All the colours, all the nutrients
The plant-based dinner at Taste may have been a first for a Bermuda restaurant: five courses completely free of animal products and allergens. Mel Dupres created the menu, which drew a sold-out crowd to 141 Front Street.
“I love to eat out and have great dining experiences, however, it is a challenge to find plant-based foods in a restaurant [here],” she said. “Providing something like this showed that it can be done; rather than just slop on a plate, it can be real food — elegant and classy.”
Korean cabbage spring rolls, zucchini ravioli with red pepper coulis, Thai-inspired rice noodle soup and confit squash and lentils with wild mushroom and baba ghanoush were among the offerings last Thursday night.
The meal ended with a “decadent” avocado chocolate mousse. Ms Dupres was excited to come up with ideas Taste’s chefs could work with.
Having made and sold plant-based takeaway meals out of a licensed kitchen for “almost a year”, she knew there was community interest.
“Eating plants — eating fruits, vegetables, nuts — we hear it all the time that that’s what we should be eating,” she said. “Those foods provide us with the micronutrients we need, they are the foundation for our healing — for the cells and the body.
“But in our culture, we’re carb-heavy, we’re meat-heavy, we don’t really focus on vegetables.
“They’re just the side, where they should be front and centre.
“Most of [the people at the dinner] were already aware of why they should eat plant-based meals.
“I think they were attracted because it was a sit-down meal rather than just a takeaway; a proper five-course meal.”
People often confided how a plant-based diet turned their lives around following “a health scare or health issue”, the homeopath and yoga instructor said.
“There’s lots of science to show that eating that way helps rid inflammation in the body and other things: arthritis, cancer’s a big one, type 2 diabetes — which is obviously, all about diet.”
Always an adventurous eater, she learnt more about different diets on moving to England for school, becoming first a vegetarian and then vegan before deciding neither was right for her.
“With the growing awareness of my body through yoga, I know it tells me what it wants and needs,” she said. “Also, I am more aware of how food makes me feel.
“The way I come from it is, I know when I do eat like that, I feel great.
“I follow a plant-based diet the majority of the time but sometimes I will eat other things. I will eat meat.
“I think eating a good-quality piece of meat is actually better than eating a soy-based meat substitute that’s highly processed, where there’s lots of sodium and lots of chemicals and stuff like that.”
As far as regimens go, she thinks it’s “becoming a bigger trend”.
“We equate plant-based eating with veganism and it’s different.
“Veganism is a whole movement where you don’t wear any animal products; the whole motivation is different.
“It’s about cruelty to animals generally — so no leather shoes, you don’t eat honey, that kind of thing.
“Whereas plant-based eating, it stems more from the aspect of health. You’re feeding your body healthier things.”
The meal at Taste was built using ingredients that were “local, seasonal, organic where possible” something that’s not always easily done in Bermuda, Ms Dupres acknowledged.
“It’s hard to be completely strict with it but if you can source what is available and make that the majority of the focus and then the rest, you use what you have.”
Spices help. Everyone who attended the Taste dinner received a sample packet from Umami Bermuda whose spices also boast medicinal properties.
“I think we realise that we do have health challenges,” Ms Dupres said. “One of the first ways to combat that is to change your diet.
“Most of the grocery stores do have a health aisle now, and with education, knowledge and mindfulness, people can be educated to eat better.
“With a plant-based diet you’re eating food that’s the colours of the rainbow.
“The plants have all the nutrients, vitamins and minerals and reflect that in the colours that they present so eating across the board, all the colours, gives us those nutrients.”
She said that juicing is another way to “quickly get the nutrients in” without the body having to work to extract them from the food, but accepted that it can be costly.
“But ultimately, medication is very expensive. So eating well and doing these things regularly now is an investment in your health ultimately.
“If you eat the standard American diet, you get the standard American diseases.
“At the end of the day, if you are sick, if you’re going down an allopathic route, treatments are expensive.
“It’s about being mindful with your choices and just observing how it makes you feel.”
Her hope is to one day see that choice in restaurants.
It’s partly with that in mind that she decided to host last week’s dinner.
“Often you go out and ask what’s the vegan or plant-based option and it’s pasta with a sauce,” Ms Dupres said. “Well, I actually don’t want the pasta because I’m not so into gluten, so then I have to think about what else can I have and it’s usually sides of vegetables that aren’t interesting and don’t taste great.
“I don’t want it to be just vegetables. I want it to be interesting, beautiful, captivating vegetables with a great taste and a real experience.
“We should get pleasure from our food but we often just eat to eat.”
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