Archives for posts with tag: curly kale

I went on retreat in a convent over the weekend.  It was a good time, with lots of space for letting life percolate and renewing relationships.  Over the course of the weekend, the whole Vegan ‘thing’ popped up regularly in the conversation.

Now, going on retreat in a convent is not like going on a Buddhist retreat, where Vegan, or at least Vegetarian, food would be par for the course.  Those of you who’ve had any kind of contact with Christianity (in the UK at least) will know that adherents to this faith (with some truly amazing exceptions) tend to be of a conservative nature, and when it comes to eating, are likely to be ‘meat and potatoes’ types.  This despite the fact that early in the first, and possibly most famous (or infamous, depending upon your point of view) book of the bible we find the words “… and God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.”  (Interestingly, nothing is said about eating animals until after the flood…).  I’m not a literalist bible reader, and I think we have a conscience for a reason and need to exercise it daily, so I’m not going to start justifying Veganism with bible quotes, but I will say that I’m happy to see (out here on the internet) that there are plenty of Christians who are coming around to the perspective that a number of Eastern faith traditions have embraced for a long time, that we need to tread lightly on the earth.  After all, even though I don’t know the bible that well, I can categorically tell you that God definitely didn’t say “you shall enslave animals in mass industrial production systems, subjecting them to pain, violation and terror on a mass scale never imagined by the wandering Israelites when they ate their manna from heaven.”

To be honest, things were not looking promising before we arrived at the convent.  My Vegan co-conspirator had been told on first enquiry that, “We can look after the Vegetarians, but the Vegans will have to eat beans on toast.”  He responded with a helpful list of things Vegans DO eat and we crossed our fingers and hoped for the best.  (Well, I actually went prepared with a box of things to snack on  if it turned out there was no protein to be had.  I’ve got a way to go before I can “consider the lilies of the field” and not worry about how I’m going to come by food…  although I do believe in seeking that elusive thing ‘the Kingdom of God’.  In respect of that, I’ll be much better at contributing to that Kingdom if I’m not stroppy because my blood sugar is low.)

We need not have worried.  Being a Vegan guest in a retreat house was just like being a Vegan guest anywhere else; I have so far found that if you equip your hosts with a bit of knowledge they will willingly rise to the occasion, even if they do feel a bit anxious about it.  We were taken very good care of, following the diet of the Vegetarian sisters (of which there were four in residence that weekend) who had all agreed to go Vegan for the time we were there.  I am quietly impressed by this, as most of the sisters are advanced in years and probably used to their routine.  I was certainly touched by their kindness.  They also supplied us with some Vegan nibbles in the cottage: lots of houmous, some cornbread, and a ‘Vegan’ kitemarked ‘sausage’ which I hadn’t tried before and was an interesting experience (if you want to know my ‘Thoughts on Imitation Foods’, please see the earlier post from 19th February under that name).  We certainly didn’t go hungry.  Our final meal with the sisters was Sunday lunch, for which we had a lovely lentil pie, gorgeous greens (spring cabbage and curly kale) and roast potatoes, followed by stewed apple with raisins and spices.  It was a delicious meal in good company.

At that meal (the only one not taken in silence) I sat across from one of the sisters, whose beautiful spirit was infectious.  She is Vegetarian and she arrived late for lunch because she had been out at a church service in the local community.  As she tucked into her lentil pie, she said, “I’m so glad we’re eating Vegan this weekend. If I’m ever in hospital, I always ask for Vegan food because it’s always the tastiest and best.”  She was an elderly woman, bright-eyed, curious, talkative, full of gratitude and very much ‘alive’.  We talked about Samosas, Fiji, and music. 

With food anxieties put to one side, there was plenty of time on retreat for noticing other things.  Things like how, if you do things with a deliberate intention, they can become more vivid; how, if you frame your day in a structure of prayer or meditation, it’s like having regular time to ‘breathe’, to ‘check in’ and see how things are; how a group of people living together in a committed way has a different kind of texture to the kind of reality I’m used to.  Being ‘monastic’ made me think about rules.  It was certainly the case that when I first heard of Veganism it seemed like a very strict rule to live by.  Having chosen it voluntarily and started doing it, renewing that commitment on a day-to-day basis, my perception is different;  I actually find the rule helpful to me.  In narrowing down my choices, it frees me to focus more clearly on specific things, like on how to make tasty, colourful, healthy meals out of what is allowed to me, and on being grateful for the abundance that’s available.

Living Vegan has enriched the way I think about living in faith.  For a long time I didn’t practice the faith I was raised in, it seemed like an affront to my liberty to have to adhere to rules which encroached on personal areas of my life.  Over the past couple of years I’ve found myself wanting to re-commit to living under rules which seek to govern the heart.  It’s important that this is something I’m choosing freely.  It feels positive for that reason.  Life tastes better when you focus on what you CAN do with commitment, creativity and joy. 

It’s not like there’s been any massive revolution, and you might not notice anything different on the outside, but it’s like my compass has been re-set or something.  When I say I’m evolving into  a ‘Christian, Vegan Bicyclist’, Dan jokes that I should get a t-shirt printed with the slogan “Hell For Leather”.  Well, I don’t want to push my slogans on anyone else, but I do want to share them.  Maybe there’s something in common here too between practising Veganism and practising a faith; when you find something good you want to tell everyone about it.

OK.  It’s happened too many times now to just be a coincidence.  The curly kale dream.  In the past month or so, as I’ve been trying out a variety of foods in the run up to going Vegan, I’ve made a number of dishes using curly kale, which is an ingredient I’ve not used much before.  The kale has either been lightly cooked, as in last night’s Colcannon, or raw, in a salad.  Each time, it’s been delicious, but the following night has brought exceptionally vivid dreams, with a slightly hallucinogenic quality to them, and a feeling that my brain is more active during the night, even though I’m sleeping.  It hasn’t only happened to me either; Dan has them too.  They involve quite elemental things, sex and death, and wild and fantastical happenings – last night’s example from Dan being a clear out of rubbish at work resulting in the construction of a theme park quality rollercoaster made from junk and clutter.  Is this an ingredient to be used with care? I would be very interested to hear about others’ experiences.  If you’ve anything to share, please get in touch.

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