The phrase "food festival" is so overused. It is a label plastered onto every gathering that features food, without regard for a genuinely festive component -- and the events are often comprised of entitled attendees and self important or reluctant exhibitors.
The NY Vegetarian Food Festival last weekend at The Metropolitan Pavilion restored my confidence in the true festivity associated with sharing food enhanced by ideas and passion. It was not a large gathering of vendors, but it is quality, not quantity that makes the difference. And unlike other gatherings, the participants were connected to their products with infectious excitement.
Sara, the creator of Sweet and Sara, a marshmallow company with beautiful products, enchanted me. Vegan for 20 years, she longed for a vegan marshmallow (most marshmallow are made with animal derived gelatin). An NYU graduate with a political science degree, Sara detoured into the food world inspired by her childhood rabbit Skipper, who is now the company logo on a line of marshmallow products that are vegan. It has been a six-year struggle, working 7 days a week, bringing her parents and siblings into the now thriving business. She has been featured on Food Network, MSNBC, Martha Stewart, Rachael Ray and more. Her line is carried by Duane Reade, colleges and bodegas -- impressive! Her new distributor is Albert's Organics. Her dream is to be carried "everywhere" and to stop working 7 days and have her parents retire.
Michelle, from Portland OR, is a 10-year vegan. She and her husband searched for a way to 'fly the flag' and found inspiration through his design abilities, so "here we are." Their company -- The Herbivore Clothing Company -- features the coolest t-shirts made from organic bamboo cotton fabric. The show brought her to NY for the first time. Our NYC food -- more options than in Portland, but not better! (Chalk up one XL t-shirt for Farmer Bob.)
Marissa will be the next big filmmaker we read about! It started about 10 years ago for Marissa Miller-Wolfson after she saw We Are All Noah, a 1986 movie by Tom Regan, which explored animal rights. It was an 'Aha' moment and she emerged vegetarian, then vegan. Her movie is Vegucated, launched via Kickstarter. Marissa uses film to educate, realizing that the art of engagement is what is most important. She chooses ethical constructs as the way to draw in new supporters as opposed to the shock factor in Super Size Me; she calls it "veg-ucating." And she offers choices -- go cold tofu-turkey or go vegan over the course of a month, giving something up each week. I bought her movie and everything else she said. For her next project, investors and distribution so she can reach a mainstream audience.
I met volunteer Ethan Bodnaruk at the garbage where we had to sort our trash -- compostable, recyclable, trash. Ethan is a systems organizer and an aspiring author. He told me about a Meetup group for ecologically-minded citizens. He is unique, blending his atheism with science and the environment. The book he hopes to publish incorporates spirituality, morality and ethics, transcending religious dogma. He has a unique view of composting -- life after death, nature's resurrection. He has worked in Haiti, studying sanitation for crowds and combining that with soil fertility issues. Sustainable eco-sanitation was his message as he guided hundreds of guests through the disposal selections.
Turmeric -- a product launched in the BAO incubator. Ralph and Phoenix, both employees were fervently extolling the properties of their product, it is the curcuminoids present in the turmeric that are anti-inflammatory/depressant/bacterial/oxidant.