I’m not sure what I expected when I went to this year’s annual Montreal Vegan Festival. A few organizations with graphic pictures of meat packaging plants? Essential oils and crystals? Swampy stews made of coconut milk and lentils? veggie pate samples?
Well, in some ways my expectations were met. There were organizations with graphic pictures. There were essential oils and crystals. There were also swampy coconut milk stews. And yes, samples. But there were also a lot of businesses, ranging from solo operations to small local companies to slickly corporate Canadian ones. Vegan food is not just some alternative lifestyle, but a desirable selling point.
The festival was crowded too. Every table was full of the curious. Samples drew many, but it only takes about four kombucha samples, three nut cheeses, and five raw deserts before vegan food stops feeling virtuous.
The biggest hit appeared to be Oat and Mill, which manufactures ice cream from oats in some pretty spectacular sounding flavours: Chocolate Peanut Butter, Turtle Crossing, and Coffee Biscotti to name a few. The cones were dipped in chocolate and covered with all manner of toppings. The line to buy one was so long I didn’t even try.
Bigger companies like Rachelle-Bery (the supermarket), Yupik (bulk goods), and Rawsome (deserts) were also packed thanks to the variety of their samples. Anything made by the chefs on demand disappeared in seconds. But even things without samples — vegan clothing suppliers and not-tested-on-animals cosmetics — attracted an audience. Almost every booth had a slick look to its packaging, from the posters down to the boxes for the products.
Overall, the event is similar to the Expo Sante Manger Vert, just with fewer exhibitors. One major difference, though, is the predominance of booths dedicated to animal welfare and rights. Anonymous for the Voiceless, Fauna, Sea Shepherd Montreal, SPCA, and La ferme de l’aube were notably visible.
While I can’t say that I’m becoming vegan, either now or in the future, for those who are interested, the vegan lifestyle is ever more accessible.