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Sunday, August 9, 2009

To Go Or Not To Go: To The VeggieFest, Never Again!

This weekend, my wife wanted me to take the family to something called the VeggieFest taking place about 30 miles from where we live. It is supposed to be a showcase of vegetarian food, cooking, etc., and have samples as well as food stalls for the visitors to indulge in vegetarian food from around the world.

I haven't been vegetarian in about 15 years now, and I am not a huge fan of vegetarian food. My wife and kids are vegetarian, though. I was also a vegetarian for the first 25 years of my life, but after I moved to this country, I just found it too much of an inconvenience to be bothered. I liked the flexibility that being able to eat just about anything gave me. I also love experimenting with my freedom, so I have, for instance, tried frog's legs, escargot, and other delicacies that even many non-vegetarians shun.

The festival runs from 11 AM to 7 PM or something like that. We got there around 11:20 and already the place was starting to broil under the sun's heat. The humidity was also quite high, making the whole thing quite a bother. We spent the first hour and a half or so walking around the stalls that were allowing people to sample their wares while trying to get them to buy the stuff. There were lots of stalls that were showing off products that were sold through multi-level marketing schemes (think Amway) also, so they were trying hard to get the samplers to sign up for their mailing list so that they could "follow up". None of the foods tasted particularly good.

There were also stalls selling energy drinks, rejuvenating drinks, drinks endorsed by celebrities like Deepak Chopra, etc. Some of these drinks were not too bad (it may have had something to do with the hot sun too), but some were not tasty at all by any stretch of the imagination. There was also a children's activity tent (face-painting, identify-the-vegetable contests, etc.), a speaker's tent with hourly talks about vegetarianism, yoga, spirituality, etc., and a special meditation tent where they were teaching visitors how to meditate.

I guess it is not very surprising that vegetarianism is associated with eastern philosophy and its overt manifestations like yoga, meditation, etc. But I was surprised that there were a surprising number of booths offering teeth-whitening treatments of all sorts. Either vegetarian food discolors teeth badly or some marketing expert figured out that people who are attracted to yoga, meditation and vegetarian food also have bad teeth! There were also booths that offered chiropractic consultations, massage, etc.

There was a street theater performance and a magic show also.

The food that was on sale had to be bought with tickets. The cheapest you could get tickets for was 20 for $15, so it was about 75 cents per ticket. Most of the food was priced at 4 to eight tickets, so most of the food was 3 to 6 dollars. Contrary to our expectations, there was actually not much variety in the food. There were several Indian food stalls, a middle-eastern stall (manned by an Indian) that sold stuff like felafel, a Chinese stall, a Thai stall, a Japanese stall, a Mexican stall and a few stalls selling teas and other drinks.

We bought some Chinese and Thai food and found a place to sit and eat. It was hot as hell, and there was no shade. There were big umbrellas set up over the eating tables, but the wind was toppling some of them over, creating somewhat dangerous conditions for eaters. We decided to sit on the upwind side of one of these umbrellas, but that also meant that the umbrella did not provide us any shade at all.

The food was extremely mediocre, and even my wife was appalled and shocked at the quality of the food. It was just basic vegetarian food with no spices or flavor. It was either bland with no taste or just spiced up with red chillies. It was quite a pathetic display of bad cooking. If there were any non-vegetarians at the fest thinking about converting to vegetarianism, I am sure they would have decided that it wasn't worth it after tasting the food! At least, I won't have to take the family to next year's fest as my wife had had enough of it with just one visit!

Here are some photos I took at the fest.

Photos of the street theater performance and performers

The children's activity tent

The magic show

General views of the stalls, etc.

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