Monday, September 22, 2014

MoFo Noshtalgia: How I Became a Vegetarian & 1970's Whole Wheat Bread


Way back in the day, as a wee California hippie child of the 70's - I was sent off for a week of overnight summer camp. I had been to a few bummer summer camps before this, and I wasn't at all sure that I would enjoy it... but as it turned out, I completely fell in love with this special summer camp and returned every summer for many years. 


The camp, called Hidden Villa, really changed my life. It was at Hidden Villa that I first met farm animals. In fact, it was my experiences at camp that eventually turned me into a vegetarian at age 14.

Every day we each had different chores to do around the farm. We had to feed the pigs, pick veggies from the veggie garden, care for the chickens, milk the cows (not vegan!), tend to the goats and sheep... I have always loved animals so much, and this camp was such a dream come true for me. I also made a lot of human friends at camp each summer - and I have a lot of nice memories of fun things I did with the other campers. But, truth be told, those memories really just don't compare to the strength and intensity of the memories I have of my time with the animals.

Getting to spend all day with so many special animals felt like heaven on earth. We got to take horse back riding lessons, which I enjoyed and which - to this day - makes me feel so comfortable around horses. I remember especially loving the time after the horseback riding lessons were over -- where we took off their saddles and rubbed the sweaty horses with a curry brush and they seemed so grateful for it. I loved having a chance to be so caring and kind toward such huge animals.

I was a little bit afraid of the pigs - partly because they were really HUGE and noisy (all that snorting!), but also because there were always lots of wasps or yellow jackets around the pig troughs, and I was really scared of those little guys.


My favorite chore of all was milking the cows. Nowadays, as a vegan, I have conflicted feelings about these memories... but for me it was all about the love of the cows. What I loved most of all was resting my face on the cow's huge belly while I sat on my little stool. The cows were warm and kind and huge, and they took big breaths in and out - so with my small head resting on their vast rib cage, I would feel those big breaths with my whole body. A combination of great gentleness and massive power. 

One year, when I was a young teen, one of the cows was stolen from the camp (who does that?!), during the time that I was there. His name was Bart and he was a special cow that many of us had known since he was a tiny little calf. I decided right then and there that I would never eat beef again, because I didn't want to accidentally end up eating my friend Bart. It wasn't long before I decided to stop eating all meat. The friendships and deep companionship I felt with the animals at camp really sealed the deal for me. I have such strong memories of feeling at peace in their presence. 


kneading kneading kneading

One of the other chores, which I haven't mentioned yet - but that I vividly remember, was being in charge of making the bread for dinner. There would be a team of us kiddos, who with the help of the counselors, were in charge of mixing, rising, and kneading the dough for the evening's dinner. I remember it so clearly! All the kneading and kneading and kneading.

So, in honor of my special summers at Hidden Villa Camp... I decided to make my own bread from scratch. In an effort to be extra authentic, I went looking for a whole wheat bread recipe from one of my older cookbooks. Finally I found a recipe for Whole Wheat Bread in the Enchanted Broccoli Forest that had the air of authenticity! 

mixing the sponge...

... after the first rise

Add in some whole wheat flour and molasses and oil, knead for "15-20 minutes" (???) and set to rise again...

...twice as big and looking like a seriously dense situation.

Split in two, and set to rise AGAIN. It looks like seitan! It looked so dense and heavy, I wasn't very hopeful at this point, but forged ahead anyway, just for a sense of completion.

and then - voila! 

Look at that! Two beautiful, dense loaves of hearty Whole Wheat Bread. Actually, it's so delicious!! And, just like I hoped, it completely tastes like the sort of whole wheat bread that I had at camp every summer - long before the days of no-knead artisanal breads. The flavor of this loaf is slightly sweet from the molasses, chewy, and robust. I actually I really love it.

I had a couple of pieces right away when the bread was fresh out of the oven. Now the rest has been sliced and frozen, so I can have a toasted piece for breakfast in the mornings... just to bring back the flavors of my childhood, and the flavors of camping with all my animal friends. 



21 comments:

  1. Wow what a great experience to have had! I didn't ever even have animals as pets. I had two goldfish once.. It's really amazing to be able to connect with animals at a young age, and learn some kind of real respect for them, something I think a lot of people never do. Thanks for sharing with us!

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    1. Yes, I feel so lucky to have that those quiet times to really experience so many animals and what it felt like to be with them, in their company.

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  2. What a wonderful experience you had at the camp. I felt like I was right there with you as I read along. Isn't it interesting how just one experience (like the cow being stolen while you were there) can change our lives and point us in a new direction? It seems like you were destined to follow this path.

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    1. I totally agree Heather - And I never knew about veganism, but within a year of learning that the concept of veganism even existed, I was 100% commited. It feels so good and true to my heart.

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  3. What nice memories. You are such a great storyteller. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Aw. Thank you so much, Connie. <3

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  4. This is such a beautiful story, I always love hearing about how people came to stop eating animals. :)

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    1. Me too, Susan. All the roads that lead us to this choice of compassion!

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  5. Thank you for sharing your story; it's always interesting to hear about the various experiences that lead us along the way to veganism! It sounds like you had such strong, special bonds with the animals at camp; what wonderful memories to have! :)

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  6. What a sweet story! All kids should have a chance to interact with animals in such a meaningful way. Thank you for sharing! (And I don't think you need to be conflicted about milking the cow--no reason for regrets once we're on a more compassionate path!)

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  7. This brought happy tears to my eyes. <3 I had a very similar but slightly more abrasive childhood evolution to veganism. They would should all of the animals at the city fair and I loved them so much. When I realized there were feedlots in a 2km vicinity all around our home (this was Alberta...) I was horrified. They had to take us on our "farm animal field trip" all the way to the Hutterite Colony because the Hutterites were the only ones treating their animals with enough care to not traumatize us kids. I didn't understand why my mum made me eat the ground beef on my plate when cows were so cute and I was a happy camper with veggies. Eventually she gave up trying to convince me otherwise, especially when I refused to eat anything that was once an animal.

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  8. What a wonderful story :-) Thanks for sharing.
    The bread looks amazingly fresh & delicious.

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  9. I get what you are saying that you liked milking a cow. I remember doing it once and feeling a weird connection with the cow. But then again, it was a class where all kids got to milk the cow, so maybe I was just really gentle and cow was grateful. I think farms are great ways to get kids to feel compassion with animals, even if the animals are being raised for non-vegan agendas.

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  10. What a special camp! Though of course, as a vegan, I too have conflicted feelings about the activities, it would have been so fantastic to spend that quality time with animals as a child
    Lovely that Hidden Villa could lead you to going vegetarian! And, as always, adorable pictures!

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  11. I loved reading this Amey, it was a field full of sheep that first inspired thoughts of vegetarianism for me but that's sorta similar! I love your drawings of the animals!

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  12. I love that bread. I've never had a heavy whole wheat loaf turn out so well.

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  13. I cooked (vegan!) the past two summers at a farm camp for kids. I always hoped they took away a deep love for the animals- sounds like some of them do! I love your drawings- you capture the animal sweetness. :)

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  14. What a lovely story and tasty looking bread :)

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  15. What a lovely account of your time at camp! And such cute doodles!

    I'd like to nominate you for a Liebster Award - it's a way of getting to know other bloggers, I hope you don't mind! There's no pressure to take part, and you can check out my blog here to see what it's all about... http://www.madhatterspantry.co.uk/2014/09/liebster-award-and-random-mofo.html

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  16. This was beautiful and made me a little teary! Thank you so much for sharing.

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  17. This is a really beautiful post!

    When I was a kid we had some goats and a beautiful jersey cow that we got when she was just a calf. I don't remember doing it myself, but I remember my mum milking the goats. One of our goats was called Dinah and we would sing that song that starts "I've been working on the railroad," as she would do it. They are really sweet memories for me, and even though I now know better and wouldn't do it myself, I wouldn't trade those memories for the world.

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