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- Josh Huskin
- Left to right: Tim McDiarmid and Rebel Mariposa
Lopez's turn at cooking took a bit longer than McDiarmid's. The 35-year-old artist and performer is a San Anto native that fondly remembers Sunday morning trips to her local tortillería.
"Every Sunday, I have a beautiful memory of me and my brother walking down West Avenue to the little tortillería to buy a dozen fresh tortillas, a half pound of barbacoa, two avocados and then a lime and salsa and then we would walk back," Lopez said. It wasn't until she was at the University of Texas that Lopez began exploring the concept of vegetarian eating. She relocated to San Diego in the mid-2000s and began dabbling in vegan and raw fare.
"I always used to joke in California, that if a Mexican Texan can become a vegan, anyone can be one," Lopez said. Although her reasons for taking on a vegan lifestyle were two-fold—as a performer, she wanted to maintain a healthy diet for her active lifestyle as a dancer, and she also cites animal welfare as reasons she gave up meat—Lopez often chooses family and culture over being militant about her diet.
"I just kind of make the compromises where, if I am going to sit down and I have dinner at my grandmother's with my tías, I have the corn and the rice and the beans and I don't ask about it," Lopez said.
Once in San Diego, she began experimenting with foods and wanted to share newfound skills with area friends.
"What propelled me was I was raw vegan for three months and that's when cooking became magical," Lopez said, while likening her time in the kitchen to being in a science laboratory. "I was creating food, soups and dishes in a way I never could have imagined you could and I was loving it."
She began inviting friends over for vegan feasts in order to share beautiful, nourishing eats as a way to give back and offer her friends something healthful. This led to her helping co-create True Kitchen Creatives, which served as an outlet for plant-based food events and experiences. Lopez eventually found herself back in San Antonio in August of 2013 and she connected with McDiarmid through a mutual friend.
"She interviewed me and I think two days later I was in her kitchen working with her. Yeah, we connected right away, because she's not from here, I had been gone for so long, so we could bond in that way of having good conversations about our ideas and what we felt San Antonio was like, and we really enjoyed and we still enjoy it," Lopez said.
She's also spreading the vegan gospel locally while also helping her fellow man through Rebel Eats, an educational food catering collective with Nadia Casaperalta (a CIA grad who also cooks at Hot Joy) and other artists. Her two biggest events as of late took place in the summer and fall of 2014. The first was a pop-up benefit dinner for Central American women and children refugees in July inside a private residence.
"We took donations, but also brought down a truck-load full of supplies to the Valley," Lopez said. In November, the collective hosted a fundraiser for UTSA's Mexican American Alumni Association.
The menu for the second fundraiser was slated as a Mexican-style brunch inside Señor Veggie, complete with jackfruit barbacoa, a tortilla de papa similar to a tortilla española, a nopal and pumpkin scramble, crepes, pozole and chocolate donuts—all vegan, of course.
Any hesitation by Lopez, as to whether her audience will embrace vegan eats, is quickly put to rest by her take on presentation.
"Nadia and I work together so well, and I tell her, 'We just have to make things sexy," Lopez said. "You make it with all these great spices, and you make it look delicious so that when they eat it you make sure it's really delicious, so it's orgasmic in the mouth."
Such hits have included pumpkin and black bean chili for a Halloween party, along with barbecue jackfruit sliders, but much like McDiarmid, Lopez changes menus according to her clients needs, within reason and season.
"I have an uncle who's been in the produce business for 30 years and that's the one that I call and say, 'These are the things I need, what can your farmers get me?'" Lopez said.
She's trying to help re-envision plates across the board.
"I understand wanting a breakfast taco, of course. I don't think that breakfast tacos are evil. I just think that breakfast tacos can look different. They don't always have to be potato and egg or bacon and egg or carne guisada. It can be a corn tortilla and some nopales," Lopez said.
For Lopez, eating vegetables shouldn't be off-putting.
"I don't think people should be afraid. I just went to Mexico in October, where everyone drinks licuados and jugos," Lopez said. "This whole juicing thing isn't new ... we shouldn't forget that connection in most cultures."