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The Occupy San Francisco encampment was receiving so many food donations last week, they had to turn generous people away. Across the nation companies, organizations and individuals have shown their support for the Occupy movement by contributing supplies to the camps of people who now occupy public zones in reportedly more than 1,000 U.S. cities. These citizens are not merely erecting tents and staying the night, however: there is incredible organization going into the demonstrations. Many encampments have their own first aid tents, communications areas, and, of course, food tables. All the effort going into creating these temporary mini-cities reveals how popular the movement has become in the month it’s been active.

How did Occupy Wall Street begin?

The Canadian anti-consumerist magazine Adbusters first proposed the idea of occupying the New York financial district in late summer of this year, circulating a poster showing a dancer atop the Wall Street bull and posing the question, What is Our One Demand? Since the protests began September 17, many demands have emerged, including ending corporate personhood, raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans, shrinking the income gap between rich and poor, and reforming campaign finance laws. With its strident and raucous anti-capitalism stance, we could have expected Adbusters to launch a fringe movement that would fail to capture the hearts of a majority of citizens; however, widespread anger at the state of the economy and exploitation by corporate power have caused the movement to move towards the mainstream. Time magazine, for example, recently reported that 54% of Americans approve of Occupy.

Where does Cafe Gratitude fit into all of this excitement? Well, if you haven’t heard, our LA location just trucked a big batch of Grateful Bowls over to Occupy Los Angeles to feed the people camping outside City Hall (see the video below!). Ryland Engelhart, general manager at Gratitude LA, explained that he sees the Occupy movement as a call for unification from people across the country. Americans are feeling separated from each other and from our institutions, he says, and this may be a chance to bring us all together to improve our society. Luckily, the tent village in the City of Angels was still in need of food, so Ryland was not turned away and protesters got to enjoy delicious organic vegan meals!

We can connect food to the Occupy movement in more ways than simply feeding the demonstrators, however. A great article in Mother Jones has just been published, illustrating how the financial industry is not the only economic behemoth that has been consolidating power and causing angst for the majority of Americans. The food industry, the article claims, is even more consolidated and monopolistic than the financial sector. For example, just four companies produced 75 percent of cereal and snacks, 60 percent of cookies, and half of all ice cream in the U.S. in 2002. And since then, not much has changed, although the food movement is gaining steam, and will ramp up its power this October 24, the first-ever National Food Day.

Here’s hoping that the people on the streets keeping eating well, and that we can all start understanding that we’re going to need a movement as powerful as Occupy Wall Street to reform our current food system!


I find that whenever I make a smoothie or a shake, I gulp it down uber-fast and hardly savor it. This is usually because the smoothie is a quick on-the-go breakfast and there’s no time to take it sip by sip. Not that gulping a smoothie is a tragedy--not much effort goes into the preparation, so I don’t feel like any hard work is being under-appreciated. But the recipe today isn’t created by just tossing some stuff in a blender. This one requires more work, like pre-soaking figs and processing some Brazil nut milk. Therefore, I think it deserves more appreciation on the tasting end. Today I invite you to invest some energy in building a delicious mocha smoothie - and then doing yourself another favor by taking some quality time to enjoy it.



Tagged in: vanilla , smoothie , raw recipe , fig , espresso , date , cacao , brazil nut milk , Brazil nut

Yesterday I was cooped up in an office building all day, eyes glued to a computer screen. I told myself I would take breaks, and I did, but I didn’t take enough of them, and not the kind I needed. Getting some fresh air would have cleared my head, but when I get into the daze of a busy workday sometimes I forget to nurture myself. As it was, I emerged onto the Berkeley street at 5:00pm to a surprise - rain.  It had been summer-sunny all week and so the wet was startling, and--and this is interesting--almost immediately disappointing.
As I surveyed the soaked city street, negative thoughts streaked rapid-fire through my head: I don’t have rain gear!--I’m going to get soaked.--This is a terrible state of affairs.--Why didn’t I check the weather forecast?--It was stupid not to.--How will I make myself check the weather next time?--How will I get home right now?--Now I’m depressed.--Rain is depressing.--I shouldn’t have left sunny Santa Barbara.--I can’t live in Berkeley.
Holy smokes! A few drops of water had me questioning my longtime goal to live in the Bay! Notice how none of those thoughts--which all reverberated through my noggin in about a second and a half--were positive or uplifting. My ego, that chattering devil of the mind, had nothing good to say about the rain. But as I mounted my bike and began to brave the elements, I made a choice to flip a switch in my head. I was going to try an experiment--being grateful for the rain.
And I began to feel better, as these statements showed up in my consciousness: Rain nourishes the Earth.--This storm renews life.--I’m not too wet, and I’ll be inside, and dry, very soon.--This unexpected weather is exciting, different, fascinating.--The air smells so, so incredibly good.
I invite you to practice positive thinking in the face of the critical onslaught our minds are so good at creating. Next time you find yourself in a situation you can’t immediately change in a physical sense--maybe you’re wet, or cold, or crammed into a car for a long drive--acknowledge your outside circumstances, but then direct your attention to what you have to be grateful for, instead of only what’s going wrong. I could have focused on the discomfort of the droplets soaking through my clothes, but instead I put my attention on the invigorating aromas of a world thirsty for water.
You always have the power to notice and change your thoughts!


If you picked up a newspaper today, you would have seen headlines about Presidential candidates, the Occupy Wall Street movement, Facebook’s business deals, and an Israeli soldier about to be freed in Palestine. Beyond the front page, you might read about turmoil in the Slovakian government or Obama’s jobs bill. Most of these stories seem important and worth a read. But are they the most important stories of the day?                                             For some time now, scientists have been alerting us that Earth is facing a “sixth extinction,” meaning that in our lifetimes up to half of the species that currently live on our planet could be wiped out. The previous five extinctions, taking place over the 4 billion years the Earth has existed, are thought to have been caused by extreme events like meteors and volcanic activities. But the current mass extinction we’re going through is caused by humans; our pollution, destruction of habitat, and overpopulation are just a few ways we’re wiping out hundreds of plants and animals every single day.
Isn’t the prospect of losing forever creatures like the elephant, polar bear, and chimpanzee important enough to make the front pages of the paper, every single day? Why isn’t our national conversation dominated by how to save the honey bee (whose extinction would mean collapse of most ecosystems worldwide)? I’m not saying we shouldn’t be worried about our economy, that articles about endangered orangutans should replace quality information about the government’s plans to create jobs. But if we don’t work fast to learn about the crisis and to save species across the globe, the unemployment rate will be the least of our worries, since human survival depends on all the species that are now at risk.

If you’d like to learn about the Sixth Extinction, we’re pleased to announce that we’re holding a screening of a new documentary, Call of Life, which explores this topic. Watching this film might give you information and a perspective you will never get by watching or reading the daily news! The film not only looks at the crisis in biodiversity, but also the elements of human nature that have brought us to this point, and how we can change our thinking in order to reverse course.

Watch the Trailer below, and Join us in Berkeley on Thursday, 10/20!

Tagged in: recognition , news , film , event , earth , cafe stories , Berkeley cafe , Being present

On Tuesday morning I attended my first all-employee meeting at Gracias Madre; this was a time for the staff of Cafe Gratitude to come together, learn about challenges facing the company, share concerns and events from each others’ lives, and celebrate our collective dedication to the values that make our organization what it is.
I had been looking forward to this meeting, and with it, the chance to meet many members of the Cafe Gratitude family. But although I was excited, it was early in the morning, and I was coming down with a cold, so my attention soon began to wander. I began to shift irritably on my hard, uncomfortable wooden chair, waiting for the meeting to end. I was trying my best to appreciate the loving conversation taking place around me, but I was really starting to feel ill. But then, suddenly, something caught my attention. Chandra, our operations manager, was talking about the values we hold dear, including organic agriculture and veganism.

Veganism! The word caused me to lift my head and start listening again. I’ve been a vegan for three years now, and a vegetarian for all of my twenty-three; a diet free of animal products is essential for me. And yet in light of this, and even though I’ve also been involved in promoting these diets amongst my peers for several years, I had almost forgotten that this is a core tenet of Cafe Gratitude. A few days prior I had attended the Abounding River Workshop, where I learned the spiritual practices that guide our business, and in doing so, realized the multi-faceted ways the business supports its people and builds a vibrant community based in love, gratitude, and transformation. I came to see Cafe Gratitude as a place primarily concerned with the well-being of all those who choose to work there.

But if that wasn’t enough--a restaurant chain that supports all employees with a well-practices set of tools to enhance emotional, physical and spiritual well-being--this restaurant chain also serves 100% vegan food! And it’s not just some wacky hippie cafe in the bay area--this franchise is exploding, with multiple new locations slated to open in Southern California over the next few years, and a Kansas City, MO restaurant is in the works as well!
I had been so focused on the cafe’s concern for humanity that I forgot how that concern is only one piece of a larger compassionate puzzle. Cafe Gratitude’s ethics show kindness to humans, animals, and the environment as well. I looked around me at the 40 people sitting in a circle, and almost laughed out loud, because most of them looked nothing like your stereotypical vegan. It was a joyful laugh: how wonderful to see vegan food being embraced by all different types of people. After all, compassion is not easily boxed into one category or another; we need not be compassionate only towards the Earth, or to non-human creatures, or to one another. A life’s work can be made by extending our circle of compassion as far as it will go.


I first experienced the joy of kale massages at a retreat for student food activists on an anarchist farm in Sebastopol, CA, in 2010. Yes, I fell in love with it so head-over-heels that I still remember exactly where I learned it, and who taught it to me (an adorable deadlocked girl from San Luis Obispo named Anna).
Why did she teach me to knead these dark green spiky leaves? When kale gets a massage, it releases oils that help lubricate it and make it delicious to eat raw (untouched and uncooked it can be a bit abrasive). When you add lemon juice and olive oil, these soak into the leaves, since they’ve been punctured by your kneading. This means every bite of kale is covered in flavor!




My name is Andrew, I’m a brand new employee at Cafe Gratitude’s central office, and I want to share some inspiration with you. What inspires me is compassionate food--food that’s kind to the soil it’s planted in, the people who prepare it, and the hungry bodies that make it part of them. This inspiration has lead me to work with Cafe Gratitude, and also with another organization re-imagining good food, and one I’ll talk about today: the Cooperative Food Empowerment Directive, or CoFED, which empowers college students to launch food cooperatives.

What both these organizations have in common is that they empower people to transform their lives, with compassionate food as a catalyst. We like to call the Cafe a school of transformation disguised as a restaurant, because our core mission isn’t to sell you food - our aim is to give you tools to shape your life how you want it to be. Part of actively taking control of your life involves loving yourself, and a key part of loving yourself is feeding yourself really awesome food. So when you decide that you’re worthy of nourishing your body, mind and soul with meals that are kind to the Earth and her animal and human inhabitants - meals that make you feel and function great - you’re taking the first step on the journey of self-transformation.


The World Vegetarian Festival comes to San Francisco, October 1-2, 2011!

What better place for health-conscious, compassionate and animal-loving people from across the world to converge, than San Francisco? For twelve years now, the San Francisco Vegetarian Society has thrown its World Veg Festival, which celebrates vegetarianism as a means to become healthy, improve animal welfare and protect the natural environment. Held in the County Fair Building in Golden Gate Park, the fest invites anyone--vegetarian, vegan or neither--to come out for the weekend to experience delicious meat-free meals, learn to prepare heart-healthy dishes, explore the ethical dimensions of a vegetarian diet, and socialize. There will be guest speakers, such as veggie luminaries Colin Campbell and John Robbins, activities, vendors, and even speed dating! So however you want to approach or experience vegetarianism, or even if you want to get a taste of it for the first time, the World Veg Festival can offer you a fun and educational day in the city!

Date:        Saturday, Oct. 1 & Sunday, Oct. 2, 10am - 6pm
Location:    SF County Fair Building, 1199 9th Ave, San Francisco, California 94122
Tickets:     $8 at the door, or purchased through Eventbrite.
Phone:        (415) 831-5500

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