Island Vibrations

By on May 9, 2018

An excursion for the stomach and soul

Morning chia bowls with coconut, edible flowers and basil prepared by chef (and yogi) Ariel Mann. (Helen Goelet)

JACKSON HOLE, WY – When Carol and daughter Ariel Mann held their first “Sole to Soul” Maui retreat in 2013, they married their talents and interests to offer an experience Carol dubs “self-fullness.”

“We spend so much time being either selfish or selfless,” said Carol, PJH Cosmic Cafe columnist and clairvoyant. “Learning how to be self-full is essential to a balanced life.”

What does that even mean? Food, I discovered, was part of the equation.

For five days, the 12-person group practiced yoga with award-winning yoga instructor Ariel, had workshops with Carol where we discussed our souls, the cosmos, and our unilateral connection, and ate an organic, plant-based diet prepared by Chef Ariel.

“In college, I hosted dinner parties for my friends once or twice a week,” Ariel explained. “I cooked healthy meals, printed out menus, it was a whole to-do, but it quickly became unsustainable.”

When Ariel told her friends she couldn’t afford to keep feeding them, they offered to pay her. And so began her career in catering.

After college, however, Ariel veered from her passion and tried her hand in real estate. It was a short stint, ending with a few months of reflective healing on her mother’s couch.

“That corporate world just didn’t suit me,” Ariel said, “and it took something drastic for me to realize I needed a change-up.”

In 2007, Ariel began catering and offering her services as a private chef. Four years later, she enrolled in her first yoga teacher training at the Maui Yoga Shala, just minutes down the road from the Banyan Tree Bed and Breakfast that would become the hub for their bi-annual retreat.

Although she cooks a sundry variety of food for her clients, Ariel and her husband Richard decided to become vegans last summer, and Carol joined them.

“I basically ate plant-based already, but Richard and I both decided it was time to make an effort to eat more consciously with regard to our earth,” Ariel said.

“The statistics are staggering,” Carol added. “Eating plant-based for just one day saves more gallons of water than you’d know.  And of course, it’s good for you.”

During the retreat, behaving consciously and positively towards yourself, as well as the earth, was a theme. It was only natural, then, that we eat an organic, plant-based diet.

Eating organically and sustainably is certainly easier in places like Maui than, say, landlocked Jackson.
Fruits and vegetables grow in abundance on the island. We visited the Kula farmers’ market one early morning to sample local produce.

Between the soft-ball sized avocados, beautiful greens and bright, dirt-speckled carrots lugged straight from the earth, I was in heaven. Ariel cooked up an assortment of dishes with the fresh produce: cabbage wraps, avocado salads and breakfast blueberry chia cups finished with fresh basil and edible flowers.

Avocado and edible flowers at the Kula farmers’ market.

The cabbage wraps, filled with curried tofu, sprouts and carrots, were flavorful, filling and light. Her balance of texture and flavor, letting the fresh produce stand on its own, was the work of a seasoned chef.

Admittedly, at times I strayed from the plant-based diet. Each day we had four hours to tromp through the jungle, bake on the beach and eat lunch Hawaiian style.

My mother (she joined me for the retreat) and I used this time to hunt for poke bowls. We sampled an array and decided the best food-truck poke and tacos were from the South Maui Fish Co. in Kihei, served with furikake rice and a pineapple slaw. But we knew our poke habit wasn’t harmless. After consuming raw ahi daily, we agreed that any extended time on the island would result in some major mercury poisoning. We simply couldn’t get enough of the fresh, available fish.

The evenings brought reprieve. While stressing the importance of being true to ourselves, Carol opened the doors to Ho’oponopono: the Hawaiian practice of forgiveness. When you practice Ho’oponopono, you say, “Thank you, I’m sorry, please forgive me, I love you.”

“We are harder on ourselves than we are on any other person,” Carol said. “It’s a practice we must embody for ourselves, for others, and for the Earth in order to bring balance to the universe.”

In the Hawaiian Pidgin language, the word for meal, aina, translates to “that which feeds,” i.e. the land.  Indeed, Hawaiian culture and language is rooted in the appreciation and value of the earth. As the “heart of the Hawaiian Islands,” Maui was the perfect place to reconnect with one’s heart… and stomach. 

 

 

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