Day Three at Vida Vegan Con

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Where was I?

Oh right community. As I entered into day 3 of VVC, it was with a list of people I was stilly dying to meet in person or speak to a little more (Sayward of Bonzai Aphrodite, Joanna of Yellow Rose Recipes (or so it was previously called), Crissie of Run Crissie Run). Fortunately, I had a chance to speak with all of these ladies on Sunday, either over the VVC lunch or throughout the day. But first, there were panels.

The morning started with the activism panel, which was led by Jasmin and featured Isa Chandra Moskowitz, Sunny Subramanian from Peta2, my girl Leigh-Chantelle, Ryan Patey from T.O.F.U. Magazine, and Chelsea Lincoln, who writes the blog Flavor Vegan. I’m going to hold off on giving too many details from this panel, because I really want activism to be the focus of tomorrow’s post. For now, I’ll say that the major questions at hand were:

  • How can I be an activist in my home town/community?
  • How do I foster activism when there aren’t many other vegans in my area?
  • What do I bring to the table as an activist?
  • How can I merge activism for animals with other issues I care about?
  • How can I be an activist without alienating others?

All fantastic issues to discuss. More on them soon.

The next panel I sat in on was led by Terry Hope Romero, the gorgeous, sassy, and whip smart author of Vegan Latina. Meeting Terry, who’s work I’ve read for so long, was certainly a weekend highlight. Terry, who is, like me, a former publishing maven, spoke about food writing as a narrative craft, and blogging as its vehicle. Her speech was full of amusing anecdotes, and one of the major take-home lessons was that, as bloggers, we’re empowered to take any and all life experience and craft it into something readable. Having spent so many years in the world of writers and editors, I don’t always enjoy writing seminars, but this one was great fun.

JL and I really wanted to go hunt down some green juice, but given how little time we had before lunch, we opted to gossip by the pool for a few minutes instead. All that hard work allowed us to build up an appetite for the second #vidavegancon lunch spread!

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It was taco day. Well, taco and hummus, that is. Tortillas were laid out, along with giant lettuce leaves for the raw foods lovers in the group (hooray!). And I was tickled pink to see that Janessa had given my raw zucchini hummus recipe to the cook to copy! What a giant honor.

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I was also really impressed with the giant tray of raw walnut “taco meat,” which was spiced to perfection and made tangy and rich with sundried tomato. Great, great recipe:

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I made some raw tortillas with the taco meat, the hummus, guacamole, and salsa as my fillers. Each got a generous topping of nutritional yeast, which was left out by the bowl near our table. A conference with bowls of nooch sitting around for the taking? My kind of place.

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After lunch, I stole some time to work on the blog and respond to emails. Soon enough, it was time for my final panel/class: specialty diets.

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My co-panelists were Kittee Berns, author of the wonderful Cake Maker to the Stars blog and author of Papa Tofu Loves Ethiopian Food, Fran Costigan, the reigning queen of all things vegan dessert and chocolate, and Susan Voison, whose Fat Free Vegan blog is home to some of the best low-fat vegan recipes on the web.

Kittee eats gluten free: though she does not have celiac, she used to suffer from fibromyalgia, and eating gluten free helped her to manage/conquer her symptoms. Susan eats a low-fat and no-oil diet, though she does allow for some nuts and seeds in her recipes, along with avocado. She feels that avoiding added fat has helped her to lose and maintain a healthy weight, and is intuitively certain that it’s the best way of eating for her body. Fran, meanwhile, subscribes to no specialty diet in particular, but takes a whole foods and local approach to everything.

There was a ton of curiosity about GF cooking in the room: Kittee passed around Authentic Foods’ superfine brown rice flour, which she found to be a life-changing addition to her GF baking. Then we all shared our best “specialty diet” cooking tips. Susan mentioned that mixing non-dairy milk and vinegar creates a great, “buttermilk”-like texture for salad dressings that are oil free (good to know, as I’m one of those people who really struggles with salads that aren’t dressed with a good amount of fat). For my part, I gave the same advice I usually give about starting off with raw food: don’t think of a complex entrée you like and try to make a raw version in the dehydrator. Make every simple raw (soups, salads, veggie sides, dressings, dips) and cook the rest. At least at first. I also mentioned (in response to an audience question) that raw potatoes are not the place to start.

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I believe my exact quote, elegantly phrased, was “raw potatoes are gross.”

It was a really fun panel, especially since I got to see Fran (the ultimate hip NYC lady, and always a joy to be around) and Susan (whose blog I worship). I’d never met Kittee, but she and I have a friend in common, and it was really wonderful to connect with her after admiring her work for vegan MoFo and her blog for quite some years now. Incidentally, if you’re a vegan who’s just gotten a celiac diagnosis, or you’re GF and wondering if you can be a vegan: fear not. It’s absolutely possible to be both vegan and GF! Kittee’s newest brainchild, XGFX, shows you how.

After that, it was time for closing remarks from Isa and from Terry. As these two beautiful and spicy women took to the stage to bid us farewell, I felt a little verklempt: it had been such a lovely weekend, and I was already feeling sad to say goodbye to Laura, JL, Lisa, and co. Isa and Terry mentioned what a joy it had been to celebrate a shared sense of purpose within the vegan blogging community, and noted that, even in this digital age, nothing compares to the power and pleasure of face-to-face conversation. I couldn’t agree more. I love the internet, but sometimes a hug, a peal of laughter, or a shared glance is far more powerful.

I bid the wonderful conference organizers, Janessa, Jess, and Michele, a warm adieu:

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They deserve heaps of credit for making such a huge conference run so smoothly. From food to event planning to the actual “flow” of the day’s schedule, these ladies were totally on-point at every turn. I marvel at their organizing skills.

That night, it was time for one more dinner in Portland. To be honest, I’d loved my simple green goddess bowl at Blossoming Lotus so much the night before that I was hankering for a repeat.

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For all of my love of socializing, and in spite of the fact that I consider good conversation a pleasure on par with great food and great sex, I have to admit that I get really exhausted from relentless group time. Maybe it’s the only child in me, but I’ve always needed quite a bit of “me” time in addition to time with my friends. For this reason, I was grateful to have an intimate and quiet dinner planned: just me, JL, Lisa, and Nicole, whom I’d never met before, and who is lovely. We unwound with laughter and compared notes from the weekend. And we all dug into this:

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A fabulous and generously sized bowl of white bean and pesto spread. This was fantastic; I’ve had (and made) many a white bean dip, but there was some herb in here (we couldn’t ultimately place it) that elevated the dip to true originality. It was also steaming and warm and drizzled in fruity olive oil, and generally a pleasure.

As I ate, I sipped on this:

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A “make your own” cocktail of celery, cucumber, kale, lemon, ginger, and apple. And for my entrée, as planned, I repeated the goddess bowl (raw and cooked greens with quinoa, avocado, and two dressings):

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Once again, it was filling and delicious. Not so filling, however, that I couldn’t polish off Nicole’s bowl when she was too full to finish. JL and Lisa (who’d gotten lasagna and raw pizza, respectively) looked on with amusement.

After we parted ways, it was back to my hotel for some reading, blogging, and much-needed rest. The next morning, I woke up with the sun for a run in some gray and moody weather, taking time to enjoy riverbank sights as I went. Then, to my delight, I realized I had just enough time for a final Portland food outing. I found a bakery close to my hotel that featured a vegan menu, and hurried over there for some food.

The Black Sheep Bakery boasts not only a full display of vegan muffins, scones, and treats, but also some warm vegan breakfast items (such as vegan frittata, or toast with vegan cream cheese) and lunchtime sandwiches that are 100% animal free.

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I was really impressed with the selection, the service (my server was so kind and helpful with recommendations), not to mention the cozy ambiance. Torn between granola and oats, I hesitated, until a shiver ran through me under my hoody and reminded me that it was a rainy day in the Pacific Northwest, and hot food would probably taste really good. Oats it was: or rather, the bakery’s “fruited oatmeal.” This is actually a big like warm muesli: they toast dried apricots, raisins, oats, and agave, and then they re-heat it for you with almond milk.

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As usual, I BYOB’ed (brought my own banana’ed).

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So, so, so good. Sweet, but not sugary, warm, dense, filling. Loved every bite. And for the road—knowing I’d have a long day in airplanes before me—I picked up a vegan multigrain cranberry muffin:

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I was glad I did, though I did manage to find some good airport food. Among other things, a big salad, a cup of veggie crudites, a Pure Bar (mine) and even some hummus:

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Not bad, given that my biggest complaint about flying is usually that I can’t get enough green in.

And then, suddenly, I was back at the Hobbit House, where I found crickets mating and feasting on bug carcasses in my shower, and a few lady bugs throwing a party on my quilt. Home sweet home. Did I really just spend a week in NYC? Had I really gone all the way to Portland? Am I really going back to NYC this weekend for a lavish wedding? Yes. But right now, as I dig into some raw comfort food and start reading up on my biology, it feels almost as if it was all a dream.

An awesome dream. Thanks, VVC, for a fantastic three days. It gave me a lot to consider (expect a thought post on activism later this week), to cherish, and to remember. Can’t wait for 2013.

Final announcement: today is your last chance to vote for me for best blog and best column in the 2013 Veggie Awards! The award is a huge honor in the vegan community and would mean the world to me. With that said? Any kind of competition after this weekend of vegan blog love seems in poor taste. So if you’d like to vote for another great blog–Our Hen House, for instance–rock on. And thanks.



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  1. I was so excited sitting next to you during the specialty diet session (and the advice on attempting nut-free raw)…but one stellar moment I’ll never forget is the potato comment. I will never attempt raw white potatoes now…and I imagine I’m much better off!

  2. Great posts and all teh food looks really amazing! We would really like to organize something like this at our place! As for me, i love eating raw vegetables and fruits, but sometimes it’s just difficult to eat raw food all the time, because it takes so much time to cook it, but now i’m really inspired by your experience and i am sure i can do it!

  3. It’s been great to live vicariously through your blogs. I would have loved to have been at something like this … one of these days I’ll skew my blog vegan and see where that takes me! 🙂

  4. These recaps are fantastic!

    I’m an only child myself, and completely agree about needing alone time. I’m in a very “people oriented” profession, and many evenings I will just come home and collapse. I’m a bit of a hermit, I admit. But allowing myself some “me time” helps me to be a better person to other people.

  5. Your photos are so beautiful and vibrant — they really capture, along with the lively writing, the excitement that was VVC — three weeks compressed into three days!

  6. Wow! It looks like you had an amazing time. And so busy! I have no idea how you managed to do all that you did, but I am sure that all that amazing vegan food did not hurt! Awesome.

    • Ritika,

      I’ll have to read it. I admire a ton of what PETA does, but like most people take issue with certain tactics, too. Thanks for sharing this!


  7. LOVE this post highlighting all the vegan blogs that inspire me. There is a REALness to the people that you mention that I love. So so happy that you are mentioning them and giving them the linkage they deserve. XGFX is near and dear to my heart being a long long term GFer and having the guts to still go vegan even with that restriction, I felt like a loner for a long time, not anymore with the gals from xgfx. awesome people.

    portland food, wow it is amazing. next time hit up people’s coop for a really cute raw juice/smoothie food truck and raw ice cream sammies!

    off to NYC again? boy you are soooo busy. not jealous of that.

    • You would have loved it! And I thought of you all wkd. Kittee is great in person, and I admire her leadership of XGFX and Vegan MOFO so much. And you’re right: a great, REAL group, united by shared ideals. Very inspiring. These are the blogs that I was reading way back in my pre-vegan (almost there) days!

  8. Gena! It was such a treat to meet you… This is a great re-cap post – great pictures and great writing, as always! 🙂

  9. It was such a pleasure to get to meet you, and I’m so glad for your re-caps. You know, I took only one photo the entire weekend. When I came down to the ballroom the first night, I was so overwhelmed by the number of people that I knew that I could either take photos or have conversations, not both. Multitasker, I’m not! It’s great to relive some of the highlights of the conference through your posts and pix.

    • Susan:

      I have a multitasking disease, so we can trade your photo skills for my multitasking skills. Between that and our shared editorial skills, we’ll be rockstars.

      G 🙂

  10. Thank you so much for allowing us to live through your experience at Vida! Hopefully I’ll make it to the next one in 2013. Oh and I totally get your exhaustion from too much group time too and I’m not an only child. I’ve been home visiting family for the last 5 weeks and today we leave to go back home to Saudi Arabia. I could think of better places to long to be back however I am completely over the group catch ups for now!

  11. Welcome home! I hope your verklemptitude is passing, although it’s totally understandable after a jamboree like that.

    I’m the same way on needing ‘me’ time–in my home life, I’m almost hermitic. But during my MFA program residency just now, I was waay more social than I’d ever normally be comfortable being. As would I have been had I been at VVC with you all. (Maybe next year I can stay on after my program residency and go?!?)

    But I’m definitely needing some extra extra quiet time to make up for it now. I hope you’ll be able to find some of that too!

    • Sometime soon I have to hear all about MFA life. I have heard many tales, mostly cliches. I’d love your take.

      • Gosh, I can guess some of the cliche stories! Even some of the lit mags peddle them month after month…

        I should point out that I’m doing a low-residency MFA, so it’s a bit different, but I’d love to do a post about how it feels so far, probably two weeks from now when I’ve sent my first ‘packet’ to my ‘mentor,’ so that I have more story than just the residency.

        Thanks for the suggestion–I’ll shoot you a heads up when it’s done!

  12. Glad you had a great final day! I, too, love “me” time. It’s a nice way to recharge and just look inward for a bit.

  13. I’ve been enjoying the recaps.
    This is kind of random, but since you mentioned the zucchini hummus my question should fit right in. Last night I made the Sweet and Salty Avocado Hummus and awhile back I made the zucchini hummus. Here’s the question- do you think the roasted tahini makes a significant difference in flavor, because I’m not sure I love the flavor in each of those recipes (I used roasted). I think it might be the tahini flavor I’m not sure about. I like tahini in other recipes, but maybe its flavor is bolder in these recipes.
    Thanks 🙂

  14. Wow! The Black Sheep Bakery looks SO good. Can’t wait to try it. Thanks so much for the updates on Vegan Vida Con; it makes me super excited to attend the next one!

  15. Awesome recap of the rest of the conference. So glad you met all these women, made all these in-person connections and just really thrived and loved it all!

    “I have to admit that I get really exhausted from relentless group time. Maybe it’s the only child in me, but I’ve always needed quite a bit of “me” time in addition to time with my friends. For this reason, I was grateful to have an intimate and quiet dinner planned”–

    100% I can relate to this. When I go on photography trips, blog trips, conferences or workshops of any kind, after getting up at the crack of dawn and being with new faces and in new places, by the time dinner comes that night, or evening draws near, I am READY for some chilltime and alone time, downtime in my room. I just can’t go, go, go and be “on” for 12+ hrs without feeling really unsettled. Not that I’m “on”, but you probably know the feeling.

    I was just talking with another friend about this. New jobs, workshops, seminars, in services, conferences..they’re lovely but some re-centering time is needed, for sure.

    Glad you made your way back to the Hobbit House <–still love that term!


  16. I’m practically dying looking at that conference food spread. Healthy Living Summit was good but the conference I went to before that I could only eat salad and salad dressing. Oh, and I took a chance assuming the coconut macaroons were gluten-free which were surprisingly good.

  17. What a positive and uplifting experience! I would have been majorly starstruck. All the panels on which you served sound like they were incredibly valuable! As well as all of the other workshops (and meals!) you mentioned. Thank you for the beautiful overview. And I’m not surprised you needed another green juice, they all mouth-watering! I can’t wait to spend this year growing as a blogger, photographer, and vegan activist and be able to hang with the big kids next year.

  18. Thank-you, thank-you, thank-you for the link to XGFX. I’m a celiac who has diabetes and is one year post heart attack who is trying to grow into eating vegan. It’s so nice to find a resource to help. I’ve read your blog for a couple of years and I find so much good info here but it’s always nice to find more sites to visit.

  19. GREAT recap! I think the “how to become an activist without alienating others” is a real question–I feel the same way in sharing my veganism as I do in sharing my faith: Both are important to be and I love sharing them with others but how do I do so in a way that doesn’t make others say “whoa…stop preaching at me!”

  20. Gena!
    Oh, am I ever glad we got to meet in the flesh, a definite highlight of the conference for me was gaining your RL friendship! Your re-caps have been spot-on, thanks so much for writing them. I of course, forgot to even bring my camera to the conference!

    And Jackie, you’re famous!!! Now we just need you to start a blog and join us for MoFo!


  21. gena, it was a pleasure to meet you and to have attended two of your talks. i am an introvert and had to pump myself up all week long to get up the nerve to be social for 3 days straight–not to mention public speaking–and i was in total awe of your ability to handle it with grace and ease. i am a newly-faithful reader of your blog! see you at the next VVC!

  22. Wow! You girls all look like beautiful blissed out beings. Sounds like ya had a kind of rough welcome home!

    Loving all the photos and sounds like a total blast!