Punk-rock music is one of the reasons why Aaron Ash is a vegan. The owner and chef of Gorilla Food (101–436 Richards Street) says that the genre’s straight-edge movement got him interested in vegetarianism as a teenager growing up in Regina.
“The idea of animal rights came up in the messages of that music,” Ash tells the Georgia Straight at Gorilla Food’s soon-to-open second location across from Oppenheimer Park. “I started to also become interested in yoga, Buddhism, and ideas of nonviolence and peace, and it started to become clear that vegetarian food was the solution to a lot of different things.”
A job at a local health-food store at the age of 18 helped solidify Ash’s decision to stop eating animals.
“That was where I started to meet older people who were vegetarians, and there was something about them that seemed like they were brighter, healthier, and more youthful,” he says.
Ash eventually became a vegan, eliminating all animal products from his life, including honey and leather shoes. When he met a friend who was a raw-foodist—a person who doesn’t eat cooked or processed foods—Ash wanted to see if he could do the same.
“Fresh, raw, ripe fruits and vegetables are highest in nutritional value, and the longer they’re off the tree, then they’re depleting in nutrition,” he claims. “The more they’re cooked, the more we’re destroying certain nutrients.”
Ash opened Gorilla Food’s downtown location six years ago and has since witnessed a growing demand for all-natural dining options in Vancouver.
“I sum it [the restaurant’s menu] up as organic, vegan, raw food, and it’s nice that nowadays I feel like that means something to more people,” he says.
In 2012, Ash’s first cookbook, Gorilla Food: Living and Eating Organic, Vegan, and Raw, was published. Of the more than 200 recipes in the book, he says, the Blueberry Cheezcake is one of the most accessible for those who aren’t used to preparing and eating raw foods. The recipe requires only five ingredients and is a good alternative to regular cheesecake for people who want to avoid dairy.
“Cashews are a great replacement for dairy because they’ve got a creamy texture when you blend it,” Ash notes.
To pair with the cake, Ash suggests a sweet white wine or, for a nonalcoholic option, apple-beet juice.
Aaron Ash’s Blueberry Cheezcake
4 cups (1 L) cashews
9 dates, pitted
2 Tbsp (30 mL) coconut oil
1½ cups (375 mL) unsweetened coconut flakes
4½ cups (1.125 L) blueberries, plus 125 mL for garnish
1 Cheezcake crust (see recipe below)
2 to 4 Tbsp (30 to 60 mL) cashews for garnish
2 to 4 Tbsp (30 to 60 mL) unsweetened coconut flakes for garnish
- Place cashews in a large bowl, cover with water, and soak for two hours.
- In a food processor with an S-blade, process dates and oil until mixture reaches a toffeelike consistency.
- Drain water from cashews and discard water. Add cashews and coconut flakes to mixture and blend until buttery.
- Add 4½ cups (1.125 L) blueberries and process until smooth.
- Press mixture into Cheezcake crust. Garnish with remaining blueberries, coconut, and cashews. Refrigerate for 3 to 4 hours.
2 cups (500 mL) unsweetened coconut flakes
8 dates, pitted
1 Tbsp (15 mL) coconut oil
- In a food processor with an S-blade, process coconut flakes for 30 seconds before adding dates and coconut oil. Blend until mixture sticks together.
- Press mixture flat and evenly across bottom of 10-inch springform pan.
- Refrigerate for 3 to 4 hours before using.
Yield: 1 10-inch cake.
Recipe has not been tested by the Georgia Straight. Recipe adapted from Aaron Ash’s Gorilla Food: Living and Eating Organic, Vegan, and Raw (Arsenal Pulp Press). Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.