It’s not often that I go to an event regarding food and come away disappointed, but that seems to be the trend lately. I’ve been a HUGE fan of the DC VegFest since I stumbled upon it a few years ago on a DC adventure involving the Eastern Market and the Capitol Book Faire – and I was hooked. There were demos showing how to work with nutritional yeast and Vegg when it come to vegan baking as well as info booths about all the uses for tofu and why the type matters. I was able to try vegan cookies and cupcakes as well as smoothies thickened with tofu and the new (at the time) Daiya meltable line. I came away with information on why being a vegetarian matters as well as how to be a GOOD vegetarian. For many people, including myself in my early veg years, living vegetarian is synonymous with living the anti-Adkins diet of all carbs all the time. VegFest was a nice post-college reminder that there is more to life than pasta and rice. It was at VegFest that I saw my first Tofu Press and while I’ve never invested in an official one, I press my tofu each and every time and the difference in taste/texture is amazing. To me this is what a vegetarian food festival should be – teaching people how to live a healthier life even if it’s as simple as #MeatlessMonday.
Instead more and more food festivals seem to be about preaching to people why what they are doing isn’t enough, or isn’t “right”. From National Food Expos to VegFest to the Emporiyum, more and more of the focus seems to be on organizations preaching to people about why their specific type of living (natural oils, fruitarianism, freegans, etc) is the RIGHT one- Revival style if you will. It’s almost the reverse of the classic teach a man to “fish” story – instead of being taught how to do the skill they are being told they aren’t good enough since they aren’t “fishing” but not being told HOW to do it. I have heard speaker after speaker preach about the importance of green leafy vegetables, but not one of them gave a recipe for HOW to use green leafy vegetables. I heard speakers going on about the importance of limiting soy intake, but not one of them talked about HOW to make your own nut milk/cheese. I get that talking about the problem is easier than fixing the problem, but from my experience it seems as if many of these organizations were doing a better job in their early years which makes me wonder why the change. I saw more clothing, soup, and products booths at the event this year then anything else.
In the end I’m sure it comes down to money – bringing in produce to cook is not cheap and shockingly (to me) I’ve never seen a local farm participate in one these food events, only restaurants selling the final product. So why the disconnect? Why the move from showing people HOW to borderline discouraging them by saying what they are doing isn’t enough? Is this the new direction for Food Festivals – making them more like user group seminars where the attendees are expected to already know how to make their own almond milk or cashew cheese? I’m not sure, and with that I’m not quite sure if I’m ready to stop going to these events – but I know that I’m not going to be as eager to bring friends to the events. I want to go to a VegFest that is a celebration of all things veg*n – which to me means including the fruits and vegetables and legumes that are so fundamental to this way of living.
Note: Nachos pictured above are from Bread and Brew and were fantastic! However in fitting with my other issues, a recipe for that fantastic vegan queso would have been a fantastic addition 🙂 Tho Belle did appreciate the frisbee the bamboo plate was resting in!