Vegan Cooking Class

I'm still kind of in shock about how well the cooking class went. We've received nothing but compliments, and I feel like I had a big part in making the class successful. I don't even know where to begin. At about 2, I met John at Kroger and we hopped around buying all the food. We got back to the church around 3:30, cracked open some beers, and cooked nonstop for the next 2 hours. People started to trickle in about 4:45, and we had relish trays out on the tables with celery, sliced tomatoes, olives, and pickles. It was brilliantly easy and a relish tray is a classic Southern appetizer, so it went with the night's theme. People seemed to be mingling and talking, so it gave us a little extra time to cook and prepare. There was definitely something wrong with the ovens at the church: everything took like three times as long as it should have, but somehow it all worked out.

At about 5:20 we got started with the class, and by that time there were around 20 people there. John and I did a brief introduction. I did a talk on vegan health and also a little vegan mythbusting regarding things like a diet of nothing but tofu and salads, or overly complicated protein combining. Then Brandy talked about why veganism and vegetarianism is important to her as an omnivore, before Dan (another omnivore) talked a little bit about the environment and the impact of dietary choices. After that I did a demonstration of the chickpea cutlets from Veganomicon, and talked about fake meat vs. other protein sources. I emphasized that if you expect it to taste like meat you're going to be disappointed, but if you just expect it to taste good you might really enjoy it.

Then we served the food, buffet style, and took some time to eat. Chickpea cutlets, roasted garlic mashed potatoes, cornbread, and turnip greens. Classic Southern food with a vegan spin. For condiments we had agave nectar, bbq sauce, hot pepper sauce, bacon salt, and of course salt and pepper. People seemed to really like the food, which was awesome, and I got a break to sit down and eat with people and talk.

When people were mostly done eating, Gene gave his heavily censored talk about animal rights. This was so important to me, because although it absolutely needed to be said, I'm so cautious when dealing with a mixed audience. It's easy to put someone on the defensive. He did an awesome job, though, and the audience then started sharing their own stories, also tactfully, about their own experiences with the meat industry.

John then gave a quick talk on stocking a vegan pantry, and eating vegan on the run. It was a good way to show people some of the staples they might not previously have kept in their kitchens but might need to think about in order to eat more vegan food. Throughout the night, we also touched on other issues like eating local and organic foods, and using cloth grocery sacks. They integrated into the topics so easily, and why not talk about important things like that when you have a captive and friendly audience?

I wrapped up the end of the night with a brief note on how dietary practices tie in to spiritual beliefs, and then we served dessert. John totally bailed me out on this one, because when we met up I still had no idea what to do for dessert, but he had a quick fruit crisp recipe that was super easy and hello, cobblers and crisps are about as Southern as you can get. It was fantastic, despite the unruly ovens, and everyone loved it. We ended at about 7:15 or so, and the young adult group stayed for clean up and celebratory vodka shots.

Looking back, it was such an awesome experience. I'm a total introvert so speaking in front of a group and organizing and event like this takes so much out of me (look how pink I am!) but it was so rewarding to be able to share a topic about which I'm so passionate with new people. A Mexican theme follow-up class is already in the works. I can't wait.

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