Produced by the Toronto Vegetarian Association, the Toronto Veg Food Fest is regarded as the largest of its kind in North America. It offers an exceptional opportunity to sample vegetarian cuisine and learn about vegetarian cooking and a vegetarian lifestyle in general through the various scheduled workshops, lectures, and demonstrations. And entrance is free!
Two weeks ago, we headed down to the Harbourfront Centre in Toronto for the 31st annual festival despite the gloomy weather. We were a varied group.
- Myself – Part-time vegetarian LOL. I usually eat meatless breakfasts, snacks, and either lunch or dinner. I estimate at least 60% of my cooking and eating is vegetarian, don’t eat pork, and eat beef only once a week. I honestly wouldn’t mind becoming vegetarian for health reasons if I didn’t need so much protein for my bones to heal right now. When I was in high school I tried to become vegetarian but I lasted a mere four days… what a fail. I didn’t know much about protein sources for vegetarians and didn’t cook for myself, so I basically ate just grilled cheese, yogurt, and potato chips.
- My friend Ivee – My baking and cooking buddy. Vegetarian since March of this year. She is practically vegan because she is lactose-intolerant.
- My brother – Anti-vegetables nearly all his life, he went on a strict Paleo diet last year for 30 days where he really had to eat his vegetables. He now eats vegetables regularly.
- My 13-year old sister – My parents claimed that she had a vegetarian phase this spring. I don’t believe it. She is quite averse to trying new food and dislikes particular vegetables. She loves animals though and dreams to be a vet someday, so maybe that’s why she wants to be vegetarian.
We went on the Sunday, the last day of the festival. Since I can’t take public transit with my injury, we had to find parking around here. We parked at the Roger’s Centre where the Toronto Blue Jays play. It sucked and it was expensive. That’s Toronto for you.
Anyway, the festival was in full swing when we arrived around 1:30pm.
First order on the agenda: Sample some food! We were pretty ravenous.
They had a variety of food for sale too.
With all our food sampling, we hadn’t even had a proper lunch yet. LOL.
We had to walk around after all that eating!!!
More roaming around…
It started to pour so we had no choice but to stay under a tent. Luckily there was a scheduled talk there. Now I am more aware about the existence of animal law and justice!
After the rain subsided, we went to see a cooking demonstration by holistic coach Lesia Kohut. She made chocolate chip meringue cookies with a date-sweetened chocolate ganache frosting. Both were organic, vegan, gluten-free, and paleo-friendly… you’re basically safe to bring these to a potluck of health freaks. 😛
More sweet treats were to be had back in the fair. There were at least four different vegan bakeries!
Other interesting booths:
We were ready to call it a day but I wanted to go to another cooking demonstration at 6:30pm. We walked down the harbour in the meantime.
The cooking demonstration was led by Miyoko Schinner who is apparently the “Queen of Vegan Cheese.” She recently came out with a cookbook called The Homemade Vegan Pantry: The Art of Making Your Own Staples. The whole cooking demo was based on the idea behind the book. I was actually tempted to buy it as they had some for sale there.
Kitchen crafters know the pleasure of making their own staples and specialty foods, whether it’s cultured sour cream or a stellar soup stock. It’s a fresher, healthier, more natural approach to eating and living. Now vegans who are sick of buying over-processed, over-packaged products can finally join the homemade revolution.
First, she made a vegan macaroni and cheese mix. It’s an homage to every kid’s favourite processed boxed treat.
I, for one, never loved Kraft mac and cheese. I thought it was disgusting, but my teenage siblings like it. This healthy vegan alternative is based on cashews, nutritional yeast, and seasonings such as powdered mustard, onion powder, and paprika (for colour).
- Mt. Vesuvius Black Ash
- Double Cream Garlic Herb
- Aged English Smoked Farmhouse
- Aged English Sharp Farmhouse
Vegan cheese contains no dairy, but is generally made of consolidated protein mass from nuts (like cashews), coconut, beans etc. More about vegan cheese vs. regular cheese here. I’m no expert, but I’m sure there are endless variations to making vegan cheese. I truly respect vegans and their choices, but as I wrote earlier in this post, I’m not one to support vegan products that aim to fill the void of meat or dairy. This product is good enough that it can stand on its own without being marketed as “cheese.” My opinions are echoed by this Huffington Post article:
The cardinal rule with any dietary or allergy restriction, we think, is not viewing foods as substitutes and comparing them to the “real” or “original” thing. A veggie burger is nothing like a beef burger, but they’re both awesome in their own right. It’s when you start comparing the two — or comparing fake “chicken” fingers to real chicken fingers, or cauliflower to steak — that you run into trouble. Vegetarian and vegan food doesn’t have to stack up against meat; it can exist as independent and delicious food on its own, and we enjoy it very much that way!
Given that I was at a vegan/vegetarian food festival, I was still very much intrigued and amused by this phenomenon. Unfortunately labelling products as vegan hotdogs or vegan turkey makes it so much more marketable to vegans or transitioning vegetarians or omnivores.
The second demonstration was on a quick, vegan gruyère fondue. Like the vegan mac and cheese, it uses raw cashews and nutritional yeast. This one uses Rejuvelac as well, a natural lactic type of bacteria that aids in the fermentation process. You can make your own Rejuvelac at home or buy it commercially.
I enjoyed the cooking demonstration as Miyoko was a thoroughly entertaining chef and I learned a thing or two about vegan cheese and all the different ingredients needed to make it. If I were to make this at home, I probably wouldn’t call it “cheese”, but cashew cream or cashew sauce. I enjoyed eating the mac and cheese more than the fondue and so did my sister.
Until next year!
The 2015 Toronto Veg Food Fest took place from September 11 to 13, 2015 at the Harbourfront Centre in Toronto Canada. It is held annually in September by the Toronto Vegetarian Association. You can donate or volunteer for them here.