went out for dinner
was Mahidir Ethiopian, its really good but I don’t know that I’d
list it as my favorite. Golden Phoenix/Evergreen is a frequent
stop, but I mostly get “togo”anymore (see below). One thing
this question is making me realize is that I need to go out to eat for
- treats (what’s your
very favorite treat?) - Please don’t make me choose a favorite place
for treats! I love Kelly and Cakewalk, great food and great activism,
but the boyfriend loves City Cakes, too.
- grocery shopping - Honestly
I go to Harmons in Sugarhouse the most for my grocery shopping.
Its right across the street from my office so it’s super easy to pick
stuff up after work and they have a large vegan selection.
- coffee - not a big coffee
drinker, but when I do I go to Sugarhouse Coffee, they are close to
home and have a fairly decent vegan menu with treats from Cakewalk,
burritos from Rico, and more.
- take-out - Golden Phoenix/Evergreen.
I rarely eat in anymore since I know the menu up and down. This
is also my meat-eating boyfriend’s favorite place. The Pie Pizzaria
is a close second.
5. What restaurant has surprised you with vegan options?
Thai Basil in Riverton/Cottonwoods Heights was the
biggest surprise vegan-friendly restaurant. For MONTHS Faith Ching
had been telling me to go there, and how great the food was. Subconsciously
at least, I flat out didn’t believe her. How could such an amazing
restaurant be in Riverton and not downtown? She finally dragged
me there and I’m glad she did. Amazing faux meats, tofu, or
just veggies in a wide array of dishes to choose from. I think
stuffed lettuce leaves is my current favorite, Faith loves the Mongolian
vegetables with soy chicken (too spicy for me).