SXSW and Food for Lovers

Sometimes life is awesome and gives you a tax refund, then an opportunity to go to a gigantic music festival for a week.

Oh yeah, South By South West baby.

hashtag-me-happy^because all the coolest still have bloody flip phones.

I took my tax refund and hopped in a van with two friends of a friend, and the three of us peaced out of Phoenix for Austin, Texas the Sunday before last.  The whole thing was one random hilarity after another, with little nuggets of soul-searching beauty and small revelations.  For instance, you know what I would rather be than funny?  Authentic.  I realized on this trip that while I used to take pride in the shit I could talk, lately I’m more into truth than sarcasm.  I’d rather be an instrument of love and peace, as cheesy as that sounds, than someone known for their sense of humor.

…speaking of cheesy, at SXSW I actually met the creators of the World’s first Vegan Queso.  You know me; I love decadent vegan food, and I love people who make a living doing something they believe in, so I totally ditched a concert to hear their story.

Meet Crystal and Chris Tate, the most adorable little vegan couple to ever take the country’s Mexican food-lovers by storm.


I seriously just wanted to be their friend, they were that cool.  I talked with Crystal the most (over nachos, of course) about how this Austin-based queso found its way all over the country’s stores, as well as numerous restaurants.

A little background; When Crystal and Chris met, he was already vegan and she was already Hispanic, so their friendship formed over a love of tamales, burritos and the like.  Then it became more than friendship and she became vegan, and voila, the two were hanging out in Texas trying to live on a budget and eat delicious food reminiscent of Crystal’s background.

“We were so poor,” Crystal laughs.  “We used to walk to Taco Bell and split a bean burrito; that was our ‘going out’”.

Crystal, since feeling so much better on a plant-based diet, started a food blog where she shared tips and recipes.  One recipe in particular (this is where it gets good!) started getting an absurd number of hits a day.


Chris got all entrepreneur-esque and suggested they take the recipe offline and start selling it.  Eventually the owner of Bouldin Creek Café, in Austin, had a taste and went absolutely nuts for it.  The three worked out a plan, and Bouldin started selling Crystal and Chris’s queso.    Within the first year they café sold over 300 gallons of the off-menu queso, just from mentioning it to customers.  Word spread, and in December of 2010 Whole Foods realized they needed to capitalize on this as well.  They called up our favorite couple and the rest is history.


Today?  You can find this stuff anywhere.  Its sold all over the country, in tiny health-conscious restaurants (like Green!) and in huge health food superstores like Sprouts and Whole Foods.  Crystal and Chris come off like two kids who just won a prize at the state fair; they’re all wide-eyed about their success, totally humble and overflowing with gratitude for the supportive “love letters” their fans keep sending.

“Ten years ago we had, like, soy milk, and that was it for vegans,” Chris said.  “It’s just so cool to see this movement toward a more conscious way of eating, and people are realizing it doesn’t have to be plain and boring.”

And its queso that is a soy-free, twenty calories per serving (two tablespoons) and is naturally cholesterol-free.  AND your purchase supports individuals, not just some huge corporation.

The only sad thing about it is the gluten-free version hasn’t hit the shelves yet, but it will this summer.  You’re going to hear a shout for joy across so many GFV tables.

I asked the Tates what they would say to the general public about this whole thing, and both were in agreement; if their story is any testimony to the rest of us, its that you certainly can be the change you want to see in the world, and be successful doing so.

She says the most rewarding part of this entire whirlwind experience has been when they’re giving samples away in grocery stores.

“People will hand us their regular queso and buy ours instead.  They think it tastes better and they’d rather eat something healthier than not.”

That’s pretty awesome.  The more people find out about the food choices we have, the more they’re likely to chose a more sustainable and cruelty-free option.  Its all about exposing people to what’s out there.  This was honestly one of the highlights of South By; I certainly don’t want to punch numbers all day for the rest of my life; I want to work at something independent, geographically un-tethered, and consistent with my beliefs.  If these two can do it, why can’t any of us?

“Its not just huge companies that can do things like this,” Crystal insists.  “We were just making this out of our kitchen, and now look at it.  It’s in restaurants I didn’t even know existed.”

Find these loves on Facebook and go check out their website,  And let’s support people who are doing things.

100_1834^cheesy as peace and love on the way home

Let’s talk about depression.

Let’s just do it.

Now, the first thing we have to get out of the way re; depression is that its not all black and white, and depression isn’t something that only friendless losers catch like a cold.  You can’t pick the depressed out of a crowd of people because we look and act much the same way as everyone else.  We’re just more bummed out.

Hey guys, I’m Jess, and I have chronic depression.   I want to say I struggle with it, but what the hell does “struggling” with something even mean?  Who came up with this metaphor?  Ok yeah, I don’t want to be all depressed all the time, but if by struggling you mean I’m living my life as damage control and plugging my ears (“la la la la la”) to all those “triggers”, then no, I’m not fucking struggling with depression anymore.

I’m owning it.

I want to tell you that I’m depressed because A.) my bestie was butchered last fall or B.) because it was winter or C.) because I’m not making enough money/have pimples/my iTunes is really sad, but the truth is I’ve been depressed since I was like thirteen.  And I have lived as damage control, trying not to see, hear, or speak any depression trigger.

At this point though, I’m tired of acting like my chemical imbalance is something I need to hide from you guys.  What’s worse than being depressed?  Getting even more depressed because you’ve isolated yourself, which you did so as to keep from showing them the initial depression.  Because how dare you, Christian, (Christian white American female in the 21st century, no less) be bummed out?

There’s a weird kind’ve pride in being sad, too, which also makes it harder to get help.  If you’re not depressed, that’s fine.  We still like you, even if we don’t necessarily trust you.  We wish we were like you, although we hold suspicions that you must be completely vapid not to see how sad this life actually is.

Anyway, I wanted to let you, dear Depressed, know a few strategies for coping with being what a friend of mine once called a “morose bastard.”

  1. Own it.  Just accept it.  You’re bummed out, and you need to stop feeling so guilty about it.  Most of the chronically depressed people I know have no good reason for being that way.  They just are.  And you know what?  You just are the way you are.  Chew on that.  Maybe this is weird advice, ‘cuz like, who wants to “own” their personality disorder, but dude, its going to be there anyway so you might as well treat it like family.
  2. Admit it.  Yes, even to the ones who aren’t bummed.  I know that’s difficult because you have this sinking fear that you’re going to evoke eyebrow furrows and a non-comprehending, “like, seriously? What have you got to be sad about?”  But you’ve gotta just do it.  If you’re me you’ll play it off really cool, with a smile and maybe a dance move.  “I’m chronically bummed out! Haha! Watch me twerk it!”  This is really hard, I know, and you’ll want to be sarcastic about it.  But stop.  The church, while traditionally being the absolute worst to admit being bummed, is getting better.  “Depression” isn’t as dirty of a word as it used to be around here.  It used to be all “Jesus Jesus Jesus”, but they’re getting better at being like “Jesus Wellbutrin Jesus” these days.  When cornered, I used to admit my depression with an attitude of defiance and self-defense.  Like, “Yeah, I’m bummed out.  COME AT ME BRO.”  But I’ve learned to be more gracious with people, because Lord knows I need the same grace exhibited for me.  I know you’re still going to run into those assholes who can’t understand how you can possibly grasp an iota of what redemption means and still struggle to get out of bed some mornings, but trust me on this; there are gems in the church, and they love people like you.  They do! They love honesty.
  3. Then.  Go talk to a professional.  I’m serious here.  Go get shrinked.  I think everyone needs to be in counseling, because (shocker) we were all raised by imperfect people and we were dropped into an imperfect world, and not only that but we were given imperfect bodies and imperfect desires.  So go talk to someone who’s spent way too much money on a couple degrees in psychology and wants to make it their entire life’s work to hear people’s stories.  Go tell your story.  Tell the gritty parts, too.  My brother’s mentor told him that most people go to counseling and delve into 85% of the pain and anger or their lives, but keep the 15% locked up inside.  Fuck that.  Tell the 15%.
  4. Start doing things.  Do things like go swing dancing.  Or film your own Harlem Shake video.  Walk your dog for hours along the canal behind your house.  Pray.  Agree last minute to go on a road trip to Austin next week.  Skype your Aussie friends.  Read.  Call your dad. Go watch the stupid bachelorette finale with friends.  DON’T LISTEN TO JOE PURDY*.


I don’t know, man, because I’m in it too.  But these things help.  You can’t live doing damage control all the time.  You can’t edit your soul.


And on that note, I’m back.  Hai guyz

*Purdy’s my absolute favorite, and I’m chronically depressed, so I give him a hard time.  Its all with the utmost affection.  And tears.