Monday, September 30, 2013

Vegan MoFo Day #30: Deer Run Bed and Breakfast, My Own Vegan Dream, Sort of Realized

I will never forget my first experience patronizing an all vegan business. It was a restaurant; they are long since closed, moved on to other things, but I still pine for the place. I have the best memories from there. The feeling of joy as I read that menu knowing I could order anything and everything was incredible. This was a long time ago, way before things are the way they are now (thankfully!) with so many established, as well as up and coming, vegan restaurants, yet I still remember this as if it were yesterday. Despite that experience, it never translated to me that I could open any other type of vegan business, because what other type of vegan businesses were there to own? Clearly I had a lot to learn, clearly I had spent far too long in a world of conformity.

What really opened my eyes was Dina Brigish of White Pig Bed and Breakfast (Virginia) fame. For some reason before I learned about the White Pig, it never really dawned on me that I could do something that combined my own ethics and lifestyle into something that I could consider a job, work, career, or whatever it is called these days. I had never even heard of vegan inns before, and for some reason kind of just figured we vegans don't get to have our own sanctuaries like that for lodging too. Enter The White Pig and the school of life.

Although looking worldwide it seems the bed and breakfast form of lodging is slowly disappearing, we have bucked the trend, and bucked it BIG. Perhaps our size makes it more manageable (we're only 4 rooms in total), but we're often at capacity even off-season, and operating with a long waiting list. Back in the beginning we had a 0% vegan clientele, and most people would come and stay with us "even though" we were vegan. Now over the course of these years, we're sought out BECAUSE we're vegan. Of course non-vegans stay with us, don't get me wrong. For some non-vegan guests, staying makes an indelible impression and gets people thinking, looking at the "bigger picture." Yesterday at MantraFest, while on stage one of the performers said something like "we are all students, we are all teachers; the best students make the best teachers, and the best teachers make the best students." We are all learning, that's what I took from those words.

I still cook and bake some of the core recipes that were written exclusively for, and purchased by, me. They are some of the best recipes I've encountered to date; they are uncomplicated, use only unprocessed food, and are delicious. I think my teacher from way back then would be proud and happy to hear that I still use almost all the core recipes on a regular basis here. Since then I've also tested hundreds of other recipes, and added dozens more to the collection. Dozens? Probably hundreds. I now own pushing 100 vegan cookbooks, and have 5 loose leaf (nicely organized, finally) binders of recipes categorized too.

This is one of my best recipes, from my core collection.
 It's called the happy Buddha frittata.
It's gluten free, and I now I've even crafted a soy free version for people with allergies.
I love this recipe, it's delicious and so versatile.
Here this was served with oven roasted potatoes, fresh fruit, and mini corn muffins.
So, on a typical day, you'd have all this, plus a muffin, juice,
and organic, fair trade coffee and tea.
Don't worry, be happy! Be VEGAN!
Even though I still use my core collection of recipes, things have changed a lot since the very early days here. I was much more rigid in the recipe rotation system when we first opened. I was much less apt to experiment on my own, and I struggled with finding decent recipes when people would come through with allergies. No one can really imagine the angst I used to put upon myself when I would get someone with a special food allergy consideration that I had never had to deal with before. I do not have years of culinary school under my belt, and probably never will. When I was much younger, if I knew "then" what I know "now" I probably would have spent at least 6 years at different trade schools, including culinary school, I would have gotten a business degree, and would have taken auto shop in high school. After this long time, I feel very comfortable in the kitchen, and spend the bulk of my time related to kitchen work. I've met and exceeded challenges here with guest needs that I never could have imagined. I've realized that being vegan and organic is attractive to some people who have profound illness or chronic disease. Let food be thy medicine, and medicine thy food.

Do not ask to take, nor actually take, my picture.
But, I'm not shy about showing off my favorite apron (thanks Herbivore!)
Organic vegan flax pancakes.
This time red, white & blue style
(strawberries, bananas, and blueberry compote).
On a day like this, you'd also have a smoothie, muffin,
maybe a parfait, plus coffee and tea.
When you come to Deer Run Bed and Breakfast as a guest, you see my heart and soul at every turn. When the food on your plate arrives, every part of it has been labored over with love. Included in our rate is a daily full sit down organic vegan breakfast. I like to typically vary the breakfast every other day with either a "sweet" entree (like pancakes) or a "savory" entree (like a frittata). Every day I bake from scratch so there is also fresh fruit or nut bread or muffin on your plate, and every day I serve either a smoothie or a juice to compliment your meal. Some days there's additional courses like fruit parfaits (all in addition to what I've already written), granola, fruit freezes, or other great food items. My pancake recipe has been written just for me and it is my flagship recipe. I have been begged for that recipe, and believe it or not, more than one person has tried to bribe me for it. I haven't cracked yet. It's kind of nice to be "known" for something, even if it is just the best pancakes, right?

Special order toasted coconut cake with chocolate buttercream icing
Vegan, organic, always and forever.
Special order carrot cake with cream cheese frosting.
Vegan, organic, always and forever.

You met Katy a couple days ago, remember?
This was her cake 1 year, I liked this one a lot...
see those little pink flecks? They're edible vegan pink hearts,

Marbled fondant, molded sea turtles and other sea life.
Huge multilayer cake I made and donated to
last year's Save-A-Turtle end of year banquet.
100% vegan. There is no other way.
This was my personal Yule log one year.
Pressed for time as always on high season, it's not as fancy
as I've done other years, but it was delicious, vegan, and organic.
Simply beautiful in my eyes.

Three tiered wedding cake, fondant covered with
simple fondant rolled roses.
The horizon is straight, the cake is straight, but
alas the photo is not.
Another wedding cake.
I did a little better on the picture this time.
This was a small cake, still double layered.
I liked this one a lot, I got to play with glitter.
When we close our eyes and turn a blind eye to injustice, we simply become part of the machine pumping out injustice. For as long as I am at Deer Run, a large form of my activism is my cooking. I speak through my food creations, and I hope people will listen. Every aspect of this bed and breakfast is considered with mindfulness. We do things to cause the least impact on the Earth, we conserve resources, we don't take more than we need, we give back to our community and causes we care about. We cherish and nurture the Earth and everything upon it. We take nothing for granted, and still work as hard now as we did on the first day we showed up here.

Vegan, organic muffins.
My kitchen has cranked out thousands of these beauties.
Some vegans come here and this is their first experience at an all vegan establishment. When that happens, I am flooded with joy. I like to think that they will have the similar joyous feelings 20 years from now like I do about the first time I went to an all vegan place (noted above).  I wanted everything on the menu and I didn't want to ever leave. Sometimes, vegans come here and when they discover they can get a vegan Key lime pie, cookies, brownies, or something else special, they want it all too. The question "can we eat a whole pie in 3 days" has come up more times than I can count.

This is an organic Key lime pie I whipped up for an "emergency" pie person.
On such short notice, the crust wasn't home made,
but it was natural, Arrowhead Mills and vegan.
The Key limes, Key lime juice and all that beautiful mango are
organic, and local.
Looks similar to the Buddha, but it's so not.
This is my version of the Vegan Zombie's quiche.
I make them individually, and then pop them out of the ramekin.
Here this was served with coconut grits, fresh fruit,
herbed "cheesy" biscuits I make using basil and Daiya, along with
of course juice, muffin, coffee and tea.
I like to play with cookie cutters when I make biscuits.
Doesn't every kitchen include a manatee cookie cutter?
I still get jazzed about naked fruit.
Here's one of the cases of organic peaches I bought this year.
So beautiful.
A work of art in their own right.
Why do they insist on putting a little plastic label on every single peach?
Organic vegan triple layer chocolate ganache cake with
edible vegan gold dust.
Being vegan is the opposite of deprivation, trust me!
This was a raw birthday cake I made.
Vegan obviously.
The mango came from my garden.
You don't know mango until you've had one fresh from the tree.
Raw used to be foreign to me, but no longer.
I've really come to enjoy most of what I make when I do raw.
This was an organic vegan raw vanilla bean chia pudding with
fruit and nuts; served with organic apples and that
to-die-for organic raw coconut butter by Artisana.
More raw.
Carrot cake bliss balls.
We have had weddings, commitments, memorials, graduations, reunions, birthdays and other events for our guests here. I've baked wedding cakes, graduation cakes, birthday cakes, tons of holiday goodies, and any other special request that a guest can throw at me. So far I have never failed to meet any request given to me, as best as I can remember. It's not always easy, but given enough time, I can do it. And, this has been my mission for as long as I'm here. The other happy vegan and I are here to make this the best experience possible.

Admittedly I've learned that we are not for everyone. We've done our best to be as transparent as possible with who we are, and what we do. I think that is important and fair. We have learned that not everyone or every place else plays by these same rules.

I am inspired by living down here. I see magic at every turn. There are animals everywhere, there is sunshine, sand and ocean. Being here makes me want to live in harmony with nature as much as possible. This is not something that is not important to everyone, but is important to many. Here, we think about harmony as doing the least amount of harm, and doing the most good. We think about the food we buy, the products we bring into the place, the wrapping for everything, the paints on the walls, and the furniture in the rooms. Fair trade is important to us here, and keeping it "local" by supporting other like-minded businesses is extremely important to us. This is small town living. This is my community.

I do not seek out validation from others for my ethics, my beliefs, or my business. We are a vegan business in a non-vegan world, but through it all we're making our way, and we know we're paving the way for others too. We also know compassion IS the way and we strive to help others find this path too. Many animals suffer because people are selfish. This simple fact is so difficult for me to know. Yet, I am exceptionally fortunate to be where I am, doing what I do. This didn't happen by accident  or luck; there's been a lot of blood, sweat, tears and sacrifice involved on every level. I say this is my own vegan dream, "sort of" realized only because there are so many more plans I had here. We've encountered difficulties at every turn through local government, but no matter what the future holds, Deer Run will be one of the jewels in my own self-described crown.

Here, we are activists at heart.
That's me behind those 2 giant anti-Monsanto signs.
In the future when we're not tethered to this place, the plan is to unleash
an onslaught of activism; there are big things to come.
Until then, we do what we can, including things like
March Against Monsanto.
Coming to Deer Run has been an exercise in how to live, at least for me. I strive to live with gratitude, serve the community (locally and globally), learn, observe, not put my expectations on others, and be the best that I can be. It's been, and continues to be, a testament to the truth to turn things over to the Universe, not have too many expectations of how things "should" be, instead let go and embrace the freedom that comes with letting go. Divesting myself of the trappings that surrounded me for a large portion of my life has been enhanced by what I believe Deer Run stands for. 

We are living proof: if you build it, they will come. With that, I guess I can say the same about Vegan MoFo, right? This is the last day of September, so it's my last MoFo post for 2013. I hope you have enjoyed my contribution to this international event, and I thank you for coming along. I think saved the best for last. I'm proud of what we've managed to create here, and what we are able to do for others.

If you've got a dream my advice is to make a plan and get to it. Life is short. Be kind. Be humble. Find a way to serve others no matter what it is you do. Live with compassion towards all sentient beings (even people). Animals have no voice, we must take action for them, and stop victimizing them. Carpe Diem baby, Carpe Diem. This is what Deer Run is about. All that, and vegan organic chocolate cupcakes too.

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