And then on Saturday, there it was.
Yes, Jacksonville hosted its first Veg Fest, which of course celebrated all things vegetarian, compassionate, furry, and delicious. I immediately dumped Bean upon my long suffering husband for the day and gallivanted away to enjoy the festivities (I would have taken both her and Gretchen the Dog, but I couldn't see a toddler and a canine sitting still for all of the forums I wanted to attend).
There was a pretty good turn out that day, as I and several other people were pleased to notice. I overheard one of the volunteers glowing about the crowds: "We didn't know if anyone would show up!" A valid concern, given the meat-centric ways of my part of the country and the Floridian attitude toward anything even remotely approaching inclement weather (we are a spoiled, entitled people, used to boundless sunshine and subtropical temperatures. If it's rainy, too hot, or too cold, most of the time we stay home and gripe about how the weather should be better in Florida. Maybe it's a side effect of too much vitamin D).
It was bright and clear on Saturday, but also chilly and breezy. While that kept the S.A.V.E. rescue cats curled up on fleecy beds for warmth...
... it didn't really affect the rest of us all that much. We were ready for veggie.
I spent a great deal of the day in the Five Points Theater (which used to be a kind of grimy concert venue when I was in high school and college, though you'd never know it now from the floral carpets and creamy beige walls). The Veg Fest had arranged a great docket of speakers, including writer Ben Shaberman, Melisser of The Urban Housewife fame, and George Eisman, RD.
I'm sorry I have no decent pictures of Ben Shaberman, because his presentation about vegan outreach to the mainstream was frank and funny and eloquent and he deserves more than a blurb. Melisser was just charming; she's as breezy and chatty in person as her online writing style, and I enjoyed her talk about international vegan travel immensely (so immensely I marched my happy behind out to the lobby post-haste and bought her new book). I'll write more about George Eisman in another post; his talk has given me the gumption to make some long-overdue changes in my life, and I wish that I'd been able to stay after his lecture so that I could thank him in person. Online will have to do instead.
Of course, while I was being educated and entertained I also managed to slip out and get my grub on. Lunch consisted of a tofu Reuben sandwich from Native Sun natural foods, which is Jacksonville's answer to Whole Foods.
And a bowl of chili that a local guy cooked up in giant cauldrons underneath a tent. Not photogenic, but full of carrots, beans, squash, and spiciness. I wasn't even too bummed that they ran out of complimentary Fritos before my turn. My blood sugar didn't really need those, anyway.
Afternoon snack? Yes, please.
Happy bites with plum sauce from Orlando's Loving Hut restaurant? Double yes, please!
|Friends in Orlando, be on notice - we will be going here when next I visit your fair city!|
|Clockwise from top left: rosemary flax crackers, banana coconut blondies, apple cinnamon "flatbread," sprouted corn chips|
I also bought some treats to carry home from St. Augustine's Blue Planet Co Op. Mostly high fiber raw snacks, truth be told, but all completely delicious. I can especially recommend the banana coconut blondies - they are dehydrated heaven from an ice-cream scoop.
The day capped off with an advance screening of the new documentary Forks Over Knives. I think the film has had some advance press in Vegetarian Times and/or VegNews, so you may have heard of it already. Briefly, the movie deals with the health effects of the standard American diet, and follows several patients as they try to help their chronic health problems with a plant-based (aka, vegan) eating plan. There are no downer cows in this presentation, no pictures of horrible livestock conditions, just bare and sometimes terrifying science. Dr. T. Colin Campbell and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn and their research are the centers of the film, but a host of other health professionals round out the ranks as well. It was a thoughtful, well-researched film and I learned a lot (I haven't read The China Study yet, though; those who have might be bored during the middle third of the film since it deals mainly with that part of Dr. Campbell's work). A staunch meat-eater might not be moved, and might also claim that the film makers are pushing an agenda. They are - but it's an important one. As the guy behind me said after the screening "They should show this in schools." The film debuts in March 2011; if comes to a city near you, you should definitely try to see it.
There was a panel after the movie featuring George Eisman and vegan bodybuilder Robert Cheeke. I had to bunk out early (I'd abandoned my child for nearly seven hours by that point), but I brushed past Robert Cheeke on my way out the door. I'm no saint, so I'll admit I indulged in a quick ogle. For any curious heterosexual vegan ladies out there (or any fellas that might care) he's just as yummy in person as his pictures suggest.
I hope Veg Fest was a success for its organizers; they obviously put tons of time and effort into the event, and I for one enjoyed the outcome immensely. It was incredibly nice to be somewhere that served food I could eat without question, and to be around other people who care about what goes into their mouths. (I overheard one five year old little girl tell a stranger proudly "We don't eat chicken at my house!'). I for one am ready for next year - I can't wait to do it again!
|I swear the dame with the hula hoop danced for five hours straight. Tofu powered, I bet!|