After many months of planning and preparation, Ottawa Veg Fest was held on April 29 and shattered all previously-held Veg Fest records.
More than 3,000 visitors.
101 individuals signed up for the 31-Day Vegan Challenge (coordinator Krista is stunned- she was expecting a dozen).
110 people became NCVA members.
Three successful speaker demonstrations over at Corpus Christi school, with about 150 viewers for each.
Three cooking demos, with triple the audience from previous years.
For a couple hours we had a lineup snaking its way into the street. A line up! Definitely a Veg Fest first.
Mayor Jim Watson made the rounds early. CBC’s Lucy Van Oldenbarnveld and LiVE 88.5’s David Schellenberg both came and took it all in; sampling the food, speaking with festival-goers, and meeting NCVA volunteers. We also had reporters on site, reporting about Veg Fest to their followers. We know for sure that CBC Radio and CFRA covered Veg Fest on the evening news; if you know of others please let us know.
I apologize for the crappy Blackberry photos, but they’re all we’ve got until our official photographer, Joshua McCullough, is finished poring through some 400 photos that he took at the event. We’ll be sure to share those once we have them.
The NCVA is very thankful to all who came out, but especially our wonderful volunteers, the sponors (especially our stalwart, The Table Vegetarian Restaurant), the exhibitors, the speakers and cooking demoers, and those who donated to our silent auction.
There will be more info to come as things are sorted out. Stay tuned.
Firstly, we think that becoming a NCVA member is already a pretty sweet deal, but it just got even sweeter. We have confirmed with Auntie Loo’s treats that everyone who becomes a member, or renews their membership, at Veg Fest will get a voucher for a FREE Auntie Loo treat!
The only downside is that it is redeemable only at the bakery, 507 Bronson Avenue, but still, who cares? It is a free Auntie Loo treat! Auntie Loo’s offers a huge range of goodies, including ones that are gluten-free and soy free, so there is something for just about everyone. And if you’re not into treats, redeem the voucher and give the treat to a loved one.
In other Auntie Loo’s news, her followers are all a-titter because Auntie Loo herself has announced that a brand new product will be revealed at Veg Fest, and she isn’t offering any hints. Do you really want to miss that? Be among the first to try it… whatever it is…only at Veg Fest.
As many blog readers will know, CBC’s Lucy Vanoldenbarneveld is making a special guest visit to Veg Fest to take in all the happenings and to share her new-found vegan wisdom with Veg Fest-goers. She will also be serving as a bit of an advisor to 31-Day Vegan Challenge takers throughout the month of May.
But the latest addition to the Veg Fest line up is that Lucy will spend part of her time at Veg Fest “helping” Credible Edibles’ Judi Varga-Toth with her cooking demo. Judi’s demo, Green Cuisine: Saving the Planet, One Bite at a Time will occur from 1:30-2:30 pm. Lucy will spend a few minutes talking about her experience as a vegan, before Judi dives in.
She will use locally-sourced ingredients to present a taste bud-tempting trio of dishes that not only satisfy our palates but our conscience as well. She will also discuss the ecological impact of dietary choices and the green benefits of choosing a plant-based diet. Food samples will be provided.
Finally, a few words about the Veg Fest silent auction. As we mentioned before, this is the only fundraising activity that the NCVA has historically undertook for its own benefit, and the funds are much-needed to allow us to continue our outreach within the community.
We are so grateful to the contributors to the silent auction. We have some pretty great stuff lined up, but as a teaser we are just going to list who has contributed and how to look them up. Be sure to check out the silent auction room on Veg Fest day and place a bid! And also, a special call out to the formidable Markey Johnson, the NCVA volunteer who coordinated the whole thing.
This year our speakers will be at Corpus Christi School, across the street from the Glebe Community Centre.
That means we have a significantly expanded venue, and plenty of seating. We want to fill those seats, so please check out who is speaking and consider attending. And you know, maybe bring along everyone you know. We have a pretty great line up.
In case you missed them the first time, here are the Q&A’s with this year’s Veg Fest speakers.
Jo-Anne McArthur – “Animals and Photojournalism — Global Stories About Our Relationships With Animals” — 11:30 a.m.-12:45 p.m.
So as if there weren’t enough reasons to become a NCVA member, SimplyRaw Express’ Natasha Kyssa has gone and added another.
Unless you live in a cave, you are probably aware that longtime vegan guru Kyssa, along with her husband Mark Faul, will be opening her hotly anticipated (mostly raw) vegan cafe/take out counter in the lovely neighbourhood of Hintonburg. Kyssa has been a raw food consultant for what seems like forever, and the opening of SimplyRaw Express will fulfill a nearly lifelong dream.
Well, NCVA members can rejoice: Kyssa is offering us a 10 per cent discount on all food and drink purchases at SimplyRaw Express.
And have we mentioned lately that SimplyRaw Express is one of Veg Fest’s Silver level sponsors? Natasha and Mark really understand the importance of being a part of the community.
“SimplyRaw Express strongly supports the National Capital Vegetarian Association. As devoted vegans for decades, Mark and I are thrilled to support the community advocacy and awareness building efforts of the NCVA to introduce more people to a healthier, more humane lifestyle,” Kyssa says.
NCVA memberships are $20 for the year, and entitle card holders to discounts at a number of Ottawa establishments, including The Table, Cafe My House, ZenKitchen, Auntie Loo’s Treats, Green Earth and more. See the full list here. You can become a member online, or join at Veg Fest!
The opening date for SimplyRaw Express has yet to be pinpointed, but will be during the first half of May. Stay tuned to the NCVA Facebook page or SimplyRaw Express‘ website for details as they become available.
So what is this Vegan Challenge panel happening on Sunday, between 4:00 p.m. and 4:45 p.m.?
As you may have heard, the NCVA is holding a 31-Day Vegan Challenge through the month of May. There are already more than 30 participants signed up, which is pretty sweet!
At 4:00 p.m. the Veg Challenge panel will convene in the Corpus Christi School gymnasium (across the street from the Glebe Community Centre) and will be available to take anyone and everyone’s questions about the vegan lifestyle. It’s a bit of an all-star line up, and an opportunity to ask whatever questions have been on your mind.
Join NCVA President Josh “Flower Power” Flower, Wellness Warrior Coaching’s Deb Gleason, and Credible Edible’s Judi Varga-Toth for a lively and interesting Q&A discussion about plant-based diets. We encourage Veg Challenge participants to come to this event to have their questions and concerns addressed. But really, anyone can come to take advantage of this wealth of knowledge.
Even if you’re already vegan and know absolutely everything, consider roping your interested friends and family into going. At the very least they will be dazzled by the sunny dispositions and vast depths of insight of our panel participants.
We are now less than three days until Veg Fest gets underway, so we thought we would take the opportunity to answer some of the most frequently asked questions about the event.
Firstly, to summarize, Ottawa Veg Fest is organized by the National Capital Vegetarian Association (NCVA- that’s us!) and sponsored by The Table Vegetarian Restaurant. It will be held on April 29 between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. at the Glebe Community Centre and Corpus Christi School. It will feature exhibitors, guest speakers, cooking demos, a silent auction, and Ottawa’s Next Top Vegan 31-Day Challenge. Admission is free.
Q: What is the NCVA, and how does it organize Veg Fest?
A: The NCVA is a small volunteer-run organization committed to promoting the vegan lifestyle for its many benefits, and helping to develop the social infrastructure to support it. The NCVA has no paid staff. The Veg Fest organizing group is a small core of volunteers who commit many hundreds of hours to bringing the event to life.
Q: Do I have to be a vegetarian or vegan to come to Veg Fest?
A: Heck no! Everyone is welcome at Veg Fest, and we mean everyone. And no, not in the same way a vegan is “welcome” at a grilling contest. We want people from all walks of life to come and enjoy delicious vegan food, and learn more about this way of living, in a no-pressure environment. Drop by the NCVA table to say hello!
Q: Who are the speakers at Veg Fest? How do I know when they will be speaking?
A: That info is available on our website. (They are Jo-Anne McArthur, Jack Norris RD and James McWillians PhD.) If you want more detailed info about each speaker, scroll back a page or two on this blog. We have done extensive Q & A’s with each of them.
One thing to note is that the presentations will be occurring at Corpus Christi school this year, which is across from the Glebe Community Centre. Watch for the costumed carrot, cow, pea and planet earth to help guide you there.
Q: What is this Veg Challenge panel happening at 4 p.m. Is that just for people who have signed up for the 31-Day Vegan Challenge?
A: The panel includes NCVA President Josh Flower, Wellness Warrior Coaching‘s Deb Gleason, and Credible Edible‘s Judi Varga-Toth. They will be answering questions plant-based diets. We encourage Veg Challenge participants to come to this event to have their questions and concerns addressed, but we welcome anyone who wants to learn more to come and ask a question.
Q: Why isn’t _______ an exhibitor at Veg Fest? Who are the exhibitors?
A: There could be many reasons. It is possible they weren’t interested in being an exhibitor. It is also possible that they were interested, but tried to register too late. Veg Fest exhibitor space fills up quickly every year, usually about six weeks before the event. We only have room for about 32 exhibitors, which also means we have to be a bit selective about who participates.
As for who the exhitibitors are, you can see a list here.
Q: Why doesn’t Veg Fest have _______?
A: There could be many reasons for that too. It could be that we didn’t think of it. It could also be that we did think of it but researched it and realized it wasn’t feasible. It is also possible that we really wanted to do it, but didn’t have enough volunteer power. We invite you to make suggestions for how we can improve the event, but even more, we invite you to become part of organizing future events. Just email us at ncva.avcn at gmail dot come if you would like to get involved.
Q: What happened to the cupcake contest?
A: Nothing happened to it, we just decided to do the 31-Day Vegan Challenge instead, to try something new. The venue isn’t big enough to hold lots of different off-shoots of the event. We are considering holding the cupcake contest as a stand-alone event sometime in the coming months, but it will really depend on our volunteer resources.
Q: How do I get to Veg Fest? Is there parking?
A: The great thing about the Glebe is there are lots of ways to get there. There is parking available throughout the Glebe, and some limited off-street parking available in the immediate vicinity of the community centre. For a map, see here.
Q: Where do funds raised for the silent auction go?
A: The silent action is the single fund raising event that the NCVA does to raise money for itself. The silent auction money is used to support NCVA operations, including things like paying to exhibit at other events, normal operating costs, printing etc. On other occasions where the NCVA has raised money (i.e. Veg Ball, the Glebe Garage Sale) the NCVA donated the money to other charities. The NCVA receives no grant money; it is just a very leanly operated organization.
Q: Why does Veg Fest only have vegan food and products when your association has vegetarian in the name?
A: The NCVA promotes plant-based diets, and wants to show people all of the amazing plant-based foods that are available. Cheese, dairy, eggs and so on are all readily available everywhere, and are not plant-based, so the NCVA sees no need to include them at Veg Fest. Having a vegan-only policy also ensures that people at all points on the veg spectrum can enjoy the offerings at Veg Fest without the normal struggle of constant label reading. This includes NCVA volunteers, the majority of whom are vegan. Veg Fest strives to be a safe place for those who wish to keep animals and animal products off their plates.
Q: Can you guarantee me that everything at Veg Fest is 100% vegan?
A: The only way that anyone can guarantee that is to make their own food all of the time. The NCVA requires its exhibitors to sign an agreement which statess that they understand the Veg Fest rules and regulations, which includes that all products being sold and promoted at Veg Fest be vegan. We clearly explain the definition of vegan, and we try to screen the exhibitors the best we can to ensure that their products/services are suitable for vegans. We do our very best, but cannot be held liable if there is a rogue exhibitor. If it is brought to our attention, we will address the issue as quickly as possible.
Q: So how do I show my appreciation to this fabulous organization that is doing so much to advance the veg cause in the Ottawa Community? 😉
A: That’s easy! For one thing, come to Veg Fest. Once you’re there, become a NCVA member. It is $20 for the year and has some awesome discounts at restaurants like Cafe My House, ZenKitchen, and The Table. Plus, you are supporting a small volunteer organization to make a difference. And if you are totally inspired, then consider joining us as a volunteer. We could always use more enthusiastic people on our team.
For the month of March, CBC News: Ottawa co-hosts Lucy Van Oldenbarneveld and Adrian Harewood each embarked on new diets as part of the CBC’s Food for Thought project. Adrian tested out a meat-rich Paleo diet, while Lucy spent the month of March as a vegan. Both anchors received advice from experts and celebrities who practice the respective diets. In Lucy’s case, many of Ottawa’s vegan who’s who pitched in, including Chef Caroline Ishii of ZenKitchen and Wellness Warrior’s Deb Gleason.
At the end of her month, Lucy decided to continue on the vegan path, and she’s now going to put her newfound expertise to good use as a mentor to the 31-Day Vegan Challenge participants undertaking a vegan diet during the month of May. (We are up to 30 challenge takers, to-date.)
Lucy will be at Veg Fest on April 29 between noon and 3 p.m. and will speak about her experience, and answer people’s questions about going vegan.
We asked Lucy a few questions ahead of time about her experience.
NCVA: How was being vegan different from (or similar to) what you were expecting? What WERE you expecting?
Lucy: I think the month really did meet my expectations. I expected to feel more energetic, and to eat healthier food. Although, I don’t feel nearly as ‘deprived’ as I thought I would. With great desserts from Auntie Loo and gourmet cuisine from ZenKitchen, you won’t feel too much like you’re missing out on delicious food.
Q: What were your favourite things about being vegan for a month? Any scary moments?
A: My favourite thing by far was how great I felt. After the initial ‘detox’ feeling, headache-y and nausea (three to four days) things have felt terrific. One ‘scary’ moment during the month was getting half-way through a ‘vegan’ meal at a friend’s place and have her say, “oh, we used chicken broth in that.” In the grand scheme of things not a big deal, you do the best you can!
Q: Tell us about the support you received from the veg community.
A: Immediately people began tweeting me recipes, advice and tips. It has been terrific.
Q: What is your personal plan going forward?
A: I plan to stick with it without becoming too fundamentalist. What I mean is, there may come a time where healthy vegan food isn’t available and it’s a choice between peanut butter sandwiches on white bread or fresh fish… or something….so I don’t want to box myself in. My plan is to stay as vegan as possible! And so far, so good.
Q: Time to impart your wisdom; what advice do you have for people embarking on the NCVA’s 31-day Vegan Challenge?
A: The first four days are grim and there are times when it feels like all you’re doing is chopping and cooking, but this will pass. You’ll start to feel better soon and you will get more efficient as meal prep and freezing stuff.
What’s this? A pub night at the classiest vegan joint in town?
Oh yeah baby…and it’s at ZenKitchen. Say whaaaat?! That’s no pub!
For one night, it is! Just for us! Now don’t you go worrying about how you’ll afford overtime for the nanny AND go to Pub Night. We’ve got it covered. For $25 you and your food-lovin’ friends will be served creative, (award-winning) chef-made, vegan tapas and finger foods. (Please note RSVP details below. This is not a drop-in event.)
In case you haven’t been to Zen Kitchen yet (where have you been?! It’s 100 per cent vegan! And in Ottawa! They support local veg farmers!), I’ll give you an overview: they don’t serve Tofurkey or Yves Ground Round, nor do they ship frozen faux meats from China. Zen doesn’t serve anything but vegan food. Even the beer and wine is vegan. And they make it all in-house, including the seitan (all you DIYers know how hard that is).
So what can you expect at ZK Pub Night? Give or take a nibbly or two (more people = more food), this is what’s on the menu:
– Panko-crusted onion rings (I tried one two – they’re delish)
– Raw slaws
– BBQ seitan fingers
– Salad rolls
– Tofu dengaku (miso apple-butter glazed) skewers
– Kale chips…bien sûr!
– and more…
Beers are on tap: Broadhead Long Shot White Wheat Ale, Broadhead Grindstone Amber, Beau’s Lug·Tread, Waupoos County Cider (GF) and Kichesippi Blonde. Space is limited, so we’re asking you to register and pay in advance. Knowing the nunbers also allows Chef Caroline Ishii to prepare even more food! 😉
Date: Thursday, May 10 (RSVP to ZenKitchen at 613-233-6404, (map) , with credit card details, by Thursday, May 3)
ZK Pub Night starts at 6:30 pm and ends when the taps run dry or 11 pm…whichever comes first.
He specializes in American history, and in the environmental history of the United States. He writes for the The Texas Observer and the History News Service, has a regular column in The Atlantic, and has published op-eds on food in the New York Times, the Christian Science Monitor, and USA Today.
He will make his presentation, An Alternative to the Alternatives — Why Sustainable Animal Agriculture Is No Answer to Industrial Agriculturefrom 2:30-3:45 p.m. on April 29 at Veg Fest.
NCVA volunter Dee Campbell-Giura grilled him recently with some questions so we can all get to know him a bit better.
Dee: When did you become a vegan? Was it a process from omni to veg, or were you raised vegan?
Dr. James McWilliams: I became a vegetarian in 2007, largely for ecological reasons, while doing research on animal agriculture for my last book Just Food. I became a vegan a year later, largely for ethical reasons this time, after reading Gary Francione’s Animals as Persons, Peter Singer’s Animal Liberation, and watching a video of how a mother cow reacts after her calf is taken from her. The interesting thing about both of these choices is that, momentous as they were in life, I made them with little reflection. The truth of the matter seemed immediately obvious. There was little deliberation (which is highly out of character for me). I simply trusted my instinct and am glad that I did.
Dee: What do you say to people who worry that going vegan will be too hard?
McWilliams: I get a little annoyed when vegans say going vegan is easy. That’s like an accomplished athlete saying that what she does is easy. Every worthwhile decision comes with a learning curve. Every confrontation of the status quo comes with challenges. Making responsible ethical and environmental choices comes with challenges. All that said, eating a plant-based diet, when done properly, provides so many benefits–tangible and intangible– that these challenges eventually fade. Many non-vegans think of veganism as making a sacrifice. But most committed vegans who center their diets on a broad diversity of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes experience a brave new world of unexplored flavors. New culinary possibilities open. I currently eat a far wider range of foods than I did when I ate meat and dairy.
Naturally, traveling, social events, and holidays can pose unique challenges–they always will. There’s no formula for dealing with them. What I have found, though, is that these challenges provide useful opportunities to reify why you eat the way you eat. They inspire reflection and reinforce the intentionality of eating. They can, regrettably, also inspire unsupportive reactions from people who don’t understand, or don’t want to understand, your commitment to avoiding animal products. I deeply believe, however, that one should never compromise his or her belief system for the sole purpose of avoiding conflict. Still, the vast majority of my experiences as a vegan in a non-vegan world have been overwhelming affirmative of the basic goodness of humanity. I know that sounds a little overblown, but it’s true.
Many potential vegans think that they’ll become weak, tired, and malnourished. It is for this reason that I am especially happy to note that I’m a marathoner and ultra-marathoner, and that my times and my workouts have improved dramatically since becoming a vegan. Hell, forget me–look at Scott Jurek, the world’s best ultra-runner!
Dee: Which of your achievement(s) makes you feel the most proud?
McWilliams: Honestly, none. I’m my harshest critic, which is saying a lot if you consider the criticism sent my way by advocates of animal agriculture. One aspect of my work that I am a little pleased about, though, is the fact that I was able to bring a serious consideration of animal ethics to a venue as mainstream as the Atlantic. In this case, though, I’m more proud of the Atlantic than myself.
Dee: You have said that as long as we live in a society that believes it’s okay to eat meat, we’re always going to have factory farming. Give us hope, or a reality check: is the tide turning?
McWilliams: I’m afraid it’ll have to be a reality check. It’s natural to seek hope when you’re deeply engaged in a cause. However, when it comes to animal agriculture, which is growing exponentially in the developing world, I see little hope. (If you doubt this, take a road trip across the United States.) As you suggest in your question, the major voices in agricultural reform today are so ideologically wedded to the implausible notion of small scale, environmentally sound, and welfare-oriented animal farms that they refuse to confront the underlying ethics of what these farms are doing.
Many of these writers and filmmakers think that they’re exploring the ethical foundation of their actions, but they aren’t. They’re under the burden of justifying the unnecessary suffering of sentient beings, and they refuse to make that justification (probably because it cannot be done). I believe this point more than anything I’ve ever written:until eating animals is stigmatized, factory farms will dominate the production of animals. I don’t even think small, welfare-oriented systems are a step in the right direction. After all, they ultimately reify the act that’s at the core of factory farming: eating animals.
Dee: If you could produce a TV ad to promote vegan advocacy, who would you cast?
McWilliams: Rip Esselstyn, of The Engine 2 Diet. He “works” as an advocate of veganism not only because he’s an articulate and compassionate guy, but because, well, he’s a guy. And he’s a fireman guy. And he a big muscles guy. Not to sound flip or shallow, but we are talking about a TV ad after all, and the hardest demographic to reach with veganism includes men who think eating animals (and sometimes killing them themselves) in integral to manhood. Rip oozes masculinity, and reminds us that real men (whatever that means!) can be vegans.
Dee: You specialize in American history. How and when did you merge your interest in American history with food sustainability?
McWilliams: I’ve spent my career writing and researching the history of American agriculture. Very little about this history is pleasant. Very little. It’s marked by human and animal suffering, disease, ceaseless exploitation, and environmental degradation. So, about ten years ago, when advocates of small scale agriculture started saying we needed to return to pre-industrial agricultural models, I decided it was time to step out of the ivory tower and start shouting. When I wrote a piece critical of the locavore movement in the New York Times in 2007, a number of opportunities rolled my way. Protected by academic tenure, I decided to embrace them. In time, I become a rarity: an academic activist. It’s a role I’m still warming to, and juggling with the normal rounds of academic responsibilities (like, uh, teaching).
Dee: As a new vegan, I often meet resistance and derision by family and friends. I’d love to hear how you respond(ed?) to this in your own life. Yes, I know Dr McWilliams isn’t a self-help columnist, but most vegans experience this and well, it saves me asking him on April 29.
McWilliams: I touched on that in my answer to question #2, but what I would add is this: be empathic of others’ intolerance, never apologize, stick to your values, remember that animals need your voice to be strong, and, most important, maintain a sense of humor. Really, a sense of humor goes a long way.
Dee: Can you give us a glimpse at what you’ll be talking about at Ottawa Veg Fest?
McWilliams: I’ll be speaking about the environmental, economic, and ethical problems with the alternatives that have been proposed to industrial animal agriculture. Many consumers believe that if they source their animal products from small-scale, organic, pasture-based farms then they are making a genuine choice against factory farming. I will argue that this opinion is wrong, thereby reiterating that the most powerful choice we can make to oppose industrial animal agriculture is to go vegan.
Think you’d like to try a vegan diet, but not ready to commit? Try the Ottawa 31-Day Vegan Challenge. The NCVA will support you along the way, with recipes, tips, resources, movie nights, meet-ups and more!
Just quickly posting the recipes I made for the Ottawa Women’s show cooking demo!
1 cup flour
1.5 cups wheat bran
2 tsp baking powder
¾ tsp salt
½ cup sugar
¼ cup neutral oil (like canola)
1 cup soy milk or water
1/3 cup raisins
1/3 cup chopped walnuts
Preheat oven to 375.
Mix the flour, bran and baking powder together in a mixing bowl.
Using a hand blender if you have one (a potato masher if you don’t), mash the banana very well and blend it with the sugar, oil, soy milk and salt.
Spoon into lined muffin cups and bake for 18-20 minutes; 15-17 minutes for mini muffins.
Spicy Peanut Rice
4 cups cooked brown rice
1 tsp fresh grated ginger
¼ cup soy sauce
1/3 cup natural peanut butter
1 tsp chili sauce (like sambal oelek)
2-3 tbsp water
Carrots, celery and whatever other veggies you want, very finely chopped
Sliced almonds (toasted for 8 minutes at 350 degrees)
Put soy sauce, ginger, peanut butter, water and chili sauce in a jam jar and shake to blend. Microwave (without the lid!) for 30 seconds. Mix sauce, rice, veggies and toasted almonds.
Teryaki Rice Salad
4 cups cooked brown rice
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tsp fresh grated ginger
1/4 cup agave or brown sugar
1 tsp vinegar
2 tbsp water or orange juice
1 tbsp sesame oil
Carrots, celery and whatever other veggies you want, very finely chopped
Cashews (bought raw, toasted at 350 degrees for 8 minutes, then chopped)
Put soy sauce, ginger, agave, vinegar, water/juice and sesame oil in a jam jar. Shake to blend. Microwave (without the lid!) for about a minute. Mix rice, cashews and veggies and stir in half the sauce. Add additional sauce to taste.
David Schellenberg has been talking tech on the radio since 1994. He has covered the rise of the Internet, high definition televisions and the evolution of video games. He covers both the technology, and its impact of economics, politics and the way that we communicate. His segment, TECHBiTE, airs on LiVE 88.5 just after 7 a.m.
But on April 29, David will be talking vegan as a guest emcee at Veg Fest. And between May 1 and May 31, he will be eating vegan as he undertakes the NCVA’s 31-Day Vegan Challenge. In the interest of disclosure, David has been dabbling in the vegan lifestyle for the past several months on the advice of his personal trainer, Kyle Den Bak (who, incidentally, ran the Boston Marathon today).
Got all of that?
David will surely be a fierce contender for the title of Ottawa’s Next Top Vegan—don’t let his non-committal attitude and fear of tofu tell you otherwise (on that note, can anyone give the poor guy a decent tofu recipe?).
Want to join David in the challenge? Just email the Challenge organizers at vegchallenge (at) ncva (dot) ca.
Next, David talks about his veg experience so far, including vegan perogies and the vegan beer pairing night he hosted.
NCVA: What is your current veg status?
David: Currently I eat very healthy at home with lots of whole natural foods especially vegetables and fruit with very little prepared food of any kind. On the road is a bit more complicated to eat properly but I try to make the best choices I can.
I love food – especially a big variety. Growing up in a family that is comprised of naturally great cooks has given me a true appreciation of how good food can really taste. My parents are both from farms and we had a big garden in the city. Tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots and everything else just doesn’t taste right unless it is fresh. (Peas are particularly tasty from the garden and awful from a bag or can.)
NCVA: Tell us about your veg history- what got you interested in the lifestyle, what has been your experience?
David: My primary motivation is simply to lose some weight and the suggestion to go vegan came from my trainer. My early morning shift initially played havoc with my eating schedule and it has taken me a couple of years to get back on track.
My experience has been pretty positive. I have found lots of new foods to try that have been amazing.
NCVA: We understand that you did your own veg challenge in recent months. How did that go? Tell us a bit about it.
David: My trainer is encouraging me to do what he calls the “6 Week Vegan Challenge”. Part of the challenge is going well. As my fridge has slowly been emptied of non-vegan foods they have been replaced by
I am starting to realize that a purely vegan diet is probably not going to be in my future, but I have made dramatic changes already and don’t intend to go backwards.
NCVA: You had a perogie party recently that was not vegan, so obviously you are still on the fence. What benefits are you hoping to derive from moving in a more veg direction?
David: My personal goals are losing weight and being healthier.
The perogie party was an interesting experience because it was a great mix of people where everyone was making and sharing their perogie masterpieces. Personally I found that some of the best tasting perogies where vegan – plus, dipping perogies into salsa or guacamole was much more tasty than sour cream.
I also had a vegan beer pairing night where the guys came over during the NHL All Stars game. Each guy brought a vegan dish and a beer to pair. Was an amazing mix of foods.
Another time, I had a paleo/vegan dinner with a bunch of friends. Eight people came for dinner and each one brought a dish that was both vegan and paleo with a wine pairing. This dinner had it all with appetizers, soups, main courses and desserts that where healthy and delicious.
NCVA: What interests you about the NCVA Next Top Vegan challenge? Are you in it to win it?
David: My interest is to find new foods and eat smarter. I feel no pressure to win a competition but I look forward to the experience.
NCVA: Have you been to Veg Fest before? What are you looking forward to at the event?
David: I have never heard of Veg Fest until this year. I am looking forward to being able to discover great new foods.
NCVA: What have been the highlights of your veg experience to-date? Any funny or terrifying moments?
David: Biggest discovery so far has been how unhealthy many prepared vegan foods can be. Reading the labels of most recommended vegan prepared foods reveals that they usually high in salt and often high in sugar. It is a real disappointment to see many ‘health’ stores stocking their shelves with products that may be vegan, but are certainly not healthy.
I still haven’t found any way of preparing tofu that I enjoy. No matter how many varieties or recipes I have explored it always manages to taste like a firm lump of goo.
I do have a new found appreciation for classic foods that happen to be vegan. So many Italian and Mexican dishes are amazing. Fresh Italian pasta with a thick tomato sauce full of sweet red peppers is so tasty. Salsa with organic chips and guacamole is healthy, easy and a huge crowd-pleaser.