Vegetarianism has come a long way since the old hippie stereotypes, but there’s still a lot of cynicism about it.
Yes there is, but the tables are turning – there’s a lot of cynicism about people who eat unhealthily since people like Jamie Oliver got involved. The idea of feeding your kids Turkey Twizzlers or mechanically recovered meat isn’t attractive or clever. You might have laughed at the ‘lettuce and rabbit food’ 20 years ago but to laugh at healthy eating these days is not so cool.
The cookery demos at VegFest must help get new people on board.
People are moved by taste and habit – we’re led to food by taste and develop a habit of eating it. We’re trying to break that and introduce new tastes and new habits. It’s just a lot easier when someone shows you how to do it, and you’re off. It’s important to get kids involved as well, to develop those habits early.It is, and they can come along, get in free and try it all for free – of course they’ll turn their noses up at some of it and that’s fine, but if they latch onto something their parents literally follow them round and make a note of it all, and they buy it and integrate it into their diet.
Budget must be influencing people’s dietary choices more these days.
If you look at the basics of a veggie/vegan lifestyle – yes, people joke about lentils but as we know, they’re hugely nutritious and they’re very cheap. Combined with other basic stapes like rice, oats and grain, together with fresh vegetables and fruit, you’ve got your basics which you can augment as you can afford.The festival’s a good place to stock up, but what about afterwards? There are farmers markets, wholefood shops and box delivery schemes. There are also very good online shops these days, like for specific vegan items. We love to see models like Infinity Foods, a co-operative who manage their own supplies. Them and Unicorn Grocery in Manchester or the People’s Supermarket in London; they make sure there’s a fair price for everyone; consumer and supplier. If they can achieve that, which they can, there’s no reason why everybody else can’t.
The festival sounds quite evangelical as well as just a celebration of vegetarianism.
Yes, it definitely reaches out to people, especially as it’s free. I appreciate there’s a lot of people who like meat and are in no hurry to give it up, but for various reasons are looking to cut their consumption and eat more fruit and veg. By having a load of free tasters, a licensed bar and music, it dresses it all up. You can pop in, have a good time and also gain an awful lot of insight.
Having it in Brighton you’re preaching to the converted to some extent – veggies are well catered for here. It’s different elsewhere though.
It is if you eat out a lot, but a lot of people relax their dietary regulations and go with the flow a bit. It’s perfectly acceptable to be vegan at home and vegetarian when you go out, or vegetarian at home but sometimes make the compromise to eat fish. It’s not really about being restricted; it’s about making a conscious effort to restrict your intake. Eat steak if you like, but maybe once a month rather than once a week.
So you’re approaching this from more of a health than moralistic perspective.
Yes, some people choose not to eat animals on spiritual or religious grounds, however there are others who are adopting this lifestyle on health grounds where it’s not about going 100% anything. Many would argue it’s good to have a relaxed and enjoyable attitude, rather than a fixed, dogmatic or possibly judgemental view. The stereotypical holier-than-thou vegan cynicism of sneering at milk in coffee or whatever is the same as the meat-eater’s ‘rabbit food’ jokes – they’re out of date and just not acceptable anymore. You shouldn’t look down your nose at anyone.
WHEN: Sat 19th 11am-7pm
WHERE: Hove Centre, Norton Road, Hove
Illustration by Matthew Buchanan