By DEBBIE TAN

 

The Vegan Food Fair was an energising experience.  An annual event attracting omnivores, vegetarians and vegans alike, the VFF featured live music, speakers, pretty plant-based merchandise and, of course, food. By its existence, the VFF dispels myths (made and fuelled by omnivores) about veganism as essentially difficult, exclusive, and a lifetime doomed to eating ‘rabbit food’. No, the VFF shows a much happier, welcoming picture: one of health and living conscious of one’s impact on the environment and animals.

We were greeted by the flowery sign early on, which set the tone for the rest of the day. There seemed to be many vegans around, and, excitingly, many attendees who were interested in becoming vegetarian or vegan. VFF also had a fantastic challenge board where attendees could pick an envelope, any envelope: each one contains a challenge, like eating only vegan takeaways for two weeks, or cutting out dairy for a day.  The atmosphere they created was positive and joyful.  

Photo by Debbie Tan.

Let’s be honest: vegan or not, the main draw for people, at least initially, was the food.

The Food Fair was jam-packed with vegan food from heaps of different cuisines, from paella to dumplings to baking. There were favourites such as Lord of the Fries and Angel Food. Skeptics, don’t turn away: how could you, when the first meal of the day is an enticing, hardworking-but-humble, standard Kiwi pie.

Actually, this was no ordinary pie. For what kind of vegan pie would have people forming a long, winding, snakelike queue? Well. Since I participated in this queue, I can say now that I would have waited for even longer for a pie this exquisite.

A golden, flaky crust. Rich, savoury filling (filling options include ‘steak’ and ‘cheese’, ‘butter chicken’ and vegetables in a Thai peanut sauce). Simple and delicious.  Full confession: as a vegan myself, I have not tasted butter chicken. Suspicious as I was of eating a pie that contained neither butter nor chicken, it was delicious and moreish – a perfectly cooked, slightly spicy curry encased in a perfectly flaky outer shell. Satisfying.

My companions, who are decidedly non-vegan, had the ‘steak and cheese’. They described the flavour as unnervingly accurate and one of them even craved more ‘steak’.

So worth the wait! Photo by Debbie Tan.

In short, plant-based pies more than hold their own against meat pies.  

I sampled rich cashew cheeses (thick, creamy cheese replacements made from crushed nuts and herbs) and nut milks (plant-based milk in a range of flavours).  The $5 vegan tapas cup with sweet chilli sauce was the perfect end to a calorie-heavy day (you only live once and I’ve decided I’m living for food). There’s a full list of the vendors here if you’d like to see the kind of food available at VFF.

To their credit, the organisers pulled a fantastic job with the music, vendors and most of the logistics.  The only caveats I could mention for VFF were features that I’m sure they will fine-tune in the future, as VFF only began in 2016 but has bloomed rapidly.

There was a lack of sustainable waste facilities so some of my compostable packaging could not be disposed of properly, unfortunately. Hopefully VFF will be zero waste in the future. Queues moved quickly, and parking was easy. However, the entry walkway and exit were unclear, and the parking attendants gapped, resulting in confusions and delays among many attendees. For anyone who has been to Albert Park’s CNY event: it’s nowhere near as crowded, thankfully, so we got out alright.  

Photo by Debbie Tan.

I left with a happy belly and happy thoughts at the thought of more people living a bit more healthily and ethically. Reading the experiences on Facebook, I wasn’t the only one.

I’m sure VFF will be greater and better each time – I’m already waiting for next year!

The Vegan Food Fair was held at 10am – 5pm on April 23 at Alexandra Park Raceway, Auckland.

 

You can check out some of Debbie’s vegan recipes right here:

Vegan Stir Fry: Humble Yet Delicious

The Easiest, Laziest Vegan Cinnamon Raisin Cookies Ever

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