On my first night in Wellington (Friday August 4) I was going to go to an Italian restaurant that I had enjoyed last year but I saw a notice in the YHA about the Friday night Cuba St food markets. After I had unpacked, had my afternoon coffee and settled in, I wandered over.
There were a few stalls catering for vegans, and I began at a Japanese one near the start, in a lane off Cuba Street, that made takoyaki – small balls of batter and a filling which is traditionally octopus. Luckily they did vegetable ones too. I followed these with some steamed dumplings from a Chinese food stall, then some other very artisan-looking dumplings, this time fried, from House of Dumplings. I chose the only the only two vegan options – Japanese six mushroom and spinach tofu bokchoy. At some stage I had some vegetable pakoras from an Indian stall, and for dessert I had a steamed sweet bun from another Chinese stall and a vegan slice from a totally vegan stall. At this one one I was informed that on the following evening there would be a totally vegan market in a dead space at the end of the lane so I vowed to return the next night for that; my lentils and rice would have to wait!
In the middle of the lane a guy was playing the guitar and singing on a small stage and I stood at the side dancing unobtrusively.
On Saturday night, after a day of art, I returned for the vegan market. At first I saw just a couple of stalls at the end of the land, but I then discovered a thriving open space inside a large room that was crammed with people and stalls, not just food stalls but also those that were there to promote veganism in general, including the armed forces.
It was so good to be able to wander between stalls and decide which of anything on offer I would choose, instead of wandering between stalls to locate what was possible for a vegetarian/vegan to eat. I started with a taco in a fresh soft wholemeal shell and moved onto some Ethiopian street food served in a spongy looking disc-shaped bread, or half disc if you didn’t go for all four options, which I didn’t. I think I had something else savoury before my banana sago but I can’t remember, and during the time I was sitting at a table eating the Ethiopian food a woman asked if she could sit there too. I gestured of course, but didn’t strike up a conversation as I was feeling solitary for some reason, and it wasn’t till a chatty, third young woman joined us that I joined in. I am so glad that she did, because the upshot of it was that the first woman and I kept talking after the second one left and arranged to meet up again early in the week. More on that later.
I returned to the totally vegan slices stall and tried a different one and eventually wandered off.
Before setting off for Petone on Sunday evening I cooked brown rice in a rice cooker and lentils (both enough for three nights) with an onion and Moroccan spice, fried in water, ready for my return. In Petone, while I was waiting for the bus after I Am Not Your Negro, I spied a community garden right on the footpath which had a sign offering people to take what they needed. I found some lovely young spinach and some kale and took a few leaves of each, which I eked out over the next three nights’ meals. I had also bought some more yams and broccoli, together with a Jerusalem artichoke and a carrot from Commonsense Organics, a food market I had joyfully noticed just down the road from the YHA in Wakefield Street.
As I was running out of muesli I decided to revert to brown rice for breakfast, so on the last night I used some of pasta I had bought in Oamaru, made entirely of red beans. It is so delicious.
Yesterday I met up my vegan friend A, and she introduced me to Seize, in Lambton Quay, where we had a bowl of mixed salads each and shared two divine sweet treats – a nut slice and a goji, ginger and orange slice. The day before I had eaten at Nikau, the cafe attached to the City Gallery where Everybody Knows… Elizabeth Murray was screening. The food was excellent but the service was somewhat chaotic; I chose a warm barley and chard salad, and a roasted carrot, rocket and crispbread salad with fetta, yoghurt and sumac but uncharacteristically had forgotten what it was meant to comprise by the time it arrived, so was surprised when two more plates of ingredients were forthcoming because it had been sent out before it was finished. Luckily by then I had the menu in front of me to write down my selection, and noticed that the crispbread was missing also, so that was duly brought out as well. I decided to have a dessert, which took an inordinately long time to arrive considering it only involved scooping some gelato and adding a couple of shortbread cookies, and a coffee. By now I had less time than I needed to add some credit to my phone, as it was running out at midnight, I had the Bill Frisell film to get to and the phone place shut at 6. There was a huge queue, only two people in attendance and everyone, it seemed, had difficult problems that needed to be solved. But I just made it to the front of the queue before I needed to walk to the film. I made it in
And now, as I write this, I am sitting in the common area of the YHA, having checked out of my room, and have just demolished my last exorbitantly priced avocado and some crackers as I wait to catch the bus to the airport. It is raining in Wellington today, but the bus stop is close by.
Still to come – some more about art, and a post about Karamea. At least.