I received an exciting invitation to participate in a cooking demonstration. The invitation came via an email from the director of Vegan Action explaining the organization’s initiative in working with the community in the upcoming months. Vegan Action is a respected and well known vegan organization. But if you are not familiar with their work, you have seen their logo on most of all the vegan products on your local grocery store shelves. Their logo is a letter V along with their name which is on the back of certified vegan products. To be deemed certified vegan, a product must not contain any ingredient from or derived from animals.
In addition there are other criteria that need to be met before the product gets the stamp of approval which is listed along with the application on their website. Through my conversation with Vegan Action’s executive director Krissi Vandenberg, I found out that we met a few years ago during another cooking demonstration I did at another event. She kept my business card all those years later. This was great to know because it’s always a pleasure to be recognized for my expertise. And to have the opportunity to inspire and educate others is always my goal.
EMPOWERING YOUNG GIRLS TO GO VEGAN
As a long time vegan, promoting wellness, animal welfare, and sustainability aligns with my personal and professional beliefs. It was an obvious choice for me to work with Vegan Action and accept their commission, as our values and goals are completely in sync. It was clear from the start that we share a mutual commitment to the same principles and priorities, and I was excited to contribute my skills and expertise to their cause. After confirming a date, location and that I would be cooking with girls ages 11-13, my immediate focus was to go into plan mode.
I wanted to plan an exciting and informative cooking demonstration that would keep the young girls engaged. Because I was once their age and have a daughter in this age group, I knew that I had to brainstorm ideas for the menu, choose a stress free recipe, and coming up with creative ways to ensure that the cooking demo was both informative and fun. If you know young girls these days, you know that some form of entertainment, personality and group participation has be present before they utter a word to you as well.
MAPPING OUT THE PLAN
I wrote out a plan on what foods would be good to include in my presentation. I leaned to fresh vegetables as this is the best way to first introduce a vegan diet to anyone. My purpose was to move the girls away from processed or prepackaged vegan food. I wanted them to know that there are fresh foods they could combine to make a whole meal. The fact that we were all were meeting up at a local organic farm was an extra plus. Vegan Action chose Sankofa Community Orchard in Richmond, Virginia as the host farm for our cooking demonstration. I thought this was a brilliant idea since hosting a vegan food demonstration at a farm can be an excellent way to promote not just plant-based eating but also sustainable agriculture. After being aware of our plans with Sankofa Community Orchard, I was even more determined to create a unforgettable cooking demonstration. I need to be one that would give inspiration to the attendees to eat consciously by taking in consideration how food is grown and sourced.
FARM TO TABLE EXPERIENCE
After doing a little research on Sankofa Community Orchard, I realized how my involvement would be a full circle moment. I realized that I had a connection to this beautiful farm that was only built two years prior in 2021. See, the owner and developer of the farm was my farming instructor in 2017. Duron Chavis, owns several farms in Richmond and in 2017 he hosted and taught a few of us in his farming program, Southside Growers Academy. It was a carefully instructed bootcamp experience held for a number of weeks.
I learned a lot about farming and connected with others in the Richmond area who I have even become friends with. At the time, I was also hosting plant based cooking classes and did several vegan cooking demonstrations across the east cost. This was a fun time in my life and I always thought how nice it would be to do a cooking demo on a farm. I imagined where we would get the food straight from the farm and create dishes on site. Alas, and here we are doing just that. The experience is in fact a farm to table experience.
We had 5 acres of land full of organic fruits and vegetables within our reach to create a delicious meal. On this farm, which is located in the Westover Hill area of south side Richmond, there is also a community refrigerator and pantry which is on brand with Duron Chavis and his organization’s commitment to food activism. I adore a beautiful green house and I found one on this day at Sankofa Community Orchard as we all received a tour of the garden. You have to take a tour yourself and even sign up to volunteer on the farm on Saturdays. You can visit their website and also read about them in Richmond Magazine and NBC12 News.
PLANT BASED COOKING WITH GIRLS
I was commissioned to teach young girls from the nonprofit organization Girls For A Change in the Richmond, Virginia area. The organization has a great mission to teach and inspire young girls in various fields and interest. Organizations like this is well needed as girls grown into their pre-teens and teenage years. Having positive guidance, mentorship and introduction to professional areas that some may not have access to is a must in this climate. I felt a great responsibility to speak with the girls and find out more about their experiences with eat plant based foods.
As the young girls arrived to the farm, I began to see my younger self in some of them as I looked over at their faces. I had volunteers to be my sous chef during the prep time, others to help cook while another set agreed to serve the food to the group. We cut, chopped, sautéed and caramelized some of the vegetables in the outdoor kitchen space at the farm. And let me tell you how excited I was about the kitchen space which to me is a chef’s dream to have for an occasion like this.
NUTRIENT DENSED VEGETABLES
On the farm we used all organic vegetables and their beautiful leafy green Kale was the star and base of our dish. Kale is one of those vegetables that makes a meal complete as it provides various vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
Below are a few of the benefits of kale:
- helps in the growth and repair of tissues, prevents infections and supports the immune system as it contains Vitamin C.
- helps with bone health and blood clotting as it contains Vitamin K.
- helps to transport oxygen within the body and forms red blood cell as it contains Iron.
- helps with muscle and nerve function; and proper bone health as it contains Calcium.
- protects against oxidative stress and prevents cell damage as it’s rich in Antioxidants.
- regulates blood sugar levels and promotes digestive health as its high in fiber.
DOWNLOAD THE HEALTHY RECIPE ON THE WEBSITE
I am thrilled to be a part of this experience. If this dish seems like it would be something you would want to get your girls to make or even for yourself, I have uploaded the complete ingredients and recipe with full directions that you can download here and here.
PHOTOS FROM OUR DAY ON THE FARM
Here are a few cell phone images from our demo together. You can see the greenhouse full of veggies ready to harvest, beautiful large purple cabbages, and colorful organic bell peppers we chopped. Below is an image of the final spread of each ingredient we cooked on site. And you will see the complete dish one of our lovely girls was so proud to show off. I didn’t hesitate to take a quick picture.
Thank you for Vegan Action, Sankofa Community Orchard, and all the girls from Girls For A Change in helping make this a wonderful experience! 😊