World Vegan Day (Melb 2011) & My Food Prude Confession

A celebration for World Vegan Day was held in Melbourne on Sunday at the Abbottsford Convent, home of one of Melbourne’s famous vegetarian restaurants – Lentil as Anything.

I have a lot to say about the event but will stick to food related highlights for now and have my little rant later.

As we entered the event, Lentil as Anything was buzzing and rightfully so – their food has been well worth the trip every time I’ve visited. If you haven’t been there before, I highly recommend it!

WVD Lentil

There was interviews happening and show bags being handed out; none of which I seemed to have the patience for at the time. It was hot and I was hungry – and when I get hungry, I get a little crazy.

WVD Interviews

One of the first things I spotted was a Lord of the Fries banner which instantly brightened me up… Then I realised it was *just* a sponsorship banner and I wasn’t going to be getting any fries. Drat.

WVD LOTF

I decided to wander into the first building which had a variety of stalls in it. I was quickly drawn to some free chocolate samples – a table that was seemingly being mauled by women with sharp elbows. Ok, I’m totally exaggerating. But if those kind of women had been there, that’s what they would have been doing. Heck, I would have joined in and probably wouldn’t have been shy about stomping on some toes! Anyway, I managed to butt in and introduce myself and get a photo with the lovely people from Conscious Chocolate.

WVD Conscious Chocolate
Can you tell how freakin’ hot it was in there by the look on my shiny, red face?

I bought two blocks of their chocolate. They’re not big blocks (45g, more like the size of a regular chocolate bar) and they’re $5 a pop, but OH MY LORD, they are unbelievably delicious! The samples were pretty soft which I assumed was a result of the temperature in there but after getting them home and refrigerating them for 24 hours, I ate some more and it turns out that it’s supposed to be soft and fudgy and delicious in my belly. What impressed me even more about this stuff is that when I ate it, I didn’t actually pick it as being raw chocolate. Honestly. Raw chocolate is often hard and bitter (in my experience) but this was soft and smooth and VERY more-ish. I’m a serious chocolate lover and self proclaimed chocolate snob – and this stuff won me over before I even knew anything about it.

WVD Conscious Chocolate 2
Also – how freakin’ cute is the squirrel on the packaging?

The next lot of samples I found were stuffed into a corner and thus, Mr. AA & I didn’t have to fight anyone to get to them! Gluten free goodies – yay! this was Saf Patisserie‘s stall. According to their flyer, their specialty is allergy free delights. They make vegan, gluten free, nut free and raw sweets. (OK, the raw stuff is “coming soon” – a good sign. They’re keeping up with health food trends!)

WVD GF Brownies

For gluten free brownies, they were pretty good! In fact, I wouldn’t have picked them as being gluten free at all. There was quite a few things in their case, all desserts. I opted for a slice of rocky road, as it’s been YEARS since I had the stuff!

WVD Saf Patisserie 2

WVD Saf Patisserie

I was never much of a rocky road eater even before being vegan and I’ve always thought marshmallows were pretty disgusting – but that’s probably because I’d only ever eaten the cheap, nasty, gelatine laden marshmallows you get at the supermarket that are kinda chewy and a little powdery on the outside. (Sorry, tangent.) Anyway… Inside these was this beautiful, aerated, cloudy, fluffy goodness that I almost couldn’t believe! The ratio of chocolate to marshmallow to pistachios and other goodies in there was just PERFECT. I saved this for the day after I got home and ate it in a matter of seconds… And was pretty tempted to scoff Mr. AA’s slice, too. I behaved though; his piece is still in the fridge.

WVD Saf GF Rocky Road

Next I dropped past the Vegan Online stall – they’re an online grocery store with just about everything and REALLY reasonable postage rates. I’ve ordered from them before and the experience was totally hassle free! Kym and her daughter Kelly were SO lovely. I scored a photo with them as well but am too embarrassed about how much more red my face was by that stage, so I’m not going to post it! (Yep, I’m that vain, haha.)

After leaving that building I was well and truly ready for some real food and something to drink. I contemplated the hot food area… It was a little odd. There was a smoothie stand where you had to ride a bike to power the blender to make your smoothie. Great in theory but honestly guys, I went there to stuff myself silly, not to exercise! Also, I make smoothies almost every morning for breakfast, so I found this rather unexciting.

WVD Lunch Menu

A lot of the options were heavily processed food. There was a stand of Asian food that just screamed FRIED and MOCK MEAT which was a huge turn off… There was pizzas and calzones… I was actually starting to feel a little panicked at this stage because all I wanted was a fricken salad. We ended up making a quick decision to stop at the Indian Belly stand, which wasn’t too crowded/anxiety inducing.

WVD Indian Belly

Mr. AA & I grabbed a $3 samosa each. I’m not fond of anything deep fried because it generally will cause a serious belly ache for me, but these weren’t too greasy and because they were so big, they were more stuffing than pastry. They were perfectly spiced (with some kick but not enough to make my nose run) and a nice lemony flavour to balance it out.

WVD Indian Belly Samosa

We were also talked into trying the Bombay style sammies which were the perfect, cooling complement to the samosas. The only thing that REALLY disappointed me about these was that they were made with white bread. I hardly ever eat white bread and would choose wholegrain over it ANY day; that aside though, these were pretty excellent. They had cucumber, tomato, chutney and some other tangy good things in there. Sorry – I was too busy stuffing it in my face to dissect it and actually check what was inside it. Hahah. It was really refreshing though!

WVD Indian Belly Club Sammie

After having recharged with a bite to eat, I decided to explore the second building. I didn’t pick up any samples here but I took a couple of photos. I desperately tried to say hello to Karen from Radical Rabbit, Anikee from Radical Grocery & Jeremy from Vegan Perfection on more than one occassion but all of their stalls were pretty busy and I got bored with waiting in lines!

WVD Raw Cakes

WVD Pet Treats

WVD Raw Choc Kit

My final hoorah was to visit a sweet tooth’s wet dream and top off my day with a serious sugar overdose. I’d been looking forward to bringing home some Mister Nice Guy‘s vegan cupcakes ALL WEEK. Unfortunately they didn’t have any peppermint patty flavoured cupcakes with them (they’re my favourite and the only flavour I’d tried before this occassion), so I made a dramatic sad face, then asked the girl for “one of each please!”.

WVD Cupcakes Box

I took the box out onto the grass and sampled half of ONE cupcake, then took the rest home to sample over the next few days.

WVD cupcakes

The flavours I scored, from left to right.
Jem: This one was REALLY tasty and I suspect that the frosting actually had real strawberries in it, which I thought was impressive! It didn’t have that foul, predictable, strawberry essence smell about it. It was really down to earth and unpretentious.
Count Chocula: I can’t argue with a chocolate cupcake. It’s just not polite. I loved this one.
Cherry B-Bomb (gluten free): The cupcake was perfect and I never would have picked it as gluten free. I loved the cherry on top. The icing was great flavour-wise, but texture-wise it was a little grainy… Though not grainy enough to stop me from eating it – I’d definitely have this flavour again!
Betty White: This one was so gorgeous/well presented! I loved the flavours, but the coconut flakes were a little chewy for me.
Lazy Way Lane: I’m actually guessing this flavour from the menu on their website. It looks like it’s this one, but I’m sure the one I was eating had a lime tang to it?? The cupcake was a little more dense than the others but still delicious. The tang *made* it for me.
French Toast: This was, hands down, my favourite out of all six. It was sweet but not sickly. The spices were subtle but noticable. It was seriously one of the most perfect cupcakes I’ve ever had in my life. I’m going to be having wet dreams about this one.

>>

OK! So that’s all the important stuff re-capped with accompanying photographs. Now time for my overall thoughts of the event.

Raw-food wise, most of what I saw was dessert based. This frustrated me. I get that it’s easier to convert people to raw food with sweets (as opposed to green smoothies) and they’re a lot easier to sell to people as a special product than leafy greens, but I don’t think the category was fairly represented. In addition to the numerous dessert stands, there was a huge stand of Loving Earth products – which are great for a beginner, but they’re fairly pricey and with a bit of know-how and a dehydrator, you could make their special products at home. (I’m not trying to be nasty in ANY way, I’m just very realistic and practical when it comes to this stuff. Sorry guys.)

There was a lot of different animal welfare/rights stands spread across the place. At first I was pretty weary and thinking that the stalls were pointless and “preaching to the converted” but as Mr. AA pointed out, most of the people there probably weren’t even vegan so it would have been a good way to spread the word about their causes and get more people on board. Thankfully none of them were pushy and in your face about it – they were all very relaxed and friendly. I did not ONCE feel like I had to run away because someone was shoving flyers in my face. It just wasn’t that kind of environment and I’m really grateful for it.

As far as savoury foods go, you can tell I didn’t want to touch them with a ten foot pole. This is where I confess to you that I’m a total food prude. I try really hard to have a wholefoods diet and avoid as much processed food as possible. In this situation I was confronted with just about everything pre-packaged (bar some nut butters and a handful of other things) being processed. Vegan cheese, jelly crystals, marshmallow mix, various condiments… It was a wee bit of a nightmare. That, however, is my cross to bear. It’s clear to me that not every vegan eats the way I do and each to their own, right?

There was food demonstrations that I didn’t quite get to and a speed dating area that was advertising a “cuddle party” from 3.30pm-5pm. I don’t know what a cuddle party is exactly, but I was definitely going to stay away from it. Sounds to me like a creepy excuse to feel up strangers. Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong!

In regards to the event itself, I commend the organisers and think they did a great job of putting it together. There was a good mix of stands – food, animal rights, beauty products, shoes & bags and then other things that I wouldn’t even know how to categorise like lawyers for animals and cruelty free superannuation. I only discovered a few new things that I hadn’t heard of before; and the familliar faces made me feel a little less intimidated.

In future, I think the event would benefit from being a little more spread out, with some form of cooling/air circulation available in the buildings. I also think that, while I *LOVE* Lentil as Anything, having the event at the Abbottsford convent is really impractical in regards to parking, crowds etc. I wouldn’t mind seeing it set up as a weekend event outside of Melbourne. Whether it’s on a property where people can camp if they like or a town with lots of accommodation… Or even just a place that’s easily accessible as a “day trip” for people from Melbourne. Maybe when it’s a bigger event, it could be moved closer to central Victoria 😉

15 thoughts on “World Vegan Day (Melb 2011) & My Food Prude Confession

  1. I love how you are so excited about food!! So jealous of the love you have for it (and of course your ability to produce some pretty damn good edible creations!). Keep up the great work Nat 🙂

  2. I am so impressed by this review of World Vegan Day, Thankyou for sharing it with us. I was hoping to go down there but after checking public transport, i found it to be in a really inconvenient spot and feel that it would have drawn a much bigger crowd if it was held somewhere such as the Exhibition Centre>
    I think it sounds like it was aimed at people such as myself who are just venturing into the world of vegan goods, and you know me, I am a sweet whore so it would have been ideal for me…but you lost me on the deep fried part, especially on a day like that when the last thing you want is a greasy belly.

    I was going to ask you the other day if you sampled a French Toast Cupcake- jealous!!!

    • I mentioned to them in their survey about the event that they needed to advertise the shuttle bus better – apparently it was running back and forth between the train station and the convent all day!

      • Totally agree with you about that – I didn’t even know there was a shuttle bus! The website was pretty sparse as far as info goes, they could probably utilise it (and the facebook page) a lot better 🙂

  3. I think they did a lot better this year in terms of spreading it out (seriously, the last two years were an absolute nightmare!), and hopefully next year it will be even more spread out. (I have to say though, I love the location.)

    And I totally agree with you on the cuddle party – I heard about that a few days before the event and it does sound kinda creepy…and potentially smelly.

  4. I really enjoyed reading this review Nat. Awesome!! I think I would probably like to go to the next one if it wasn’t a hot day and held in a better location.

    French Toast cupcake? YUM!

  5. I’m so bummed that I can’t get Mister Nice Guy cupcakes in Sydney 😦 There seems to be way more great vego food in Melbourne *sigh* I’m sorry I missed the Cruelty Free Festival up here, wonder if it could have compared to the World Vegan Day festivities.

  6. Kudos on this lovely review! I am so shocked to read how much processed foods were there too. I would’ve thought a Fresh Produce/Farmers Market stand and a Build Your Own Salad Bar would go hand in hand at an event like this.
    Maybe AtV and AA should pair up and have their own stall for next years event – ay?

    xo
    I love how much you love food. It’s sexy. 😉

  7. it was really nice the year it was at a primary school it think, all open air and mostly grass. I have to say nat i was sad when you left so early but it only got hotter and about twice as crowded so you probably wouldnt have been having fun! I was really impressed with the inclusion of that children/parents space this year and apparantly there was an art show upstairs but i missed it.

    On a ‘why is it all junk food and not salad note’ i think vegan day is aiming for two kind of outcomes;
    1. easing people into the lifestyle who are struggling without marshmallows and packet food, and giving people who dont have a close vegan community an idea of what possiblities are out there (i’m sure they already know salad is out there).
    2. as an exciting Big Day Out where there are lots of treats. After all if you go to a circus, or a carnival or any sort of fun other activity there is rarely anything but junk food! i want one day of that vegan style for me too!!!
    having said all that – yeah they could add a salad bar it wouldnt hurt.

    After having gone for – 4? years now. i can confidently say what we did this year was they best way to handle the heat and crowds.
    *Get a large group of people
    *sit on the grass and drink beer
    * take turns to mind all the bags/kids/dogs so you can go browse easily through the crowd.
    * when it gets to much buy a cupcake and return to grass for someone else to have a turn.
    *repeat for 4-5 hours.

    • Actually – that’s one thing I forgot to mention. I was pretty impressed at how family friendly the event was!

      Heat and crowds totally aren’t my thing… I think I made the right decision to leave when I did. that being said, I took home some tasty stuff 😉

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