May 31, 2013
I've taken a few days to digest (both literally and figuratively) the weekend of Vida Vegan Con. It's almost too much to write about coherently — so many experiences jammed into so short a time — that I may just opt for one review post, and a post to highlight a few of the samples from the mind-boggling number of vegan items I tried. You really just have to go yourself next year because it's too hard to encapsulate and share with mere words. Just go.
VVC officially began on Friday morning, but there was a meet and greet Thursday night that we missed. My husband and I took the train from Seattle to Portland and arrived Thursday evening in time to check into our hotel and find a place for dinner, but too late for the meet and greet and movie. After the exciting hubbub of last year's venue where everyone stayed in the same place, the small, empty hotel lobby area seemed strangely quiet and devoid of vegans when we arrived. Most likely, all the early arrivers were still at the film or headed out to dinner. We were hungry and took Kittee's advice to eat at the wonderful Bette-Lukas Ethiopian restaurant. Every item on the plate (pictured above) was so delicious I wanted to eat all our meals there, but of course that couldn't happen.
The next morning we left the hotel to walk to Prasad Cafe for a late breakfast and were almost there when I realized I'd left my phone charging back in the room, so we turned around and walked back to the hotel to retrieve it. I didn't think we had enough time to go back to the cafe and then to the Art Museum conference site, so we headed directly to the conference to check in. We were each handed a huge, heavy bag of swag, and after realizing that I'd miscalculated the time, we headed back to the hotel again to leave the bag in the room. There was a full-sized box of Erewhon supergrains buckwheat and hemp organic gluten-free cereal in the collection of samples so I had a little impromptu breakfast before heading back to the art museum. Once there, we tasted our way around the vendor sample tables, and it was clear that there would be no hunger at the conference. We gathered yet more swag and slurped everything from ice cream to chocolate-peanut butter to kale chips. I have a little confession to make. During the VVC weekend I believe I ate my weight in ice cream and cake.
Stuffed in spite of not officially making it out to breakfast, we went to our first session — Blog Writing as Writing: Take Your Blog to the Next Level presented by Gena Hamshaw from Choosing Raw. If you read Gena's blog you know how articulate she is, and her ideas and suggestions for improving blog narratives were insightful and enriching. Next I attended a session on Monetizing Your Blog offered by Nava Atlas and Susan Voisin. I've never been particularly good at monetizing anything, so listening to two successful women who are earning a living from their blogs (and other related activities) was inspiring. I've always had mixed feelings about monetizing my blog but the way they explained it made a lot of sense. For example, if someone uses an Amazon link on your blog to make a purchase, they encounter no extra charges or other inconvenience — it just means that Amazon is forced to share a small amount of their profit with you instead of keeping it all. Susan always goes though a blog link to make purchases so a fellow blogger benefits. I like that idea.
My third session was Why and How to Expand Your Message to Include Animal Rights, offered by Jasmin Singer and Mariann Sullivan. These two dynamos are so good at what they do even an animal-hating crud who wouldn't spend a second of chew-time pondering the miserable life and sad death of his lunch would find himself heading to the nearest vegan restaurant before he knew what had hit him. Did you know that 1,000,000 animals are killed for food per hour in the U.S.? Seriously. Check them out.
At 5 we attended a welcome address and a reception sponsored by Veggie Grill. I had a small plate of tasty gluten-free kale salad and my husband had kale salad and whatever you see on the plate to the left. He said it was delicious. After the reception we headed back to the hotel for rest, meditation and to get ready for dinner for 12 at Blossoming Lotus.
Remember my ice cream and cake confession? A friend of mine whose goal seemed to be to visit every vegan bakery in Portland while I was dutifully attending sessions, kept bringing me back cake presents. I only meant to taste the chocolate cake a little before dinner but damn, I ate the whole thing. As you can imagine, I wasn't starving at dinner even though we were eating kind of late, and this turned out to be a good thing.
Usually at Blossoming Lotus I always order the Crispy Thai BBQ Salad but I was kind of forcing myself to try something different, so I ordered a special — a live green curry. It was very beautiful, and the veggies were crisp and fresh, but it was mostly air, and the sauce was almost too rich and spicy for me. I wasn't very hungry so it was enough food, but I probably wouldn't order it again. I know it looks big in the photo, but like I said, lots of air.
I'd order this — the Thai Barbecue Salad that Bethany got. (She always orders it.) Or the Channa Masala. Let me see if I can remember who we had dinner with.
It was so dark in the restaurant that taking photos was a challenge so I only managed a couple. From left to right we have the From A to Vegan duo, Mauro and Lydia; my husband; Tofu Mom, Marti; and Bethany from Spotted Devil Cat. Not in the photos are Bethany's husband Andy, Marti's friend Shaun, Dan from The Gay Vegans; Howard Jacobson, co-author with T. Colin Campbell of "Whole: Rethinking the Science of Nutrition;" two Seattle bloggers, Molly and Megan, and of course, me.
Saturday started with a Portland Vegan Breakfast Showcase sponsored by several revered Portland restaurants. I ate something wonderful and savory — nutloaf with pesto-tofu scramble and Hollandaise sauce — that I believe came from A.N.D. Cafe. I guess I ate it without thinking about photographing it. I must have really been slacking or really hungry. We were with Dan, Lydia and Mauro — I remember them telling me about a fabulous Portobello quiche that was already gone when we got there, and I told them to get the little square of coffee cake, but I can't remember the bakery. Oh well.
After breakfast I tried to get into Fran Costigan's class but it was full. The first Saturday session I attended was Privacy Lines and Oversharing presented by Sayward Rebhal, Dreena Burton, Joanna Vaught and Susan Voisin. The panelists were quite different in their personal blog privacy rules, and the discussion gave me much to think about. In fact, as soon as I got home I changed the photos in my last post, and will consider more carefully what I post in the future. Maybe. Then it was time for lunch, and once again I forgot to take photos. After lunch was the fabulous Vegan Battle Royale hosted by Amey, Kittee and Mo. Two teams and numerous members of the audience tested their food and blog trivia knowledge for stacks of prizes. Hilarious!
My husband and I played hooky for a little bit and walked to the Chinese Garden. It had finally stopped raining, the sun was shining and we wanted some fresh air. It was peaceful and beautiful.
Anyone know what any of these plants are?
When we returned to the conference I attended a very lively and creative presentation by Cadry called Incorporating Your Other Creative Talents into Your Blog. It was the perfect way to end the day's sessions on a high note.
Saturday night was the Galarama — a dress-up (or not) party and silent auction. (The auction raised $4,000 for the Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest) The venue was kind of outdoors but under a roof and even though I got dressed up, I didn't ever get my coat off. I must have talked too much, too, because the next morning I woke up hoarse, but the evening was a lot of fun. Here I am with Cadry and Dreena.
Amey took a one-handed self-pic of us that turned out great so I tried to do it too, with her tutoring. As you can see, I'm not so good at the selfie thing, but after trying multiple times since I got home, I have to conclude it's not due to a lack of skill, but a lack of arm length. Amey is supposed to send me her version and when she does, I'll share it.
I apologize for posting this photo but by the time I remembered to take a picture of the gorgeous cheese platter created by Miyoko Schinner, this is what it looked like. Turn a huge roomful of vegans loose near a board of Artisan Vegan Cheese and what can you expect? Still, you can imagine it in its earlier glory, can't you? Can you? Sorry, sorry. Miyoko told me that the cheeses she served at the Galarama aren't in her book. She's constantly experimenting and her refrigerator is always filled with new cheeses.
So Delicious provided sundaes to top off the evening, and shortly after is where I really went astray. As we were leaving, one of the So Delicious people was standing next to a small mountain of leftover ice cream cartons and she asked me if I had a freezer and if I wanted one. Did we have a freezer in our little hotel fridge? I had no idea but I took a pint anyway.
After a bit of a cab snafu, we finally arrived at the hotel and no, there was no freezer, so instead of wasting good ice cream, I ate half a pint — maybe more. Probably more. My husband ate a little too. I thought I wouldn't be able to eat ice cream again for a long time, but of course I was wrong ... (to be continued.)