Last weekend, I ventured down to the Toronto Veg Fest. I brought along my bestie Adele, and we spent the day revelling in this vegetarian haven.
We’ve been transitioning together to a plant based diet, which is a just a douchey way of saying we’re cutting out animal products and eating whole foods. The internet has some great resources,and I consider Fresh a second home, but I’ve never been to any local events and figured there’s no time like the present to go hang out with Animal Right’s activists and purple-haired vegan bakers.
The first thing that struck me as we walked into the Harbourfront Centre was the diversity this event.
Yes, there were some girls and guys with purple hair and peasant skirts, but there were also young professionals, families, classy ladies dressed in Chanel, and everything in between. There were people who were very much there for the animal right’s aspect, and others who were more interested in nutrition. I know it sounds crazy, but this festival was a lot of fun. Everyone in attendance just seemed so passionate about delicious, healthy, kind food. Also, the event was free, making it accessible to anyone who was interested. These were the highlights of our day.
1. Fresh Fruit
This one seems kind of obvious, but there was a lot of tropical fruit available. I brake for Pineapple. People were also going nuts for the fresh young coconuts, which were opened and sold with a straw. Coconut water is an amazing rehydrating, electrolyte-replenishing beverage, and it’s not just available in expensive designer bottles. Apparently you can drink it straight out of a coconut. Crazy hippies.
I am a big fan of deals. Clearance, Vintage, Yard Sales. So I was delighted at the number of veg companies handing out coupons, including Daiya (Dairy Free Cheese that my husband is addicted to), Gardein (Soy “meat” products for when you just want a chicken nugget), and Earth Balance (The greatest butter substitutes in the world). Free event+$4.00 off my next grocery bill= Budget Score.
There were so many companies at the festival, from small bakeries, to international corporations, and they all had one thing in common, samples. We sampled some incredible products, from White Chocolate Pretzel Peanut Butter to Zesty Cilantro Pesto. A company called Field Roast was at the festival to sample their new (to Canada) products, delicious grain-based roasts and sausages. Adele was in love but disappointed that they weren’t selling whole portions of these delicious sausages.
Often vegetarians and vegans are a sad bunch at lunchtime. They are relegated to ordering from the appetizer menu, forced to make due with soup or french fries or a measly garden salad.
When lunchtime rolled around, there were so many options that Adele and I didn’t know what do do with ourselves. Chinese, Thai, Indian, Mexican, Raw, Pizza, Salads, Pasta. We finally settled on dairy free “Mac and Cheeze” from Green Zebra and an Indian mixed plate from one of the stands. The Curried Basmati and Samosas were so good, and the pasta was unbelievable, with yams filling in for cheese. If Green Zebra wants to give me free lunches for a while, I would be more than okay with that. In our world of processed and pre-made junk, it is amazing how good fresh, plant based food is.
5. Isa Chandra Moskowitz Live Cooking Show
Isa is a first class vegan chef and cookbook author, and creator of the Post Punk Kitchen, a cooking show and website full of simple recipes.
At the festival, Isa hosted a live cooking demo, where she made Beet Burgers and a Carrot Coconut Soup while taking questions from the audience, bantering about life as a Jewish Punk Vegan from New York, and looking to her quiet friend and collaborator, Terry Hope Romero (Terry exclaimed to the audience at one point “Ack, I was trying to be Silent Bob and Isa totally just broke the 4th wall!”). Isa charmed the audience with her laid back attitude and a sarcastic wit. She seems like your friend from middle school’s cool aunt. She talked about Veganism in the 90′s being closely tied to activist culture and taking practical steps in your own life to affect change. While we were sampling the soup, which was delicious, Isa talked a bit about beans ending with “Alway Be Soaking…Glengarry, Glen Ross, right? Anyone? Has everyone seen that movie? It’s good.”
As many food options as there were, they were dwarfed by the number of dessert options. I have never seen so many vegan baked goods in my life, let alone all at the same time. After listening to a Nutrition lecture about the evils of oil and white sugar, I should have felt more guilty about seeking out the perfect dessert. Should have. We looked over all of the options and finally landed on these beauties, Peanut Butter and Jam Chocolate Cupcakes. They were as delicious as they look. The runner up was the always delicious Nanaimo Bars from LPK’s Culinary Groove, of which I bought several to bring home.
Adele had to go to work, so I spent a few more minute strolling around the booths, buying some food and products, I even joined the Toronto Vegetarian Association. There were a couple different massage booths set up, and I simply could not resist. I had an amazing restorative massage, in 15 minutes in the midst of a giant festival. As I reflected on the day I felt pretty blissful. Cupcakes, coupons, affordable massages…these vegetarians just get me.
Whether you’re a full on carnivore, a PETA elite member, or just a girl looking for some great gourmet peanut butter, the festival is for everyone. It really showed me how many delicious and healthy options are available to us as residents of Toronto, and that people go veg for a myriad of different reasons. If you had told me five years ago that I would one day revel in the glory of a Vegetarian Festival…yeah, you wouldn’t have gotten very far. But after exposing myself to the way our food industry works, and the effect meat has on our bodies and the environment, I have slowly changed the way I eat and look at food. My request is simple- please educate yourself, and eat more plants. Read some books, watch some documentaries and make informed decisions on what you eat. Start by adding more veggies into your meals, having a veggie burger sometimes, participating in Meatless Mondays, and check out the festival next year. Okay, I’m done preaching.
Forks Over Knives
Earthlings (Warning, this one is quite graphic)
In Defense Of Food by Michael Pollan
Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer
The Kind Diet by Alicia Silverstone
~ Kristy LaPointe
Kristy acts, writes, and eats. You can hear all about it on twitter @kristylapointe. She also just renovated her apartment, so try not to be too impressed.