Meet Vanessa Rae

Vanessa at the food table
Vanessa at the food table

Easton Mountain is excited to announce that Vanessa Rae is now our new kitchen director.  Here she is at the end of her "baptism of fire," feeding over eighty hungry bears (the Bear Your Soul retreat) over a three-day weekend. Vanessa (known to her friends as Penny or Pennyroyal) is a global feminist good witch with a lifetime of kitchen practice, more than two decades of AIDS movement experience, and a well-worn passport. She has worked professionally as a facilitator and strategist for international human rights and social justice organizations—especially related to sexual orientation and gender identity related vulnerabilities, resilience, and rights. She holds a law degree from Georgetown University Law Center, where she earned the human rights award for her graduating class.

Like many cooks, she has been whipping up treats since she could stand at the stove; her family cooking style is Italian-American. Then she lived, ate, and cooked in Italy during college. Later human rights work took her and her belly to Cambodia and Viet Nam, Mexico and Peru, Ghana and South Africa. Cooking and eating have been central to her organizing and community building work.

Here at home, she launched the Family Dinners program currently running at Sylvia’s Place emergency shelter for LGBTQ homeless young people in New York City. Back in the day, she managed kitchen crews for the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival, and she served in the Food Not Bombs pop-up kitchen at St. Mark’s in-the-Bowery to feed the protesters of the Republican National Convention in NYC, 2004. She truly learned to cook for crowds by facilitating feasts in Radical Faerie sanctuary, and for every moment in that kitchen, she is ever grateful. She has been cooking for the Easton community on occasion since 2012 and is thrilled to be stepping into the hearth now.

Vanessa has said: "The kitchen at EM is one of the critical links between the land itself and the people who live and visit here. This is where we process the gifts of the land to take into our bodies— in communion with the planet and sacred. ... The planet suffers from massive, industrialized over-consumption. By responsibly sourcing our community’s food, Easton participates in and models an appropriate response to catastrophic climate change."

Anyone who stopped into the kitchen this past weekend could see how Vanessa brings a new spirit of community to the kitchen - and she's extending that community by offering, on April 1-3, a retreat called Eat EM - a weekend that's all about cooking and food.