Written and photographed by William Bryant Rozier
What’s a vegan to do in Fort Wayne when left without an array of options from a get-it-and-get fast food joint or a sit-down restaurant? If that vegan is any kind of a cook, then the best choice is the at-home meal plan.
“They always want to offer you salad and that’s it,” said vegan Cicely Forte'-Wright, talking about the limited options presented by restaurants. “Since we’ve transitioned to being vegans, it’s been a struggle here and there when it comes to certain places.”
In Fort Wayne, the limited options include the Loving Café at 7605 Coldwater Road. Vegan food joints can be found all over Indianapolis though.
After transitioning to all-in vegans (with a short layover as vegetarians), eating at home created the opportunity for Cicely and her wife of 4 years Ayesha to start their second business together, Black Seed Vegans, a catering venture currently in its first four months.
Ayesha (a loctician) and Cicely (a barber) also own Glory’s Crown Beauty and Barber Shop at 4204 South Clinton Street.
“We don’t want to make anybody vegan,” Ayesha said. “A lot of people are eating themselves into an early grave. They don’t know what else they can eat that than can benefit them.”
The couple’s third paid catering job just happened, at the Big Apple Jazz Club night on April 8 over at Wunderkammer. Black Seed Vegans served their “Soulbowls” that are comprised of vegan sides: greens, dressing, and macronni and cheese.
“We eat anything that a regular person would eat. We just try and reinvent it,” said Ayesha.
The dressing’s recipe was reinvented from a family recipe of Cicely’s mom.
The mac and cheese also served at the April 8 Big Apple Jazz Club was another reinvention. Ayesha was spurred on by a request from one of her clients.
“My macaroni has vegetables in it. You can’t see it,” Ayesha said. Folks are surprised that vegan mac and cheese is still yellow. “What do you expect? For it to be pink? It’s macaroni and cheese.”
“We may have spaghetti with meat grounds which is a substitute. We make tacos with that. We also make fajitas and meatloaf,” Cicely said.
Identity Change Too
Ayesha Forte'-Wright never saw herself as a cook. But she does come from a family of entrepreneurs. Her dad Larry Forte' owned the famous Rib Cage, formerly on Pontiac Street; he built it from the ground up. “Watching him grow up was amazing. I wish I had watched him a little bit more now,” Ayesha said.
Her mom Gloria was a barber. “My grandfather, Hester Miller, owned Hester Miller’s Barbershop on Maumee.”
Ayesha’s embrace of her culinary skills took some coaching. “When I teamed up with this woman right here,” she said, pointing to her ace, Cicely. “She encouraged me to do my own my cooking. Getting into it now, I’ve embraced it. It is an expression especially when you see people enjoy what you created. I guess I am a cook now. Officially.”
Cicely Forte'-Wright cut her teeth at Anthis Career Center for a year in the culinary arts program. Cooking was already rich in Cicely’s blood, a gift from her mom Tombra Wright and grandmother Inez Stevenson.
Cicely is also Ayesha’s nutritionist, when she trains to compete in natural fitness competitions. “I’ve lost nearly 100 pounds,” Ayesha said.
“It takes a lot courage to do something different, [especially with] the stuff we hear from our friends.”
Vegans have to ask if an ordered dish was cooked with vegetable broth or chicken broth. Then they have to pray that their waitress or waiter knows the difference between the two. “The transition has been interesting,” Cicely said.
Ayesha (Class of 2003) and Cicely (’01) met at Paul Harding High School on the basketball team but didn’t get together until well after that. They opened their barber and beauty shop together. They prepare their food their and serve it as a duo.
They always get asked if they don’t get along working together so much. The answer is no. They’re good, they’re good.
Black Seed Vegans (Catering), Phone: 260.267.5627, Facebook and Instagram: @BlackSeedVegans