Some came out of curiosity, others to learn more about how to eat without sacrificing a cow, pig or even the egg from a chicken. But what was crystal clear Sunday at the Goodman Community Center is that Vegan Fest will need more room next year.
The community center, located on the East Side near a string of community garden plots, was overflowing with attendees to the festival, designed to expose more people to the philosophies of veganism. It also served as a showcase for the type of foods available for vegans, who eschew meat and dairy products.
“I’m very impressed,” said Deborah Ptak, 50, who is neither vegan or vegetarian. She tried a tofu breakfast sandwich from Dandelion, a vegetarian and vegan food cart typically stationed on Library Mall. “I always assumed becoming a vegan would mean giving up certain tastes and textures, but I’m pleasantly surprised.”
Ptak, of Madison, came to the festival with her vegetarian daughter, Emily Ptak-Pressman, 16, who will be a junior at East High School this fall.
Emily has been a vegetarian since she was 13 and is trying to persuade other family members to join her. She’s also considering going vegan but admits it would likely mean doing more of her own cooking.
“I have been trying to eat less eggs and cheese,” Emily said, munching on a taco bowl filled with Oaxacan black beans, lettuce and tomatoes.
The event featured several speakers whose topics included food as activism and food ethics. Vendors included the Alliance for Animals and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. But, like many events, food was the big draw.
There were sessions on how to make vegan cookies and how to use seitan, the protein part of wheat that can be seasoned and substituted for meat.
Samples included chorizo- and Italian-style seitan from Upton’s Naturals in Chicago and apple sage seitan sausage from Seattle-based Field Roast Meat Co.
“In 1992, it was sprouts and tofu and really bad soy cheese,” said Dan Staackmann, 34, a vegan since that time. “In 19 years, it’s definitely come a long way.”
Jennie Capellaro, who in 2009 opened the vegetarian and vegan Green Owl Cafe at 1970 Atwood Ave., said she was a little surprised at the Vegan Fest turnout and ran out of samples in about two and half hours.
The event’s founders, Courtney Mayhew, 32, and Hannah West, 21, began organizing the fest about six months ago.
In the past two weeks, they were forced to turn away vendors because they had run out of space.
“This is huge,” Mayhew said, surveying a jammed room of vendors and veggie-noshing visitors. “This is awesome.”