Sunday, October 9, 2011

Farm Vegan Retreat, Part One

Hey everybody! I'm back from my weekend at the Farm's Vegan Retreat in Summertown, Tennessee. I was asked to come back and do a cooking demonstration for this one. The first such retreat was last February, and I demoed at that one too.

For any who aren't familiar with the Farm, it's a community of vegans and vegetarians who've been living on several thousand acres of land in middle Tennessee since the early 1970s. The original Farmies traveled to Tennessee from San Francisco in a caravan of school buses in 1971. In the mid- to late-70s, the Farm became a destination for progressives looking to practice the principle of nonviolence and shared respect for Mother Earth. It's still going strong, and they've begun holding Vegan Retreats (the next one is scheduled for February 24th-26th) a couple times a year filled with cooking demos and fun!

As a little disclaimer (and shameless plug), I should also mention that the Farm's on-site Book Publishing Company (yes, that's its official name) is publishing my Southern vegan cookbook. Due out in April!

Paul and I arrived on Friday night just in time for dinner! We missed the demonstrations, but the results were delicious. This is Oven-Baked Tofu, Fried Okra (from the garden), Potato Salad, and Fresh-Picked Salad Greens with Homemade Italian Vinaigrette:

Here's the dinner table minus a few latecomers. Douglas, the event's host, is the guy raising his glass of blueberry wine in the back. To his left are newlyweds Rick and Rose (more on their spontaneous wedding later) and me. To his right are his wife Deb and retreat attendees Tasha and Linda:

Ebony, another retreat attendee, arrived after dinner. But she heated up some leftovers before enjoying this tiny ice cream cone filled with the Farm's homemade Pina Colada Ice Bean. They make this creamy vegan ice cream on the Farm, and the folks who live there keep it stocked in their freezers. I've tried several flavors over the past year, and I can attest that this is the BEST vegan ice cream on the planet. I wish they could mass market this stuff:

That was it for the first night. We all retired early because we had yoga at 8 a.m. After yoga at the Farm's yoga studio on Saturday morning, we went back to Douglas' house for coffee and a tour of his home garden:

Then we went inside, where Douglas demoed the best smoothie I've ever tasted — frozen strawberries, soymilk, flax oil, hemp oil, and acai berry powder:

While we drank our smoothies, Douglas showed us how to make his Baked Coconut Granola and his Raw Granola. I mixed both together in this bowl with soymilk and some of the Farm's homegrown dehydrated pears:

But breakfast didn't stop there. Douglas also showed us how to make a traditional Farm breakfast — Yeast Crepes! These were so simple. Just a 1/4 cup of flour mixed with 1/4 cup of nutritional yeast and a little water. He added in fresh bell pepper and tomatoes that cooked into the bottom. You fry it in a skillet with a little oil and serve with hot sauce and soy sauce. Douglas said the original Farm folks made this often in the community's early days:

After breakfast, we got started on lunch. Here's Chelsea and Ebony stuffing husks with masa, vegan sausage/tomato sauce, bell peppers, and olives for our Homemade Tamales:

And here's the tamales, all wrapped and ready to steam:

After the tamales were prepped, Douglas took us on a Farm tour. We stopped at the lush community garden:

The garden, maintained by multiple Farm residents, has lots of pretty flowers!

And the veggie plants are still producing plenty of food. I'd never seen an okra plant before and was amazed to learn it has pretty flowers too!

Later on the tour, near Farm attorney Alan Graf's eco-friendly underground house, we ran into this ferocious beast!

At the end of the tour, we stopped by the Farm Store, where several of us loaded up on the Farm's homemade tofu, soy yogurt, and other yummy treats. Then we headed back to Douglas' for lunch and a few more demos (including mine). But that's enough pics for today. I'll share more Farm adventures tomorrow.


The Health Sleuth said...

awesome post bianca, felt like i was there... :)

foodfeud said...

Love the okra plant!

JL goes Vegan said...

What a beautiful experience! I would love to do that one day.

I cannot WAIT for your book! Is it April yet?

Anonymous said...

The farm is awesome. It looks like you had a great time.
I'm jealous that you got to have fried okra in October!!

saveyrgeneration said...

this looks amazing! what an awesome destination.

Lesley Eats said...

I'm really bummed I missed this, particularly since I'm so nearby and I've never been to The Farm. I hope I can attend in February.

BTW, Chef Arnold Myint did a cooking demo for Food Blog Forum this past Friday night (it was this weekend in Nashville) and he made vegan food. He says he really prefers it for events because you don't have to worry about spoilage, etc. I snagged the leftovers for myself! I'm totally shameless. :)

Anonymous said...

I have always been so curious about the Farm, it sounds very interesting, thank you for sharing. I am also intrigued by those yeast crepes and bookmarking for sure!

Sheridan said...

I really really want to go to the Farm! Everything looks great! Glad you had fun! I'm very intrigued by the yeast crepes as well and plan on trying that out soon! Sounds tasty! Looking forward to partying down with you this weekend! Woo!

Allysia said...

So the farm is basically a big vegan hippy paradise? Awesome. Did Paul enjoy himself and the food, too? Hope your demo went well and can't wait to see more!

Kittee Bee Berns said...

I love okra plants! Okra is a mallow just like hibiscus, so the flowers are similar.


Ellen Jaffe Jones said...

Awesome pictures and yummy food! Book Pub Co says great things about your book...can't wait. They are super to work with, as I guess you know.

My mom was born in Cottonplant, Ark. Maybe that explains it...

--Author in crime ;) ...Ellen Jaffe Jones

Emily said...

Although all the food pics look awesome and I should probably comment on all that yumminess, I am wholly distracted by... the cat picture.

Cute Kitteh does a good job of being cute!