When I rolled in to the red stone brutalist Clark County Library and passed the various gaggles of early readers and free Wi-Fi abusers, I considered the great possibility of harm that would come to me if I was found out. The particular face of a political cartoon style vegan – Occupy Wall Street-issue homemade riot gear, canteen of “50 serving a day” kale smoothie, gender studies degree from U.C. Santa Cruz – is a character I would think memorizes the face of anyone extolling the virtues of corn vs. grain govage foie gras.
I had arrived for the Viva Las Vegan Food Festival. The event started Saturday and will end this Saturday.
An event that originally was going to take place behind the Arts Factory downtown expanded into a week-long tour of public library show room seminars. In many ways, a vegan food festival can be near-indistinguishable from something like a MENSA meeting or a model train hobbyist group, in that it can be assumed everyone has a sandwich bag of raisins on their person at all times.
Let that image sink in.
There was a competition for attention amongst booths. Buy less puppies, eat more flax, we’re all dying, the sky is falling, it’s the end of the world as we know it, etc.
Young guys with dyed hair made mushroom wraps, older ladies with undyed hair made charm bracelets. People, who I imagine, were bitten by a duck at one point in their life. A real schizophrenic scene.
As far as food goes, there was the ever-present problem in vegan cooking, obvious to anyone that’s eaten it. Are things like garam masala, cumin, chilies – hell SALT – suddenly not vegan? Thai, Indian, most Chinese to an extent can get along just fine with big flavor minus meat, but I suppose western food hasn’t worked with the handicap for long enough to get the tricks down.
I was far, far too sober to deal with speakers and seminars, and a guy from “GMO Free Vegas” speaking on – and I shit you not – the “Vibrational Aspects of Food” would have gotten me to hang myself with a gluten-free sprouted quinoa flour tagliatelle noodle. Apparently meat vibrates in the spirit realm in a way that allows President Barack Obama to engineer consent with the power of subconscious mind (I’m not making any of this up).
These choppy few days of talks, demos, and $10 homemade CDs would have made a compelling one big day of vegan pride. Spread it thin over a week like so much hummus, and we’re left with an unsalted footnote in the culinary calendar.
A secret I’ll let you guys in on: I was a vegan for about a year as a youngster. I fell in with a rough crowd (Shaolin Kung Fu students), someone passed me a “chick-ain’t” brand taquito at a party, and I ate poorly for quite some time. Facts are facts, the food just don’t hang. I’ll admit, being vegan is totally an ethical/health decision. Who’s going to tease someone with good intentions?
The only problems I have with them are the terrorist style ones (Yes, they do exist. Ask Sonoma Foie Gras why their storefront had to be leveled.), or the world-style heroes that just know their “objective” views are worth arguing over to complete strangers. Thankfully, vegans are one group that does not regularly make excuses for their extremists.
Veganism may not be for everyone, may not even have all that great of food, and words like “just as good” can rarely be said with a straight face. It’s an oft-unused color in the culinary palate, but it’s a necessary leg of any city’s culinary scene. As our scene grows, we’ll continue to see the offshoots of our mass. By hook or by crook, vegan will be one of them. CL