Tuesday, October 27, 2009

This is not about being Vegan.

While I am holding steady and vowing to eat vegan all day today, this column is not about being vegan. I ate vegan all day last Tuesday and while I ate nonstop from the time I got up until I fell into the arms of Morpheus, I was really hungry. I mean REALLY hungry. I was not prepared. Today I am altering my approach and incorporating more peanut butter, hummus, fresh fruit and pasta into my diet. I mean not to whine and am truly grateful that I have food to eat.

This blog is about peace, fellowship, camaraderie, trains, salmon, butter, heavy cream and six different kinds of cheese.

The venue was Northwest Arkansas and the purpose was a couchsurfing.org event. Festivities included a welcome potluck, a costume party, hiking at Devil's Den State Park and then the Great Northwest Arkansas Trailer Trash Luncheon at my chateau(trayla) in Winslow on Sunday. My contribution was the luncheon. I participated in the train trip through the bucolic countryside on Saturday. I begged off the other events. My attentions were focused on cooking and spending time with two dear friends from Norman, Oklahoma who stayed with me at the Chateau(trayla), and who taste tested the dishes for Sunday's luncheon My "guinea pigs" who have been to Peru and know the meaning of the word "cuy".

The totally unvegan but mostly vegetarian menu included cream cheese and salmon spread with horseradish, sour cream, dill and lemon juice, sun dried tomato tapenade, corn, tomato and black bean salad, garam masala deviled eggs, sauteed chiffonade of collard greens with garlic, and baked penne with fontina, Gorgonzola, heavy cream, pecorino romano, mozzarella and ricotta. The five cheeses given to us by a loving god.(Thanks to Ina Garten who has never steered me wrong.)

My guardian angel in Winslow, Jerry Kidder, who has hauled my ass out of the fire on numerous occasions, was gracious enough to procure a very large cafeteria table with sixteen fixed seats from the local school. We rolled it down the hill and wedged it into the trayla. I have a feeling it will be on the deck for a very long time. It is not pretty but I came from Dallas equipped with floor length tablecloths, orchids from Thailand and many bottles of champagne, cabernet and pinot grigio. The theory being that no one would notice that it was a crappy table or a trayla.

The crowd was an interesting one in the spirit of couchsurfing.org. From a one year old baby born to parents of Mexican and Russian heritage, to Lebanese, Chinese, American and Native Indian twentysomethings, and those of us in the fifty and sixtysomething crowd. Someone broke out a guitar, singing ensued. And no, no one sang "Cumbaya" or "Puff the Magic Dragon". We ate and drank for three hours, said our goodbyes and thanked each other for a nice afternoon. Sharing food is a great equalizer. No one cares about what you earn or what you wear, what you drive, who you voted for or how young you are.

I am of the opinion that the acts of sharing food and hospitality are acts of waging peace. These two very basic human needs we all have in common. When you invite someone to share a meal or stay under your tent, you are really telling them that you respect and love them. All differences fade away whether they be age, geographical, financial, political or ideological. The act of sharing hospitality is a unifier.

And in these interactions, discussions about justice and humanity and being humane and respectful invariably do come up. People ask you why you are a vegan or a vegetarian and why you choose to eat a certain way. And in the case of couchsurfing.org, where you are from and where you have been. Who have you hosted, who has hosted you and what have you learned? And you discuss these things and it is not confrontational. You are aware of your surroundings. You share. It is respectful.

So maybe this column is about being Vegan after all. Wish me luck with the peanut butter. I am off to make a rice and chickpea curry from a recipe I saw on Oprah's site.

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