So off I went to the wonderful Ginger and Lime Food Studio with my lovely wife Jaimi, a vegetarian, and my good friend Ben from Polokwane, to an evening I never thought I would find myself ever experiencing. Being a meat eater one tends to steer away from Vegan Food Events, having thoughts like… how do these people enjoy eating only plants, nuts and vegetables, what drives them so passionately to forage and search for ingredients to add to their crazy diet of greens only, and of course… am I going to leave here feeling empty and hungry and in need of some “real protein”.

Vegan ˈviːɡ(ə)n/ noun “a person who does not eat or use animal products”

So with no animal products ahead of me I joined all of the wonderful Ginger and Lime guests as we took our seats in Denise’s stunning kitchen. Nathalie Larsen, our host for the evening, Vegan Masterchef (although she may deny it) and owner of Earth to Plate welcomed all of us in with a big smile and words that made me feel a lot more settled and welcome. Her opening line suggested that in order to appreciate the Vegan way of eating, small steps need to be taken. These sentiments settled me nicely and made me even more excited about seeing what was going to be prepared and what kind of meal we would all be sharing in on this evening.

With a round of introductions I learnt that we were amongst good people from Fry Family Foods, a representative from Woolworths as well as someone from Green Monday SA, a guest from Sao Paulo in Brazil and another young lady from LA… and of course, my friend Ben from Polokwane, let’s not forget about him. All in all some really wonderful people to meet and to rub shoulders with.

Back to the menu, so with ingredients like Kimchi, Fennel Seed, Sesame, Broccoli, Kale, Courgette, Avocado, Hemp, Chickpea, Lentils, Walnut, Banana, Cacao and let’s not forget WHISKY, I was intrigued to experience what tastes I would be experiencing with all of these wonderful and natural foods. The kind of food groups I often would not consider eating.

This was the menu for the evening:

SNACKS - Sticky tempeh skewers with kimchi and fennel seed Crispy sesame chilli nori crackers

SOUP - Warm Broccoli, kale, courgette and avocado soup with Hemp “sour cream” and chickpea crunch

MAINS - Alfredo pasta with coconut “bacon”, sweet potato and germolata Lentil and walnut meatballs with fresh tomato and basil sauce served with: Seasonal greens, sprouts with citrus umami dressing

DESSERT - Warm chocolate fondant pudding served with Banana, whisky, white chocolate and chai ice cream and cacao granola

Quite the spread, I am sure you would agree.

So to sum up. The Snacks were just wonderful, the soup and mains were simply delicious, and the dessert was to die for. As the evening wined down (not a spelling error, there was lots of lovely wine available), I was surprisingly quite full and really pleased about what I had just experienced. Not only was I blown away by the rich tastes of each meal and all of the ingredients they contained, I also felt comforted and satisfied in the fact that I had eaten healthily, and had experienced just a very small yet significant few moments in what a Vegan’s lifestyle of eating entails.

Yes, I could eat the Chocolate Fondant Pudding for breakfast, lunch and dinner everyday because it was really that good, but I still wouldn’t be able to call myself a Vegan. Being a Vegan and in some degrees a Vegetarian, encompasses a whole lifestyle of commitment. Watching and listening to someone like Nathalie as she explained and prepared each dish for us, I really had a sense of the passion she has for the food she truly loves. There seems to be a delicate balance of ingredients in all of her dishes and a complete understanding of the requirements the human body has for the nutritional value of each food group. Replacement proteins have their benefits and I now realise how one can live a happy and healthier lifestyle by adopting to lower or cut out the obviously overly exploited animal products.

Nathalie, thank you for the amazing evening and thank you for opening not only my eyes, but all of my senses to the wonderful Vegan foods you so lovingly prepared for all of us. This Cape Town Photographer now has new insights into just what his beautiful wife Jaimi has been trying to explain to him over the last few years. I am not ready to give up on my choice of protein just yet, but I am now willing to try new alternatives and experience many more vegetarian and Vegan dishes available to me. You may even find me in the kitchen one day experimenting with this healthy and lovely green food group.

A little more about Nathalie - “Earth to Plate is a celebration of whole foods in their purest, most divine form straight from the earth to your plate. I’m just a chef who’s intentions are pure! With a passion for healthy, honest, clean cuisine, I aim to inspire you to get back in the kitchen where the real magic happens. Lets live better and feel better by eating better”.

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