Monday, October 19, 2015

Festival of Souls

Every year in mid-October, usually on my birthday weekend, I attend at least one day of the four-day Festival of Souls — a Samhain festival for earthy types from all over the Mid-South. It's held at Meeman Shelby Forrest Park, a state park on the outskirts of Memphis. And even though it's right outside the city, it's a beautiful escape to nature.

And this time of year, it's the perfect place to observe the leaves changing from green to red and gold. The park is situated on the Chickasaw Bluffs, some of the only hilly land in the otherwise very flat Mid-South. The festival features workshops, and I usually attend a few. But I always make a mid-day escape into the woods to hike the nature trails on my own. This time, I found these awesome stairs!

And this fallen tree ...

But back at the camp, there was plenty of vegan food! Cynthia, the head "kitchen witch," prepares meat dishes, vegan dishes, and gluten-free dishes so she can accommodate as many diets as possible. It's a big change from when I first started going to the festival 13 years ago. Back then, I was lucky to get a veggie side put back before the meat and butter went in! But now, the vegan options abound, and they're delicious. 

I missed breakfast since I arrived around noon. But I was just in time for lunch. We had the most amazing Pumpkin Gnocchi with Kale. This was definitely my favorite meal of the day. Super garlicky puffy little pumpkin pillows!

And there was Vegetable Soup with finely minced carrots and greens.

Most people also had dairy grilled cheeses, but Cynthia always makes me specially ordered Vegan Grilled Cheeses! And I always get two because two sandwiches are better than one. I love that they're served on white bread that's loaded with vegan margarine. It reminds me of the super buttery grilled cheeses I ate as a kid. These days, I typically only buy sprouted grain bread at home, and my homemade grilled cheeses are just way too healthy.

After lunch, I did some shopping at the vendor booths. Got some goddess-shaped soaps and some of Champagne's homemade Hawthorne Apple Lemon Nutmeg jelly. And then our friends Trevor and Buck got married out in the field. It was a short but sweet ceremony. Love wins!

The vegan option at the dinner feast was loaded with veggies! Here's my plate — portabella mushroom steak, dinner roll, cooked carrots, mashed potatoes, sauteed garlic kale, and stir-fried broccoli & cauliflower.

The meat-eaters got pot roast, so the mushroom was a great stand-in for that. And the kitchen staff even prepared some of the roasted veggies without the pot roast, so I got a bowl of Balsamic Mushrooms, Turnips, & Carrots.

I heard there was dessert later in the night, and there was probably a vegan option. But I'd been there all day, and by 10 p.m., I was ready to get home to my warm bed. But it was a lovely Saturday in the park, and now, I'm prepared to deal with autumn. It takes me a few weeks to get adjusted to fall, and I protest and whine a lot about summer ending. But eventually, usually after Festival of Souls, I accept that autumn is here to stay for awhile, and I might as well get used to it.


Julie said...

This sounds like such a neat event! How awesome about all the vegan food for you! :)

Jennifer Bliss said...

LOVE the nature photos! Sounds like a great day!

Jennifer said...

I love when places/events become much more vegan friendly! I recently went to a wedding where I was PRETTY sure nothing was vegan even though the bride and groom said we were. I am thinking the caterer thought we were just vegetarians. I pretty much had to go into survival mode and pick out the cheese from a salad, and pray the bread was vegan. XD I got my fill of fruit in the appetizers though!