Message from Montie

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Hundreds of veggie friendly Chicagoans celebrated Chicago VeganMania

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Message from Montie

Shamontiel is the author of two novels: "Change for a Twenty" and "Round Trip." Check her out at shamontiel.com.

 
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Line circles around waiting for Soul Vegetarian East food to deliver second batch

I've been a vegetarian for four years and I was a pescatarian for one year, but it still boggles my mind when I go to vegetarian or vegan events and see massive amounts of people who eat like me, maybe because we're only about 2.5 percent of the population. It's not like I think I'm the only one who's a vegetarian, but when you hang out with omnivores all the time who have no interest in vegan food, a food connection is a relief. However, when I arrived at the Pulaski Park Fieldhouse at 9:45 a.m., and saw a line around the corner and past 1419 W. Blackhawk, I was shocked.

 

People of all ages, races and sizes came out for the Chicago VeganMania event, and I heard one lady bragging about how she was there and her friend was not, and how she needed to come asap before the doors even opened. A couple was kissing to create body heat, and loads of people had on their knit hats, coats and even scarves just to keep warm, another reason I didn't expect such a turnout. When the doors did open at 10:00 a.m., it took me until 10:18 a.m. to get inside in 40-something degree weather. Word of advice next year: Treat Chicago VeganMania like a music concert and arrive extra early.

 

As promised, five free tickets were given to the all attendees, and I was informed earlier that the first 100 people were given swag bags. Unfortunately, I didn't get to snoop in those bags because there were definitely 100 people in front of me (and one hundred behind me too, all before 10 a.m.). After passing the ticket counter where several volunteers greeted Chicago VeganMania guests with smiles, I passed by tables with a plethora of vegetarian cookbooks, crafts and other reading material.

 

Then, I strolled around a bunch of the Pulaski Park Fieldhouse rooms to check out the scene. One room was called "The Art Gallery, Compassion Fashion Gallery" and had all kinds of vegan-based products like paintings, jewelry, clothes, body soap, chapstick, shaving cream and hair care products. And unlike some events I'd been to in the past, the prices were reasonable. One lady was selling all of her items for $10, which was a great deal considering animal friendly clothes aren't always the cheapest products for that quality.

 

After visiting the main performance area where food booths were set up, I immediately saw Soul Vegetarian East had a flock of people trying to get plates of their wheat gluten "BBQ delight" and vegan macaroni and cheese with greens. That meal was terrific. The carrot cheesecake and cacao ganache cake at a dessert booth called Raw Creations® were delightful, and I was so impressed with the vegetarian chili prepared by Match™ that I went back a second time to try the vegetarian meat again. Other restaurants and food vendors included The Chicago Diner, Cousin's Incredible Vitality, Great Taste Café/Cru Cacao chocolates, Delicious Café/Ste Martaen cheeses, Raw Creations, Upton's Naturals, Vega/Sequel Naturals and Veggie Bite. I'm not a big fan of veggie hot dogs or regular hot dogs, and that was the only thing Veggie Bite had so I didn't try them, but from the conversation I had with Moshe Shalom, the owner of the five-year-old, self-proclaimed "first vegetarian quick-service restaurant" located at 1300 N. Milwaukee and 3031 N. 111th St., I'm going to check that place out for other vegetarian items soon.

 

Along one hallway on the other side of the main hall were more booths with vegetarian and vegan magazine publishers, vegan stickers (my favorite was "Eat like you give a damn") and animal friendly groups ready to increase membership. After satisfying my appetite with the food (the ticket prices for meals were somewhere between 1-8 tickets, depending on the size of the item), filling up my tote bag with free stuff and checking out some of the live performers and deejays, I went upstairs to hear the speakers.

 

I didn't really expect to be up there that long because sitting in long lectures isn't my cup of tea, but the Chicago VeganMania's tagteam couple, John Beske and Marla Rose, knew who to pick.

 

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Me, Marla Rose, John Beske

 

 

At 11:00 a.m., Caryn Hartglass, the Executive Director of EarthSave International, talked about the history of EarthSave, how clean her doctor thought she was while she was fighting ovarion cancer, why she became a vegan at the age of 30, how carbon dioxide feeds plants and when there's "way too much carbon dioxide," how 6.7 billion people on the planet affect animal agriculture, and she gave suggestions that if we make more plant food for humans, the demand for animal agriculture would decrease. This, in turn, would help the environment and the carbon dioxide issue, according to Hartglass. She had a great point when she mentioned past political and social movements by saying, "None of the changes that were made were from some president." Hartglass believes by becoming a vegetarian or vegan, "you're doing what you can do and the rest of the world will just have to come aboard." Encouraging individuals to take a stand against animal agriculture instead of waiting for the legal system to do so, she also encouraged drinking green juice daily and meditation for at least 10 minutes per day.

 

At 12:00 p.m., Nathan Runkle, the Executive Director of Mercy for Animals, showed a graphic presentation called "Inspiring Compassion, Putting Our Ethics on the Table," about how animals were treated, and although I knew most of this already, the way male chicks and female chicks are handled was depressing. Runkle also talked about the hypocrisy that human beings will show to dogs and cats versus farm animals. I found this speech fascinating because I'd been arguing that same point in my blog, "Carroll Care Center partners with HSUS to eliminate dogfighting in Chicago," with an anti-dogfighting advocate. Runkle spoke about the legal issues with slaughterhouses and made an excellent point about how people don't associate fish with hurt because "fish aren't as cute and cuddly." The only thing that bugged me in Runkle's speech was he kept mentioning Michael Vick as thought that's the only dogfighter in all of the U.S. But I have mixed opinions about Vick and instead focused on the eye-opening quotes he gave from animal agricultural magazines about how animals have to be treated like machines and not lives. His strongest statement: "Humans would be 300 lbs. if we were bred like animals" and "Our forks, our knives, our spoons are our most powerful tool."

 

At 1:00 p.m., Dr. Will Tuttle, the author of "The World Peace Diet: Eating for Spiritual Health and Social Harmony," was up next. I ran out for a few minutes to see what was new downstairs, mingled and came back upstairs just in time to hear Dr. Tuttle tell a strange but interesting story about why and how animals are killed. He said: "The reason animals suffer so much is because we don't like soggy meat" and explained why slaughterhouses kill animals and avoid all of the blood. Dr. Tuttle had actually seen a cow killed in front of his eyes, and he's now a 30-year vegan. He then discussed why female animals are treated so much worse than male animals and hopes that the vegan lifestyle will go from at least 1 percent of the population to 5 percent.

 

At 2:00 p.m., Dr. Michael Greger, the Director of Public Health (HSUS), came to the mic. Beske had already told me how great of a speaker Dr. Greger was while I was downstairs, but I was a little disappointed. Dr. Greger had to catch an O'Hare flight so while he was giving the audience a large amount of information, he was talking fast and throwing a lot of information at us. He encouraged audience participation and had the audience stand up to answer questions, and whoever had the right answers got a prize at the end (a CD filled with top-notch articles). A 9-year-old girl beat at least 100-plus adults in the room with the help of her guardian, but I loved the fact that she was getting so much information during the talk. The young girl's presence also showed how it's not so harmful to tell the truth to children about animal agriculture because she was spouting out responses with no hesitancy at all.

 

All of the information Dr. Greger gave was helpful, but the ones I remember when he wasn't flying through his presentation were the following:

 

  • Oil-based dressing is healthier than fat-free dressing because of the nutrients in oil-based dressing.
  • Coconut milk is as bad as McDonald's food.
  • Mushrooms are harmful uncooked no matter the type.
  • Chlorella is harmful and can lead to human infection.
  • Tofu does not lead to dementia, and the Indonesian study that said that tofu is harmful was because there was an additional ingredient--formaldehyde.
  • It is false that soy lowers sperm count.
  • Vegetarians have a higher sperm count than fish eaters.
  • Pregnant women should not eat undercooked meat.
  • There was a zero percent compliance in a recent study for Food Code recommendations for hand washing.
  • Chicken breast is more harmful than flame-broiled burgers, pan-fried burgers, pan-fried porkchops and grilled salmon.
  • One percent of 128 are likely to get a brain tumor from cell phones, but hot dog intake can make a brain tumor more likely.
  • Seven hours of sleep duration is the optimal amount to live the longest.
  • Body mass index (BMI) for meat eaters = 28.8 out of 40, flexitarians = 27.3, vegetarians = 25.7, vegans = 23.6 (even though "vegans exercise less than meat eaters)
  • When vegetarians do not get the correct amount of B12, they are more likely to get a disease called Vegetarian's Myelopathy.

 

See what I mean? All that information, and that was only about one-third of it all pushed into a 45-minute talk that was cut short so he could sell and sign his books. His lecture was too fast, but it was also the most educational. I just wish he was the first speaker so I could see what his talks are like when he's not in a rush.

 

And last up was Rae Sikora and JC Corcoran, from Plant Peace Daily, who I'd met downstairs and commented on how great their bumper stickers were. How often can you say you saw a bumper sticker that said "Tofu Slut"? I had to laugh. The couple showed a 12-minute video on vegan living. One of the strongest points in the video was that the number one reason trees are cut down is for animal agriculture, not paper supplies. The movie also stated that if we left a shower on for 365 days a year all day long, we still wouldn't waste as much water as slaughterhouses do from the plant food that's wasted, barely taking care of the animals in the slaughterhouses and cleaning slaughterhouses from animal wastes and spraying out dead animals.

 

At the end of the couple's presentation, the audience asked questions about the vegetarian and vegan lifestyle, how to avoid lapsing back into a dairy or meat-based diet and why comfort food is so important. The audience had so many questions and comments ( 'm very guilty of contributing to going over the time they were allotted from answering and asking questions, but I enjoyed Sikora and Corcoran's talk) that finally we were forced to cut it short. I looked at the time and it was 3:50 p.m. I hung out through the entire Chicago VeganMania event and will definitely come back next year.

 

If you're interested in the other vendors, here are links to some of the Web sites for those who I collected cards/brochures from:

 

Aesthetics Body Jewelry

A Fresh Squeeze

Body Sherpa

Dan Dunbar's Vegan Ethical Designs

The Designer Comb

EarthSave®

Edible Chicago

Ethically Engineered

Great Taste Café (opens 11/1/2009 at 355 E. Grand Ave.)

Herbivore Clothing

Hoops & Loops

HowGreenIsChicago.org

Marfar Designs

Match Meats

Mercy for Animals (Suggestion: Check out the "Vegetarian Starter Kit")

Michelle Rubin

Mindful Metropolis

My Vega

Nonviolence United

Plant Peace Daily

Raw-Creations

Recycle Me Organic Tees

San Diego Magazine®

Soul Vegetarian (located at 205 E. 75th Street)

Vaute Coutoure

Vega Community

Veggie Bite

Veggie Power Burgers (incl. vegetarian cooking classes)

Veg News

Will Tuttle

 

 

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13 Comments

Jade said:

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I went to VeganMania, and it was a good time. Too bad many of the food vendors ran out of samples quickly. The line for Soul Vegetarian was ridiculously long, but their BBQ Seitan was almost worth the wait. I'm looking forward to next year!

FYI, pescetarians are not vegetarians. Vegetarians don't eat meat (whether it's from land or sea).

Message from Montie said:

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Jade, you lost me. I don't see anywhere in here where I said a pescatarian was a vegetarian. Is there something I need to correct? I know a pescatarian eats fish. However, I clarified that in the opening because people will call themselves vegetarians and then eat fish, which I constantly tell them makes them a pescatarian.

As far as Soul Vegetarian, yeah, the BBQ was delicious. I haven't sat down in that restaurant in sometime because Quench was closer to me, but they made me want to make that drive again.

recycleme said:

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Great synopsis of the event. It was such a great turn out for their first one! I met so many wonderful people there. I am a vegetarian, and it was so wonderful to be around so many other people interested in their diets. I haven't felt like that since I left Portland, Oregon, where you can walk into any restaurant and order many vegetarian, and usual vegan items, not just salad! And thanks for linking to us, Recycle Me. Sorry we didn't have a chance to meet.

Message from Montie said:

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Is this a photo of you with the black shirt on by the Sears Tower? Too cute!

recycleme said:

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I just used your picture Montie, in talking about the event, because I forgot my camera! Hope that's OK. Let me know if it's not. www.recyclemeorganictees.blogspot.com/

Message from Montie said:

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RecycleMe, no, it's not a problem at all for you using that pic. It has my copyright symbol on there so we're all good. You may want to clarify who is who in the pic and Montie is the one to the far left, but it's up to you. Thank you for link though. I'm glad you enjoyed the synopsis. As far as Portland, that sounds beautiful that it has that flexibility. I still have to pick 2 and 3 items only when I go out with my family and friends.

MarlaRose said:

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Montie,

Thank you so much for your recap and your support all along. We really appreciate it, and the fact that you are using your talents for bringing people to a healthier, more compassionate, and more sustainable diet. You have been so supportive, and it was so lovely to meet you face-to-face. Yes, the crowds were intense! Who would have thought an event with the word "vegan" in the title would draw so many? Well, we were anticipating a big crowd, but most the food vendors weren't. Next year, they'll be better prepared! :) My apologies to any who had to wait in long lines (pretty much everyone) and any who didn't get to sample all they wanted. Again, the food vendors will be better prepared at CVM2 and we'll have a better line system. All that aside, I am glad that you got to appreciate all the wonderful aspects of CVM, which was truly a community effort. Chicago has an amazingly dynamic and diverse vegan community: I was so proud to be a part of showing it off. And just to clarify: everyone got five free sample coupons, not just one hundred: the first one hundred, though, were the ones who go the awesome swag bags. You are fabulous, Montie! Thanks again for the recap and support.

Message from Montie said:

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Hi Marla, It was so nice meeting you and your husband, John! You were both so friendly. I want to apologize for the mistake I made with the sample coupons. In my first blog about Chicago VeganMania, I had that information correctly. I have made the necessary changes in this one as well. What was in the swag bag?

As far as the vendors running out of food, I'm sure people cared about standing in line but I didn't hear ONE person complain about the line circling around the other side of the main room. They were just chatting, pointing at things they wanted and showing off what they bought. I guess healthy food makes you less crabby. I didn't even mind standing outside in the cold because I was so curious about what was inside plus I wanted to write from a visitor's perspective. If I'd tried to get in on a media pass, I wouldn't have noticed how many people were outside and surprisingly not complaining. This was the happiest crowd I'd ever seen in my life, and I've been to many nightclubs, repeatedly go to the Taste of Chicago on the 3rd for the fireworks, etc. I didn't hear one negative comment the entire time.

So while you say I'm fabulous, I'm here to tell you that YOU and that Chicago VeganMania crowd are way more fabulous! I look forward to next year.

MarlaRose said:

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Hey, Montie -

No big deal about the sample coupons: I know it's confusing. I only got a handle on it days before. :)

Getting your view of things from being on the floor with all the other visitors is really priceless. We often worry after events, remembering the one or two grouchy people and forgetting the countless happy ones, so your report has been very positive to hear. I have to say, I think that we are blessed with the overall goodwill of the community. It really showed at CVM.

I do refuse to get into a fabulousity contest with you, Montie, though because you are sure to win. Let's just be glad that we live in such a progressive, passionate city with so many great folks. I look forward to seeing you again next year, too. :)

JC said:

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Please visit http://www.veganvideo.org to see the video that JC and Rae showed at VeganMania. 12 minutes of pure bliss :)

Message from Montie said:

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"So you think you can be a vegetarian?" Check out my tips, recipes, shopping advice, and news all at one location.

Jessica said:

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Oh my gosh I'm in one of those pictures. xD Hahaha. I didn't expect that. Awesome.

Message from Montie said:

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I like "xD Hahaha" better than "take me off!" so that's great news. :-) Which photo are you in? What number?

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