Many people have at some point or another hopped onto the “Meatless Monday” trend, in an attempt to consume more vibrant, healthy produce – but to be completely honest, it can be challenging to create delicious meals because for the most part, they don’t know what we’re doing, or lack the ability to be creative. The food they consume tends to usually be bland and becomes monotonous. But when you have someone preparing plant-based meals who knows what they are doing and are creative, exploring a plant-based diet can be an amazing experience. And this is what Etosha Rahming brings to the table – plant-based meals that are flavorful and filling at her vegan takeaway restaurant, Sprigs of Parsley, where she’s feeding the mind, body and spirit.
Having been born into a plant-based-eating family, Rahming has been consuming plant-based food all her life.
“One of the advantages of growing up on a Family Island is that most of our fresh produce came from my mom’s garden. She grew and continues to grow beans, peas, tomatoes, cabbage, sweet potatoes and many other vegetables and fruits. Mom became very creative in making vegan dishes from the produce she grew and so, my family developed a palate for a wide variety of vegetables, legumes, fruits and grains. Other items like nuts and vegan meat proteins we purchased from the health food stores. I can also recall watching my mom make tofu from soya beans and vegan meat alternatives from legumes, veggies and grain flours. So, eating plant-based foods is literally engrained within the fibers of my being. It is a way of life.”
Rahming’s mom started teaching her simple cooking techniques from she was pre-school aged.
“She allowed me to help her in very simple ways with the mixing of vegan oatmeal raisin cookies, washing veggies for salads, tasting vegan homemade cheeses and she also showed me how to shape and make homemade dinner rolls.”
Those early lessons when Rahming was just five years old would drive her passion for preparing tasty, homemade dishes.
“I was always excited and happy to cook for my family as I transitioned into my teenage years and thankfully my siblings and my parents were delighted to eat my creations.”
That passion spawned Sprigs of Parsley in 2017, a home-based business selling vegan Sunday dinners. Outgrowing her home kitchen, it has since been parlayed into a brick and mortar storefront, as Rahming strives to provide high quality plant-based dishes to improve people’s health and well-being and to assure people that plant-based meals can be satisfyingly delicious.
I am one of those people that have engaged in “Meatless Mondays” from time to time and the occasional non-meat periods, so it was not a hardship to explore Sprigs of Parsley’s menu, but I allowed Rahming to lead me on this journey, over a week.
Her first choice for me was her cauliflower grooper fingers, a vegan option that mimics grouper fingers with a side of vegan macaroni and her cranberry chick’n salad bowl, a plant-based chick’n salad made with their house mayo, craisins and sliced almonds, and served on a bed of mixed greens and veggies.
The flavor Rahming imparts into her cauliflower grooper fingers is incredible. The first taste is a bit of a shock, because you go in not knowing what to expect, but you taste the lime and all the spices … I even caught a hint of seafood smell, which Rahming said is totally intentional.
“I noticed that it was difficult to find a good vegan fish filet option – they were still a little off, I had to try to get seafood flavor into it. Cauliflower is almost flavorless, so our batter is extremely rich and it’s needed to get the cauliflower grooper fingers to where it needs to be.”
The cranberry chick’n salad was so flavorful, I still can’t believe it wasn’t chicken. It looked like chicken and the texture was akin to chicken, but it wasn’t chicken; but rather a protein meat substitute that she rehydrates in water and adds seasonings to, to get it to taste like “food”, then pulses in a food processor until she gets a chicken-like size and feel.
For my second meal, Rahming suggested I have the Sprigs chick’n crispers served with the dipping sauce of your choice (original, signature sauce, or hibiscus BBQ) – I had their signature sauce that you can use on just about anything, and which they also serve on their burgers. The meal was served with French fries and sweet corn salad.
Well, once again, Rahming had me stumped because it felt and tasted like I was eating chicken fingers. And that signature sauce is a story unto itself; Rahming tells me she worked on her sauce for about three months to perfect it.
The juicy Lucy burger is an unbelievable plant-based beeph patty – which she manufactures in-house and tops with lettuce, tomatoes, caramelized onions, baycon, cheese and the signature sauce on a toasted in-house-made Hawaiian bun. In an effort to incorporate vegetables into every meal, it came with a side of corn salad that definitely had a flavorful kick from the seasonings, black olives and parsley, and pulled together with extra virgin olive oil.
It’s Rahming’s goal to provide her patrons with balanced meals encompassing protein, carbohydrate and vegetables.
After two days of amazing foods, I decided to venture out on my own when it came to ordering and opted for the Asian-infused beeph noodles that came in a sweet but spicy sauce with beeph pieces that again mimicked the taste and mouthfeel of beef.
Rahming doesn’t skimp on the portobello mushrooms in her mushroom Wellington, which is also chockfull of sweet onions and other veggies, enrobed in a flaky pastry. Ironically, the mushroom Wellington was the very first Sunday dinner item she sold from her home, and it is one of her signatures.
The klucker classic – plant-based crispy fried chick’n patty (original or sauced with signature sauce or hibiscus BBQ) on a toasted bun with lettuce, pickles and apple cabbage slaw was my meal for the fourth day. As well as sweet chili jerk chicken made of a wheat protein and a ton of seasonings, served with an immunity-boosting super green salad and vegetable black rice.
Rahming had the idea for an actual storefront for five years before she actually “jumped in with two feet” as her clientele grew beyond what she could handle from her home.
“During the completion of my tertiary education and also during my professional career, I have always reverted to one of my favorite hobbies which is recipe creation, cooking new dishes and watching numerous food shows. After praying for more than a year about establishing a profitable and impactful business, the thought came to mind late one night in October 2016. Why not start a business cooking and selling plant-based food that can help others enjoy a healthier way of life? I believe that God gives each of us talents, gifts and varied abilities and the responsibility is ours to develop these skills to honor the Lord, help our fellowmen, and also to improve our financial standing. So, Sprigs of Parsley was formed out of passion and with the goal to improve the lives of others through the consumption of healthy dishes and health/spiritual tips.”
Rahming’s personal philosophy is that food should be healthy, wholesome, palatable, beautiful and visually appealing.
“When I started Sprigs, I wanted to provide healthy plant-based food in a way that was not available at the time. My attention turned particularly to the observation of popular Bahamian dishes such as grouper fingers, cracked conch, macaroni, fried chicken, BBQ ribs and meatballs, tuna salad, chicken salad and how to make the meatless alternatives.”
She spent hundreds of hours experimenting with the plant-based version of the dishes because she wanted to create a wonderful, unique experience for non-vegans and vegans.
“My main focus was creating incredible flavor profiles that would leave the customer very satisfied and intrigued. Ultimately, my philosophy is for plant-based food to be nutritious, balanced and delicious, so that non-vegan ordinary eaters cannot only enjoy eating it but they will also not miss eating the meat alternatives. One of our main objectives is to help bridge the gap during the transition period for persons who want to begin consuming more vegan meals. Healthy food must be tasty and appealing to the sight and it is our aim to make the transitionary period from meat consumption to plant-based a smooth and seamless one.”
She admits the transition period can be a challenging time for individuals wanting to adopt a plant-based diet as most people struggle with the taste of vegan food with it being not as flavorful as what they are accustomed to eating. This was uppermost in her mind during her menu design process. She knew her menu items had to be as palatable and satisfying as possible and as close to what people would normally eat.
“If persons want the taste of a hamburger, there is the juicy Lucy burger. If they want the taste of fish, then there is the cauliflower grooper fingers; and there are the Sprigs chick’n crispers for persons who wish to have a protein that resembles chicken tenders.”
She has also included dishes that seasoned vegans and vegetarians would also appreciate and enjoy like the Mediterranean rosemary chickpeas salad bowl or the creamy chick’n casserole.
As for the pros and cons and myths and truths about plant-based eating, Rahming said it has been scientifically proven that consuming a plant-based diet is the most wholesome diet for human beings, but that it must be well-balanced and nutritious.
“Plant-based eating tends to strengthen the immune system and reduce the risk of non-communicable diseases.”
She said it’s a myth that plant-based eaters don’t get enough protein.
“There is more than sufficient protein available when eating a plant-based diet. Protein can be derived from eating nuts, legumes, soy, leafy greens, and grains. Combining two or more proteins with herbs and spices such as vegan meatballs or meatloaf will meet all of your protein needs.”
As for the cons, she said eating a plant-based diet may require a level of innovation and creativity to ensure that the food is appealing, tasty and satisfying, which may require time and practice. And plant-based products are generally more expensive than non-plant-based items but that a person’s health is worth the investment.
“You can pay now or pay later. Truth – while it is easier to lose weight on a plant-based diet, one still has to watch his/her calories and exercise,” said Rahming.
And even though she has an undergraduate degree and two graduate degrees, Rahming has never done any formal training in cooking.
“Since my teens, I have been cooking vegetarian and vegan meals. Having spent hundreds of hours studying, researching and experimenting in vegan cuisine, I consider myself self-taught but I credit my mom for giving me the foundation. The Lord has and continues to bless my efforts and my abilities,” she said.
Sprigs of Parsley is located in the E.A. Pickstock Building, East Street, opposite the Teacher’s Credit Union.