Food Events Archives - FRESH Perspective and RAW Conversation

Healthy Families Workshop

For me Summer is a very real reminder that I do in fact, live in a desert. It is quite a different experience to grow up in the rural farmlands of the Northwest where my sister and I played outside – rain or shine.

“Put on your rain boots – its off to milk the cows!” When summer temperatures begin I find myself trying to find some source of water – be it the garden hose sprinkler, a pool, or a park spewing water to different heights around running, shrieking kids of all ages that don’t care what a thermometer might read. But then it hits over 100 degrees and if I don’t get out the house by 9am – forget it. Pool-water becomes bathwater, popsicles melt off their stick before I can get a few bites in and I find myself starring longingly out the window at the dusty porch and wilting garden.

Last weekend we hosted an extensive 3 day Workshop for Healthy Families with numerous guest speakers and newfound friends, who graciously volunteered their time to provide information to families looking for answers to numerous topics about how to raise a healthy family in this age of fast, unhealthy food and convenience – from pregnancy and on.

It’s our first summer as a new business and customer’s are trying to beat the heat! I don’t blame them. 110 degrees before noon leaves every local wondering … why do I live in Arizona? Still, I found myself a little sad that our attendance rate was so low, especially seeing how successful our last events have been and that it had been picked up by the East Valley Tribune.

On Thursday, Holistic Health Coach and Educator, Blue Russ hosted a workshop on 3 Keys to a Healthy Pregnancy. She discussed how to use food to treat common pregnancy complaints, how to safely enjoy a plant-based diet during your pregnancy and most importantly how to be a happy and vibrant pregnant woman.

I only wish I had had her as a resource during my pregnancy! Her words were inspiring and her values near and dear to my heart. She talked her belief in Bioindividuality, where each individual is unique and has very specific needs for his or her own health. She also stressed how incorporating nonprocessed, whole, fermented and raw foods are beneficial to everyone’s health; especially to Mom’s during their pregnancy. In the end her advice was simple and powerful,  “No change is too small.”

I highly encourage Woman who are thinking about getting pregnant, are pregnant, or who have babies and kids and even those who aren’t or don’t but are seeking advice or facing challenges in their own lives or with their own bodies, to schedule time to talk to Blue. She is a woman who will make you feel like your decisions are important; like your body and your life are important. For those of you unable to make it to the workshop, feel free to consult, The Cutting Board: Resource Library and download Blue’s generously donated workshop handout!

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On Friday Occupational and Speech Therapists, Kris Sailor, representative of Juice Plus+ and Anne Solcum, owner of TEAM Kids, PC, gave a detailed and resource-packed presentation to attendees about the importance of eating and it’s correlation to oral, mental physical and social development.

Kris and Anne shared information about Anne’s farm and the amazing things they are doing as part her  They did a wonderful job of explaining how early learned eating habits can lead to raising a picky eater or an oral eating disorder; a disorder that most of us haven’t heard of or don’t know exist. They gave easy and simple advice to parents with picky eaters and although we didn’t get to the video in time, discussed the 9 Simple Steps by Dr. Sears. Watch it now or consult The Cutting Board: Resource Library to download the handout.

Part two of Friday night gave people a chance to hear success stories from two Vegan Mom’s including … your truly! Sarah Vanell, local singer and songwrier started off by telling us the story of how and why she became Vegan. She shared her experience of becoming a Mom and why it was important to her to raise her kids Vegan. Through her talk we met her two beautiful Vegan babies leading happy, healthy lives. She shared a handout of her favorite websites, cookbooks and a delicious looking and easy to make Chocolate Cake Recipe!

As for me, it was the first event where I was taking the reigns at the front of the classroom. It’s not something I’ve been avoiding but of course I knew my nerves would get the best of me. I have to admit that looking at the slides of my baby boy and telling the story of our family journey and where we are today, left me begging myself not to cry in front everyone. In the end I could feel my confidence building and I concluded my story with a feeling of joy for being a Mom I could be proud of. Don’t forget to check out my list of resources and this Date-Roll Recipe, currently Will’s favorite snack!

The last part of the workshop was held on Saturday morning and the list of kids attending was slim to none. Luckily, we still all know how to have a good time!

Kris and Anne returned bringing a number of fun and nutritious games for the kiddos! I thought the traffic light eating game was a great hands on activity for children to learn about which foods they should be eating more of, less of, or just in moderation. Mr. Micah also joined us for a Veggie Tales Story Time and brought along a seed planting activity so the kids could leave with their own seed, planted in recycled materials and sporting a handmade sign. The Cutting Board provided fun giveaways including; handheld spray fans for keeping cool outside and freshly juiced and prepared watermelon, strawberry and cucumber popsicles!

There have been many nights in the past year when we have found ourselves near exhaustion and tears and wondering why we decided to embark on such a bold adventure. Yet, once again I find myself amazed and entranced by the generosity and willingness of those eager to learn and live healthier lives. I feel grateful and rewarded by those who volunteer their time to show up at the Cafe and share their life stories and passion for food and health.

When a customer comes up to you and gives you a hug full of warmth and gratefulness and says, “I see what you guys are trying to do here and it’s amazing” you suddenly realize that even if just one person shows up, it might be the one person’s life you make a difference in. And that one person makes it worth … everything.

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Passion and Pride Through Young Eyes

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I had never before attended an event designed so specifically for all things food-related.

Having never seen anything like this, you would think that my most inspiring memory would be of something monumental, like the mile-long table which spanned the entire event, or the numerous food trucks each with their own personality and long line of hungry and excited customers, or maybe even the dozens of 5-gallon buckets loaded with seedlings and plants for the mobile-garden-parade, solar-oven demonstrations, hand-crafted goods, people just wanting to talk, and a mobile seed bank truck spouting out stories and information over a bullhorn like a commanding preacher at Sunday mass. All of these elements were exciting and fun and I will always look back on them with a smile. However, there was one display which evoked more emotion and inspiration than the rest.

At first glance, most would not think much of the horseshoe setup of tables dressed with white tablecloths and covered with stacked baskets of freshly harvested vegetables slowly being cooked by the hot Arizona sun, even though partially covered by a small white canopy.

In fact, I would have walked past it myself had I not made eye contact with the young boy standing in front of the display. He was shy, but solemnly asked for a donation. I was interested and thought that there had to be more to the story, so I began to inquire about their display and why exactly they were participating in the event. He quietly told me about their organization, Tigermountain Foundation, a non-profit community garden which targets the youth for participation. Upon showing more interest, a second young boy appeared and was eager to talk about the garden and how they both helped to grow all of the vegetables and harvest them. Their pride and confidence began to emerge, and as I watched I became fascinated and excited at the fact that gardening was truly something special and important to these two boys. Amazing! I thanked them both, gladly handed over a modest donation and bagged a few carrots and jalapeños from their collection to take home. I didn’t expect this brief exchange to stand out in my mind, but as the following days passed I could not dismiss the importance of what I had witnessed.

When I saw these two boys and their passion and pride for growing their own food it gave me a sense of hope that maybe someday gardening will be a bigger part of all of our lives, and not solely left up to large profit driven corporations to figure out how to grow it, engineer it and deliver it to our dinner plate. A growing primary concern of mine is the food infrastructure and in what direction it is headed. We went from the days of early settlers who focused almost exclusively on food, its production, harvest and storage to modern times where knowledge about the origin and processing of our food is at the bottom of the priority list for the average citizen. As a result, our whole system has gone totally awry and will eventually prove itself to be unsustainable.  As you walk through the grocery isle tonight, or as you prepare those carrots and jalapenos for your dinner I urge you to think to yourself, “Where did this food come from? Who grew it? What pesticides were used? Are the crops genetically modified? Was there any passion or excitement put into growing this crop?” At your typical grocery store, you’ll never know the answer to all of those questions. However, when sourcing from your local farmers market, community gardens and even from food grown in your own backyard you’ll know the answer to each and every one of those questions, and you will feel a new satisfaction during the simple act of eating dinner.

Gardening is cool, it’s important, and these two boys from Tigermountain Foundation totally get it!!! My hope is that we all follow their lead.

Be sure to visit both Tigermountain Foundation and Feast on the I hope that inspiration finds its way into your heart and garden too!

With gratitude,

Sean Macdonald

Meeting Dr. Campbell

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A week before my birthday I remember having a conversation with Sean about how excited I was at the thought of our new venture slowly coming to life; our dream of owning a restaurant (more on that later).

I was ranting about how I wrote three pages of topics for educational classes and events we could host and then rambled on and on about my newest and grandest idea; a book-club dedicated to reading about food and getting Authors to come out and do book signings and lectures. Then I said something along the lines of, “If the author from, The China Study ever came to Arizona I would be in awe.”

Well, wish granted! The next week and the night before his appearance we found out Dr. T. Colin Campbell would be at Pomegranate Café doing a lecture. Tickets were expensive but we had planned a weekend trip to eat there for my birthday lunch anyway and I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to meet one of my greatest sources of inspiration

My decision to become vegetarian started when a friend lent me, The China Study.

As much as I love to read I have never been interested in factual or scientific novels. Among my favorite’s were Mary Higgin’s Clark’s suspenseful murders, Ann Rue’s true crime mysteries, Jennnifer Weiner’s practical woman theatrics and who doesn’t love Harry Potter? I was at a point in my life where I shredded my chicken with scrutiny because the thought of anything but the white fluff in the meat turned my stomach. I was on the fence about becoming vegetarian. The China Study is what pushed me overboard. Not just a splash in the water either; a full dive to the bottom of the sandy banks and back to the surface with a new outlook on food and life.

The book launched me into an obsessive need to read countless other books about food. I’ve got about ten under my belt and a wish list that keeps growing. Now those other fiction-based books seem so bland and unimportant. The China Study was my life changer and my gateway to turning a new leaf. It shocked and frightened me just how little I knew about my food and now I had to know everything. The more I read the more it pushed me into a need to get away from factory farmed meat, genetically modified plants and closer to the communities of people who cared about what was going into their bodies. So for the second time since our son was born we left him a bottle and in the care of my sister and her husband and we made a birthday dinner date to see Dr. Campbell.

Cassie, owner of Pomegranate Café, greeted us at the door and made sure to tell us she was spreading the word about our restaurant opening up in East Mesa. She (being another one of my sources of inspiration) made me gleam from ear to ear. This is why I love being a part of this community – you meet amazing and supportive people that care about good food and the ingredients that are put on a plate, not their competition.

It was also a nice surprise to see my photography professor from ASU show up at the event (besides being an amazingly encouraging and compassionate human being, she saw my post about it on Facebook and I am happy to have reached an audience, – even if just one single member). We counted about fifty heads and they all piled into the restaurant placing orders for drinks and finding a spot to sit. I stared at the menu playing tug of war between the Chai or the Summer Breeze juice. Cantaloupe was just coming into season and was enticing but I settled for the warm cup of Chai with almond milk. I was immediately jealous when I saw everyone else sipping from their brightly colored mason jars of freshly pressed juices. Sean ordered a coffee with hemp milk. It was his one comfort after a long workday.

Pomegranate served up a delicious vegan meal of creamy pea soup, farm fresh greens and raw flatbread sandwiches stuffed with mushrooms, sprouts and other colorful vegetables that performed a silent symphony of beautiful colors. One thing I have come to learn about good food is that a plate with a variety of colors displayed upon it will dazzle your every sense and leave you with a feeling of satisfaction like nothing else in this world.

Then came the main event. Because Dr. Campbell was on New York time and due to speak at the Mayo Clinic at 6:30am the next morning, his lecture was brief. He gave a brief overview about his book then talked about his non-profit organization the, T. Colin Campbell Foundation and how they were trying to change the world’s view of food. In the end his message was clear; government was set to uphold and sustain a system that is in place and frankly … stubborn. A grassroots movement was taking place and those had to be the people to help spread the word and make a change in the world. Butterfly’s fluttered in my stomach as I thought about our future restaurant; our gamble with our once secure lifestyle to pursue our passion for a greater cause.

Now I don’t have fantasies about meeting movie stars or famous people, although I might get excited about meeting a musician whose music I admire or perhaps the President if ever there were an opportunity, but when it came to meeting Dr. Campbell I was star-struck. I stood in line with my copy of, The China Study and practiced my speech. In my head it sounded something along the lines of, “I know you probably hear this all the time but I just want you to know how much I admire you and that you changed my life. I want to make a difference in the world. If I hadn’t read your book, I wouldn’t have become a Vegan and my husband and I wouldn’t be fulfilling our lifelong dream of owning a restaurant.” Instead I handed him my book and stared at him, dumbfounded. “How are you doing today?” I asked and then mentally started to badger myself about how completely stupid that sounded.

My husband chimed in, “her name is Krystal. K-r-y…” I finished the spelling of my name for him as he scribbled the letters in my book and then muttered something about the restaurant and the educational classes and how we would love to have him out if the opportunity of presented itself. Then asked if I could get a picture with him. Minuets later I was shaking his hand goodnight and feeling my moment to shine slip into the darkness, still at a loss of words and dignity.

On the car ride home, as I dwelled over my embarrassing display of whatever it was that happened back at the restaurant, I still felt a sense of empowerment and excitement for my husband and our future; we were the grassroots movement of Dr. Campbell’s vision. Maybe we would be someone’s inspiration. We could change lives by following in the passionate footsteps of others; their passion was fuel for our fire.

I may not have made the impression I wanted or displayed my sense of gratitude in any way resembling the grandiose moment that we all see in movies but I still felt like the night was worth every second.

My book was signed and I shook the hand of the man that changed my life.

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