The 29th Annual Vegetarian Food Festival was held in Toronto, Ontario, Canada over a three-day weekend from Friday to Sunday. I’ve been two times before in the past, but this was Justin’s first time attending the huge festival celebrating all things Vegan and Vegetarian! It is the largest festival of its kind in all of North America, and we are very lucky to have it practically in our own backyard. Justin and I took the Go Train from Port Credit to Union Station in Toronto, and from there we walked for about ten minutes down to Harbourfront Centre by the lake where the festival was being held.
What do you need to know about the Toronto Vegetarian Food Festival? Well, first of all, it is a food fair. That means that we were surrounded by delicious food everywhere, and everything was vegan! There were many vendors specializing in local and international cuisine and it was all plant-based. One of the biggest parts of the festival was the giant marketplace. It was filled with representatives of businesses that wanted us to try out their product. Lucky for us, all of the products were yummy plant-based foods and we were able to try out free samples! Next, a big portion of the festival includes cooking demonstrations, speakers, music, and much more. And best of all…it’s free! Everyone was welcome to come out and explore the wonderful world of vegan cuisine. It is one of the largest festivals of its kind in the world – in 2012, an estimated 40,000 people showed up for the event! And I’m sure it has become even more popular in 2013 as it was quite busy while we were there! It was great to see so many people interested in vegetarianism.
We enjoyed a delicious lunch at the restaurant pavilion. There were plenty of tables that had a fantastic view of the lake. It was a bit too hot in that area from the sun, so we chose a great shaded spot on the hill with a view of some drummers performing a musical act in the central gazebo. Justin chose a tempeh bowl from one vendor, and I got a burrito from the Hot Beans stand. Both meals were outstanding!
Now, there aren’t really any pictures of the marketplace with all of the vendors. That’s because we were way too busy exploring all of the stands and eating all of the tasty free samples! I’ll show you some pictures of our haul at the end of this blog post though. There were many local bakeries that had their offering of yummy vegan baked goods of all kinds, so we loaded up on those. I brought a cooler bag with an ice pack inside, as well as some reusable bags. These came in super handy as some of the things we bought could potentially melt, and we wanted to bring it all home with us. There were other tables that had lots of pamphlets and information about various animal rights causes and animal sanctuaries. We gathered up a ton of papers and information about all of these charities and causes, and signed a whole bunch of petitions while we were there. There were many new products available to try that aren’t even in stores yet!
Next, at the main stage, we went to see the amazing Gene Baur of Farm Sanctuary speak. He was so inspirational and answered any questions that we might have had at the end. He is definitely one of my idols since he has devoted his life to assisting animals in need, working towards more humane conditions in factory farming, and providing information about the benefits of going vegan to as many people as possible. It is always an absolutely pleasure to hear Gene speak about animals and Farm Sanctuary. There were also some awards presented by the Toronto Vegetarian Association to the amazing Jo-Anne McArthur for the film, Ghosts in Our Machine and her photography project, We Animals. I highly recommend that you check out her work and the movie. Her photography brings awareness to the cruel conditions in which some captive animals live, as well as the beautiful places they could potentially live at farms like Farm Sanctuary.
After seeing Gene Baur, we went to a cooking demonstration by Roberto Martin, who happens to be Ellen Degeneris’ personal chef. He has been featured on Ellen’s show in the past, and I already owned his cookbook, Vegan Cooking for Carnivores (great book!). He cooked in front of a jam-packed room full of people and created a dish from his cookbook, Red Beans and Rice. Everyone got to try a sampling of the dish after he was finished cooking. Roberto was super funny and entertaining, and we could tell he was a super nice guy! This was also evident after the presentation, where he chatted with anyone who approached him, and did a small book signing at the back of the room. I brought my cookbook with me and he signed it for us!
Then, we were able to zip across the way to a presentation already underway – to see vegan strongman, Patrik Baboumian, break a world record! Using purely plant-based power, he lifted over 1200 pounds across a stage to show everyone that the strongest man in the world can survive perfectly fine eating plants – no meat or dairy for this guy! He broke the world record and the energy from the audience was incredible! It was really special to be able to witness that.
We walked back to the train station with so many great memories from the day, armed with lots of info about various animal causes, and carried many bags full of tasty treats! Here are some of the things we brought back home with us:
We got tons of delicious baked goods from Tori’s Bake Shop, Sweets from the Earth, Bloomer’s Bakery, Bunner’s Bakery, cookies from New Moon Kitchen, pie and marshmallows from Apiecalypse Now, peanut butter from Peanut Butter Co., a cat shirt from Toronto Cat Rescue, roasted soy beans from the Bean Ladies, Peanut Butter chocolate bars from Cocoa Camino, and mango shea butter from Eli’s Body Shop.