VegFest Brighton

Last weekend was VegFest Brighton, and I was there to eat, shop, and facilitate a workshop on feeding children a healthy plant-based diet.


VegFest Brighton Programme 2014

VegFest Brighton Programme 2014


My partner and I decided this was as good an excuse as any for a long weekend by the seaside, and booked into the friendly Avalon Hotel for three nights – highly recommended for people with children, dogs or a liking for fabulous cooked breakfasts (vegetarian, vegan or otherwise). Hotel-owner Brian even made a special trip to Morrison’s to buy Alpro soya yoghurt for our girls, which was very lovely and far beyond the call of duty.

Saturday was our family holiday day, and the sun was shining, so we went to the beach! My daughter won a cuddly lemon on the Dolphin Derby on the pier, and we rode on the carousel and threw stones in the sea and went to the playground 🙂

I did have a moment of thinking that there was absolutely nothing healthy to eat anywhere along the seafront, and almost nothing that was vegan. Fish and chips and ice-cream were almost universally the order of the day, and I have to confess that we did end up eating some chips, and buying the girls an ice-lolly each. I had packed some fruit and some Nakd bars for snacks as well, but wasn’t really able to make a full packed lunch in our hotel room. You can only do your best…

We then visited the international food store Taj on Western Road, ostensibly to buy some exotic fruit and vegetables for the quiz I had planned for my workshop on Sunday, but in truth it was more for nostalgia’s sake, as I used to go there all the time when I lived in Brighton.

Also mainly for old-time’s sake, but also of course for the amazing food, we then went out for an early dinner at the Brighton vegetarian institution Food for Friends. I know it’s boring when people blog about what they had for dinner, but I do just have to say that the marinated roast aubergine stuffed with bulgar wheat, Persian barberries, mulberries, and pistachios served with spicy tomato sauce, tahini remoulade, wilted spinach and crispy sumac potatoes, and the coconut “arancini” with fresh coconut, black sesame and trio of mango – sorbet, gel and diced, were to die for. It was only partly funny, when I turned around from chatting to the couple on the next table who had spent all day at VegFest, to find that my two children had picked up one each of my “arancini” and were busily dunking them in their glasses of water. Ahh… fine dining with three-year-olds! They were very good really and only needed to go to the toilet about five times 🙂

Sunday was our VegFest day, and I had a mental checklist of all the things I wanted to see and do. Mainly more eating – my girls polished off half my caribbean chickpea and coconut curry with rice and beans, much to my surprise, followed by minesweeping all of the free tasters until their mouths were covered in chocolate and they had munched on sausages and cheese to their heart’s content. Then there was shopping, although in the end I didn’t have time for much. I bought some Yaoh hemp moisturising cream, and my partner bought some Easter eggs and other edible goodies from MooFree.

I was interested to attend Yvonne Bishop-Weston‘s workshop at 1pm, where she was taking questions on subjects such as the safety of soya (the subject of a separate blog post I think – watch this space), and spoke a bit about reading food labels, particularly in relation to sugar content. I was also happy to meet up again with the lovely Ellie Bedford (TheBooTheBearandtheGojiBerries), whose raw cookbook for children, How to Eat a Rainbow, is due out soon. I am looking forward to reading it.

Finally it was time for my workshop, and I suspect everyone was beginning to feel a bit tired, as it was towards the end of the second day of the festival. The turnout was disappointing, which may also have been due to the room we were in – it was at the end of a long, quiet corridor with two corners and two heavy doors – and the fact that there were two other entertainment events for children on at the same time. It was a shame, because I had worked hard to design something I felt to be of value, but I remembered something I learnt years ago from organising Buddhist events: if only one person turns up, with deep respect for their seeking spirit, you should pour the same amount of energy into engaging with them as you would 100 or 1000 people. They have made the effort to come (three people had travelled down from London for the day), and you never know who they are or what they might become. They might go on to change the world! Your encounter with them might change their life, and it is their good fortune to have your undivided attention. You certainly don’t give up and cancel and go to the pub (how many times has this happened to me in other spheres?)!

In the end we were a small, select group. One man said it was about the fourth or fifth session he had attended about children’s nutrition, so I tried to make it relaxed and fairly informal. After some initial introductions and an ice-breaker, we split into two even smaller groups to design our perfect “Desert Island Dinner”. This had to be both healthy and delicious for all the members of our fictional stranded family, who would have to eat this dinner every day for the rest of their lives. We were clearly a fairly health conscious crowd, as suggested ingredients included green juice, porridge, sprouts (of the seed and bean varieties), avocados and lots of vegetables. This exercise stimulated discussions about what constituted a healthy diet for both adults and children. We could have continued, but before we knew it our 45 minutes was up and the next group were hovering outside the door. I gave everyone a sheet of suggestions for further reading, so I hope that will prove informative and fill some of the inevitable gaps. I could easily have filled a whole day at least, and one day, I just might.



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