Media nerds and vegetarians are both dedicated to a distinct lifestyle and culture which sets them aside from mainstream diets. They’re fascinated with something that takes extra thought and has developed a community. But while the comic fans and videogamers spend a year waiting for the chance to spend $100 going to Fanexpo (and then sitting in line for a couple hours), the Vegetarian’s big event is the Veg Food Fest (Sept-5th-7th) which has free admission!
Toronto has a reputation for it’s population of granula-munching hipsters, but the Veg Food Fest is 30 years old, well predating Hipster becoming the social group they are. In all likelihood, events like the Veg Food Fest helped Toronto get it’s notorious culture of hipsters. If you want an event built for hipsters, then there’s always Canzine in a couple months.
Around the Harbourfront Centre, hundreds of vendors set up booths and passed out samples of their organically grown cruelty-free products. There was seasoning, smoothies, and a tasty Coconut-flavored bacon alternative which almost tastes authentic. Although because of differing individual tastes, your mileage may vary. Anything insufficiently delicious can just be topped with a bit of rice-based whipped cream. Many newer products like “Kewaza” energy balls are still early in their marketing and hope to soon reach national distribution. But for serious vegans unable to wait, Upaya Naturals is now providing delivery of modern alternative foods across Canada.
Although marketed as being a vegetarian experience, a lack of milk, eggs, and cheese, means technically it’s a Vegan festival. But the really important detail is that any the event was not reserved for Vegetarians and vegans only. Omnivores were welcomed to peruse, and not vilified.
A few exhibitors there were campaigning for Animal Rights related causes, which is an intuitive pairing with Vegetarianism since reluctance to harm animals is the catalyst for many people to make the switch to a cruelty-free diet. It was a good place to learn that cosmetic testing on animals is actually a horrific process and not just people putting eye shadow and lipstick on animals to see if it makes them look fabulous.
After cycling the territory a few times and filling stomachs with samples, there was time to sit down and watch the music performances by musicians (like Dyniss) or indoor presentations. The Donut Showdown event was more entertaining and educational than most classroom lectures, and also had tasty samples that widened my concept of what a Donut can be. Hopefully next year the events will have a bit more of an A/V element to give them more of a pulse. Once every aspect of the festival has been absorbed, the Harbourfront Centre is a nice area to explore and see some docks and ducks.
While the event might not convert me to the lifestyle, it did cause me to consider the role and relations of meat and produce in my cuisine and if I ever made the decision to abandon animal consumption, I now know I’ll still have thousands of dinner options and lots of company and support. And next year I’m sure the event will be back with more tasty snacks, entertainment, and information that is more exotic and fascinating to me than the comic books and actions figures I see the other 51 weeks a year.
Michael Ryan, September 9th 2014
Needless to say, the people there generally seemed a lot thinner than the people at FanExpo