Saturday, September 21, 2013

Chicago VeganMania!

Any given day that I make it into the city without complaining about ass hole drivers who love their horns more than they love their mommas is a good day.  Thanks to Chicago VeganMania today was a great day! It was the fifth annual festival celebrating veganism in the Chi.

And the fun didn't stop there for Chicago vegans.  Though, it did for me.  As I type, I'm missing out on an after party complete with pierogis and other Polish vegan eats.  But alas I needed to come home.  I can't be out late with the people of my generation.  My circadian rhythm would slap me if I tried or even thought about it for too long. I especially feel like I'm missing out because I just ate two apples and a perfectly spotted banana for dinner. Remind me why I'm considered an adult.

Enough jibber jabber.  Here are the highlights from today's events:

NONPROFIT ORGS When I found Farm Sanctuary on Facebook I fell in love with their mission: to give a second chance, a home, and love to farm animals that would've otherwise been slaughtered or left to die because of our completely screwed up^2 factory farm situation.  I always wondered if we had a local equivalent. Today, I found out that we DO.  It is SASHA Farm in Manchester, MI.  It's about a 3.5 hour drive from Chicago.  The friendly man in charge of the SASHA Farm booth at VeganMania said tours are not common and the last event of the year took place today.  However, he also said he is rallying for more tours, more public awareness that the farm exists and does what it does, and even shuttles running to and from Chicago to bring members of our vegan community to the farm to learn more or volunteer.  AWESOME!  Go like 'em on Facebook!

photo cred: SASHA Farms on Facebook

VEGAN FOOD I ate fried mac and cheese with bacon from Upton's Breakroom.  The bacon was just the texture and flavor I imagined and I expected nothing less from a place known for its seitan! However, the mac and cheese was really underwhelming.  There's something about mac and cheese from many vegan establishments that just leaves me wanting more.  My go-to recipe is much creamier, more flavorful, and more fulfilling than any mac I've ever had at a restaurant.

Horrible photo quality; this wasn't all that much better than it looks!

Next, from Soul Vegan, I tried BBQ Ribs.  I had them before at a documentary screening about food politics at U Chicago, but the ribs were just as good the second time around.  Omni boyfriend said they were "spongy." He can suck a sponge.  I loved the ribs!

Horrible photo quality; these were yummier than they look!

Last, a raw coconut macaroon ball from Arya Bhavan.  For the first 7 bites, my thoughts mostly consisted of "what is in this and why would you make me pay to eat it?"  By the end, I didn't mind the sugar-free dessert, and the after-taste was even on my good side. But why did I need to hate it for so long before eating it became enjoyable? And why did I keep eating? What's wrong with me?  I wouldn't suggest it.

If you're pining for something sweet and in the Chicago-area, I'd say opt for a milkshake from The Chicago Diner or seek out the cinnamon ice cream from Robin's Frozen Fantasy.  I tried just a sample of Robin's ice cream, and I wish I shelled out for a full scoop. Maybe next time I'm in Wicker Park I'll go big!

PANEL DISCUSSION There were so many great speakers and panels at VeganMania 2013, I had difficulty choosing what I'd attend.  Ultimately, I only had time for one panel discussion and I elected to hear "Crafting a Personal Style with Ethics: Dressing, Shopping, and Grooming without Compromise."  As I've said before, issues regarding consumerism have been on my radar -- I promise to revive (read: actually begin) my ethical wardrobe series very soon. Trisha Star, Jack Nugent, and Ashlee Piper shared their knowledge regarding common concerns with ethical dress, make-up, and personal hygiene products.  What I loved most was the acknowledgment of veganism as a "multi-issue cause" and how that equates to juggling multiple levels of responsibility when all you want is some damn soap... Or a razor or  condoms or garbage bags, all of which are tested on animals. I also appreciated their discussion of "greenwashing," parent companies, economic veganism, and NAVS.

ASK AN EXPERT VEGAN Okay, I'm not going to lie, this was not the highlight of the event.  I'm still looking for awesome, affordable, ethically sourced, conflict-free, vegan running shoes (is that so much to ask for?), and I thought speaking with the fitness experts would help me come into some knowledge that the Internet has somehow kept from me.  The expert and I discussed how it's uber-difficult to find shoes like this and, as such, it's an uber-issue.  No luck, but the expert can't really be faulted.  He said he'd do some research and shoot me an email, which was solid of him. I'm looking forward to seeing what he finds!

CHEF DEMO Native Foods was the first vegan restaurant I ever visited in Chicago, and I quickly fell in love with their huge menu and commitment to real ingredients.  Naturally, I attended their cooking demo, the last one of the day.  The chef chittered and chattered energetically as she simulated the process of making a roasted fall veggie and spelt salad and a date and figgy cake with caramel sauce.  I left the demo with the recipes for the salad and the dessert, as well as a juice recipe.  And I'd be remiss not to mention that I tried a sample of the date and figgy cake with caramel sauce -- it provided the perfect amount of sweetness with an interesting combination of flavors capped by the caramel finish!  I'll have to adapt it to gluten-free soon.

Kendall Huff, who presented the Native Foods Chef Demo, graced the cover of the Chicago VeganMania 5 program.

OVERALL What a day! I loved seeing so many people with diverging experiences and backgrounds come together and celebrate veganism.  364 days until VeganMania 2014!


  1. Your write-up is so detailed! I love butternut squash "cream" sauces too, they're so yummy. You can do a cajun version by blending in spices, then use it with caramelized red onions and peppers for spicy mac.

    Also this: I can't be out late with the people of my generation.
    Unfortunately so true for me too!

    1. Yum... cajun mac n cheese!! Can it be dinner time now?

      It's hard being an early-to-bed type, but every morning when I wake up early and get all of those hours back, I feel great! Though I do feel lame on Friday and Saturday nights. We can always start a support group if it gets too difficult!

  2. The one time I did make it up to Chicago (which I loved) wasn't around VeganMania time and so I'm hoping to make it up again so I can experience it and be surrounded by like minded people with a love for good wholesome food.

    1. Yes, you should definitely try to make it up to Chicago for VeganMania! It was my first vegan festival of any kind, and I really enjoyed it!