P.E.I. vegan movement gathers steam with new monthly potluck
'I wanted to bring like-minded people together to enjoy delicious, nutritious food'
It was a potluck dinner unlike any P.E.I. had likely seen before: no meat, no cheese — not even any honey — were allowed in any of the dishes, because they were all vegan.
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About 60 people showed up Monday to the first monthly vegan potluck at the Farm Centre in Charlottetown.
'We want to bring a more plant-based lifestlye to P.E.I."— Hilary Wood
"The turnout's absolutely amazing!" said organizer Hilary Wood of Donaldston, P.E.I.
The 23-year-old vegan said she thought the dinner would attract about 30 people, but then interest grew on the Facebook page she'd created to invite the public.
"I've been wanting to get a sense of the vegan community on P.E.I. — finding each other was the issue," Wood explained of why she inaugurated the event, which she now plans to execute monthly.
"I wanted to bring like-minded people together to enjoy delicious, nutritious food," she said as she dug into her plate.
Diners were asked to bring their own dishes and cutlery and to donate $2 if they brought along a dish, $7 if they didn't. The money went to help fund improvements to the 2014 Legacy Garden behind the centre.
Not all vegans
Simone Smith of Hunter River, P.E.I., brought home-made potato tortillas — and her meat-eating husband — to the potluck, and said she was eagerly gathering ideas for new recipes.
"My blood pressure was high and I was 30 pounds too heavy," Smith said of her reasons for going vegan six years ago. "I decided to ditch the cholesterol in meat and dairy."
Telling herself she'd try the diet for a month, then evaluate how she felt, she said she "never looked back."
"Some people here maybe eat meat, and now they can see all the things they can make without meat," Hilary Wood pointed out. Her favourite vegan dish is noodle stir fry with peanut sauce, she added.
Evan Ceretti of Charlottetown has been a vegetarian for more than three years, adopting the diet at first because of animal ethics, he said.
"Now, it has a lot to do with health and the environment. I've learned a lot about how animal agriculture affects the environment," Ceretti said.
Although he didn't bring a dish this time, Ceretti did bring two meat-eating friends to open their eyes to some alternatives.
The event was "good for people who want to get into this kind of lifestyle," contends Ceretti.
"I realize how big this movement is getting. It's incredible for animals and the environment," agreed Hilary Wood.
Wood is in the beginning stages of setting up a P.E.I. Vegetarian Association, she said, which most other provinces have. It would maintain a website including a directory of resources for consumers such as farmer's markets, restaurants and frequently asked questions, and be a lobby force.
"We want to bring a more plant-based lifestlye to P.E.I.," Wood concluded.