A first course of summer vegetable salad with pumpkin citrus dressing, incredibly moist Anasazi corn bread with maple coconut butter, a scrumptious dessert of cacao nibs, Medjool dates, hemp nuts, and agave nectar -- sample local chef Al Chase's vegan cuisine, and you may wonder why you've ever eaten any other way.
"Vegan food isn't simply meant to be nutritious," Chase says. "It should also be delicious and fun. And it's good for the planet as well as the individual eating it."
Chase buys his produce locally, which not only supports local organic
farmers but also cuts down on fossil fuel usage.
"I'd learned too much about health and environmental issues to do that any longer," he says. "For example, it takes 25,000 gallons of water to produce one pound of meat. The rain forest is being destroyed for factory farming and to raise cattle.
"Animals are often cruelly treated, separated from their young, and their food is full of unhealthy additives that harm them and the humans who consume their meat. I wanted to educate others so they would be aware of the impact of their food choices."
Pairing his love of cooking with his knowledge about health and
sustainability, Chase created what was then called the Institute for
Culinary Awakening, a mobile teaching organization, and traveled all
over the country teaching organic plant-based cuisine to chefs,
businesses and individuals.
"People sometimes worry that if they become vegans, they won't get enough protein and calcium," Benjamin says. "But those are both available from a plant-based diet. People can also appease a sweet tooth. Al makes incredible chocolate pudding, pecan pie and all kinds of other wonderful treats. There are plenty of great recipes out there."