One of my go-to soup recipes comes from a cookbook I bought when my kids were young. This cookbook was used so often that is literally falling apart at the seams. Most people think Italian Wedding Soup gets its name because it combines all the leftovers from an Italian wedding but the truth is it comes from the Italian phrase, minestra maritata meaning married soup. Much like the Costa Rican casada, it is said to create a “marriage” of flavors.
The original recipe calls for meatballs and chicken broth but it was very simple to veganize. I used Gardein brand meatballs but any pre-made vegan meatballs will work. This recipe is so easy that I’m almost embarrassed to share it. Buon appetito!
Last November, Dr. D. and I decided to open our home to travelers through AirBnB using our spare bedroom. At first, we were a little hesitant about having strangers in our home but had confidence in AirBnb’s system as we learned more about ways to vet our prospective guests. Although many people around the world have turned to AirBnb to make money using a spare bedroom, a rental property, or a vacation home, ours was going to be unique. Most AirBnB listings have house rules such as, no smoking, no parties, no pets, etc. but we had special house rules.
You are welcome to use our kitchen but please keep it free of animal products as our home is vegan.
Most guests understood this and many wanted to talk about it after they arrived. “Can I eat Cheez Doodles in my room?” one guest asked. I told him I wasn’t going to kick him out for eating Cheez Doodles but had a bag of the Earth Balance equivalent waiting for him in his room when he returned for the day. He loved them!
I had another AirBnB user send me this message prior to booking, “I’d like to know if it’s allowed for me to cook my dinner. I eat salad with chicken or rice, eggs. I don’t eat meat.” I gently explained that as stated in our profile under House Rules, we don’t allow any animal products in our home (and told him that chicken was, indeed, meat) which led him to give me warnings about Vitamin B-12 deficiency. He found another place to stay.
Our experiences with guests has been nothing short of fabulous. We’ve shared tea at midnight, bourbon after our usual bedtime, and lots of stories of travels at home and abroad. We’ve welcomed a motorcyclist during his cross-country trip and an older couple from a town 30 miles from us who were attending a concert and didn’t want to drive all the way home in the dark. We’ve had guests from India, Canada, Germany, Scotland, China, and many other places in the world. Each one of them enriched our lives during their short stays.
We quickly found that travelers were encouraged to book more readily after I added pictures of our cat and dog to our profile. “We want to meet Willow the Wonder Dog” or “your cat is adorable. I just had to meet her” were common remarks. Did this weed out some people who weren’t animal lovers? Maybe. But that was okay.
What I found interesting is that we have not had a single person stay with us who identifies as vegan. We’ve had a couple of vegetarians but everyone else has been omnivorous. There’s no sense in “preaching to the converted” and we are happy to use our home to open up ways to passively promote veganism; it could be in the form of a conversation they initiate, a comment about a book they found in their room, or simply the aroma of delicious food cooking when they arrive. Or maybe simply finding out that vegans are friendly, welcoming, and kind.
We donate monthly to The Coalition for Healthy School Food, a non-profit founded by our friend Amie Hamlin and discovered that noting in our profile that a portion of our profits go to the organization helped spread the word about the work they’re doing. During Labor Day of 2017, we donated all our profits to Hurricane Harvey animal rescue relief efforts. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to make money using AirBnb but we feel our good fortune should be shared.
Our AirBnB business will be going international as we build our home in Nuevo Arenal, Costa Rica. With the help of a property manager, we hope to be welcoming guests there by late 2018. In the meantime, check out our current listing here. If you’re interested in setting up your own AirBnB, please contact me with any questions or use this link and I will donate our referral bonus to an animal rescue organization of your choice.