Not so long ago, those who chose not to eat meat tended to be greeted with bemused surprise when discussing their dietary preferences.
That does still happen today. Upon mention of a vegetarian diet, or anything resembling such, the likely response is often, “but whatever you like, that’s OK!”
The thinking of Cecil Township residents and restaurateurs José and Katy Rosa definitely is along those lines.
“We want to help educate, help shift perspectives,” Katy said, “but without doing it in a forceful or pushy kind of way, whatsoever.”
The Rosas’ restaurant business, Everest Eats, actually is a delivery service featuring food of Katy’s creativity and preparation, every last morsel of it plant-based. That means exactly what you’d think: no meat, no dairy, none of anything that comes from animals.
While the Rosas always had been nutrition-conscious, with Katy earning an associate degree in the subject and José playing collegiate baseball, neither had grown up with any compunctions about an omnivorous diet.
Then Katy decided to enter a new field of study for her bachelor’s degree.
“It was then, my very first class in environmental science, that I realized the absolute destruction that animal agriculture was posing to the environment,” she recalled. “And told myself, I can’t eat meat anymore.”
José decided to join her, and before too long, Katy’s cooking had taken the leap from meatless to plant-based. That was fine with everyone involved, except for one complication.
“We had just bought five pounds of cheese,” José said, and as cheese lovers, they weren’t about to let it go to waste.
“We made this big pizza with all this cheese, stacked high, and I ate it. And that night was the first time that I truly felt different.
I felt sick,” he recalled. “One thing I tell everyone now is, you never know what one way feels like unless you’ve given yourself the opportunity to feel another way.”
The experience prompted the couple to go entirely plant-based. Katy started coming up with new recipes, and they’d serve the creations to eminently grateful friends and family members.
“We just kept being hounded: When are you going to start selling your food?” Katy said.
A downturn in the oil and gas industry, in which the Rosas had forged careers, helped answer the question for them. They both lost their jobs, and the silver lining was the launch of Everest Eats, named at José’s suggestion after their toddler son.
By the way, they have added a daughter, Denali, to the family while embarking on their distinctive variety of culinary entrepreneurship.
“We want food to be based on three things: Is it flavorful? Is it nutrient-dense, and what is it doing to my body? And does it make me feel good?” José said. “If you can hit those three things, you have some fine cuisine that tastes good, makes you feel good and gives you the energy you need to keep moving your body forward in a positive direction.”
To complement their preparation-and-delivery business, the Rosas embarked on a new avenue with a “Sip and Sizzle” event in November. With her mostly virtual audience, Katy shared a demonstration of how to make “Fibs,” a completely plant-based dish that goes a long way toward matching the look, flavor and consistency of barbecued short ribs.
Sara Smith, who was among the handful of guests invited to the Rosas’ house for the event, said she could have been fooled if she didn’t know better.
“Jackfruit is really versatile, and she does wonderful things with it,” she said, referencing one of the primary ingredients, along with seitan, made from gluten.
She has been a loyal Everest Eats customer.
“I order every week or every other week, and I absolutely love it,” Smith said. “They’ve been so communicative as a business, and they’re so willing to take suggestions and incorporate ideas into the business, which is fantastic.”
Another fan is Amy Bruckner of South Strabane Township, a lifelong friend of Katy whose children all are ages 5 and younger.
“My family and I actually are not vegan, but I try to eat as healthy as possible and know the benefits of a plant-based diet,” she said. “To be totally honest, I actually work full-time, and with my four kids, I don’t have time to prepare meals. So having them dropped off to me, ready to go and my whole family eating it, is a huge blessing.”
While folks like Sara and Amy continue to enjoy a meaty dish when they’re not ordering from Everest Eats, that’s fine with the Rosas.
“It’s no longer, ‘You eat meat. I don’t. You’re the enemy. I’m not. My belief is better than yours,’” José said. “Let’s just all sit down, have a roundtable conversation, and let’s eat.”
For more information, visit www.everesteats.com.
Dear Annie: While I don’t hate holidays, nor dread them, as “Holiday Anxiety” expressed, I don’t go “all in” either. I believe in moderation, in all things, including moderation.
All my close family has gone to their rewards. None of my high school and earlier friends has time or money for more than immediate family, and my partner passed a decade ago. I’m 61 and find myself refreshingly able to control my own life.
I do miss the family traditions, the scents and the decorations; I am also now aware of the time and effort my parents and grandparents put in to create these memories, and I am grateful. And I absolutely hate Halloween decor immediately replaced by Christmas stuff. Where’s Thanksgiving?
For “Holiday Anxiety,” I suggest:
1. I make gift baskets for shelter animals and their keepers. Cat litter, dog food, paper towels and sanitizer might not seem very “gifty,” but you drop some off with gift cards and pet toys, and you’re a hero. I gave a local shelter administrator a glittery holiday card including $100; the lady burst into tears, which made me proud and happy. Spend $100 and get a million in gratitude back.
2. Our country is chock-a-block with kids who eat ketchup sandwich meals, if they eat at all. Shames me, ‘cuz even though I’m a disabled veteran, I have no excuse for being fat, ‘cept I eat too much and have too much. I give through the VA, Catholic charities, the Salvation Army and do food drives. If you hate the holidays, then make them better for someone else. You will benefit. Giving is the best reward.
3. Walk the streets and absorb the atmosphere. See the kids, bright-eyed and full of wonder; look at the window displays. Smell the food, the firewood, the goodies. Just be in the moment.
4. If possible, go ice skating. It is impossible to be bitter and holiday hatin’ on a pair of skates, especially if the ‘40s music is on. Try. You can’t, even on your butt.
5. A small decoration can work wonders. Unlike my parents, who created holiday displays visible from space – really – I have a four-foot artificial tree, decorated with heirloom ornaments and light strings. I buy pine-scented stuff, and, like the ’70s high schooler I am still, I drape a cord of little lights around my bedroom. Those lil twinkly lights make me feel at home for the holidays.
6. Enjoy seasonal music. Force yourself if you “hate” it. Listen to the Christian and secular, feel and fall into the lyrics. You’ll feel better.
And if your writer can do none of this, that’s fine, too. Some folk just can’t. I wish I could reach out and share my take on the holidays with “Holiday Anxiety,” ‘cuz I used to think I hated them, too.
I’m alone, but not lonely. I’m not a Christian, but love the idea of Christmas.
I take Thanksgiving very seriously, as I have much for which to be thankful.
I don’t “decorate” nor do I “buy special things,” and all with whom I would have exchanged gifts are deceased. And given my lack of kitchen skill, any cookies I made would most likely get me arrested or find me homeless, after burning my house down.
But I enjoy the season, simply because I enjoy the pleasure of others. I cannot Grinch in the presence of joy, just can’t. Is it possible “Holiday Anxiety” could come to the “light,” just accept the message and ignore the commercialism?
Peace, safety, and love upon you and yours, ma’am, in this time of turmoil and disruption. – Ryan C.
Dear Ryan: I couldn’t have said it better myself. Giving and appreciating what we have are the best rewards. Thank you for sharing and spreading some holiday cheer.
Send your questions for Annie Lane to firstname.lastname@example.org.