Living my Passion
When people ask me ‘what do you do?’ I sometimes struggle to answer. The easy answer is that I’m a graphic designer. Graphic design is what I studied at university, it’s my main source of income and one of my passions. But often my answer is not so simple. Because the truth is, that our passions aren’t necessarily where the money is.
In March I took a giant leap and acted on this and reduced my full-time employment graphic design job down to 3 days a week. This is so exciting as it’s opened up space for me to try different things. Food, nutrition and sensuality being some of them… Imagine if we could LIVE our passions.
What prevents us from living our passions?
We have fears of not fitting in, of not earning enough money, of doing something unconventional. Being judged and seen as weird and different. The desire to conform often stops us from living our passion.
Ask yourself. What makes you feel fulfilled? What do you love? What get’s you going? What motivates you? What would you jump out of bed for? Feel your answer deep inside yourself.
Don't be let down if you don't know what your passion is. If you haven’t found your passion yet, that’s ok too. One way to find out what your passion is, is by finding out what your passion isn’t and realising “I don’t want to be doing this.”
People are more self-assured when their gifts have value within their community. – Charles Einstein
I’m lucky enough to be part of a community of friends and family where my gifts are valued. I’m supported and encouraged. And as a result I have a strong sense of who I am. This is important, surround yourself with good people.
How I've been living my passions
In March 2017 I organised an event called the Twilight Banquet.
We have lived in our rental property for two years now, and ever since I moved in I’ve had a dream of hosting an outdoor dinner. I was talking to my husband about this and we looked in the calendar, with winter coming up there was a sense of urgency to fulfil this dream sooner rather than leave it for another year. Our weekends looked pretty booked up but the next weekend was free. I made a Facebook event and just like that it was happening. I sold 30 tickets in the next three days.
The best way to make something happen is by doing it. Once the Facebook event was made. I was locked in. No matter what, I had to make it work. Something I’ve learnt is that I can spend months or years, dreaming up ideas and plans but they will never happen unless I start taking actions. Often that first step is the biggest. After that everything else will follow.
Guests were treated to a 5 course meal, served straight from my kitchen to the front lawn on a beautiful long wooden table, under the tree and a string of festoon lights next to the garden. It was beautiful. The purpose of the event was to show people how delicious and filling plant-based food is. The meal was free from meat, dairy, preservatives, refined sugar & wheat. A vegan banquet with a middle eastern & mediterranean influence. Menu included: Buckwheat seeded loaf with basil pesto, olive tapenade, raw stuffed tomatoes, beetroot & cashew cream tarts, caper & spaghetti squash stuffed capsicum, rocket & grilled peach salad, purple bean & pomegranate quinoa salad & dessert was orange, chocolate, avocado mousse inside a walnut chocolate tart topped with poached nashi.
I went to sleep that night before all the guests had left. I was absolutely exhausted. But I had a deep satisfaction that I was doing the right thing. Yes, it was hard-work but I loved every moment of it. And the feedback I got was overwhelming from guests affirmed that I was on the right path. My mother in law said “It was the best night of her life, she felt like she had been transported to a European village, she loved the pleasure of taking time to savour the food, enjoy the wine and meet new people.
My journey finding my passions
The values I grew up with could be considered conservative. My parents grow kiwifruit. We ate a lot of meat and a lot of dairy. I would eat meat at least twice a day. My favourite meal was a second’s Maketu meat pie with lots of tomato sauce. Although my Mum is an incredible cook, she wasn’t afraid of what I would think of now as cutting corners, using pre-made sauces.
I never cooked at home so it wasn’t until 2008, when I went to university in Wellington, that I started cooking. I would go to the markets early on a Sunday morning with my partner Leo. Often rinsed with no sleep from the drum and bass gig the night before. But we would still go. At the market I would be in awe of the bins full of colourful produce. I would form a relationship with the produce, understanding what was in season, where it was grown and what the best prices were. I discovered vegetables that I had never seen before in my life. Aubergines, Globe artichokes, yams, kale, bok choy, tatsoi, daikon radish. These things absolutely fascinated me and I would make it my mission to take them home, Google them and cook with them.
Living on a student budget meant reducing the amount of meat we ate. When my parents visited they would bring kiwifruit, avocados and homekill meat. I would stock up the freezer and ration it out to last til the next visit. Quality over quantity. But what I found, was that as I slowly started to eat less meat, I didn’t want it. I got to the point where I would only eat meat if I went out for a meal or if someone cooked for me. And even then, I’d often order the vege option out.
I’m not a vegetarian. But I don't eat meat often and I love plants.
I discovered that the vegetarian options were so much yummier. It amuses me a lot of the time when we think meat tastes reaaally good, it’s the flavours of the seasoning that we’re tasting, which is plant-based.
A tight budget also meant finding the cheapest ingredients. We discovered the Indian bulk store Moshims. Leo and I loved this place. A wholefood diet was more familiar to him but he was just as passionate as I was. Moshims was heaven to me. A warehouse lined with bins and sacks of food. Once again my curiosity got the better of me, as I set out to learn how to cook with every ingredient in the store. Until then, I had only used canned beans. So the process of soaking and boiling a legume was completely new to me. It was here I discovered adzuki beans, mung beans, kidney beans, black beans, lima beans, Cannellini beans, pinto beans. As well as lentils and grains. Barley, buckwheat, millet, quinoa.
Beans are an affordable way to get protein and other nutrients. Quarter of the price is you buy the dried ones.
I was studying for a bachelor of visual communication design. I learnt how to design logo, websites, business cards & brochures. But this was using the computer. To balance this out cooking was my other form of self expression and creative outlet.
During this time we were watching a lot of socially & environmentally conscious documentaries Forks Over Knives, the Inconvenient Truth, Super Size Me, Food Inc. The documentaries informed me about the wider issues of the world, obesity, global warming, industrial agriculture, deforestation, fossil fuels.
Eating a plant based wholefoods diet seemed like a tangible way that I could contribute to creating a better world. As well as feel vibrant, energised and healthy.
In 2010, Leo and I got a new flatmate. Her name was Chelsea, she was from Nevada, America. She had long blonde hair which she would tie in two plaits. She was learning the ukulele, was passionate about non-violent communication and would meditate for an hour every day. She loved running and had studied nutrition. Chelsea had a huge influence on my life. At around this same time I bought a blender for Leo’s birthday. It was obviously a gift that I was actually buying for myself. The blender was the start of the smoothies and bliss balls and Chelsea and I would spend hours creating delicious treats. Chelsea ate really slow. Really slow. She would explain to me how food digested better if we sat for a long time. Rather than getting absorbed into our busy lives and eating on the go.
Chelsea introduced me to two friends Katie-Grace and Rohan. They were nutrition enthusiasts themselves and lived in a flat of 6 people all on a raw food diet. I was eating dinner with them one night when Rohan started eating the salad with his hands. He said he regularly ate with his hands and explained that when we eat with our hands it prepares our bodies for digestion sending signals to the mouth and gut that food is on its way and we release digestive enzymes. Mind-blown.
In 2012 Leo and I got married and in 2013 we took a year long honeymoon travelling around the world. That year was huge source of inspiration. We visited intentionally communities and saw how other people lived, what they ate and I learnt how much more happy people are living with less and more simply than people who have it all.
I learnt about new concepts such as Permaculture, organics, Burning man culture, kink, polyamory, tantra, intentional community.
I realised how important it is to make your own mind up. To question your conditioning. Questioning social norms and being open to new ideas.
There’s one experience in particular which had a profound influence on me and was the inspiration for my most recent food event.
I attended an intimacy workshop at a festival in England. I had no idea what I was getting into. We paired up with a stranger, sat cross legged in front of them, held hands and spent the next thirty minutes staring into each other’s eyes. I felt as though the woman in front of me, who I had never met before was penetrating my soul. Once the vulnerability and fear around my exposure subsided I felt a tingling sensation spread from my lips all over my face. I was alive with vibration, bringing me a sense of presence I could never had imagined possible and will never forget.
There’s not many people doing this kind of work here in New Zealand. Someone that is, is Ellie Wilde, we became friends with her and her partner at the time Regan when we moved back to New Zealand. And have since attended a number of their workshops. Diving deep into sexuality and tackling head on the collective shame and fear around the subject.
Making it happen
After the Twilight Banquet Ellie messaged me “Let’s collaborate.” This was a huge YEEESSS. And The Feast of the Senses was born!
This time there were only 18 guests, they were seated on the floor in an intimate living room setting with the fire on and candles. My friends helped to make 9 tables out of beer crates and covered them with op shop fabric. People partnered up and took turns being blind-folded while the other person fed them. And then they would swap partners for the next course.
I had so much fun with this menu. It was based around aprodisiactic foods and I related every ingredient back to sensuality. Chocolate, mussels, passionfruit.
This event got me really excited because not only was it about combining food and sex. But it was about reconnecting people with food and the ceremony of eating.
"I’m not sure I can bring across the magic of this feast, it was amazing. Wonderful. A lesson in appreciation - to appreciate what we stick into our mouths, to realise that foods differ not only in flavour, but also in texture, in the need for chewing, in how it feels in the mouth, how cold food travels down your throat.” - Feast of the Senses guest
What I learnt from that event was not to be afraid in putting myself out there. People will judge, people will talk. But ultimately if you what you are doing feels right to you and you have the passion and the vision, then do it.
“Live from a place of courage not fear.”
It was me holding that aubergine at the sunday market that sparked my curiosity. Not opening a packet from the supermarket. My passion for food came from the relationship with produce. We are blesssed to have access to growing conditions and the inspiration that I get from produce is the same inspiration that I get from the land.
You don’t need me to tell you that fresh is best, that organic is healthy. But what I can tell you is that growing your own food is easier than what most people think. If new to gardening, start with herbs and leafy greens.
It’s so easy to grow kale, it’s so easy to grow rocket, it’s so easy to grow silverbeet. And these are all really good in smoothies, or salads.