The vegans are coming – and they’re bringing lunch. We sent Creative Writing student Lucy Barrett to Food For Thought, Edge Hill’s vegan showcase, to investigate the foodie hinterland that’s having a moment.
“I’m sat with a tummy crammed full of vegan foods, trying to process the weekend I spent navigating my way around over 40 vendors at the Food for Thought Vegan Festival, part of this year’s Festival of Ideas.
My initial thought going into the two-day event was that I hoped I wasn’t going to encounter the militant, preachy side of veganism that you read online. I eat most kinds of food and I do (at least try to) have a relatively healthy diet, but like many others, I don’t want to be judged for the lifestyle I’ve chosen.
When I wasn’t in line at a food stall I spent much of my time going around the vendors and patrons asking about their own veganism, and what they think about what the word ‘vegan’ has come to be perceived. And I was surprised and encouraged by their views.
I made a confession when introducing myself to anyone: I’m Lucy and I’m not a vegan. On the whole it didn’t really change anything and they were happy to have omnivores (as us meat-eaters are labelled) taking an interest. Some, however, took the opportunity to attempt to convert me, while one even called me a ‘muggle’, as if my lifestyle meant I lacked some kind of magic power. This aside, many were concerned about the bad reputation that vegans have, and how militant vegans patronise the interested and pass judgement on everyone else.
The biggest thing I realised was how fluid the definition of ‘vegan’ really is, and that there are even tensions and disagreements within the vegan community. While everyone has a common goal, motivations differ, from the health benefits of a plant-based diet to support for animal rights. One person said that they won’t eat anything that attempts to mimic meat products, so vegan sausages are a definite no, but another often opts for vegan counterparts to bridge the gap from their old meat-based diet. Some said that leather and wool products are fine and acceptable to wear, whereas others won’t go near them if their life depended on it. So navigating the minefield of opinions proved difficult at times.
All the while, the loudest voice in my head was urging me to go and fill up on the food (obviously for research purposes only). I was most sceptical of, but eventually most impressed with, my purchases from the Vegan Choc Shop. Many people had warned me that vegan chocolate was nothing like the real thing and often ends up grainy and grim. It’s a lot richer than your average Cadbury’s bar, and not as moreish, but the flavour stays on your taste buds long after eating. Just by eating it you can tell it’s not just filled with E numbers and who knows what else. If you wanted a sweet treat I would recommend an Icy Curl. I loved how it was made in front of you, using a frozen plate working at -17 degrees centigrade. I opted for a raspberry curl which was refreshing, somewhere between an ice lolly and an ice cream.
If you wanted the perfect lunch, Love Kimchi and Vausages were the tastiest options, although both only launched their companies this year. The Love Kimchi team boasts 54 years of experience in Korean cuisine between them, so when I appeared with no clue about kimchi [a traditional side dish made from salted and fermented vegetables – International Food Editor] and asking for recommendations, I was in expert hands. I picked the katsu curry and enjoyed it so much that I had it the next day too. Vausages was a solid lunch choice too. Their approach to hotdogs was really original, with each hotdog relying on individual flavourings instead of just toppings. Their aim is to make the food equally accessible to non-vegans, with similar textures to meat, and still having a traditional sausage skin, which I loved.
I imagine that I’ll be attending more vegan fairs over time, and hopefully this will become an annual event at Edge Hill.”
Pics: Lucy Barrett