The joys and challenges of crafting “pop up” fermented nut cheeze workshops in a tiny space were revealed over this last month as I discovered the questions of timing in the stages of cheeze making – fitting a 48 hour fermentation process into a two hour class. And I must admit, just between you and me (and Judy), that preparing was sometimes a bit stressful. Though I do so love the creativity of a course design process, for a number of reasons this was not an easy flow.
First off, I realized that it had been two years since I’d offered any raw food workshops, so the nutritional info that used to be on the tip of my tongue just wasn’t. And my brain seems to have aged in the meantime, so it was extra work to get back in the groove. Plus this was a new workshop for me. I had gotten excited about raw vegan cheezes for us, but it’s a whole different ballgame to be able to engagingly and educationally present the process to others coming from diverse interests and backgrounds.
And we had so much interest that we ended up offering the workshop four times, and two of them were on back to back weekend days. We were surprised at how much excitement there was on this topic. Based on my experiments with raw food workshops a few years ago, where we drew a steady group of about a dozen, mostly older, women, the makeup of these groups seemed quite diverse and notably different. It was lovely that so many young people were registering, with more than one or two men. It came as a revelation that there are many more people who would be interested in vegan raw food classes if they were subsidized or free. In this case, we are grateful to have been able to kick off Catherine O’Brien’s Deep Table Series, and for the sponsorship and support of the Animal Ethics Project, and the Cape Breton University’s Community Garden for the initial three workshops. I would love help finding more sources of financial support. After all, it is our health at stake!
The task of revealing the effects of a 48 hour fermentation process in a two hour workshop turned out to be just like I imagine a TV cooking show to be – without all the kitchen support! There was so much up front prep to be ready to deliver on the actual day. Preparing cheeze and accompaniments for 10-13 people is fun AND takes space! There was not a single inch of Tiny’s counters that didn’t have food on them. I opened the fridge and
was immediately overwhelmed at how incredibly over full it was! In a different season it might have been a bit easier as we could be harvesting directly from the garden or buying from local markets. It is deep winter, so while I normally store my raw food education necessities in a friend’s garage (and came very close to giving them all away a few months back for lack of use!), we had to bring it all inside Tiny in order to select what was needed for this specific set of workshops. And then we couldn’t put it back in storage or into the car because it was wayyyyyy too cold outside and the transition from cold to room temperature would have introduced water in the form of condensation; not good for food preparation. So, there it sat on Tiny’s floor for weeks taking up precious floor space.
I am a person whose internal state tends to mirror what is going on in my external space – I’m highly sensitive in that (and several other) ways – so things felt fairly chaotic on inner and outer levels in our home for a few weeks. I said to Judy that the only viable solution would be for me to stay in meditation all day long, which of course was not a realistic option. I did follow my practice of playing and singing songs and chants to infuse the food I make with love and peacefulness, which helped to steady me too. Of course, now that we know of these challenges we can be better prepared for our next set of pop up workshops!
Despite the trials of preparing raw food workshops in Tiny, I discovered I do still love the creativity involved in designing and offering them. And in the end it was all for a good cause: more nut cheeze in the world!! It has been wonderful to see postings and photographs on social media of all the nut cheeze experiments participants have begun to engage in. There’s nothing better for me after a workshop than hearing how the learning is being applied. I even got to further experiment a bit myself as I turned some partially fermented cashew cheeze, leftover from two of the workshops, into a caramel blueberry cheesecake and a lemon ginger one! They were unbelievably delicious (so much more so than the non-fermented ones I’ve made in the past – which are still quite good.)
I continue to be asked why I don’t sell my nut cheeze and raw chocolate, at least in the local area. The more I’m asked, the more I come to terms with the fact that I am just not a business person. I love the creative and educational processes involved in offering these workshops. Yet I really don’t thrive in a situation where I find myself doing the same thing over and over again. I am always wanting to learn, share, and design new approaches, not go into production (as I described earlier in this blog entry). And so I remain on an alternative educator track and hope to continue offering a variety of raw food workshops. Some ideas I have include:
- Introduction to Probiotic Foods: Sauerkraut, Kimchi, and Kombucha
- Dairy Alternatives for All Meals: Nut milks, basil sour cream & salad dressing, sweet cashew cream, non-dairy yoghurt
- Raw Food Made Easy (make & eat a full 4 course meal!)
- Raw Chocolate Levels 1 & 2
- Raw Charcuterie Boards
- Dehydration Levels 1 & 2
- Raw International Meals (Thai, Indian, Italian, etc.!)
Thanks to all for the wonderful comments about these recent “pop up” workshops. It’s been lovely to hear them from both vegans and omnivores alike. Here’s a sampling:
“I had a wonderful chance to attend one of Nicky Duenkel and Judy Pratt’s fantastic workshops yesterday…and now have a bright light shining on many new dairy-free possibilities. As someone who both desperately loves cheese, and knows full well that their body isn’t meant to consume it – this was exactly what I needed. I’m super excited to try out some of their delicious recipes and recommend their workshops to everyone!” ~Stephanie
“This nut cheeze is absolutely delicious! It’s not good ‘for a vegan cheese’ it’s good all by itself, and I would say as good if not better than any gourmet dairy cheese!” ~Garry (a conscientious meat eater with a dairy allergy.)
*See the Deep Table Blog for a bit about our own story around eating raw food as well as for a participant’s perspective on our recent workshops!
*Thanks to Betsy Lowry & Catherine O’Brien for many of these pics and for all the enthusiasm and engagement from participants! We were usually so absorbed that we totally forgot about taking pictures.