Wednesday, September 11, 2013
Gambia on My Mind
I'm up to my nose this week in preparations for my first real gig as a chef. Our friends Mary and Dan made connections in Gambia some years ago, fell in love with the place and the people, and started a non-profit foundation called Reason 2 Hope. I know exactly how they feel, and so admire the education-focused work they're doing there. I haven't been to Gambia, but I have been to Ethiopia, and I know what a huge difference a few dollars and an open heart can do in places like these. So when Mary asked if I would be willing to volunteer my services in the kitchen for an evening, to raise funds to rebuild a school that has fallen to ruins, I jumped up and got to work almost a month before the big event.
The festive evening, titled "Good For You, Good For Gambia" is this Saturday. It will be a 5 course vegan dinner for 12 adventurous non-vegans, served in an exotic tent in the Taos landscape, all draped in textiles, rugs, and cushions in a sort of "Out of Africa" theme. At a mere $50 a plate, with wine included, these folks are in for a rare and wonderful experience, and all proceeds will go straight to Reason 2 Hope.
The menu is not African. We decided to come up with a meal that would be somewhat familiar to non-vegans, but with lots of fancy twists. We'll start with layered black rice and polenta bites, topped with herbed cashew cheese, kalamata olives, and tiny vine ripened tomatoes from my own yard, along with mini spanakopita triangles and cucumber dipping sauce. Next comes Roasted Red Pepper Bisque with Basil Cream and toasted pine nuts, followed by a Taos Caesar Salad with creamy Chipotle Dressing and spiced, toasted pumpkin seeds. The main course is mini glazed Tempeh Loaves with mashed garlic cauliflower-potatoes, mushroom gravy, greens & beans, and a bit of cranberry sauce. Then, hopefully everyone will have room for dessert, because the last flavors to linger in their mouths that evening just might be the best of all. I'm making tiny, dense, moist Lemon Blossom Cupcakes with blueberries and lemon buttercream frosting, plus warm Chocolate Mole Spoon Brownies with fresh raspberries, and finally, fresh kiwi slices with a drizzle of strawberry-balsamic reduction sauce. Can I have an amen to that brothers and sisters...
Of course the hope is that once we have them in a food coma, our guests will dig deep into their hearts and wallets, and come up with some generous donations. My first goal in creating this dinner is to raise money for Reason 2 Hope, and those gorgeous children who want nothing more than a school to attend, a uniform to wear, and a simple meal. Surely we can make that happen.
My secondary goal is to open minds, mouths, and hearts to the idea of taking a more compassionate approach to their own lives, starting with the food they choose to eat. From my own perspective as a mild mannered Kitchen Activist, not only will 12 people not be eating animal products that night, they'll also be getting an enlightening taste of how wonderful vegan food can be. It's all connected, and yes, there is enough to go around in this world if we who have the most begin to make some different choices for ourselves.
I'll have more on this big event, and lots of pictures next week. For now, if you'd like to help, please consider making a donation to Reason 2 Hope. It's tax deductible, and since I'm volunteering my time (weeks of it!), the more money we raise, the higher "paid" I will feel.
Now back to the kitchen with me! I have lots to do in the next few days, and I can so do it!
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