Veet Karen writes about her passion for vegetarian food, how she became a vegetarian caterer and author of a vegetarian cook book
It still amazes me every day I don an apron, that I am now earning a living from cooking. For twelve years I was a school teacher and before that a care worker with disabled people for eight years, and before that a shop assistant. Always in paid employment knowing where my money would come from to pay my rent. It never occurred to me that I would one day run my own business.
A relocation to the magical setting of Mullumbimby in the Byron Bay shire of Australia, saw me also wanting to change the way I made money. I didn’t want to work a 9-5 (more like a 7-7 job in reality) 5 days a week while living in a country town. I wanted the freedom of going to a midweek morning yoga class, doing Dynamic, meeting friends for coffee and enjoying the beauty of where I lived. Of course I still had to work to pay my rent and afford a somewhat comfortable life.
Riding my scooter home from work one day I put my thinking cap on and thought how else can I make a living, what else am I good at, and voila – within a few minutes I had the answer (thank goodness it came so fast, otherwise I might have had an accident!!!): I can cook. So within a week I handed in my resignation and began setting up a catering business. It has been the most fearful thing I have done in my life. Two years on from that thoughtful ride home from my paid job, I still don’t know how I am going to pay my rent each fortnight, but slowly, slowly I am learning to trust and somehow the work just keeps on rolling in. What keeps me going is the words I read somewhere from Osho: “Keep on trusting, trust and trust again.”
The biggest hurdle for me was that I am a vegetarian and have been since I was sixteen, and it is vegetarian food I love to cook and eat. I soon discovered that amongst my many friends, being vegetarian was a rare thing (even among sannyasins) and many people advised me that I would need to cook meat dishes to accommodate the market trend. Once again I did some thinking (not on my scooter this time) and realised that it was impossible for me to change my ethical and spiritual beliefs in order to make a living. So I jumped over that hurdle at full speed and am now so happy I stuck to my beliefs as I am meeting more and more vegetarians and people who are willing to adopt a more vegetarian diet. Also, I have people asking me to assist them in being a more educated vegetarian.
My greatest love is to cater on retreats. My most recent one was for a group of fifty yoga students who mostly came from Sydney. They were mainstream professional city people, who came on retreat to get fit and seek a more relaxing way of being. The kitchen backed onto the yoga hall, and many nights as I was preparing dinner I would be in tears as I heard them meditating to the music of Deva Premal and Miten.
At the end of this retreat one of the participants asked me when I would be publishing a book of recipes as he wanted to go home and eat the way he had on retreat. He informed me that he had arrived at retreat with full blown eczema and showed me that there was no sign of it now – after only seven days. He told me it was due to eating my food. As I use absolutely no preservatives and source my food from spray-free and organic local farmers, I too am convinced the healing is due from eating such healthy and nutritious food. I was very pleased to let him know that I was in the process of writing a book.
On December 6th 2010 I launched my first self-published book which has over a hundred recipes, of course all vegetarian, all gluten-free and with many that have dairy-free options. The book launch was the best party I have ever had – with many of my beautiful friends, customers and local farmers present. We had great food, delectable chai (using the Zorba the Buddha recipe), awesome dancing and two beautiful friends working for me doing all that I normally do when I have a party, leaving me free to socialise, dance and sell books. I am pinching myself now – is this really my life? Yes it is and as well as myself and all the others I have to thank for this success, I am truly and utterly grateful to my master Osho who has shown me a different way of living, and above all has shown me that I can really face my fears.
Articles and recipes by the same author on Osho News