?The role that food plays in our lives today is hugely important ?- it has political, social, ecological and communal aspects, and it should always taste damn fine,? declares Troo Food Liberation (TFL), an Athens collective formed about a year ago by locals and expats of different ages, nationalities and careers ?- some are involved in activism and social work, others come from more holistic and nutrition-based backgrounds, while still others are artists and photographers.
Martin Newman, a TFL member who hails from London, says that spreading the vegan-and-raw-foods gospel has been no easy undertaking in a city where such diets haven?t yet caught on in a big way. But members are doing what they can to ensure more people in Athens have the knowledge and resources to eat food free of pesticides and genetic modification. Newman stresses that no one should feel shy about getting involved. ?We work with many different people depending on our projects or events and I would consider everyone who takes part in what we do a member.?
Although dozens of delicious recipes for treats such as lavender ice cream, chocolate smoothies and a vegan BLT sandwich (in-season eggplants replace the bacon) feature in the collective?s workshops and on its website, the aim is also to make more people realize that what we eat is about more than just taste buds: Food habits and choices have far-reaching consequences.
?We connect back to our own bodies,? the TFL site reads, adding: ?Leading sustainable, cruelty-free, more self-sufficient lives leads to a healthy, happy population that is hard to control? Anarchy here is served with vegan coconut muffins.?
?We all have varying dietary preferences in TFL but a number of us are vegans, which means that we don?t consume anything that has been derived from an animal -? so meat, cheese, eggs, milk and ice cream are all off the menu,? Newman explains. The collective makes an effort to be cruelty-free ?- meaning not consuming any products that have been developed or produced using inhumane methods on animals.
The raw-food diet is also a big part of TFL. Based on unprocessed and uncooked plant foods that have not been heated above 46 Celsius (115 F), the thinking behind rawism, as it is known, is that not cooking food preserves its innate nutritional value.
If vegan and rawism seem like foreign words, the collective offers classes for people to come and find out more about the diets or to simply learn how to make minor lifestyle changes to improve their health and the environment. ?Expose the truth behind our food? is the collective?s motto.
Members also go wild mushroom- and herb-collecting, hold nutrition talks at kindergartens and high schools, provide vegan catering for parties and more. Followers of the meat- and/or dairy-free diet or people simply interested in finding out more will find a welcome support group in Athens.
Whatever their backgrounds, Newman observes that the people who dedicate their time ?collectively see the wrongdoings of the corporate approach to food. We at TFL believe in its enormous power as essential to a healthy life as well as a force for social change and justice.?
He continues: ?People help out in any way they can. We use their kitchens, translation skills, gardening skills… anything. We try to involve as many people as possible so that we can spread the word as much as we can… We take our influences from the people who are working around us, so the more the merrier.?
When it comes to the Greek capital?s culinary offerings, Newman finds it a mixed bag. ?One of my favorite things about Athens is the tavernas, which all have vegetarian and vegan foods on the menu, but when it comes to restaurants, the pickings are definitely slim. Almost everything is meat-based or with cheese,? he says.
How does the city compare to London or New York? ?Athens is fairly behind, but that?s why we are doing what we are doing. Instead of just going to London, where this stuff is already accessible, we are trying to create it here so that more people can access it and try to make a change,? Newman says. But the traditional Mediterranean diet is a definite plus for vegans and rawists. ?It is traditionally packed full of vegetables and healthy grains and uses the kind of ingredients you can grow in your garden or on your balcony. It just depends on the quality of the ingredients and how they are used.?
What has been the biggest pickle for the collective thus far? Picky eaters. ?The biggest problem is that people are set in their ways,? Newman admits. ?Trying to get people to change the most fundamental things, such as food, is always going to be in an uphill battle.?
Log on to the website www.troofoodliberation.com to find out about the new round of workshops, a list of all the organic farmers? markets in Athens, a catalog of hard-to-find foods and more.