When I first walked into the building Saturday afternoon, an overwhelming feeling of excitement rushed over me. Looking out into the sea of vendors I felt like a small child in a candy store. Any qualms I had before were immediately erased. The next few hours was going to be amazing.
The gymnasium was filled with 106 food, interest group and clothing exhibitors from the local Boston area and beyond. I had no idea how far reaching this Boston food festival was until I met two gentlemen from New York City who were regulars at this festival. They said the festival in Boston was one of the largest festivals in the northeast area. They could be described as vegetarian food festival groupies, pointing out the best exhibitors at the fair as well as their favorite local veggie restaurants.
There were well known veggie friendly food exhibitors such as the popular hummus company, Cedars Mediterranean Foods. There were lesser known specialty food companies like Crazy Camel Dessert Hummus, which dared you to try peanut butter, pumpkin pie and chocolate flavored hummus dips!
It wasn’t all food exhibitors. There were a number of interest groups who displayed current campaigns. Some were there to educate event goers about the benefits of being a vegetarian or encourage people to join their campaign to fight animal cruelty.
There was free food sampling, recipe handouts and coupons to fill my heart’s desire. One of the most popular exhibitors was the Soya Foods booth which handed out samples of ice cream and soymilk drinks. This observation was simply based on the fact that there was almost always a queue. Another popular booth was Vegan Treats, based out of Pennsylvania. This booth occupied several tables in which they displayed an amazing assortment of perfect looking vegan desserts. Truth be told, their perfect looking desserts tasted just as good as they looked. I tried the Chocolate Peanut Butter Mousse brownie and was speechless. You would have never known it was made from completely vegan ingredients.
There were several things that struck me about the food festival. One, it’s truly an amazing experience for vegetarians and vegans to be able to go somewhere and for several hours not have to ask anyone what the ingredients are in any of the foods. Whenever I go out to eat, I always find myself double checking with the waiter exactly how a seemingly vegetarian dish is prepared. Being a vegetarian is a constant learning process. Just several years ago, I discovered that many normal white rice dishes are cooked in a chicken broth base. Second, I was inspired that a vegetarian food festival could attract so many people from all walks of life. Most of the crowd was already vegetarians or vegans. However, there were quite a few people I ran into who simply wanted to change their diet and try new foods. Regardless, everyone was open to trying new and different foods. While leading a vegetarian and vegan lifestyle is a growing trend, veggie-friendly restaurants and stores remain a small fraction of the food industry. I’ve yet to come across a fast-food vegetarian restaurant. (If you have seen one of these, please let me know.)
One of the most exciting moments at the festival was when I gave an argument and won a t-shirt from the Veg Worcester network. Their booth had a small sign that read “$10 for a t-shirt or free if you can give us a good reason why you deserve the shirt”. I thought I would give it a go and try my luck. I told the vendors I had been a vegetarian for most of my life, I’ve introduced a handful of friends over the years to new veggie foods and I brought a non-vegetarian friend to the event to try new foods. They told me it was one of the most compelling arguments they heard all day!