Northwest VEG’s ninth annual VegFest opened its two-day run today. Thousands of visitors milled through the Oregon Convention Center, trying hundreds of vegan samples, listening to lectures and watching cooking demonstrations. Speakers included such renowned vegan authors as John McDougall, MD, Brenda Davis and Victoria Moran.
Dietitian and author Brenda Davis addressed vegan-specific health concerns in her talk “Becoming Vegan…In Great Health.” She emphasized the importance of taking vitamin B supplements or eating fortified foods in order to avoid anemia, nerve damage and worse. “Don’t mess with B12,” she warned. She also suggested Omega 3 supplements made of microalgae.
While many people decrease or eliminate animal products from their diets for health reasons, VegFest also focuses squarely on ethical living. Veganism promotes reverence for life, Davis said. Pigs are as intelligent as four year-old children and can play video games with their snouts. Their natural life span is ten years. “We allow them to live six months of hell,” she said. “The only time they see the light of day is when they get taken go the slaughterhouse.”
In Victoria Moran’s presentation, “Living Well and Loving Life in the Real World,” she pointed out that everybody wants to live. “If there happens to be somebody on your plate,” she said, “it matters a lot to them.”
Moran encouraged vegans to be positive role models, and to practice cheerfully answering such tiresome questions as, “Where do you get your protein?” Sure it’s unfair that vegans are constantly expected to justify themselves, she said, but that’s the way it is. “Someone who’s feeding their kid Cracker Jacks and Coke doesn’t have to explain where the kid gets their protein. But if you feed your kid kale and quinoa, you have to explain.”
Lots of new and newish products made appearances on the expo floor this year. Exotic Chocolates, a very small specialty chocolate company out of Lake Oswego, attracted many sample tasters with their flavored dark chocolate. Two of their chocolates garnered awards from the Oregon Chocolate Festival in Ashland: banana habanero in 2012 and lemon habanero in 2013.
Bee Free Honee, a Minnesota business, makes imitation honey from apples. It tastes like apples mixed with honey. You can find it at Food Fight or online. “The response has been very positive,” said the woman putting out the samples.
Mariam Foods is a local family-owned business that makes Ethiopian-inspired dips. They combine lentils with spices such as jalapenos, curry, mustard and lime juice. Just this week the line made its New Seasons debut.
Teese, based out of Chicago, sampled its imitation cheese and line of Dandies marshmallows. They’ve become quite popular. In addition to selling their products all over the US and Canada, they’re even available in Germany.
Betsy’s Best Bar None is a line of organic protein bars made here in Portland. They debuted at the Portland Marathon in 2011 and made their way into stores in 2012. With flavors like cinnamon cardamom and cayenne chocolate chip, these bars are both delicious and inventive.
Isabella Dog Biscuits, based in Yachats, had samples of its dog treats in baskets. When I asked the woman working the booth how many people accidentally ate a sample before realizing it was a dog biscuit, she said, “I can’t count that high.” Nor could she answer whether any of them had then bought a bag for themselves.
Jaime Schmidt of Schmidt’s Natural Deodorant displayed her line of cream deodorants. She started her business a few years ago from her own personal frustration with the deodorants on the market, she said. Some of the best-smelling scents were bergamot lime and ylang ylang calendula. One passer-by raved, “It works like nothing else,” and began stocking up in earnest. The deodorant is available at Food Fight.
Veg Fest runs all day tomorrow, with a full schedule of speakers and cooking demos. Admission costs $8.