VegFest, put on by Northwest VEG, is a big deal in Portland. Every autumn, the two-day event draws hordes of people to the convention center. So this year I arrived soon after the ten a.m. start and enjoyed the least-busy time of day. Of course, by noon I could hardly squeeze down the aisles between exhibitors. Vendors sampled vegan foods, promoted animal sanctuaries, and sold vegan cosmetics and books. Meanwhile, vegan chefs did cooking demos and speakers talked about the health, spiritual, ethical and legal aspects of veganism and animal rights. There was even a beauty stage so people could learn more about vegan cosmetics.
My annual trip to VegFest is always a bit overwhelming, and can easily result in a stomachache from too many samples. Out of the many wonderful people and products, here are a few that stood out for me during my visit to Portland Vegfest 2016.
Is Jackfruit Everywhere?
Has the whole world gone jackfruit crazy? Seems like it! But that’s okay, as long as the tropics don’t run out of this giant fruit. The Jackfruit Company was there with four flavors of packaged jackfruit. Upton’s Naturals sampled barbecued jackfruit.
Monkfruit as a Sweetener
The guy promoting monkfruit as a sweetener told me it was made by Buddhist monks and showed me a chart that was supposed to convince me monkfruit wouldn’t make my blood sugar spike. Honestly, I’ve never noticed a blood sugar spike and am not convinced by charts shown to me by strangers. I was like yeah, yeah, whatever, let me taste some of that monkfruit-sweetened Lakanto chocolate. It was good! Let the chocolate speak for itself! Fewer calories, and still tastes just like chocolate.
Vegan Burgers Made by a Veteran
A veteran-owned vegan burger company? Cool. Zak, the sales rep, told me that the founder wanted a vegan burger that he could take on camping trips. This mix is shelf-stable for up to a year. Just add hot water and cook in a pan. Vegan Burger tastes like a burger that came from a mix, but would be pretty good at a campsite. The parent company, Kester Foods, also sells a 30-day food supply kit. Survivalists, take note.
Happy Campers Gluten Free Bread
Personally, I don’t have a problem with gluten. But I love high-fiber bread packed with interesting grains. Happy Campers uses quinoa seeds, millet, pea protein, buckwheat seed, sorghum, etcetera.
Namaste Girl body care products smell great, they’re full of herbs, and I love the proprietor’s name: Kitty Leone. Which means, well, “cat lion.” I bought a muscle rub cream – my husband’s a connoisseur. Kitty said her pumpkin soufflé body butter is going crazy right now. But most intriguing, her vet swears by Namaste Girl Boo Boo Cream for treating goats. Apparently, other treatments leave them bald.
I make a lot of granola in my household, and thought I knew a thing or two about it. But had I ever thought of making granola with black beans? With lentils? No and no. Does it actually taste good? Surprisingly, yes. Dave and Jake, the two young granola guys, wanted an oat-free granola for easy digestion. So they had the genius idea of beans. At first, they cooked the beans and then dried them out on baking sheets in the oven. “It took us about a year before we really felt like we had it,” they said. Now they get somebody else to cook and dehydrate the beans, which was a real pain to do in their home kitchen. This innovative granola is high in protein and fiber, and available online.
Yuan Su Vegetarian Restaurant
This all-vegan Chinese restaurant is waaaaaay out on Southeast Powell, but worth the drive for its huge and unusual menu. They’ve only been open for a few months, so I was happy to see them sampling products and meeting lots of Portland veg folks. Hopefully some of their new friends from VegFest will make the drive out to Yuan Su for a big Chinese vegan meal.
I got to hear Sunny Subramanian, the blogger behind Vegan Beauty Review, talk about making good choices when buying cosmetics. She explained the difference between vegan, cruelty-free and all natural cosmetics, and warned us which ingredients to look out for. “Even if you’re not vegan, some of these animal products are totally barfworthy,” she said. Allantoin? Cow pee. Ambergris? Whale barf. Carmine? Crushed bugs. Perfume has especially gross ingredients. “That’s ironic. I want to smell like a flower, not beaver ball juice.” Get the lowdown on the best vegan, cruelty-free beauty products on her blog. Or buy her new book, The Compassionate Chick’s Guide to DIY Beauty, which she co-wrote with Chrystle Fiedler.
I’d heard of this newish vegan travel and culture magazine, but hadn’t seen it yet. Gorgeous magazine! Issue three of Driftwood Magazine is coming out soon. You can order print or digital back issues here.
VegFest features top vegan speakers. I caught a talk by biologist Jonathan Balcombe, director of animal sentience with the Humane Society Institute for Science and Policy. Okay, I was blown away before the introduction was over. I mean, what a title! His slide show covered the negative opinions of Aristotle and Descartes vis a vis animals, symbiotic relationships between animals, the difference in meaning between your dog’s tail wagging left or right, and the fact that animals can experience emotions and thus have intrinsic value to themselves. Also, “Fish are misunderstood creatures who have so much more going on in their lives than we give them credit for.” Check out his latest book, What a Fish Knows: The Inner Lives of Our Underwater Cousins.
I was on my way out when I saw a woman with a beautiful tattoo on her back depicting a cow, a pig, and a beautiful woman holding the scales of justice. Turned out, her name is Claire Howe and she was at VegFest promoting HEART, Humane Education Advocates Reaching Teachers. The organization focuses on teaching young people about human rights, animal protection and environmental preservation. Free services to nonprofits and public schools. Any teachers out there?
I’m not sure exactly what all the symbolism of Claire’s tattoo means, but there’s a sword on the ground, as though the lady laid it down before picking up the scales of justice. And isn’t that what going veg is all about?