PHOTO: VT Food Editor Mary Margaret Chappell with VT contributor and Vegan Fusion chef Mark Reinfeld.
Thanks to VT contributor and Vegan Fusion chef Mark Reinfeld (his 1 Food 5 Ways: Pineapple will appear in the January 2012 issue), I found out about Paris Vegan Day, a two-day vegan salon in the French capital. Mark was to be there doing a cooking demonstration, and his enthusiasm and encouragement gave me the gentle nudge I needed to catch an early train on Sunday October 3 to go to the show. (I have a house in Brittany.) In addition to meeting Mark, I wanted to see what a vegan community would be like in a city renowned for butter croissants, cream-filled pastries and egg dishes ranging from simple omelets to spectacular soufflés. As the TGV (high-speed train) whooshed through the French countryside, I really began to wonder what Id find at the show. All of France was experiencing a glorious Indian summer, the likes of which hadnt been seen since the early 1900s. The news was full of the summerlike temperatures, the cloudless blue skies, and the Parisians who were occupying every outdoor space to soak up the sunshine. I worried that potential attendees would forego the conferences and cooking demos for lunches in outdoor cafés or picnics on the Seine. Boy was I wrong. The 3-storey venue in the edgy, up-and-coming 20th arrondissement, was buzzing with hundreds of visitors tasting, talking, listening, shopping, and just hanging out. After working at VT for so long, I can be pretty blasé about food shows, but at Paris Vegan Day, everywhere I looked there was something new and wonderful do discover. Seitan gyros from a German company, fresh Asian-style salads from vegan fast food chain Loving Hut, milk and white chocolate made with rice milk I was impressed. Then there were the cooking demos. I caught three: by Mark Reinfeld, Fran Costigan and Deborah Pivain, the owner of the Gentle Gourmet Bed and Breakfast in Paris and organizer of the show. I probably wasnt the best audience member because I couldnt hear very well from where I was sitting and kept wanting to chat. I did manage to catch a few key tidbits on tofu marinades from Mark and tempering chocolate from Fran. Ultimately, the chats and exchanges I had and overheard were my favorite part of the show. Aurelia dAndria, another VT star contributor (her Parisian Thanksgiving feast appears in the November issue of the magazine) once again wowed me with her insights, opinions and humorous takes on her vegan experiences. Fran Costigan and I talked about her upcoming (vegan) book about chocolate and swapped tales about our recipe developing and testing experiences. Mark Reinfeld told me all about his travel experiences that will be going into a book coming out next fall. But perhaps the best conversation of the whole event was one I eavesdropped on as I headed out. A guy whod just bought a batch of cupcakes was stopped by a security guard at the door who asked him, Are those really made without butter and eggs? Their discussion wasnt long, but you could tell that both the vegan cupcake buyer and the ultra-non-veg security guard both got something out of the exchange.