by Carrie Havranek
As children, we are told by our parents that it’s important for us to eat our vegetables, but it seems as though we’re just beginning to really scratch the surface and understand the myriad ways in which it’s important. Bethlehem VegFest, a street and food festival, is betting you’re interested in hearing more (and tasting!) the benefits of eating more vegetables and following a more plant-based diet. Or maybe you just love food and are curious about how all of these great vendors, speakers, chefs, authors, and experts are going to talk about vegetables, vegetarianism and vegan lifestyles. Or maybe you’re going to come at it from the health angle: eating vegetables, plants, legumes—you name it—makes you feel better, period. Or perhaps it’s the sustainability angle, the green angle, and/or the local angle that gets you going, as you’ll encounter local businesses such as Backyard Energy Products, SouthSide mainstay Home and Planet, and Franklin Hill Vineyards, respectively.
Samantha Schwarz at the Downtown Bethlehem Association (an auxillary of the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce) contacted Jaime Karpovich (a.k.a. Jaime K) of Save the Kales, a self-taught vegan cook, to help the plan and put her good energy toward the event. Jaime K is a natural fit; she easily and good-naturedly does much to dispel the myths of veganism whenever she can. “The support we’ve gotten has been amazing. People really want to get involved–from all places,” she says.
The event will feature nearly 150 vendors, which means craft vendors, info tables, kids events, animal shelters, green technology-related displays, and more. There will be live music, a food court, and an ad-hoc farmers’ market set up just for the event. Local chefs and cookbook authors such as Michael Adams (formerly of the Farmhouse; now at the Sun Inn) and David Joachim (author of Fire It Up and the best-selling A Man, A Plan, A Can) will tempt your tastebuds. However, the Fest is more than that. “There’s truly something for everybody, whether it’s animal rights, or green technology or the mind-body-spirit angle,” says Jaime. To that end, arborists, organic experts from Rodale (naturally) and even natural skin care are all on the schedule.
Jaime K. hopes that the festival just opens people up to new things, whether that means new ideas, new foods, a new way of cooking or even a new lifestyle. “Before I started eating this way, I had never had an avocado or tried Vietnamese cuisine,” she explains. As she puts it, we think carefully about who we vote for, or our religious beliefs, but as she says “most people don’t think carefully about what they’re putting in their mouths all day.” She doesn’t necessarily mean that we should all become vegan or vegetarian; she’s merely advocating for people to educate themselves about their food choices. Learning about the treatment of cattle, for example, may indeed turn you off the idea of eating meat, but at the very least, it will likely open your mind and make you think twice, or three times, about it.
“We want people to understand that eating like this doesn’t necessarily have to be a crazy, radical thing,” she says, hinting at the assumptions and preconceived notions people have about vegans or even vegetarians. “And it’s not all people in their 20s and 30s who are curious about this,” she says, no doubt referencing herself. (She’s hard to miss, what with the smart-gal specs, tattoos, and voluminous dark hair). She cites the increasing number of people over the age of 60 whom she’s encountered at vegetarian and vegan events. This age group is coming at it from the question of health: how can food help heal me? It’s an ironic but important question.
Part of VegFest’s mission is to educate people, too, and it’s something she takes seriously. She wields some startling statistics about nutrition, and loves to share them. “Did you know that per 100 calories of broccoli, it has more protein, at 11.2 grams, than 100 calories of steak, which has 5.2 grams?” These facts seem unbelievable, until you start to realize the economic forces driving the promotion of the consumption of steak versus the consumption of broccoli.
In short, Bethlehem VegFest is a celebration of creative cooking and all things delicious and sustainable. Think of it this way: How many times in your will you get the opportunity to try a beet juice martini, courtesy of Hotel Bethlehem, a festival participant? Aren’t you at least a little bit curious about that?
Bethlehem VegFest, Saturday September 10, 12pm-5pm; SouthSide Bethlehem’s new Greenway (between New and Webster Streets); free parking and free admission (although you’ll need $$ for all the yummy food). Call 610-739-1775 with questions.
Carrie Havranek is a writer in Easton who will need a third hand to sample the food, as she’ll have her two toddlers in tow. She predicts they will excitedly grab food off vendors’ tables, like they do at the Easton Farmers Market.
Photo of Jaime Karpovich courtesy of ADG Photography.
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