Just as you might expect, there was an endless stream of tasty vegan food at Vida Vegan Con. But what I'll remember most about this past weekend is not the bounty of food, the plethora of amazing workshops, or even the cupcakes and champagne reception or Saturday night Galarama. What I'll remember for the rest of my days is the extraordinary sense of camaraderie among all of the lovely vegan spirits who came together to share their experiences and support, nourish, and learn from one another. I've been to many vegan events in my lifetime, but never before have I seen so many beautiful, happy people in one place. The atmosphere was jubilant. We were all so appreciative to be together in this very special place and time!
And it is a very special time. I've said this before: vegan is going mainstream, baby! We old-timers can feel it, and we have waited patiently these last decades knowing that someday the day would come, the lights would shine, and the mainstream would awaken from its collective state of unconsciousness. We haven't yet achieved critical mass, but what a glorious moment in vegan evolutionary history this is! The sheer number of vegan blogs out there, (those attending VidaVeganCon represented but a fraction of them), is evidence that the tide is turning in favor of compassionate, sustainable, plant-based eating.
Before I arrived at the Portland conference venue, I met up with my amazing VFFs, (each of them an author, chef, and culinary goddess!) Julie Hasson, Bryanna Clark Grogan, Dynise Balcavage, and Fran Costigan, at Julie's vegan food cart, Native Bowl. They were already camped out at this table when I arrived, and I was overjoyed to see all of my gorgeous girlfriends. Having my favorite Mississippi Bowl for lunch, well, that was just an added treat!
While I was checking in at the front desk of the hotel, a charming young woman walked up to the desk. She began speaking in the most lovely Australian accent. I had no idea who she was or that she was attending (let alone speaking!) at Vida Vegan Con. But when I asked her if she would say my name (because the Australian pronunciation of my name makes it sound like music), she happily obliged. "Gai-yllll," she purred. (Can't you just hear it?) She made my day! Every time we ran into each other throughout the weekend, Viva La Vegan's Leigh-Chantelle would make it a point to say my name. I smiled so hard each time, it almost made my face hurt. Your friends in the States miss you already, Leigh-Chantelle! Come back soon!
What can you say about finally getting to meet someone face-to-face whom you've already fallen in love with online? That's how I felt about Kathy Hester, who pens Healthy Slow Cooking. I was so happy to meet her that it felt like being reunited with a long, lost sister. She and her partner, Cheryl, are just about the cutest, sweetest couple I have ever met. (I call this photo, "Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy!")
And what words have been left unsaid about the two amazing women who started a vegan revolution? Here I am with PPK's Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero. Not only do they each boast three names, but if you look on my bookshelf, you'll find that their cookbooks are the ones that are most well-worn. (Complete with crinkled spines, dog-eared pages falling out, and food stains galore!). The enigmatic John McDevitt of The Laziest Vegans in the World (how he chose that name I'll never know. He is anything but lazy!) rounded out the photo. I think Terry's face must have hurt from too much smiling by this point, don't you?
I appreciated the opportunity to take a break from work and hang out at the Galarama for a spell with my favorite vegan food scientist, Turtle Mountain's Ken Viscidi. (Great job on the Greek yogurt, Ken!)
What an enormous surprise when an old friend arrived! Bodybuilder Robert Cheeke really got the party going into high gear with an impromptu strut out on the dance floor.
The weekend was filled with surprises—it was so great meeting all the people you tweet with all day long. One of them is Vegan Mainstream's marketing maven, Stephanie Redcross.
Susan Voisin is one of my heroes. She helped me through my early McDougall days with an endless stream of delicious fat-free (and nearly fat-free) vegan recipes. What a thrill to meet the beauty and brains behind the Fat Free Vegan Kitchen!
A few weeks ago I took my first vacation in over a year and hooked up with Vegan Radio's Judy Petullo and Barb Troyer, hosts of All Things Vegan Radio in Bend, Oregon. I hope to see you again in a couple of weeks! You and Bend totally rock!
To Jess Scone, Janessa Philemon-Kerp, and Michele Truty—the three of you put together an amazing event, and I sincerely hope you are enjoying a well-deserved sense of accomplishment. I can't wait until the next VVC. It will no doubt be even bigger and better!
And a very warm shout out to all of the exquisitely beautiful souls I met this weekend, but did not get the chance to memorialize in pictures. I consider it an enormous gift that I had an opportunity to spend a weekend with you. Until we meet again, let's keep doing what we do best: inspiring others to eat healthfully, compassionately, and sustainably and showing them that going vegan is just so incredibly delicious!