January 15, 2011

Vegetarian/Vegan Potluck in Longview

We're having the first of, I hope, a regular vegetarian/vegan potluck in Longview next Friday night. I've always incorporated vegetarian meals in our menus.  I've been interested and preparing vegetarian dishes since the early eighties.  I had two main dishes that I made that were big hits in our family, vegetarian chili and lasagna, . My chili recipe has just been published in The Flexitarian Cookbook.  I used to make it by the gallons for an annual Green Peace festival in San Gregorio, CA. As I progressed in my cooking experience, I wanted to make more healthy meals.  I was always a skinny thing growing up, but sometime in my thirties I began to take on some weight.  Most of the people in my maternal family suffer from obesity and the related diseases that go with it, specifically diabetes. My grandfather died of heart disease about the same age as I am now.  I believe it was directly related to his lifestyle and eating habits.  He owned a diner. I wanted to avoid that so I started studying more and more about plant based eating.  I started buying vegetarian cookbooks and experimenting regularly. Soon we got to the point where we were eating vegetarian most of the time, not just once or twice a week. Now, we eat vegan most of the time.

I love to cook, as anyone who reads this blog knows.  I couldn't continue making the same dishes over and over again.  This wasn't going to work.  I found NW Veg in Portland, Oregon about six years ago.  I saw an ad for a Veg Fest in Portland so I thought I would check it out.  It was their first one, I think. When I got there, I was so excited, there were tables of wonderful food, books, the authors of the books, Earth friendly ideas for home and health, CSA information, and much more.  There were over 40 vendors there with samples of vegetarian and vegan items I had seen in the market, but wasn't sure what to buy.  I had an opportunity to hear from the creator and co author of the Blossoming Lotus' cookbook, Vegan World Fusion Cuisine.  (Which is now my favorite vegan cookbook) I watched a vegan sausage cooking demonstration and promptly went home and recreated what I had learned.  Sometime after that I met Chef Al Chase and took his five day vegan culinary arts course.  I was so pleased when I got home.  Now I could not only understand what many of these vegetarian and vegan ingredients were, I could bake without butter, eggs, or milk.  I participated in the Master Vegetarian Program NW Veg put together a few years ago.  A ten week class complete with knowledgeable speakers and cooking demos. We even toured a permaculture farm in Portland and checked out a couple vegan restaurants during the class. The Veg Fest has now blossomed into a two day event held at the Portland convention center.  Check it out this year!

NW Veg has been sponsoring vegetarian and vegan potlucks in Portland for many years.  It's an opportunity for people to share their knowledge, ideas, and experiences along this plant based journey.  I've heard and seen some great speakers at their potlucks and other events. Another began in Vancouver, WA about three years ago.  I haven't been to but a couple because they are on Thursday's and Sundays.  Portland is about an hour drive from my home and Thursday and Sunday being 'school nights', I don't get out to them very much. I've decided it's time to try it in our own community.  I asked our local produce store if we could hold it there. What better way to enjoy our vegetarian and vegan experience than surrounded by fruits and vegetables.  Peter Spendelow, the president of NW Veg and an animal activist has volunteered to be our first speaker. He will discuss reasons change to a plant based diet, health, the environment, and the animals. I'm very pleased at the positive response I'm seeing in the community.  I think we're going to have a nice turnout.

So today I am off to the produce store to do some cleaning.  There's a little space in the back that was once a cafe.  I'm going to clean the kitchen so it's presentable next weekend.  I've rented some tables and chairs, I've ordered and printed out some literature from Vegan Outreach and the Physicians for Responsible Medicine website, I've had a lot of help from my friends, and I know what I'm cooking. I'm making spanikopita, a big batch of the VegNew signature Mac & Cheese, and some chocolate beet cupcakes.

So, come out to Payton's Produce in Longview, WA next Friday, January 21, at 7:00.  Bring a plant based dish, a card listing the ingredients, and your place setting.  You can come out for the potluck or just to hear Peter speak. You don't have to be a vegetarian or vegan. If you are interested in adding plant based food in your life, come find out What's For Dinner.

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