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What does it actually mean to eat responsibly? There are a whole bunch of people are trying to answer that question. And along the way, they're forming communities organized around the ultimate social adhesive: food. Eating with purpose, together. We've sketched out some of the local food niches working to remake our plates.

Those of us who are lucky enough to live in relative safety, security and prosperity have the privilege of being rather precious when it comes to nourishment. As my Soviet-born father used to say, whenever someone complained about a dish: "Starve yourself for a day and then try it again. You’ll love it!" With respect to this mentality, we consider ourselves equal-opportunity eaters. Food is great; we devour it with pleasure and zeal. But there's a caveat: The vast abundance of edible stuff available to citizens of late capitalist nations leads to negative consequences vis-à-vis ethics, health and the environment. So to a certain extent, being precious about what you eat isn't just a privilege, it's also a responsibility. 

But what does it actually mean to eat responsibly? Well, it depends who you ask: There are a whole bunch of people are trying to answer that question. And along the way, they're forming communities organized around the ultimate social adhesive: food. Eating with purpose, together. What could be better? Without further ado, we've sketched out some of the local food niches working to remake our plates:


Bubble bubble 

Mother Kombucha via Facebook

Even before Michael Pollan confessed that some of his best friends were germs, small-batch fermentation was a thing in progressive food circles. Fermentation is, of course, the old-timey process that produces dishes as diverse as yogurt and pickles, kimchi and beer, sauerkraut and kefir. These things are delicious, it's true, but they're also said to play a crucial role in our health, thanks to their belly-friendly bacterias. 

In Berlin, anyone interested in immersing themselves in the hows and whys of fermentation might want to start by following the work of Alexis Goertz, the cofounder of Edible Alchemy, an international organization dedicated to DIY fermentation and probiotics. On a local level, the group collaborates with venues like Prinzessinnengarten, Agora and Betahaus to host workshops organized around alternative food practices, storytelling and community. One recent event included a presentation from an edible-insect specialist, a talk about the relationship between food and feeling, and plenty of deliciously fermented dishes for feasting. Goertz also works with the upcycling NGO Trial & Error and runs Mother Kombucha, a company that supplies bottles of the fermented tea to restaurants like Parker Bowles. 


Happy bunny

Rawtastic via Facebook

Devotees say that fermentation supports digestion by transforming raw ingredients; the idea is that when you break down a food's carbohydrates, you make it easier for your body to absorb nutrients. Well, raw foodism takes a different approach. Though practitioners of this purist, plant-based diet happily nosh on fermented grub, raw foodists are less interested in transforming food than in enjoying nature's bounty in its most unadulterated form. 

That may sound ascetic, but when it comes to dining options, raw foodism isn't just carrot sticks and lettuce wraps. In recent years, Berlin's well-established vegan scene has exploded with innovative raw options. Arriving in Mitte last year, Daluma's cold-pressed juices and superfood-centric raw dishes made "clean eating" something of a catchphrase in this döner-dominated city. More recently, Simon Francis and Tugba Tanoren opened Rawtastic in Prenzlauer Berg, a lunch spot and juice bar serving raw, organic and vegan staples like chia pudding alongside deliciously clean versions of classic comfort food like pizza and lasagna. 

Daluma: Weinbergsweg 3, Mitte​, 030 - 209 50255​
Rawtastic: Danziger Str. 16, 
Prenzlauer Berg, 152 - 587 05349


Cavegirl in the city

Sauvage via Facebook

At this point, paleo is less of a food niche than a full-blown global movement. That's possibly because it's one of the few good-for-you diets that eschews calorie counting and portion control, instead encouraging the consumption of rich foods loaded with fats and proteins. Of course, there is a catch: Since paleo is based on the eating habits of our paleolithic ancestors, any food developed after the agricultural revolution is strictly verboten. Yes:

So long pasta! 
Tschüßie liebe bread! 
We’ll see you in another life, dearest chickpeas. 
Fingers-crossed arrivederci, darling cheese. 

What do you gain by giving up so much? Paleo practitioners report increased energy, brighter complexions, better sleep, raunchier rounds of nooky. A reasonable trade-off, all things considered. Which may partly explain why paleo has such a stronghold on this city's culinary scene. Exhibit A: This July, Neue Heimat hosted an international paleo convention. Exhibit B: Ever since it opened in 2011, Sauvage has been a foodie destination for its haute cave-dweller fare. Exhibit C: Berlin's paleo community keeps growing, what with the all-paleo Eat Bistros in Schöneberg and Kreuzberg and the Neukölln newbie Bonafide Broth

Sauvage: Pflügerstraße 25, Neukölln, 030 - 531 67547
Eat Bistros: Ritterstraße 26, Kreuzberg & Akazienstraße 26, Schöneberg, 030 - 443 26140
Bonafide Broth: Weserstrasse 6, Neukölln. 

Waste & Sustainability

Having none of it

Culinary Misfits via Facebook

To a certain extent, the food niches we've discussed thus far tend to revolve around personal dietary choices. But in Berlin, such scenes also bleed into a loose network of groups, collectives and eateries organized around permaculture, food waste and sustainability. Within these communities, the notion that food can do good in the world is central. But that doesn't mean eating well falls by the wayside.

Consider Cafe Botanico, a restaurant in Alt-Rixdorf that prepares traditional Italian dishes with wild herbs like dandelion and nettle grown on-site in a certified organic garden, according to principles of permaculture and biodiversity. Along similar lines, the Nowhere Kitchen project explores creative ways to cook with leftovers; affliated chef Pepe Dayaw's recent residency at Agora Cafe proved that this could be a delicious undertaking indeed. 

Speaking of waste, the whimsical Culinary Misfits in Kreuzberg have applied the one-man's-treasure philosophy to food by rescuing ugly, freaky-looking (but perfectly tasty) veggies from the supermarket rejects pile. Meanwhile, The Real Junk Food Project is dedicated to preparing nourishing meals out of food that would otherwise be fated for dumpster doom. Such initiatives may owe something to Foodsharing, a platform that has drawn attention to the issue of waste by distributing unwanted food from farms, supermarkets, caterers and more.

Cafe Botanico: Richardstraße 100, Neukölln, 175-111 2055
Culinary Misfits: Manteuffelstraße 19.

What's next?

Always be hungry

Veganz via Facebook

We asked the good people at Veganz, the pioneering vegan supermarket chain, to give us a preview of what we can expect in terms of alternative foods in the coming year. Veganz' product manager, Kristin Sebastian, told us she's seen growing interest in plant-based proteins like lupine and pea protein: "Products made from these legumes are perfect to substitute soy, which unjustly fell into disrepute." She also sees an upswing in interest in "native superfoods" like blueberries (raw foodists, rejoice!) and hype around different kinds of beverages: "Whether it is craft beer or different brands of mate — you could have 20 different brands in the store and people would try them all!"

Veganz: Warschauer Str. 33, Schivelbeiner Str. 34 and Marheineke Markthalle

By Nika Mavrody

Nika Mavrody is a writer and editor living in Berlin.