Country Life Restaurant: A Mission to Educate
Peggy Schauffler’s life took an unexpected turn three years ago, when she became the owner of Country Life Vegetarian Restaurant, serving vegan cuisine in downtown Keene, New Hampshire. Now Peggy is planning to expand the educational services her restaurant offers and is seeking financial support for that mission. She is convinced that people are hungry: for food that is as healthy as it is delicious and for information to achieve and maintain optimum health.
“My number one goal is to educate, not to feed people,” Peggy says. “But with that said, most people have the vision that to be a vegetarian or a vegan means carrot sticks or celery sticks. And so I have as much a mission, I think, to show them that if you satisfy the taste buds it’s easy to be a vegetarian or a vegan. But you have to give them something that tastes good, something that satisfies their tastes, and I believe that we do that.”
In considering the future of Country Life, Peggy distinguishes between the food business and the education mission. She expects the food business to hold its own financially; if it can’t make a profit, she says the restaurant needs to close its doors. However, she realizes that she will need financial contributions from supporters to make her plans for educational programs possible.
Peggy envisions a kind of service center/restaurant, to which people can turn for information to help them to find alternatives to traditional medical choices. After seeing how her family and others have struggled with disease and been made fearful by doctors who prescribe harsh and often harmful treatments, she is determined to make others aware that they do have options.
“I want people to be able to make educated decisions,” she says. “I want them to know what they can do to help themselves. I think that’s what it’s all about. We have to help ourselves because if we don’t our doctors are not going to do it.”
Her restaurant business has been growing steadily since she bought the business with money contributed by her sisters, friends in her church, loyal customers and complete strangers who liked what they saw when they walked into the restaurant. While still not making a profit, she has seen her business increase from about $100 a day at the beginning of her management to $300 to $400 a day in recent months. She figures she needs daily revenue of $500 for the business to hold its own. She keeps her growing number of customers informed about upcoming events on the restaurant website and through email to the 400 people on her email list.
A resident of Swanzey, New Hampshire for the past thirty years, Peggy speaks with passion and purpose about the idea that good health depends on eating healthy, organic food and resisting the temptation to turn to modern medicine for quick fixes to medical problems. She learned good eating habits from her grandfather and mother when she was a young girl growing up in rural Oklahoma. Later she joined the Seventh Day Adventist Church, which re-enforced those habits with its promotion of vegetarianism and healthy eating as tenets of the religion. She is currently enrolled in a naturopathic program, which will certify her to teach people about healthy choices.
She plans to create a schedule of programs and speakers for an entire year that will give individuals opportunities to explore ways for creating healthy bodies, minds and environment. She expects to work with a doctor of naturopathy and has begun offering cooking classes, movies and programs focusing on animal rights, nutrition, natural defenses against toxins in the environment, and recovery from depression.
In addition, she wants to start a juice club and to have “a little health nook” where people can discuss their health concerns with her in private. “I am not in any way, shape or form trying to be a doctor, but if I feel that if I know something, I share it,” she says. “Most of the time it’s just sharing with them my own personal experiences.“
Peggy says that in theory we are a free people, but in reality many of us are slaves to chemicals and drugs in our society. “When even babies are being drugged so they won’t cry, how can we expect they won’t be addicted when they are teens?” she asks, adding that she is “convinced that when Americans realize this they will strive as hard to be free of drugs and chemicals as they do to keep our country free.”
In the end, Peggy says, she is hopeful that she can create a community of independent thinkers who are not unduly influenced by each and every change in prevailing wisdom. “I’d like for people to make decisions based on education rather than fear.” She points out that people respond to the latest expert advice as if they were in a flock of birds. When told not to eat soy, they all fly in one direction – away from soy. Then when told that chocolate is good for them, they fly in another direction – toward chocolate. She says, “I want people to get out of that flock of birds and say, ‘Why are we doing this? We need some answers.”