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Last weekend I had the pleasure of attending and participating in Paris Vegan Day, an international celebration of plant-based eating in France! Now in its fourth year, I was thrilled to be asked to present cooking demonstrations at this ever-growing festival.
This year’s theme — “Cook for Life” — created a strong focus on vegan food preparation and it highlighted the wide range of flavors, textures, and cuisines available to enjoy.
My two cooking workshops fell under the “Similis” category — protein-packed meat alternatives like seitan and tofu. This was perfect because it allowed me to feature by personal recipe of choice: Filipino Pancit. I was able to show the class how to take a traditionally meat-laden dish and create a 100 percent vegan meal by making just a few simple modifications.
Though the event organizers had asked me to teach my classes in English, I realized that in order to reach out to the entire audience, I quickly had to change my plans. Luckily, I’ve studied French for many years, so even though I was rusty, I managed to pull it off with some help from a few bilingual students! It was definitely a challenge, but I think the most important message conveyed was that no matter your language, vegan cooking is easy and fun for everyone!
Being at Paris Vegan Day also gave me the opportunity to meet with activists and organizers from other countries to talk about ideas, strategies, and effective animal advocacy. I even got to trade tips on organizing veg festivals with Alex Blanker (owner of Vega-Life) and Christine Burgemeester, the organizers of Holland’s Veggie Fair and VegFestNL. I was also excited to meet Christian Vagedes (pictured below), Chairman of the Vegan Society of Germany, and to discuss his book, Veg Up: the Veganization of the World , and Veganfach, Germany’s vegan fair taking place in November. It was inspiring to meet so many dedicated individuals working to spread a message of compassion throughout Europe.
Along with speakers, cooking classes, and vegan food vendors, many commercial and nonprofit exhibitors participated in Paris Vegan Day such as the Vegetarian Association of France, Vegucated, Vegusto (a delicious vegan cheese from Switzerland), and Vaute Couture. With hundreds lined up before the doors opened in the morning and after meeting so many new vegans during my cooking demonstrations, I could see that Parisians are eager to learn how to help animals, the planet, and their health by choosing vegan foods.
By the end of Paris Vegan Day, it was clear to me that the city is “une grande amie aux animaux” (a great friend to the animals) — and I’m thrilled to have taken so many wonderful ideas back to the States that can be incorporated into the 2014 DC VegFest!