I am so excited that we have already started taking bookings for the FEAST Courses in Tenterfield next year. Little happy dance! I have had several messages from people asking a few questions about FEAST Courses, as in what the FEAST is all about, what do the workshops involve, are the workshops only suited to vegans etc. So, I thought I would tell you a little bit about my story, the idea behind FEAST Courses and answer a few other questions.
I have always been a complete hedonist when it comes to food. You name it, I ate too much of it. I loved everything about food. There was not a remotely vegan bone in my body. I became a single parent when Archie and Rissie were 3 years old. Despite the turmoil of the separation and realizing that now I was time poor, perpetually broke and carrying the burden of bringing up my kids relatively on my own, my life remained pretty much the same when it came to food!
Not long after my marriage broke down, a chance job opportunity had me moving us to the tiny country town of Tenterfield for a complete change. Everything was going swimmingly for the first few months, but then life as I knew it was completely changed when I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis just after Archie and Rissie turned 4.
For the first few months as I battled with this diagnosis, along with financial and time challenges I was also dealing with health challenges. A few months after my diagnosis I went to an Overcoming Multiple Sclerosis Retreat which dealt with the disease with a plant-based diet + seafood, meditation, vitamin supplementation and exercise.
This was all evidence-based, but still, it took a while to sink in!!! I continued with life as I knew it until my next check-up a year after my original diagnosis. I was not at all accepting of my diagnosis and was fully expecting that the neurologist would tell me that it had all been a terrible mistake! Suffice to say, nothing could be further from the truth. An MRI scan showed new and active lesions on my spinal cord and in my brain and he advised me that my disease was active and progressing and that my future was undoubtedly that of a wheel-chair. I started taking the medication that I had stopped and now on top of everything else, I was also dealing with the most horrific side-effects.
A few months after this, I was physically incapacitated in many ways and not coping at all well with anything. I made the decision that I could no longer tolerate the medication and I returned to everything I had learned at the retreat. Initially, I saw this as almost like a punishment. I viewed it as a diet of deprivation and I resented every bloody minute of it! I had the stupid misconception that plant-based food was all about lentils and stodge and that taste and flavour had been taken from my life. I also had two children who loved their food and struggled with the changes I was introducing. I was perpetually broke, time poor and exhausted and if I am completely honest, pissed off!
In later 2014 I had a holiday to the States and after visiting some amazing vegan restaurants, I started to realise that I needed to change my mindset. I decided that my attitude completely sucked, and I gave myself a good kick up the backside and realised that I could eat just as well with plant-based food that was delicious and happened to be as good for the soul as well as the body. I also made the decision that my best shot in life was ditching the seafood and embracing a complete vegan lifestyle and in mid-2015, I decided to ditch a rather toxic work situation, go freelance and start my blog My Notes from New England which meant that I was also creating recipes that I loved.
Along the way I had many challenges, I had children who also spent time with their father and when they were there, they continued eating as per normal. Starting a freelance career, money was always tight, and I could not afford expensive ingredients and I had little time to create recipes that were long and involved. I found a lot of vegan food to be complicated and to be honest, a little bit precious. I continued my quest to find food that was easy to prepare, would make all of us happy and was also filled with joy. I have always loved feeding people!
The final step for me was in 2016, when I took Archie and Rissie when they were 8 years old, backpacking for nine months. We spent three months in the USA, three months in Costa Rica and three months in Italy. It was here in my travels, that I was reminded of food that I did not want to eat. I was reminded how good simple food could be and how much joy could be found in delicious food shared with those that you love.
I returned home in 2017 and then completed 10 months of study with Plantlab Culinary (before it went belly up) and my studies included Raw Food, Plant-Based Desserts and Culinary Nutrition. Now 5 years on, I love implementing everything that I have learned over this rollercoaster ride of a journey. My passion is creating mouth wateringly good recipes in a way that my kids love, in a way that is affordable, easy and fun.
FEAST courses have been a small seed in my head for some time. F is for family-friendly and fun. E is for easy and economical. A is for achievable and attainable. S is for smart and sexy and T is for taste! I am a firm believer that life should be a feast, it should not be a diet or a lifetime of deprivation, it should be a bloody feast!
I suspect FEAST courses would have remained a seed for some time as I have been struggling to create an online curriculum, but I tend to leave that to the end of the day, when I like torturing myself with technical wizardry just for kicks and I usually end up wishing I had a bottle of tequila or going to bed after restraining myself from throwing the computer over the back deck. The onsite goal is very much a work in progress BUT earlier in 2018, I was lucky enough to be approached by Bec Everett from Tenterfield Health to start working on a monthly recipe challenge for her. Over the months I have gotten to know Bec, I have realised that she is very much in line with my thinking of food. She is not a believer in counting calories, but she is a huge believer in the beauty of whole-foods. She is also a trained nutritionist having received a Bachelor of Health Science majoring in Nutrition and Dietetics. Bec also loves her food, just like me!
So, when I mentioned recently that my goal for 2019 was to create some courses, Bec gave me a yell and after a very quick catch up, FEAST Courses Tenterfield was born! I could not think of a more perfect partner in crime to work on this dream which is FEAST Courses!
How will the workshops be structured?
There will be a 3-hour workshop from 4 to 7 followed by a dining experience. During the workshop, we will be demonstrating the dishes which we will be dining on that evening. There will be a definite hands-on component, though if you prefer to just watch that is ok too! The format will be very informal involving both a demonstration and hands-on element. Then at 7 pm (or thereabouts), we will sit down at a shared table to enjoy the results of the workshop along with some liquid refreshments. You will also receive a recipe guide and nutrition guide for each workshop.
Do you have to be vegan?
No, you don’t. FEAST Workshops are all about plant-based food, but you do not have to be vegan. You might be simply wanting to introduce some more plant-based recipes to your diet or increase your intake of fruit and vegetables and whole food. You might also be contemplating pursuing a vegan diet but are in two minds about it and you are after some inspiration. Alternatively, you are a big believer in delicious food and love the idea of FEASTING! Or you just might love the idea of a social afternoon and evening combined with yummy food! So no, there is absolutely no requirement to be a vegan, thought FEAST courses and related Facebook Support Group etc deal only with a plant-based diet. (Bec is not a vegan, but she is a big believer in whole-foods and increasing your intake of fruits, vegetables, nuts etc)
Workshop Dates for 2019:
Saturday 23rd February: A Summer Grazing Table
Saturday 13th April: Falling Leaves Feasting
Saturday 15th June: Comfort Food
Saturday 17th August: A Winter Grazing Table
Saturday 19th October: The Sweetness of Spring
Saturday 7th December: Festive Fare
Enquiries and Bookings:
Just shout out via email or via social media and I can email you a registration form. Once registration form and payment are processed you are confirmed for your workshop/s.
FEAST Courses will have a Facebook Support Group where Bec and I will be both providing content on a regular basis, as well as answering any questions you have. We are hoping to open this up from the 1st December (all going well) and once you have registered for a FEAST Course you will have access to this, regardless of your workshop date.
If you have any other questions, please let me know as delighted to assist. I am so excited about the year ahead and all the adventures that are in store.