Living in small sustainable community is, in my super cute and humble opinion, one of the most conscious adjustments we can make as a society. Sharing resources, appliances, clothing, even a community phone like the one I am using to post this, means we buy less, use less and create less waste and still have access to everything we need to thrive. Here at the farm we share three vegan meals a day: we have a garden to harvest herbs and greens, and anything we can’t produce here we acquire locally from nearby farms. As a relatively new community, we’re always looking for new ways to become even more sustainable, and one of those ways is bringing in community members who know a thing or two about conscious living-and in the case of our dear bro Jewno, conscious cooking.
Jewno is our manager and sometimes chef (not to be confused with Juan and David, our most-of-the-time chefs) and holds the multi-faceted role of organizing the fairies, herding the hippies and cooking us delicious nosh when Juan and David have their day off. He ended up at the farm as a result of facing the global lockdowns a few years ago, telling me the sudden concept of food scarcity during quarantine spurred him to become interested in permaculture. Lucky for us, he found the farm and has been feeding us his sparkly vibe through his unconditional love and creative cooking since he arrived. And now, bless his heart, he’ll be sharing with us his story as well as one of his hearty vegan recipes perfect for large groups.
“I started cooking at 17. I had just graduated high school a year early and was working for my dad in his restaurant. I intended to go back to college, but by the time a year hit I was loving cooking full time and didn’t want to go back. I eventually became kitchen manager at 18. I didn’t know how to cook anything other than mac n’ cheese and frozen pizzas before any of this, so it was a lot.
When quarantine hit, I was working at a food truck. My job went on hold and I was caught up in the fear of food insecurity like many others, so I signed up for an online permaculture design course. I wanted to grow my own food sustainably and not rely on the industrial agricultural system. I was halfway through the course when I realized I wasn’t getting all that I wanted: I had no space to grow food. So, my partner at the time and I decided to move somewhere else to find a farm to learn on, and in October 2020 we left for Costa Rica. We travelled around for a bit until we found a farm called Finca las Ornigas and over the next few months I got the hands on experience I needed to feel like I was really learning. I was hands in the dirt daily, and then I was cooking for ten people over a fire. It was my first time taking my culinary experience into a community space.
Eventually, my partner and I left Costa Rica to check out Lake Atitlan in Guatemala. We found the Mystical Yoga Farm and we loved it immediately. My partner applied to be the herbalist and I applied to be the chef. Right away I was helping to lead four of the community meals a week, cooking for more than 35 people at a time. Everyone was instantly falling in love with my food and this really validated my belief in my skills. It was a time I really got to shine with my own recipes and my own inspiration. This was the first time my creative life force felt truly inspired. Here, in this kitchen at the farm.
The local chef here, David, and I connected well. We were working together using each others leftovers and being sustainable and this is huge when cooking for community. You use what’s available instead of letting your ego decide what it wants to create. You work with what you have, what needs to be used today, what’s local to you. Cooking for community can be easy if you enjoy cooking and you’ve cooked a bit before, but it definitely takes a certain level of organization and determination: you can’t cook too much and you definitely can’t cook too little. You also can’t do it all alone. You need to be able to delegate to other people and work together, so you’re focusing on your vision and overseeing the whole operation and watching it all come together in perfect timing. It’s an art.
My favorite part about cooking here is being able to harvest straight from the land. I love going and thinking about what I’d make and seeing what’s available in the garden and in the community. If there’s an abundance of something, you find creative ways to use it, and you challenge yourself to explore different ingredients. It’s also so important the frequency and vibration you’re cooking in: all of your emotional and energy goes into your creation, so I really avoid this rushy, stressed energy of commercial kitchens. With everything I make, I’m being present and focused on putting love and intention into it. The farm is one of those places that demands presence. You try to rush here, you’re definitely gonna stub your toe.
Nutrition is super important to us all, especially because we’re a vegan community. We really value protein, iron and greens. We aren’t just loading people up with beans every meal. We look for diversity and balance. Green vegetables have a lot of the protein we need, so we look for different ways to offer it: loaded salads from the garden, lots of broccoli, throwing nuts and seeds into sauces. Financially, it’s also a big deal to be mindful. In commercial kitchens you’re often given portion sizes to work with and at home it’s easy to budget, but in community you have to be very aware that you’re working with the whole community’s money and certain ingredients are much more expensive and have a bigger impact on our environment, especially if they’re imported. We just don’t always think about these things until we have to. All our fresh food is local, but we also import specialty items like oil and vinegar. Wanting to be sustainable, we are really conscious of how far our ingredients are traveling and use them accordingly. Even that extra tablespoon of olive oil, is it really needed? Is it adding anything?
In a nutshell, cooking for community requires mindfulness and care that many people don’t experience in their day-to-day cooking. Whether it’s checking your vibration or being aware of how many pots you use or how much gas you’re using, being conscious in the kitchen is my number one rule. Connecting to each ingredient, bringing all your love and awareness to each meal. Plus, being prepared and ready for surprises: certain techniques don’t always work like you expect, or people eat more than you planned, or ingredients aren’t available to you. You want to be non-attached and ready for anything, which is just good advice in general.“
After our chat, I asked Jewno if he could share with me some easy-to-grow ingredients that he uses often as well as a recipe ideal for a big group.
Three easy-to-grow ingredients that you can cultivate and cook with
I love to use basil in everything. It ends up in a lot of my sauces and I throw it right into my salads. It’s super low maintenance and grows everywhere here.
We use a lot of spinach at the farm because it’s packed with nutrients and literally blankets the garden. It is so valuable nutritionally and works everywhere, raw or cooked. It even goes into smoothies.
Cabbage is amazing! It’s great cause we use it raw in salads, we cook it up for a different side option AND you can make tons of sour kraut with it, which is a staple for us at the farm. We eat a lot of kraut here.
One delicious community conscious recipe
This recipe is amazing with rice or quinoa if you prefer.
You will need:
30 tomatoes (20 for sauce and 10 for dicing)
1 whole diced onion
1/2 inch thick and 2 inch long piece of ginger, minced small
1 can of coconut milk
Soak 2 cups of chickpeas overnight. Boil soaked chickpeas for 4-6 hours until soft, adding water as needed. Add 2 tsp garam masala to the water, no salt as salt slows down cooking time with chickpeas, unlike other beans.
Blend the 20 tomatoes into liquid and add to sauce pan with the other 10 diced tomatoes
Keep on high and cook majority of the water out of the mixture, 20-30 minutes
in a espérate pan add 1 tsp of coconut oil and add diced onion with a pinch of salt, sauté until translucent, 3-4 minutes
Add ginger and garlic and continue to sauté until golden brown, 5 minutes
Add 2 tsp ground cumin and 1/2 tsp of turmeric while cooking
Once the tomato sauce has cooked down, turn down to simmer and add onions along with a generous tbs of salt, pinch of clove and cinnamon, tsp of turmeric, pinch of black pepper, pinch of garlic powder, 1.5 tbs garam masala, 2 tbs of cumin
Strain the chickpeas and add a generous tbs of salt
Mix chickpeas with the tomato sauce and add one can of coconut milk
Simmer with a lid for 15 minutes and pour over rice to serve in a big pot