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The Boston Vegetarian Food Festival, an exhibition of vegetarian and vegan food, clothing, and other products, was held on Saturday and Sunday.

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The 18th Annual Boston Vegetarian Food Festival

Roxbury Community College Athletic Center, 1350 Tremont Street, Boston

Oct. 26–27, 2013

You know those old Star Trek episodes where Kirk, Bones, and Spock beam down onto an alien planet, and find themselves in the middle of some big marketplace, where people are selling strange foods, and wearing bright colored clothes? Well, walking into the 18th annual Boston Vegetarian Food Festival, held at the Roxbury Community College Athletic Center last Sunday, was quite a bit like that.

The Vegetarian Food Festival (VegFest) annual convention, held in most major U.S. cities, is a two-day gathering of all things vegan and vegetarian. Packed into the festival are over one hundred vendors and organizations, each advertising their food and campaigns. Popular veggie chefs and authors lead cooking demos and classes, and speakers share wisdom on topics ranging from personal wellness to environmental ethics.

The venue runs at full tilt, with hundreds of local people at any time circulating the booths, sampling and buying the latest and greatest in vegan and vegetarian fare. Most popular are, not surprisingly, the dessert booths, selling decedent vegan cupcakes, cannoli, ice cream, donuts, and exotic gourmet dark chocolates, to name but a few. Also present are vegan belts and shoe companies, advertising and selling stylish wares made from faux leather. Proud vendors grill up the cutting edge of faux meats. The May Wah Vegetarian Market came all the way from New York to give out samples of what seemed like two dozen varieties of faux seafood. Attendees chat with the myriad of animal rights and environmental wellness advocacy groups while munching on chia seed and chocolate raw energy bars.

Now, I’ve been vegan since I was four, and it’s still quite the unique cultural experience to visit a VegFest. Vegetarians and vegans are a minority, and many lead lives fairly independent of their dietary choice, but at VegFest the real culture emerges, and it is truly a great experience. I would highly recommend visiting the next VegFest, either in Boston, or elsewhere. If you’ve ever been curious about vegetarianism or veganism, a VegFest is the perfect place to learn more and experience the wonderful community built around these ideas. For me, it’s similar to coming to MIT — suddenly I’m in a place where everyone is as excited about science and engineering as I am (at VegFest they’re excited about food, and have free samples!). In fact, some of the founding Boston Vegetarian Society coordinators were MIT graduates, and the very first Boston VegFest was held in the MIT Johnson Athletic Center.