Whether you want to try vegan food, learn how to make sprouts, remove sugar from your diet or just meet others who enjoy plant-based eats, you’ll want to check out this Saturday’s Vegetarian Food Festival. Now in its eighth year, the event takes place at the East End Community School in Portland and is organized by the nonprofit animal rights advocacy group Maine Animal Coalition.
“Eating animals is the largest threat to animals, so we try to show people they can eat healthy and have wonderful meals without eating animals,” said Beth Gallie, who is president of the Maine Animal Coalition.
The event is free and includes six talks, three vendors selling lunch and an assortment of food and advocacy organizations handing out samples and information.
One of the first speakers will be blogger Maria Giurcan, who will talk about “How to Travel the World as a Vegan,” which is also the title of her e-book.
Giurcan said in recent years it’s become much easier to be a vegan traveler.
“Now I’m finding more all-vegan restaurants and that non-vegan restaurants offer more vegan meals,” said Giurcan from her home in Lowell, Mass. “I’m also finding more specialty items such as vegan doughnut shops and vegan ice cream shops and more stores that sell vegan shoes and clothing.”
Giurcan intends to talk about what vegan travelers can expect to find on various continents. She’ll also offer tips on finding vegan-friendly travel agents, locating vegan luggage, packing vegan snacks and looking for unusual fruits and vegetables in foreign countries.
After Giurcan’s talk, mushroom expert Dan Agro will discuss “Mushrooms for Food, Health and Fun.” For more than a decade, Agro has been cultivating mushrooms and foraging for the wild varieties. He frequently teaches classes on mushroom cultivation at the Urban Farm Fermentory.
“I’m going to do an overview of the mushroom life cycle, and I’ll probably do a demonstration on how to grow some oyster mushrooms,” said Agro, who runs a company called AgroMyco. “I’ll talk about how to create these self-contained mushroom bags. And I’ll have some all made up if people want to buy them. I’ll touch on the history of fungi and how they incorporate into our diets.”
Agro plans to discuss both nutritional and medicinal properties of various mushroom varieties.
Regular readers of this column will likely recognize the other speakers at this year’s festival.
Chef Toni Fiore, who hosts the “Totally Vegetarian” cooking show on PBS and is one of three hosts of the forthcoming “Vegan Mashup” show, will deliver a talk on “Replacing Dairy and Eggs in Your Diet.”
Two-time cancer survivor and author of the “Life in Balance” vegan cookbook, Meg Wolff will talk about the health benefits to be gained from “Kicking the Sugar Habit.”
Elizabeth Fraser, who runs the Girl Gone Raw cooking school, will teach a class on “Sprouting 101.”
And vegan triathlete and holistic health coach Jake Castonia, who lost 120 pounds after adopting a plant-based diet and exercising regularly, will deliver a talk titled “Discovering Sustainability and Compassion: Things That I Didn’t Know That I Didn’t Know.”
Starting at noon, vendors will be selling vegetarian lunch items in the school’s cafeteria. Festival-goers will be able to choose from Indian fare from Dancing Elephant in Westbrook, Eritrean and Ethiopian cuisine from Asmara Restaurant in Portland and veggie burgers from The Divine Burger in Exeter, N.H.
Gallie said the festival attracted 750 people each of the past two years. The talks, which can accommodate about 80 people per session, are often standing room only.
Gallie predicts there will be an even bigger crowd this year, saying, “I have a feeling that we’re going to have more people than ever because of the increased interest in the topics.”
Staff Writer Avery Yale Kamila can be contacted at 791-6297 or at: [email protected]