More Than Just a Food Fest
The 4th Annual NYC Vegetarian Food FestivalBy Rigche Ma
Woe betide anyone who dismisses the five- syllable word veg-e- tar-i-an, because the New York City Vegetarian Food Festival is only a mouthful to say because your mouth is stuffed with free cardamom pistachio DF Mavens dairy-free ice cream, BBQ sauce slathered buffalo drumstix from Marty’s Vegan Fast Food, and kiwi juice from Pura Fruta pure fruit juice. And this was only the front section of the exhibition hall!
In its 4th year, the festival had expanded to occupy two floors of The Metropolitan Pavilion with more than 100 vendors – most handing out generous helpings of product and/or giveaways, but each adding spice and flavor so that the event would accommodate even the most cynical and picky patron. Who could say ‘no’ to a classic vanilla-frosted chocolate cupcake
– nevermind that Blossom Bakery makes them vegan, because if taste is the number one concern, there was no issue here; or a mini power bar made with spirulina, that provides more key phytochemicals than 4 to 5 servings of fruits and vegetables, and go by the name of “Badass Power Cookie”? Especially since the food lines are only reasonably long and the kids (if any) are in the Kumquat Kids corner, safely distracted by mask making, vegan face painting and a healthy dose of free comics that preach animal ethics?
The myriad of possibilities presented ranged from alternative meat options such as Taft Foodmasters seitan sausages, beverages such as Pukka organic teas and Terri juice, to snacks, desserts and health supplements. Unexpectedly, there were several ethnic cuisine restaurants such as Beyond Sushi – with two restaurants in Manhattan- offering a fresh approach to traditional sushi, and the V-Spot – proud to be ‘Brooklyn’s only vegan restaurant specializing in Latin cuisine’.
The festival managed to encompass more than the narrow definition of vegetarian food; instead, its organizers thoughtfully offered vegetarianism and veganism as a viable lifestyle choice that is cruelty- free and compassionate as well. Apart from vegetarian family meet-ups at the event, other lifestyle products and causes found a good fit into the genial atmosphere in the exhibition hall. These included vegan fashion; Grape Cat, furniture; Olde Good Things, even natural organic insect repellent from Tick Tock There are causes such as Rescue Chocolate, which donates all its proceeds to animal rescue groups and Act Asia advocating humanity towards animals.
Overwhelmed by the sheer number of vendors, one can stop for a while at the ample tables and chairs provided during the festival, or rest one’s feet with eyes glued to the stage, where vegan standup comics, panel discussions and health lectures were on-going.
Outside the pavilion, as in previous years, a block long line stood patiently, waiting to enter. Susan from Queens, NY, stood with a sleeping baby in pram and her husband in tow, both non-vegetarian, but were piqued enough to brave the fading winter weather to just “come, check it out.”
The NYC Vegetarian Food Festival definitely drives a substantial cause and deserves praise for its diversity. Perhaps a tagline to its title to highlight its lifestyle, wellness and kindness aspects? We’ll be chewing on this as we look forward to the 5th installment of the event coming up in 2015 with anticipation and appetite!