What a weekend! And what an experience. This was my 3rd visit to VegFest, and I can still remember my very first, as a relative novice (just over a year into my veganism) – and secretly pregnant! Flash forward just 2 short years, and I find myself at VegFest once again, but this time selling and signing books! Life is such an amazing adventure, no?
This year’s festival saw the highest attendance ever, and spanned 2 full days. I was there for both of them: Saturday, with Waits along for the ride (Damian was away for work all day), and Sunday, sans baby and tabling for The Vegan Pregnancy Survival Guide at the Herbivore booth.
Saturday was my day to play, and Waits and I took the exhibit hall by storm. As always, the product representation was impressive, and included:
Back to the Roots
The Better Bean Company
Bob’s Red Mill Natural Foods
Book Publishing Company
Butler’s Soy Curls
Dave’s Killer Bread
Flamous Brands’ Falafel Chips
Food Fight! Grocery
Food For Life
Garden Protein International
Living Harvest Foods
Mary’s Gone Crackers
Oregon Ice Works
Papa G’s Vegan Organic’s
Petunia’s Pies & Pastries
So Delicious Dairy Free
Steve Meyerowitz, Sproutman®
Sweet Lemon Vegan Bistro
Toby’s Family Foods
Turtle Island Foods
Vegan Body Building
However, some prominent players (and some my favorites!) from past years were conspicuously missing. I’m looking at you, Field Roast, Wayfare, Luna and Larry’s, SunWarrior, Gardenburger, Bragg Live Food, Galaxy Nutritional, and many others. What happened guys??!
The food scene definitely follows trends, and the vegan niche is no different. If 2009 was the year of ice cream, and 2010 was the year of cheese, then I’d have to dub 2011 the year of . . . fish? There were actually a few new faux fish products, none of which I was able to try (gluten). But Damian dropped by on Sunday for a while, and was able to sample them. He gave one of them an enthusiastic two-thumbs-down, but another had him interested and wishing he’d gotten a second taste. Personally, fish is not something I miss at all, except for tuna salad sammies and there’s plenty of recipes for mock tuna that satisfy me quite nicely.
To be totally honest, I was a bit disappointed that there wasn’t more in the way of “revolutionary new products.” Okay, so maybe I’ve just been spoiled, with coconut ice cream swooping in and changing everything a few years back, and then vegan cheese taking a giant leap forward with last year’s Daiya and Wayfare and the Teese reformulation. This time around, I was hoping for something fun and fresh to really knock my socks off.
And those guys ^^^ are the only ones who really delivered on that hope. But boy, did they ever! Sorta Sausage is literally exactly what I’ve been waiting for. Because soy is getting demonized from all sides, and gluten intolerance is on the rise (Waits seems to be sensitive to it, which means I can’t eat gluten anymore, either!), and those are the two single sources of almost all faux meat products. But, BUT, there are so many other options out there! If Daiya can make cheese out of tapioca, and Wayfare can create a nacho spread from oatmeal (yes!), then surely the industry can come up with a gluten-free, soy-free plant-based protein!
I’ve had my sights set on hemp for a few years now, and finally, finally someone came through. Sorta Sausage makes a burger patty and a breakfast patty, both from a hemp/polenta blend, and both absolutely delicious. These are beautifully spiced, toothsome and hearty, and much to Damian’s delight, they had nary a hint of that “hemp-y” aftertaste (I’ve grown to dislike that flavor as well, so I was thrilled that it was absent). This is my top pick for best new product, hands down. Has anyone else out there tried them??!
The kids area was a nice relief, though it was mostly geared towards older tykes. It sure would have been nice to have an enclosed play area for the younger ones. However, props to the “life-sized” unicorn with a person inside and robotic parts (I think?) which was pretty spectacular. Alas, Waits was afraid of it!
So all in all the first day was a lot of fun. I kept running into all my friends, I reconnected with a bunch of VVC-ers, I got to meet a few Bonzai readers (!!!), I hung out with my favorite little man all day, and of course, I ate a ton of yummy food (Tempt hemp ice cream bars in coffee cream swirl! The glory and the goodness that is the soy curl of wonder! Oregon Ice Works handcrafted gelato and sorbetto!). Yeah, it was a good day.
On Sunday Damian was on baby duty, and I returned to the convention center flying solo. My day was off to a rough start, however, when I was told that I would have to purchase an entirely new ticket in order to re-enter the exhibit hall. What what?? This was really surprising to me and to be totally honest, it kinda pissed me off. Ha! I’m by no means a stingy gal, in fact I specifically hadn’t printed out the online coupon because I’d rather pay full price and help fund an organization that I support. But, I thought that ticket was good for the whole shebang! Paying double, in my opinion, made the price tag simply too high. Especially since, hate to say it, but inside the exhibit hall (ie, aside form the speakers and demos going on) the second day was nothing compared to the first. I feel bad for people who only attended on Sunday, because booths kept running out of samples, and a number of them just closed up early and left! So VegFest organizers, if you are reading this, I adore your event and this amazing community, but there were definitely some issues this year! Just my constructive criticism.
I was starving by the time I got inside, so I hurried over to the food-for-sale area and grabbed some Thai food. After my belly was full and happy, I was ready to sign some books. And oh maaaaan, it was so fun! And SO STRANGE! In the first book I signed, I think I wrote something like, “yay, my first!” or some equally dorky sentiment. Such a trip!
Over the course of the day I talked to so many people, met so many pregnant ladies and veggie mommas, heard so many stories and commiserated with so many women. This experience meant so much to me. I was saddened (though totally sympathetic) to hear the same story from so many – that they had started their pregnancies vegan, but had been pressured from concerned family members and misinformed doctors, until they found themselves so full of doubt that they finally caved and started eating animals again. My heart goes out to these women and I am just so, so grateful that good information will now be available for others, in the future. I’m honored to be a part of making that possible, more than I could ever express.
To the ladies I spoke with: Thank You! You are all mama rockstars and I loved meeting every one of you!
I had a blast hanging out in Herbivore’s corner, right next to Food Fight! and their dangerous supply of Go Max Go candy bars. We pretty much just goofed off all day, and talked to nice people, and ate lots of yummy crap. For a work-from-home recluse like myself, it was really fun to get a taste of the ol’ super-social retail thing. And of course, the fact that all the Herbivore/Food Fight! folks are super awesome doesn’t hurt either.