Eat Side Story: Interview with Freddy Alva

Talking vegetarian food with Freddy Alva, creator of the New Breed Compilation and New Breed Documentary, which is being screened at the Alamo Drafthouse in Yonkers on October 16. More information is available at www.newbreeddocumentary.com.

Describe your eating habits, or those of anyone you worked with on the New Breed Documentary:

My eating habits fall along the Lacto-Vegetarian variety, meaning I do eat some dairy like cheese & milk but I stay away from meat, chicken & poultry.  I eat a lot of grains, pastas, legumes & also have a weak spot for “fake meat” products like Tofurky sausages/Soy chicken/Seitan meat etc. I would say the director & editor of the documentary are not vegetarians but do eat meat in a consciously healthy manner.

How did you decide to become a vegetarian, and what are some of your favorite veg spots in the city?

I became Vegetarian in the hopes of staving a long standing trend of heart disease that runs through my family so I wanted to avoid that fate or minimize it. I tried several times when I was a teenager to quit eating meat, will minimal success. It wasn’t until the summer of 1990, when I was 20 years old, that I came down with Chickenpox & was laid out for two weeks. This was the perfect opportunity to quit meat as I had no appetite whatsoever & it worked: been Vegetarian ever since. Only part that sucked is that Poison Idea played a legendary show at Abc No Rio that same week I was sick so I missed it, still bummed about that.

I love Indian food, especially South Indian vegetarian style so there’s places I like, for example: Seva in Astoria, Samudra in Jackson, Bhakti cafe in the East Village & the Ayurvedic cafe on the Upper West Side.

What is your favorite thing to eat in NYC? And what’s the best place to get Peruvian food?

My favorite thing to eat in NYC is Vegetarian fast food; stuff like Soy Seitan sandwiches, Veggie burgers, Soy chicken fingers… they can be found at places like Blossom Du Jour (6 locations), Superiority Burger. I also love getting in any Chinatown, whether it’s in Manhattan. Queens or Brooklyn: red bean buns or those Vietnamese Bahn mi sandwiches that have become so popular, Tofu version of course. As far as best Peruvian restaurants; you have to go to Queens. There are some great ones like Urubamba, La Coya or Chimu in Brooklyn. In a pinch, you can go to Mancora in the East Village, they make a great Tofu Saltado, which is a variation of a classic Peruvian dish.

What is the best thing you’ve ever eaten at a hardcore venue? And if someone was in town for the BNB Bowl, what is something you would tell them to eat that is in close proximity to Webster Hall?

Best things I remember from the past are: the Che Cafe in San Diego in 1991. I saw Infest/Born Against & others; the food was amazing at their cafe, still remember that. I also remember a Shelter show up the Anthrax in Connecticut, where the devotees brought tasty Indian veggie food to give away, that was great. Recently I went to This Is Hardcore fest in Philly & there was this amazing cart in the courtyard that made awesome Veggie Seitan & Tofu Bahn mi sandwiches. Anyone coming to BNB bowl, I would recommend Angelica’s kitchen about a block away. It’s the classic lower east side Vegetarian spot. There’s also a place right next to the Continental club, on 3rd Ave between St. Marks & 9th street, that makes these awesome “Korean Burritos” with meat or without. Of course there’s Supierority burger on St Marks, probably the best veggie burger in town at the moment.

What is the most notable thing you’ve seen someone eat on stage?

I remember Ralphie Boy (Disassociate singer) playing with Jesus Chrust at a show in a squat on the LES while munching on chicken wings & throwing the bones at the crowd. Another one is whenever Bugout Society played, they threw out White Castle burgers at the audience during their appropriately titled anthem ‘Castle Carnage’. Pretty sure I saw their singer, Charlie Boswell, munch on the burgers before flinging them at the crowd.

What is the most interesting thing you’ve eaten while traveling?

I’ll always remember traveling through Europe in the late 1990s while on a budget & getting a freshly baked baguette with cheese in Paris was immensely satisfying, practically lived on those. I’ll always remember this amazing concoction in Amsterdam called Vla. It was somewhere in between a milkshake & custard/flan, have never found it anywhere else. The best Indian food I ever ate was in Southall, London. Super spicy but completely worth it.

Have you ever been to Alamo Drafthouse, and if not, did you know they have an excellent veggie burger? Or if you’ve been, what would you advise people to order while attending New Breed Documentary screening on October 16?

I just peeped their menu & the veggie burger definitely looks like a winner. Also: their baked pretzels w/beer mustard, the omnivore pizza & tofu w/quinoa bowl all look good. I can’t forget the local ales they carry, love tasting regional beers. I have my eye on Doc’s pumpkin cider!

What is your favorite thing to cook at home right now?

This coming winter season I’m gonna make a lot of hearty vegetable soups. There’s  a cool Vegetarian cookbook that’s been sitting in my kitchen for the longest, about time I used it. Looking forward to doing some hearty lentil & minestrone soups, get a nice baguette & salad plus my favorite beverage: the perfect comfort food.

Anything else you’d like to add about the relationship between food and hardcore?

Food & hardcore seem like unlikely related subjects. At least that’s what I thought when I got into HC. It wasn’t until I met people like Adam from Life’s Blood & Dave Stein from Combined Effort Records, that my views on Vegetarianism were expanded as they were full on HC dudes that believed in the integration of both scenes; placing vegetarianism along political & ethical lines that complemented a hardcore & punk rock view of the world. My new breed co-creator, Chaka Malik, also influenced me big time. He was the first Vegan I ever met & once him & Absolution/Burn guitarist Gavin Van Vlack got a communal house together in Brooklyn; they would make these huge veggie feasts that convinced me vegetarian food can be tasty while being good for you. I owe it to friends like them from the hardcore scene for influencing this dietary choice I’ve been on for 26 years & counting.

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