Year Two of living somewhere is great because you can eagerly look forward to annual events. I missed the Boston Vegetarian Food Festival in 2010, so I planned ahead to attend the 16th year of this fun (and free!) weekend.
Based on the abundance of meat-free recipes on my blog, you might guess I’m a vegetarian. I’m not—but I was for nine years until I was in college. My mom visited Michio and Aveline Kushi’s ‘Kushi Institute’ in Becket, MA when I was young and began introducing us to macrobiotic recipes at home, which was my initial inspiration to look more deeply at my food choices. Regardless of your food preferences, everyone can enjoy the Boston Vegetarian Food Festival.
The festival was held at Roxbury Community College’s Reggie Lewis Center, which was great because there were multiple rooms and floors for exhibitors and speakers. These are my picks from the event:
I met the owners of Dirty Vegan Foods and had a great time chatting with them. I also bought vegan coconut brownie bites for my mom (Surprise! I’ll keep them in the freezer for you until Thanksgiving). They’re a-maz-ing.
Equal Exchange had free chocolate, which was the initial draw, but then I started talking with Mallory the Coffee Roaster (left) and fell in love with the company. Equal Exchange is worker-owned and their employees are super committed to fair business practices around the world. Plus their Very Dark Chocolate (71%) is particularly creamy for having such a high cacao content.
I also tried Theo Chocolate. I was very excited to sample cacao nibs (roasted raw chocolate) for the first time – they were delicious – a great blend of bitter, acidic, and super dark chocolate without any added sugar. Theo has delicious nibs and chocolate, but what stands out most in my mind (aside from the nibs) is their gorgeous packaging, designed by KittenChops, an artist out of Seattle. I’m in love with her work.
The Sproutman table was very visually appealing as well. I talked with the Sproutman’s son (‘Sprout’) and learned about the benefits of sprouting in hemp bags. I can’t justify spending $10 on a hemp bag when I have tons of glass jars in my apartment, but if I had the funds I’d try it. I also learned that I can sprout the chia seeds I drink in water.
At Ocean Approved I met Tollef Olson, who created the only commercial kelp farm in the United States with partner Paul Dobbins. It was great to talk with Tollef about sustainable farming in Maine, where Ocean Approved is located (kelp requires no fresh water or land!). I also bought a little plate of seaweed slaw (featured in the image above). I savored every piece of kelp.
The Book Publishing Company had a huge selection of vegetarian cookbooks. I bought ‘Indian Vegetarian Cooking at Your House’ (by Humbad & Schafer Boger) and can’t wait to starting cooking from it! Then literally a second later…
I met the wonderful Mrs. Laxmi Jain who has a website on Indian Vegetarian Cooking. She was giving out spice packets (filled with coriander powder, cumin seeds, turmeric powder, garam masala, and chili powder) and recipes for Kidney Bean Curry, Potato Curry, Cabbage with Tofu & Bell Pepper. Each recipe uses vegetables you can find anywhere and then you just use the contents of a spice packet. What a fantastic (and unintimidating) introduction to Indian cooking!
At the Peanut Butter & Co table I tried ‘The Heat Is On’ peanut butter and it was SO hot. I need to buy some to use in my noodles with peanut sauce dish. I also tried the ‘Mighty Maple’, which was addictingly delicious.
At the Cascal table I sampled the ‘Crisp White’ flavor, which is a lightly fermented pear and apricot soda. I expected it to taste like kombucha, but it was much more mild (and sweeter, it’s soda). I don’t typically drink soda, but I could see having a bottle when I’m in the mood for something like wine, but without the alcohol.
I stopped by Taste of Kilimanjaro for lunch after meeting one of the catering employees early in the day when we were in line at a booth. I had heard of them before at an outdoor Harvard Square event, but what sealed my decision was how friendly the woman was while we were talking. That’s effective customer relationship building!
The atmosphere of the festival was very inviting, educational, and fun. It was it was interesting to think about what it means to be a vegetarian, how many diet options there are out there, and how I piece together my own guiding principles (vegetarian, unprocessed, local, or a combination). The festival also made me think about vegetarians who consistently drink protein shakes (there must have been eight different companies at the festival selling powder drink mixes), but these are separate and longer conversations!
I hope you’ll mark the Boston Food Festival on your calendar for next year. Vendors come from all over the country and I met people from throughout the Northeast. It was a great time.