I’ve been spending a few days in Portland, Oregon, also known as the City of Roses. The roses aren’t in bloom yet, but the lilacs are. Large bushes or trees of them seem to be everywhere here, in hues from light lavender to bright, deep purple. I came out to the northwest to give two talks, first at Portland State University and then at Portland’s annual VegFest. My topic? The environmental, climate, public health, equity and food security issues surrounding industrial meat production, in the U.S. and in the fast-growing countries of the developing world. I’ve enjoyed interacting with activists, environmentalists, students, philosophers, vegans and omnivores. They listened to and read (I think) my projected slides and then voiced some terrific ideas, observations and questions. The title of my second talk was “Your Burger or Your Car.” Ironically, across from the VegFest venue was a Hummer dealership. But I haven’t seen a single Hummer seen on Portland’s streets, however.
When I haven’t been speaking, I’ve been walking, visiting with friends and eating. (I also made a quick trip to Mt. Hood where it was snowing and people were skiiing. Quite a sight for an east coaster in May.) Portland has an increasingly lively set of vegetarian eateries. I enjoyed Vegetarian House in Chinatown my first night in town. My 90-year-old uncle, visiting from Seattle, also was nourished by the pungent mock meat and the subtle messages in the fortune cookies. Cafeteria-style Veganopolis has been great for breakfast, lunch and free WiFi. Today I ate a “Democracy Burger.” Not coincidentally, the three main contenders for the U.S. Presidency all have been in Oregon in recent days. At Nutshell, a hip, relatively new vegan hot spot, I bit into a 150 ingredient (really) flat bread — inventive — excellent greens and a beet and Fuji apple salad. When I emerged into the evening (cool, but clear and light until late), I smelled the lilacs again, and tried to inhale deeply.