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INTERVIEW: DILLON TISDALE @ohholybasil

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Dillin Tisdale

Behind the scenes with our #nuiworld

 

“Our bodies are miraculous, self-healing, innately intelligent organisms. The deeper I go into the world of healing, the more profoundly I come to the belief that to be “healthy” is simply to be in alignment with nature.”


Today, our #nuiworld featured guest is Dillon Tisdale, a plant-based chef, mama of 3, owner of the Antara Retreat Center and her popular, recipe-packed website, Oh Holy Basil. Dillon’s unassuming and thoughtful presence can be seen throughout her blog and Instagram page. Her life is a clear demonstration of a deep connection to nature and being in concert with the natural flow of things.

We recently caught up with Dillon to talk about her own sustainable personal practices, motherhood, and everything from plant-based recipes, health and holistic living tips, Ayurvedic practices, and of course, sustainable merino wool clothing!

Tell us about yourself and your family.

I am a plant-based chef, mother of three and co-owner of Antara Retreat, a spiritual retreat center situated on the beautiful land of the Tewa Pueblo people in Taos, New Mexico. I live with my husband, Kyle, and our three children, Joah (9), Radha (almost 5) and Isha (2.5). I run Antara with my incredible Mama who is a fountain of sagely and slightly impish wisdom.

In these pandemic times, things have been pretty quiet, but normally our life is highly communal with people passing through our sphere on a regular basis. 

Antara is situated on the land where we live and our life here is focused around spiritual practice, community, relationship to the earth and making ourselves pee-laugh. My son Joah, is in a Waldorf-based, outdoor forest school, and the girls are at home with me. I try to spend as much time with them as physically possible in wild places. 

As a plant based chef who often shares your perspectives on holistic living, healing, and Ayurveda, what would you tell someone who was interested in becoming healthier and starting their own holistic health journey? 

Our bodies are miraculous, self-healing, innately intelligent organisms. The deeper I go into the world of healing, the more profoundly I come to the belief that to be “healthy” is simply to be in alignment with nature. There was a time when pure food and water, clean air, contact with the earth and a healthy relationship to sunlight were ordinary parts of life. We are living in a time when these things, which I see as basic human rights, are a huge privilege. 

If you are just starting out on a health or healing journey, I would encourage you to start with changes that feel easy and nourishing. Do you love cooking? Start with incorporating more colorful, whole foods into your meals. Are you in dire need of better quality sleep? Light hygiene (managing your relationship to blue light) might be a place to start. If the only way you know how to approach health is by becoming a strict and rigid leader of your bodily realm, an indirect approach might be better. For one person, making food choices that brings them joy, might be the perfect medicine, while a strict protocol, for a time, might be necessary for healing an imbalance for another. I think that it is so often one’s inner relationship to nourishment that drives whether or not a protocol is truly healing. I see the quest for “health”, at its best, as an expression of care for the precious vessel that is the body. This vessel carries us from our first breath to our last and it deserves our love and deep gratitude. 

How did you become interested in becoming a plant based chef? 

Food was a big part of my upbringing. Both of my parents loved to cook and food was the center of our family and communal life. It was shared with a spirit of love, nourishment and pleasure. My parents were health conscious and we were vegetarian for much of my childhood.

In my teens, I moved to the Big Island of Hawaii to live and study with an incredible spiritual teacher and his partner, and it was there that I began to cook and realized that bringing people together around food was a huge part of my purpose in this life. From there I went to the Natural Gourmet Institute, a culinary school in Manhattan, focused on food and healing. 

While we aren’t a strictly vegan family, plant-based food is what I love to both create and consume.

Tell us about your Antara Retreat Center. It sounds and looks simply heavenly! 

Antara is situated on the five beautiful acres of land that we call home. It is the container for work of Jan Birchfield, my mom. She is a psychologist by training, but her work plays at the nexus of western psychology, spirituality and somatic healing. That work makes the assumption that within each human being there lives a substratum of consciousness that is fundamentally content, peaceful and wise, but that obscuring that place is all of our “stuff”, our wounds, our ideas about yourself and the world, ancestral imprints and energetic blocks. Retreats at Antara provide the container for individuals to make contact with that font of wisdom within and to begin to unblock their internal landscape in order to live from that place of peace more consistently. Providing deep nourishment during that process is much of my job. I see food as a profound tool in supporting both healing and deeper states of consciousness and that is my aim when cooking for a group of people. I know that may sound bombastic, but wisdom traditions teach the profound link between food and consciousness and I have witnessed this connection, time and again, in my own life.

Along with your nature-based lifestyle and philosophies, your husband is a public-interest environmental attorney - how does this play into your choices of what to buy and how you live? 

Kyle’s work has given us a stark window into the reality of the climate emergency. It has, without a doubt, informed how we make decisions as a family. We try to live gently and with reverence for this miraculous planet that we call home. While we are nowhere near to making “perfect” choices around the environment, we live our values by avoiding fast fashion, toxic products and reducing waste by composting and avoiding single use plastic. On a deeper level, I aim to know and love the earth as the conscious, divine being that She is, and to know myself has a part of Her interdependent web of creation.

Why is it important for all of us to live more intentionally and sustainably? 

Ultimately, I think living in harmony with the earth is a key to human happiness. While there are thousands of reasons from a moral perspective, I find moving ever closer to the right relationship with the earth to be an imperative of my heart. 

Can  you share a few tips on how our readers can become more healthy and sustainable in their own lives? 

Sustainability and health are deeply intertwined. Truly caring for oneself is caring for the earth and vice versa. Eating local/organic food is the first thing that comes to mind, especially if your farmer is attuned to soil health. Monoculture crops are stamping out biodiversity and depleting our soil. Large scale agriculture, organic or not, primarily relies on monoculture farming practices. Depleted soil equals depleted bodies and in my mind, supporting soil-conscious farmers is a simple solution. In our individual  lives, composting is one of the best small things that we can do! Our planet’s topsoil is disappearing due to poor land management and keeping organic matter out of landfills and using it to replenish the soil is something that anyone with a small yard can do. 

Have you always opted for eco-conscious fashion and what makes you seek it out now? 

I started making the transition away from fast fashion, synthetic fabrics and conventional cotton about 7 years ago. The impact of the fashion industry, both on environmental and human levels, began to really penetrate my consciousness and I knew I needed to align my choices with my heart. 

What do you look for when you buy clothing for your kids?  What is most important to you? 

I buy natural organic fibers, and try to shop from brands using ethical labor practices. I love neutral colors and well cut basics, which is why I love Nui!

What do you look for when you shop for your own clothing? 

Small brands with beautiful, earth-friendly fabrics. I have a romantic bohemian and a structured minimalist raging a war inside of me and so my personal style is a bit eclectic.

You’re new to Nui - we would love to hear your honest review!

I have actually been buying Nui for the last  6-7 years!  I am a big fan. One of my favorite pieces is this merino one piece with a pointy pixie hood; I think we have owned it in three different sizes! That piece has kept my kids warm through many winters and we have used them as pajamas on many cold nights while camping. Your fabrics are incredible and designs are just so wearable and comfy. My kids have been calling their new waffle sets, “adventure jammies”.

You specialize in taking care of others - how do you practice self care for yourself? 

Time in wild places with my bare feet on the earth. Herbal infusions. Mantra. 

Where you live - Taos, New Mexico - is here is your favorite place in nature? 

The land here feels deeply supportive. The high desert meeting the mountains creates a truly magical landscape. The Rio Grande runs through this land and I spend a lot of time with the river. I also grew up spending a lot of time around the ocean and it calls to me in a big way as well.

Your chef creations you are to die for. Can you share a favorite recipe? 

These are my favorite chocolate chip cookies ever. I make them on every retreat at Antara and for my family about once a week.

Cookies

SALTED VEGAN CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES

  • 1 cup oat flour
  • ⅔ cup almond meal
  • ½ cup rolled oats
  • 3 tablespoons chia seed, ground, or 6 tablespoons of chia powder
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup coconut palm sugar
  • ½ cup coconut oil
  • ½ cup tahini
  • 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons almond milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • Flakey sea salt, such as Maldon

Method:

Preheat the oven to 325°

Combine the oat flour, almond meal, rolled oats, ground chia, cinnamon, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl.

In another bowl whisk to combine the coconut palm sugar, coconut oil, tahini, maple syrup, almond milk and vanilla.

In another bowl whisk to combine the coconut palm sugar, coconut oil, tahini, maple syrup, almond milk and vanilla.

Using a two-tablespoon ice cream scoop, scoop the dough onto parchment-lined cookie sheets. Sprinkle with flakey sea salt and bake for 14-16 minutes or until the cookies are set and cracked on top. I like these slightly under-baked.

Words to live by…

“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open.” - Martha Graham

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