Students promote healthy food with pop-up vegan restaurant
In the past, whenever students Ethan Tate and Caroline Caswell wanted to eat a vegan meal at a restaurant, they would travel to cities such as Grand Rapids or Chicago. Now, they’re taking matters into their own hands to introduce more vegan cuisine options for students and residents in the Lansing area.
The duo started Sprout and the Bean, a traveling in-home restaurant with a vegan focus, in June 2012. Here’s the catch: it’s a pop-up restaurant, which means it does not have specific days, times or even a location.
“It started out as a thing that was strictly about eating good food,” said Tate, a Residential College in the Arts and Humanities senior. “Now we’re more interested in making it more of an art performance and pushing the boundaries about asking questions about ethics of diets.”
Sprout and the Bean has served three meals so far, with one of the meals taking place Sept. 14 in Caswell and Tate’s house on Allen Street, in Lansing. Caswell and Tate said they plan to continue offering meals to the public on a bimonthly basis. The next meal’s date is yet to be determined.
The meal took a look at the contradictions that can arise in the arena of vegan cuisine. For example, while vegan food typically is considered healthy, foods such as Oreos, Fritos and Swedish Fish are “accidentally” vegan, said Caswell, a junior in the Residential College in the Arts and Humanities.
“There’s a lot of weird junk food that happens to be vegan,” Tate said.
Sprout and the Bean served vegan walking tacos, potatoes with a mushroom gravy sauce and chocolate mousse with a variety of toppings.
“When we do things like meld Fritos to home-cooked gravy sauce, it brings up ideas about what food is,” Caswell said. “We want to experiment more with enlightening people or have them enlighten themselves.”
Caswell and Tate cook all of the meals for Sprout and the Bean.
“We fell in love with cooking by being vegan,” Caswell said. “You have to cook when you’re vegan, you can’t just buy things.”
Because they cannot legally charge a price for meals, they ask for a $5 donation. Tate said they spent around $100 of their own money to finance the whole dinner.
“We realize that the money isn’t the most important part,” Caswell said. “I don’t think it’s why we’re doing it. We might invest a certain amount of money, and only get half back. And we’re OK with that.”
Taylor Davis, an Arts and Humanities and women’s and gender studies senior, came to Sprout and the Bean because she is vegan and has mutual friends with both Caswell and Tate.
“It’s hard to get a good vegan meal in town, so I think a lot of people really appreciate that,” Davis said. “It bonds people in your community.”
Jarod Emison, a Lansing resident and vegetarian, also attended the meal and the two prior events. His favorite part of Sprout and the Bean is the soothing home atmosphere.
“It instantly feels nostalgic and comforting to be there because the environment you’re submerged in is really inviting and comforting, I felt right at home,” Emison said.