Saturday, March 27, 2010

My Mom's First Meat-Out

I've got one amazing mama. Growing up, whether it was a conversation with a stranger, rescuing and caring for an animal in need, or helping me with my book reports for as long as it would take, my mom was - and still very much is - the ultimate giver. We have been through nearly every experience you can imagine, she and I, and we have come out not only as a solid mother-daughter team, but as good friends. Sure, there have been roadblocks - as with all family bonds - but what I love about us is that we actively try to live in the present, always thankful and aware of the time we have together. What my mom and I have is a special thing - and it has only grown stronger with my veganism. 


Mom and me on my wedding day.

See - when I went vegan, I wanted to shout it to the hill-tops. I was so happy and felt truly awakened by my decision, and I desperately wanted to share that with anyone who would listen. And my mom listened. And listened. And listened. Never one to judge, my mom lent a gracious, kind ear to everything I had inside to share about what I've experienced on this journey. And when I say everything, I mean everything - every scary fact learned, every exciting discovery made, every delicious (or questionable) dish attempted. I had no filter with my mom - and thankfully, I didn't need to.


 As if all this weren't enough, my mom has allowed the openness she's shown me to guide her on her own path towards veganism. Every day, I am in awe of her resilience, her adaptability, and her courage to not only face the difficult truth of how badly animals are treated in order to be killed for food and clothing, but to then actively make choices in her own life to better their conditions. I guess you could say, she's my hero.

Last Saturday, my mom attended her first ever Meat-Out event - a fundraiser for PETA at Hobos Restaurant in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. (Never heard of Meat-Out Day? Click here for more info.) Below, you can read her firsthand account of that lovely experience, all with photographs she took herself to document the evening. Enjoy!

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My First Meat-Out
by Myra Wolf

My mom is 88 years old and grew up on a ridge in West Virginia.  She walked two miles to school everyday, and her food was grown at her home in virgin soil. Her sister, Clara, is 99 years old and grew up that way too.  But they moved off that ridge for fuller lives and a different food supply.  At 75 years old, my Mom got breast cancer.  At 85 years old, my Aunt Clara got breast cancer (at the same time my Mom did). 

I wonder every day if the diet they ate during their twenties and beyond played a role in their getting breast cancer later in life.  I was thinking hard about that when I got a phone call about the "Great American Meat-Out" from my daughter Lindsay.

Getting food (that's me on the left with the serving spoon)  

Lindsay introduced me to vegan food two years ago.  Coming from an animal-lover environment our whole lives has played a huge role in her choices today. The education I have been completely open to in these two years has brought me to wanting that lifestyle myself. 


The delicious food!  

Food and good cooking go hand in hand for me.  If I eat anything processed to death it just tastes horrible. Fortunately, I have gotten to experience some really yummy, wonderful vegan meals that have made me sit among family and friends and feel at home.  One place was Hobos, the setting for my first Great American Meat-Out.  The chef was Gretchen Hanson.  

Chef Gretchen making sure everything is in its place (she's in the blue shirt).

I brought a friend but had no family with me when I arrived. Once I arrived at the podium for my reservation, the manager happily said he would seat me earlier than my reservation called for and escorted me and my guest to the PETA welcome table.  We were greeted with happiness, gift bags, a table full of free information and had a wonderful chat with the two PETA representatives. Chef Gretchen soon came out to warmly greet us, and I knew family was already there even if you didn't bring yours along.

 The PETA table

The aroma of the prepared buffet of vegan food pulled me to the table as we were escorted to a seat I didn't sit in - I grabbed my plate and headed to the grub! I filled it with everything offered.  Our table mates next to us had already eaten, and we started up a chat.  James was a vegan newbie (vegan for only a couple weeks), and Chunkit was vegetarian.  Our "family" meal started with conversation - we talked about the lack of vegan restaurants in the area and how we needed to have more.  James told me about one he liked in Philadelphia (at least two hours away) called Horizons.

James and Chunkit

Chef Gretchen checked in on us as she scurried from table to table making sure wine glasses were full, plates were set out, and people were included in conversations inside her "home".  I left Hobos happy. From the lady that cooked up my fried green tomatoes, to my waiter that told us of his travels in Barcelona for seven months, to our friends at our side table, I felt as though I had a wonderful, delicious, gourmet meal with family.  I took the apple cobbler to go home and heat it up for later to prolong my happy feeling. In my first week of eating vegan (so far), this was one place I could go to eat out and eat at home at the same time. That experience alone has taken me into two more days to add to my seven days of eating no meat, no dairy, and no eggs and feeling over the moon about it - inside and out.


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A little bit about Chef Gretchen Hanson and Hobos Restaurant:




"Every meatless meal matters." - Chef Gretchen

I spoke with Chef Gretchen of Hobos Restaurant earlier this week on the phone as she was in the midst of traveling to a food expo, just to get an idea of how the whole Meat-Out event went. What a kind, warm lady! A vegan herself, Gretchen has the interesting challenge of running a restaurant that is not entirely vegan (meat and seafood are standard fare, right alongside vegan dishes). While her dream is to one day have a completely vegan restaurant, she understands that business would be a whole lot tougher if she only served vegan food, as it would greatly limit her clientele (especially in a beach town with very limited vegan dining options). By keeping the options wide open, Gretchen has found that she has managed to open a lot of people's hearts to try vegan food - most for the first time. "I'm helping to facilitate a more plant-based lifestyle for meat-eaters," Gretchen said, as she explained that nearly all of the food made in her restaurant begins vegan, and whatever is not vegan is obtained as sustainably and compassionately as possible. Customers often walk into Hobos asking Gretchen "Where is the love?", which is just their familiar way of asking her what was made with the most love on any given day. For Gretchen, it's all about making food from a loving, creative place. Happy to take on a challenge, Gretchen will always accommodate anyone with a food allergy or sensitivity. Gretchen's favorite experience at the restaurant is to take someone who originally came in ready to order a burger and will walk out having "dipped their toes" in Hobos' vegan culinary delights. When asked what prompted her to go vegan, Gretchen replies, "Spiritually, it's where I've always wanted to be." I couldn't agree more with her.


And what does she do in order to make the meals containing meat? She cooks by memory from years of eating the stuff - yes, she's that good.


For the Meat-Out, Gretchen did a wonderful thing and kept the admittance price low, so that more people would be able to come, which resulted in a packed house of happy, loving customers ready to celebrate for a great cause. When asked if she will change anything about Hobo's Meat-Out event in the future, she said nothing - except to make it even bigger next year. In addition to celebrating Meat-Out 2010, Gretchen also hosts vegan wine dinners once a month at the restaurant and teaches vegan cooking classes in her spare time. Sounds like this dynamic and talented chef is well on her way to creating the vegan restaurant she dreams of. I will definitely show my support at Hobos every time I head down to Delaware to visit my mom.

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Chef Gretchen's Bio:

  Chef Gretchen at Meat-Out 2010 (photo courtesy of Myra Wolf)

First, a little about myself ...
 
I suspect that my introduction to a career as a chef came a little earlier than most. I had attained the ripe old age of 2 1⁄2 years when I came to the conclusion that the prospect of facing another unpalatable meal prepared by my culinary-challenged parents was just not the way this particular little chef's life was meant to begin. I dragged a chair to the stove and told everyone to keep back - from that point forward I would be feeding myself.
 
By twelve I had my own little catering business; a burgeoning cottage industry cooking for the "lunching ladies" of our affluent southern California community. Being from the wellness center of the universe certainly flavored the way I thought about food but, without access to big grocery stores or convenience foods, the only things I had to work with were the raw ingredients that were delivered by either the food co-op or the local grocer. Cooking was from scratch, the way God had intended. Was there any other way? If so, I didn’t know it. I cooked my way through high school learning rouxs, salsas, sauces: reading any cookbook I could get my hands on, dissecting the information and experimenting on my ever-willing family and friends.
 
Fast forward many years and I found myself at Columbia University spending much of my time in midtown, training in a classic French kitchen. Bechamel, Béarnaise, Brulee and an addiction to Julia Child had turned me into an incurable foodie destined to seek out restaurant kitchens, cheese shops and charcuteries as my natural habitat. My focus during those years had been classic French in all its glory, but now I found the cuisines of the sun calling to me again and my years of travel had begun.
 
My favorite markets had always been in Mexico, Central and South America; every moment I spent exploring them an adventure in exotic produce, an ongoing introduction to new chilies and spices that cleared the nasal passages and intrigued the palate. Every country I travelled to welcomed me with its own tastes and smells. In Europe, olive oils as unique and different as the rustic red wines that graced every meal and every village proud of its family trattoria with its ancient and guarded recipes. Every chef creating a signature of specialty recipes and flavors that was entirely different and unique from their neighbors.
 
Towards the Far East the flavors became as exotic as the ingredients. Being linguistically challenged in any but romance languages, I was happily content to observe and taste my path through most of the Middle and Far East. The small towns through which I travelled rarely had English speaking inhabitants and yet the universal language of food needed little translation as I became as fluent in curry as I already was in mole’ and coulis. My wanderings had one focus, the food and, for the most part, the women who cooked it. I watched and learned from mothers and grandmothers tending braziers and open flame stoves in the stalls and roughshod kitchens of the daily markets: the alchemy of food as an extension of the nurturing role these women played in all facets of their families and community. Wherever I stayed, I tasted and cooked my way into the heart of each life I was privileged to briefly share.
 
My eldest child was a surprise and blessing that I didn’t expect. Surprise because he caught me without a supporting partner and blessing because I had to figure out a very clever way to combine food with staying home with him. I started a catering company that focused on cooking wholesome meals for people with medical challenges. Whether challenged by diabetes, heart disease or obesity, I began to see the correlation and relationship in every aspect of how we live and what we eat.
 
So now we come to Hobos and everything comes full circle. Food as love, food as healing, food as community.
 
And yet there are still many more journeys left to make, meals to share with friends old and new, and so much more to learn along the way (always that!). I begin this next stage of my life focused on living and cooking a diet based on predominately vegan food choices. As I draw from the culinary background I have been so blessed to have, everything is still, and always will be, made from scratch. Like the hundreds of little farming villages that I have visited and lived in through the years, my ingredients are purchased from my neighbors whenever possible; making my dream of a 40 mile menu a reality from our very first season.

Welcome to my table, welcome to Hobos. 


Thanks to my mom, Chef Gretchen, and Hobos restaurant for allowing me to share this beautiful story. For more information on Hobos Restaurant, visit http://www.myhobos.com/.

6 comments:

CurlyLocks said...

The stories about your mom and Chef Gretchen Hudson are beautifully written and truly heart-warming. I personally know that your mom is a lovely, loving, kind, and giving person.

Plate+Simple said...

What a great post! What a cool mom you've got!

I know what you mean about wanting to "shout it from the rooftops" - I feel the same way about being vegan, and it's hard because I do feel like I need to keep a lot of that excitement to myself. How wonderful for you to have such a kind and loving ear to share your journey with.

Love it!

-Hilary

Myra Wolf said...

I started to read this post and oh honey...you made me cry. All the sweet, sweet,kind, endearing things you posted about me..are true..just kidding :) But, our relationship always was like that. In alot of areas..we loved books too and would get so excited we would feel like exploding when we found each one with a special story.
The story about Gretchen, the woman that is a top chef, your sister, your friend and just a wonderful lady was just an amazing story. You know she is amazing before you ever read anything about her.
Thank you CurlyLocks for your really kind words too..We take great Mom pictures together too :)
And Plate+Simple..anytime you want to share your joy..open it right up here. There is alot of support on this little blog with alot of big hearts and open ears.
Beautiful, Beautiful my little Christmas Angel, Sweetpea, Baby Girl, Sadie, Sadie, Married Lady!
I love you forever and like you for always!....AND....
Gretchen called me and asked me to be her Guest at something on Monday evening...A big thing. But you will have to wait to see what it is :) xoxoxox, Mama

Lindsay said...

Thank you ladies! Chef Gretchen Hanson is one amazing woman, as are all three of you. :) And Hilary - you can always shout your excitement to me - always. :)

KeithMitzel@gmail.com said...

Great story Lindsay!

Myra Wolf said...

Monday night in alittle beach town with rain drops...and a film crew..and another over the moon vegan dinner shared with a home full of "family".
Grethen is expecting us Saturday night Lindsay :)and I will let her tell you all about it. (somehow I think this is the birth of a great "vegan restaurant" from a very gifted chef :)).