Jacquie Michelle, owner of Body Bliss Yoga Studio in downtown Camas, has always said her business is about more than just the physical practice of yoga — it’s about building community.
Before the coronavirus pandemic, Body Bliss often offered discounts and special classes for those who helped build that community in Camas: the teachers, first responders, families with young children. The shutdown, however, has put a damper on most of Michelle in-person classes.
“We’re considered a boutique studio, and we don’t have the space with the new mandates to have people in here, in class,” Michelle said. “We still feel like we’re a part of the community … we just need to connect to the community in a different way.”
Like so many other businesses shutdown by the pandemic, the yoga studio has formed connections via technology, hosting several online yoga classes on Zoom and keeping up with clients via social media. During the warmer weather months, Body Bliss has held outdoor yoga classes at Camas’ Crown Park and on the Columbia River waterfront.
Now, Michelle is hoping to connect to the community in a more unique way: through a community cookbook she is calling, Simple Food for Complicated Times
“We always cook at home, but as everything happened (with the COVID-19 pandemic), going out to eat really wasn’t an option, so we were cooking at home every night,” Michelle said.
That’s when Michelle started to remember the community cookbooks of her youth.
“I went to a private school growing up and was there on scholarship,” Michelle said. “One of the things we did every year for the scholarship fund was to put together a community cookbook. Each class had a section and would contribute drawings and poems and recipes. Then we sold them at an auction. My church did something similar.”
As a latchkey kid growing up in The Dalles, Oregon, Michelle said she spent a lot of time cooking for her family and relying on those community cookbooks for inspiration.
“While it may seem that community cookbooks are something from the past, I have so many fond memories of learning how to cook from these unique, eclectic and inspiring books that always seemed to be in our home as a young child,” Michelle recently wrote in a pitch to downtown business owners, whom she hopes will contribute to Body Bliss’ community cookbook.
“I so strongly believe in the ability for a good meal to help foster and create community. A good meal has the power to connect us to each other, to our ancestors, and bridge gaps with the generations behind us,” Michelle wrote. “When we cook and eat together we create bonds, share stories and enjoy each other in ways we might not otherwise find.”
?? hopes people will contribute a special recipe and maybe even attach a story and/or photos that go along with the dish.
She herself plans to include recipes she relied on when she went ate a raw, vegan diet in her 20s to help heal her body, including a vegan smoothie that tastes like eggnog and a raw, vegan cheesecake Michelle makes for her birthday each year and which she says is “just as creamy as a regular cheesecake but a little less guilty.”
Michelle is taking community cookbook submissions through the end of September and plans to have the book ready by the winter holiday season. All proceeds will go to Body Bliss’ scholarship fund for people who are interested in yoga, but who may not be able to afford the classes, as well as scholarships for yoga teacher trainings and classes.
“We want to ensure that people who want to access our services can do so,” Michelle said.
She plans to sell physical copies at the Body Bliss studio, located at 417 N.E. Birch St., and will have digital versions available as PDFs on the Body Bliss website. People who wish to avoid going inside the physical yoga studio can order the book online and arrange for curbside pickup or to have it shipped via mail to their home address.
As for the cookbook itself, Michelle is hoping to collect a wide assortment of community recipes, stories and photos that show what Camas residents are cooking. The one thing she asks is that the recipes be simple enough for someone who doesn’t have a lot of fancy kitchen gadgets.
The goal is to make the recipes as accessible as possible,” Michelle said. “It’s not that we don’t want people to submit (complicated recipes) but we are trying to steer toward the simpler recipes that fill your soul and that you want to share with friends, rather than something that will take you all day to make.”
As for her Body Bliss studio, which was just starting to take off and gather a loyal customer base when the pandemic hit, Michelle said she is trying to come up with a new game plan in the face of a pandemic that is not slowing and public health mandates that make holding in-person yoga classes nearly impossible.
In September, the studio will host pop-up shops owned by Black women, including Shoebox by Ki (shoeboxbyki.com), a shop selling women’s clothing, shoes and accessories, with with Asiyah Rose Candles and Styled by Mele, on Saturday, Sept. 26, and Helen Rose Skincare (helenros eco.com) an organic skincare line, on a date not yet determined.
“We’re doing anything and everything we can to stay relevant in the community and just be here to support the community and make our rent,” Michelle said.
To learn more about Body Bliss Yoga Studio, visit bodyblissyogastudio.com or find the business on Facebook at facebook.com/BodyBlissYoga/ or on Instagram at instagram.com/bodyblissyogastudio.
Recipes for the Simple Food for Complicated Times community cookbook should be submitted using the Body Bliss form, available at bodyblissyog astudio.com/simple-food-recipes.
Recipe for Raw, Vegan Cheesecake
Courtesy of Jacquie Michelle, owner of Body Bliss Yoga
1 cup pitted dates
1 cup walnuts and/or almonds (or any nut of your choosing)
2 cups cashews (soaked overnight or in hot water for 30 minutes)
1 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup coconut oil
1 cup full-fat coconut milk
1 large lemon (juiced)
(Optional) If desired, sweeten with agave syrup or maple syrup
Fresh or frozen berries
To make crust:
Using a food processor, blender or sharp knife, chop dates and nuts until they resemble sand. Using your fingers, press the mixture into the bottom of a spring-loaded cake pan (you can really use any kind of baking dish, cupcake or cake pan you have on hand. Use some parchment paper on the bottom to help make removal easier). Set aside.
To make filling:
Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth and creamy. Add a bit more coconut milk or oil if needed to get the creamy texture. Go slow, though, so it is not too runny.
Pour the filling mixture on top of the crust and tap a few times to get bubbles out.
Here is the fun part: add fresh or frozen berries, peanut butter, carmel or any other flavors you have on hand that sound delicious to you.
Place into your freezer (make sure it is level) and freeze until set.
When you are ready to eat this delicious treat, pull it out of the freezer and let it warm up for about 10 minutes. Cut with a hot knife and top with more fresh fruit, jam or a little bit of syrup.