Yesterday, myself and my fabulous co-president of the Vassar Animal Rights Coalition (VARC) tabled at the annual Freshman Activities Fair in order to attract to members to participate in Vassar’s long history of animal activism (VARC has functioned since the early 70’s, after all, and powerful activists like Sarah E. Brown and Paul Shapiro have studied on campus). Our table boasted a large display board advertising VARC’s various events, social media outlets, and views on the chocolate and palm oil industries; a laptop on which students could sign up for VARC’s mailing list; multiple stacks of pro-veg literature; and three plates piled high with vegan treats, including chewy apricot almond oatmeal cookies, date-nut truffles, and banana bread bites. The fair proved wildly successful: VARC collected over 100 names to add to our mailing list, handed out nearly all of our baked goods, and distributed about 200 leaflets. We’ll hold our first general body meeting tonight in Ferry House, and I’m super excited to meet all of the prospective new members.
Even though Katie and I had sufficiently tired ourselves from three hours of tabling, after the Activities Fair we teamed up with Slow Food Vassar to host a group of freshmen for a wild edibles walk led by vegan forager extraordinaire Zaac Chaves. A self-proclaimed “freegan,” Zaac impressively has paid for about $100 worth of food in the past seven years, foraging and dumpster-diving for the vast majority of his sustenance. He’s visited Vassar on multiple previous occasions, and I’m thrilled that he continues to support VARC by leading intriguing tours of the edible flora growing on campus while weaving vegan ethics into his narration.
We met Zaac on the lawn of the Noyes dorm and began our tour by examining a number of wild mushrooms that he had collected earlier in the day, some of which featured burnt sugar-like aromas and shimmering purple hues. Continuing around campus, Zaac discovered and relayed to us such wild edible as a tree with fuchsia-colored berries that tasted reminiscent of mangoes; a bush that functions as an antidote to poison ivy; a tree growing tart wild cherries; smooth, dark-brown mushrooms known commonly as “winesaps”; and a cluster of squishy beige mushrooms that emit an offending odor when they sprout. After a mere 90 minutes with Zaac, I’m confident that I’ll never look upon a bush without wondering of its potential medicinal/edible properties.
Our tour culminated in the Vassar Experimental Garden (VEG), where the leaders of Slow Food as well as the VEG interns greeted us with a picnic of watermelon-tomato salad and vegan zucchini bread, all of which featured produce from the Arlington Farmers Market. Providing a relaxing finale to my rather exhausting day of outreach, the picnic served as an ideal venue to chat with the first-year students about their preliminary impressions of Vassar and how they hope to grow during their four years here.
You, dear readers, can expect the return of Ferry Dinners in tomorrow’s post.
Until next time, Ali.