A lovely morning at Madison's Mad City Vegan Fest this past weekend made me realize many things beyond how many "hippies" live in Madison, WI.
When my fiancée heard about Vegan Fest, he immediately brought it to my attention. I like thanking him incessantly for supporting me ten-fold in my vegan journey and he dislikes me doing so because he supports me in everything else - "So why would this be any different?" I am ever-appreciative of his constant support.
I've been working on slowly transitioning to an all-vegan diet because of my lactose intolerance and distaste for red meat. Chicken is difficult for me to kick because it's the only meat that I've eaten consistently throughout my life and there's such a variety of tastes you can create with it. The versatility is endless! While it's been a gradual process - and by gradual, I mean eating out every weekend and trying not to consume a pint of gelato every night - I've come to the conclusion that working towards a vegan lifestyle is better than feeling like absolute shit - pun intended - after eating dairy or meat. This is the abbreviated explanation of my journey of becoming vegan - detailed post to follow.
Come to find out, I have more support in this endeavor than I thought. There's an entire community I've been missing out on right here in Madison! I was thrilled, but nervous about what awaited me at this event I had never attended. I thought, "What will people think when someone my size shows up? What if they find out that I'm not 100% vegan? Will it just be a room full of people judging me?" Ultimately, I'm not one for letting others' views sway my thoughts about myself. Normally I don't care, but this was different.
Joining a new community can be intimidating. Vegan Fest showed me that there are multitudes of people from all different backgrounds at varying sizes that eat vegan. This festival of kind, open, and welcoming individuals was the first step in me letting go of those black wolf thoughts and feeding my white wolf - the one that's hungry for pounds of vegetables, interesting protein sources, and information galore.
Besides this internal struggle with acceptance and being in astonishment of a whole new culture, the food was phenomenal! They had everything from chili to cheesesteak, "chicken" to "beef", and gyros to mac and cheese - which was my personal favorite. The array of food vendors at Vegan Fest proves to me that a vegan lifestyle is possible. It may just take eating a handful of salads when I go out to eat and cooking all of my own meals before I find all of the vegan-friendly places in town, but I've already ran into Tex Tubb's because of my good friend Kari Arnett, so there's bound to be more!
I also met a woman, Kristin Lajeunesse, who traveled for 2 full years, visiting 48 of our 50 states in her van (dubbed Gerty), in search of all-vegan restaurants to sample their food and meet other vegans. I just couldn't miss out on meeting her and purchasing the book she wrote during her adventure, Will Travel for Vegan Food. After shaking hands, getting her to autograph my copy, and parting ways, I think this book will have a profound impact on my own vegan journey - updates as I read and summary to follow.
In hopes of finding memorabilia for this epic occasion (finding my tribe of vegans), I happened upon the Compassion Co. clothing booth (screen-printed by Leave Your Mark). I took home a shirt with a mantra I need to recite to myself. "Anything you can eat, I can eat vegan." Honestly, I believe whole-heartedly in that statement. I have yet to find a dish that I can't create completely vegan - yes, this includes pizza and ice cream. Reminding myself of this is key when all I want is that pint of gelato!
Beyond vegan food, I found a slew of vegan products as well! Perennial Soaps, for example, handcrafts vegan, artisan soaps, perfumes, lip balms, and room mists. Definitely snagged the Urban Hippie roll-on! There were so many vegan products that I can't begin to explain the heart that goes into them and the wonderfully kind humans behind them.
People may say veganism is a fad, but after this micro-adventure, I see that it's truly a movement and, if you choose so, a way of life. This experience and the support of this community has shown me that this "vegan thing" might not be as difficult as I thought it would be - and also that being vegan doesn't mean you're a hippie!
I'm just starting out on this journey and hope to learn much more in the years to come. I'll be posting updates on how everything is going and what my plan is soon. Any recommendation, thought, or jubilation is welcome!