NOLA Veggie Fest (www.nolaveggiefest.com) will have plenty of vegetables, but also chickens. Live ones. The festival promotes vegetarianism, veganism and what organizers call a "cruelty-free" lifestyle, so a woman who rescues chickens will bring several to the festival to support the mission.
"She'll have a dozen different breeds of chickens and the kids go crazy," Humane Society of Louisiana Executive Director Jeff Dorson says. "They hold them, they pet them; [chickens] have personalities. It really brings home the fact that what we're eating comes from a living creature that probably didn't want to die to end up in a sandwich."
The seventh annual NOLA Veggie Fest is at the New Orleans Healing Center (2372 St. Claude Ave., 504-940-1130; www.neworleanshealingcenter.org) May 9-10 and features food vendors, cooking demonstrations, speakers, a yoga area and a "vegan fashion show." Vegetarian and vegan dishes will be served by Seed (1330 Prytania St., 504-302-2599; www.seedyourhealth.com), 3 Potato 4 (2727 S. Broad St., 504-298-7761; www.3p4shop.com), Breads on Oak (8640 Oak St., 504-324-8271; www.breadsonoak.com), Carmo (527 Julia St., 504-875-4132; www.cafecarmo.com) and L'Enfant Terrible (Molly's at the Market, 1107 Decatur St.; www.lenfantterriblenola.com). Beanfield's Chips, Eden Foods, Field Roast and Tofurky will offer free samples.
A lineup of speakers includes Chef Inge Bothma of Happy Vegan Baker, and Kristin Lajeunesse of www.wtfveganfood.com, who will talk about her quest to travel around the country to eat at all-vegan restaurants in every state.
Dorson, who ran Jack Sprat's Vegetarian Grill from 1994 to 1998, said he is finally seeing real growth in the vegetarian and vegan community in New Orleans.
"We actually think that veganism and this whole plant-based idea is really finally catching on down South," Dorson says. "We're catching the tailwind of the interest that started in California and the Northeast. ... [W]e're finally seeing a growth all across the board with more vegan and vegetarian-friendly [restaurants]."
The vegan fashion show is a new addition to the festival lineup and will take place Friday night at Cafe Istanbul. No clothing items made from animal byproducts such as leather, feathers or fur will be used in order to promote awareness for the Humane Society's cruelty-free lifestyle mission.
"People are not very conscious," Dorson says. "Where does this come from? Where does my shoe leather come from? Where does my belt leather come from? So it's a big question to ask; who inhabited my skin before I bought it at Walmart?"