Allow me to begin by wishing you all, dear readers, a very happy Vegan MoFo! This virtual festival of vegan yumminess unites food bloggers from all over the globe for one month each year, during which bloggers attempt to post as often as possible, if not every day. Clearly, I’ve started off my MoFo-ing on a rather lackluster note, having failed to post on the very first day of the event (yesterday). Additionally, my first post of Vegan MoFo, rather than featuring a healthy dose of veggie food porn, serves as the second in my series of reflections upon my summer internship with Compassion Over Killing. Rest assured, however, that you can expect many posts, recipes, and tantalizing photos in the upcoming month. Vegan MoFo, onward!
The first batch of DC summer adventures I regaled to you ended with the successful Rehoboth VegFest and the completion of my first week interning with Compassion Over Killing. Predictably, the month of June held many more escapades, both related to my internship and as part of my own personal undertakings. To maintain sufficient organization (a top priority for yours truly), let’s recount my summer tales chronologically, shall we?
After a whirlwind weekend at the Rehoboth VegFest—one during which I unintentionally abused my feet with sunburns, hours of standing, and plenty of running around—I and my fellow intern Katie received the following Monday off of work. COK struck me as quite committed to ensuring that they didn’t overwork us interns, seeing as they never once during the summer failed to compensate us with adequate rest time after our various outreach endeavors. Considering the very real phenomenon of activist burnout, I duly appreciated this measure of care.
The evening of our COK-free day, Katie and I met for dinner at Sticky Rice—in part to celebrate a job well-done on our first major veg outreach event, but mostly to enjoy a fabulous array of vegan Asian-fusion food. Don’t miss my review of Sticky Rice for a full recap of our overflowing peanut-soba noodle bowls.
A mere week following the Rehoboth VegFest, COK participated in yet another large-scale outreach event—the Capital Pride Festival. One of the largest pride festivals in the country, Capital Pride fills two days with ever-present rainbow flags, tons of queer solidarity, a massive parade, and an all-day outdoor festival complete with food vendors and musical performances. Luckily, since COK only participated in Sunday’s festival, Katie and I had the fortune of fully enjoying Saturday’s parade. (Apparently, COK has joined the parade in past years, but everyone at the office seemed incredibly excited to not take on that rather overwhelming responsibility this year). Boasting a seemingly never-ending stream of colorful floats and beaming individuals throwing bead necklaces into the cheering crowd, the parade lasted for about three hours and attracted a crowd that completely overran the Dupont Circle neighborhood.
Because we faced a good seven hours of tabling for COK during the next day’s festival, Katie and I opted not to leaflet the parade. The vibrant and inspiring animal activists Aaron Ross and Kate St. John of Vegan Outreach, however, took full advantage of this hugely valuable outreach opportunity and handed out over 3,000 leaflets to the Pride Parade crowd. Katie and I happily ran into Kate and Aaron as we departed from the parade, reminded of the committed community of animal activists in the DC area.
Early on Saturday afternoon, I biked over to Pennsylvania Avenue where the Capital Pride Festival filled two street blocks with over 150 exhibitors, music stages, and food carts. I found the COK table located adjacent to a queer Shakespearean theatre company and across from PETA (what a corner of animal advocacy, eh?). Elena, COK’s fabulously competent Special Events Coordinator, allocated to me the task of handing out free samples of Field Roast vegan frankfurters and sausages sliced, toothpicked, and served on a platter with the option of ketchup. Standing next to me, Katie provided an educational leaflet to anyone who took a sample, ensuring that we accompanied the “how” of veganism (with delicious and hearty plant-based foods) with the “why” (to combat animal exploitation).
Festival attendees responded to COK’s outreach with overwhelming positivity; many self-proclaimed “carnivores” admitted that they probably would not have identified the Field Roast products as plant-based if we hadn’t informed them beforehand, and a generous handful of festival attendees enthusiastically revealed to us their own burgeoning journeys toward more compassionate food choices. I mentioned in my summary of my internship endeavors during the month of May that I most enjoyed the aspects of working with COK that allowed me to directly interact with the public, for I still view basic, good-natured grassroots activism as the most effective form of social change…plus, I thrive in any situation in which I can converse thoughtfully about the ethics surrounding veganism.
The Capital Pride festival also provided me with my first sampling of the top-notch vegan soul food offered by Woodland’s Vegan Bistro, formerly known as Everlasting Life Café, my extensive review of which you can find here.
With COK’s two major outreach events of the early summer behind us, I began to focus on more individualized duties in the COK office, including contacting possible exhibitors for the upcoming DC VegFest and launching my restaurant outreach project, in which I attempted to work with various non-veg eateries in the Capital Hill neighborhood to help them incorporate more veg options onto their menus. Restaurant outreach can serve as a hugely valuable form of animal rights activism, since it harnesses the power to maximize the availability of veg menu items and shows non-vegans diners that veg*nism is fast becoming a mainstream movement. You certainly needn’t secure an internship with COK to engage in restaurant outreach, though—with a bit of planning, communication skills, and a visit to COK’s online guide, just about anyone can team up with restaurants in their community to inspire lasting change for animals.
Most days after work, I would retire to my apartment and whip up a fabulous dinner with the farmers’ market produce I’d purchased that Saturday, but I also visited my fair share of the finest restaurants DC’s veg eatery scene has to offer. On the Tuesday after Capital Pride, I embarked upon my third DC dining adventure with my newfound friend Emily, which transpired at Busboys and Poets and involved a plate of the most magical tofu I’ve ever put into my mouth (be sure to check out my review of B&P here).
Much of my internship work this summer involved organizing and carrying out various leafleting and feed-in activities. After researching public events around DC, Katie and I would decide which events would attract a large, receptive, and generally young crowd. We’d then write a description of our leafleting/feed-in to post on COK’s “Upcoming Events” page and advertise the outreach on COK’s various social media platforms to attract volunteers.
Our first formal leafleting endeavor took place at the monthly Truckeroo festival, a showcase of DC food trucks held at the fairgrounds next to the Nationals baseball stadium. Before planting ourselves on a bustling street corner in front of the fairgrounds to hand out leaflets, Katie and I purchased our lunch at the newly opened all-vegan food truck known as The Randy Radish. Offering such hearty hand-held items as jackfruit BBQ sandwiches, tofu reubens, and iced cinnamon buns, truck owners Nancy and Sharon debuted The Randy Radish at a flower and garden show in Virginia and have since taken to the streets all over the DC metro area. The ladies plan to feature their on-the-go plant-based fare at COK’s DC VegFest on September 28, so be sure to visit the festival if you live in the DC area.
COK seeks to tailor internships to best serve and contribute to the activist growth of their interns, and my boss Erica Meier ensured that during the summer I would have many an opportunity to practice the skill I view as absolutely indispensable to my activism: writing. Not only did I produce blog posts for three of COK’s major websites (VegDC.com, TryVeg.com, and DCVegFest.com), I also drafted a number of sample letters to the editor to aid the Humane Society of the United States in their fierce campaign to defeat the nefarious King Amendment.
My most major writing accomplishment this summer, though, came when the Washington Post published my letter to the editor, which responds to a very veg-positive article entitled “Vegetarian children in omnivorous households” by recounting my family’s own collective journey to veganism. Erica first introduced to me the notion of writing an LTE in response to the aforementioned article, and in doing so demystified the process of writing and submitting an LTE.
While Katie and I embarked upon a handful of additional leafleting ventures after our first at the Truckeroo festival, we hosted our first feed-in less than two weeks later by distributing free samples of Field Roast frankfurters at a Nationals baseball game. After devoting the morning to cooking, stuffing inside hot dog buns, and wrapping in tin foil about 400 veggie dogs, Katie and I metro-ed our caravan of food and supplies to the stadium, where we met our team of enthusiastic volunteers. We set up right in front of the stadium’s main gate with two people holding our “Free Vegan Food” banner, two holding the trays of veggie dogs, and the rest handing out leaflets to attendees of the game. In our prime location, we handed out veggie dogs at an impressive rate for about 30 minutes before security ordered us to shift our setup outside of stadium grounds since nearby vendors had complained about us encroaching upon their business.
Because foot traffic severely decreased in our new location, we couldn’t hand out all of the veggie dogs we had prepared, but donated the remaining food to DC Central Kitchen, a prominent organization in reducing hunger in America and rebuilding urban food systems through social enterprise. While dropping off the veggie dogs at DC Central Kitchen, Katie and I met a director of food recycling who had been a vegetarian since childhood and a chef who eagerly asked for our advice in adopting a plant-based diet. A valuable day of outreach, indeed!
The last major (and largest…and most involved…and most exhausting) veg event of June, the 2013 National Animal Rights Conference prompted four days of COK tabling, constant mingling with passionate activists, and note-taking in various panel discussions. I recounted the conference in detail in a previous post, so check that out for further details.
Stay tuned for the third installment of my summer adventure tales, as well as the amalgamation of vegan deliciousness that is Vegan MoFo.
Until next time, Ali.