Montreal vegan festival 2022 review

Hundreds of Montrealers got their veg on at the festival.

After two years, the Montreal vegan festival returned to the Palais des congrès on Oct. 8 and 9.

At this year’s edition of the festival, self-taught cook Loounie (a.k.a. Caroline Huard), the creator of “magic tofu,” was the spokesperson for the event. 

Loounie, along with other creators during the weekend, were giving cooking demonstrations. There were also many different vendors on-site, including kiosks that were promoting the vegan Babybel, Cookie Conscious Bakery, PB & Me, and Montreal’s own Aux Vivres restaurant.

The Concordian had the opportunity to speak to the spokesperson herself and find out more about what exactly her creation is. 

“My magic tofu is a recipe that I developed like four years ago. I developed it because I was never a big fan of tofu myself. I always thought that it was really high maintenance, you need to press it, marinate it and think about it a few days in advance. So this recipe makes tofu bites that taste like chicken. You can use this tofu in recipes like curries and sandwiches. You can also eat it cold or hot,” Loounie said.

Loounie explained that she sold her “magic tofu” in grocery stores and due to its popularity, as of last year it is no longer available in Metro grocery stores around the province. 

If you are interested in trying “magic tofu,” Loounie explained that you can buy it ready-made and ready to eat.

Loounie told The Concordian that she hasn’t been a vegan all her life, and that she doesn’t even come from a vegetarian household. 

“I changed my diet 11 years ago because I was a runner back then. I really wanted to eat, I would say a cleaner diet,” Loonie explained, emphasizing “cleaner diet” with air quotes. “The term clean diet is not a term that I relate to anymore. I am very aware of diet culture.”

As Loounie became a plant-based eater, she started to do more research on animal ethics. She was shocked at the results of her findings and wanted to do her part in protecting animals.

Being knowledgeable and doing your homework about veganism and a plant-based lifestyle was a common thread at the festival.

The festival also debunked a lot of myths about the vegan diet itself, one of those myths being that the vegan diet is restrictive.

Walking through the various kiosks, there was a huge selection of different food that attendees could taste. 

One kiosk in particular put vegan smoked salmon on display. The smoked salmon was made out of carrots. 

The star of the show was the vegan Babybel kiosk. The Concordian spoke with Tess Bouvain, the employee working the kiosk during the weekend, to find out what the Babybel is actually made out of. 

“Vegan Babybel is made out of coconut, and then we also have a 100 per cent recyclable packaging,” Bouvain explained.

Alongside the different food items one could try at the festival was the wide array of healthy beverages. 

The Concordian was able to speak with Pierrich Picard, the co-founder of Gutsy Kombucha, about the health benefits of kombucha. 

“Kombucha is fermented tea, we take tea and mix it with sugar and then we add SCOBY leaves [symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast]. There’s this good bacteria in these leaves and it creates this drink that is fizzy. The taste is a bit vinegary and we add some flavours to it, ” Picard explained. 

Picard also made a point in addressing that kombucha is a way healthier alternative than the regular energy drink that most students would reach for. 

“You are putting a lot of good bacterias in your gut. It’s like sending some soldiers to war to fight against the bad bacterias. It’s full of organic enzymes. You get more out of your food,” Picard said.

The festival as a whole was just a great resource for learning more about plant-based diets and getting to know more about health in general.


Yum or Yikes: Mimi & Jones

Mimi & Jones, the new entirely vegan diner in Mile End, embodies its location flawlessly. It’s eager to be hip, accomplishing something alternative, and mimicking a vintage scene. 

It was a spur of the moment decision I’m happy my friends and I made. After a sunny day spent wandering the Plateau and Mile End, crunching the gilded foliage beneath our boots, we swung into Mimi & Jones.

At 4 p.m., we were the only customers inside the tiny, bright locale. We slid into the only booth (from which, beyond the restaurant’s outdoor terrace, we had an uninterrupted view of Parc Avenue) and bopped along to the 50s rock and pop hits as we scanned the menu.

Furnished in retro decor (bar stools, black and white floor tiles, leather seats), at face value, Mimi & Jones appears to be just another modern take on a classic 50s diner. But the entirely vegan menu is what sets it apart from the rest.

Thankfully, Mimi & Jones doesn’t sacrifice greasy staples in the name of veganism. They impressively and creatively accomplish everything a regular diner would serve with strictly plant-based ingredients. We ordered cheeseburgers, milkshakes, deep-fried nuggets, caesar salad and ravioli in attempt to sample as much as we could from the short but concise menu. We were not let down.

Though Mimi & Jones is a licensed establishment, we chose not to spike our milkshakes and enjoyed the thick, sweet, creamy goodness just the same. I ordered the cheesecake flavour, which came adorned with morsels of tangy, melt-in-your-mouth cake that provided a nice contrast from the deliciously sugary shake.

Next, our food arrived in bright red baskets lined with checkerboard paper. Overall, the flavours and textures accurately mimicked those of their non-vegan counterparts, and were just as satisfying.

The Mimi Burger was exceptionally assembled: loaded with all the usual toppings, the handmade patty rounds off the perfect balance of flavours. The Croquettes Jones, which I ordered with the maple-dijon sauce, were simply addictive. The tofu was breaded and deep-fried to golden perfection resulting in crunchy, but not overly greasy nuggets. The ravioli, which we drowned in the rosé sauce, was equally delicious. The pasta pockets were nicely al dente and the tofu-almond “ricotta” filling was soft and creamy.

If there was one dish that disappointed, it was the caesar salad. Though it was enjoyable, topped with roasted chickpeas and capers, it lacked the essence of its traditional inspiration.

Though each individual appetizer, drink or dish wasn’t outrageously priced, the bill did add up to a little more than I was anticipating, especially considering portion sizes. However, vegan food can be expected to cost a little more, and we did leave thoroughly stuffed.

I’ll confess: I’ve been dreaming about the flavourful sauces and greasy goodies at Mimi & Jones since our impromptu afternoon adventure. However, I think next time, I’d go at night for a fresh experience. The diner and bar are open until 9 p.m. Thursday to Saturday, and until 8 p.m. on Sunday and Monday.

Comfortably retro, satisfyingly filling and innovatively delicious, I could go for a hearty burger and some crispy croquettes at Mimi & Jones any night of the week.

FOOD: 4.5/5

PRICE: 3.5/5




Photo by Noemi Stella Mazurek


Yum or Yikes: Umami

Little Italy’s new vegan ramen place may not have the best food, but it will feed your soul and make you feel like you just curled up in a duvet blanket on a cold winter evening.

What Umami Ramen doesn’t offer in flavour, it makes up for in cold-weather comfort. The moment my friend and I walked out of a crisp October evening and into the restaurant, I was flooded with relief; the atmosphere was welcoming and soothing, a lovely respite from the piercing wind outside. We didn’t make a reservation but were offered a seat at the bar.

Under warm lighting filtering through wooden lamps, simple menus were brought to us. Umami has limited options; with only four types of ramen to choose from and a handful of appetizer options, even the most indecisive, such as myself, needn’t struggle too hard to choose a dish.

Photo by Noemi Stella Mazurek

We settled on the Tokyo-style Shoyu ramen with the “chicken” Karaage and Kushikatsu panko-breaded veggie skewers as appetizers. Umami takes pride in their house-made noodles, tofu, and ferments, so I was really excited for the meal we were about to enjoy.

The Karaage was addictively crunchy, but without the spicy sesame mayo and lemon juice, a little bland. The veggie skewers were crisp on the outside and steaming on the inside. Aside from the sauce, this appetizer was delicious – the breaded eggplant’s succulent texture was perhaps the highlight of the whole meal – but microscopic! For $7, we were served three skewers with only two pieces of onion, eggplant, or okra each.

Then came the ramen. The noodles were tasty, but not spectacular, and the texture of yuba (tofu skin) was rubbery and unsettling. Sweet, sour, salty and bitter were ticked off by the shiitake, tomates confite, wakame and daikon, with the broth rounding off the palette with its decidedly umami quality. As a whole, the flavours of the toppings balanced each other off nicely, and I fell in love with the broth’s deep, rich, aroma.

Overall, the meal was immensely satisfying: not so much in regards to the food, but with how it made us feel. We left happy and comforted, full but not bloated.

I certainly intend on returning in order to try the other three ramen bowls (and the okonomiyaki cabbage pancake our table neighbours ordered) but, above all, to bask in the restaurant’s comforting ambiance. Umami is a safe haven of warmth and spice, a dining-experience must during the cold weather months.

3.5/5 for food,

3.5/5 for price,

5/5 for service,

5/5 for ambiance.


VIDEO: Marc-Olivier Brouillette has no beef

Former Montreal Alouettes linebacker Marc-Olivier Brouillette talks living a vegan lifestyle as an athlete in a panel discussion at this year’s Montreal Vegan Festival.

Video by Calvin Cashen

Student Life

Sixth annual Montreal Vegan Festival is bigger than ever

This year’s Montreal Vegan Festival was back and better than ever. Boasting over 160 kiosks, over a dozen conferences and cooking demonstrations, and close to a dozen workshops, the Montreal Vegan Festival showcases the different aspects of a vegan/plant-based lifestyle.

During its first year, in 2014, the Montreal Vegan festival saw a mere 5,000 attendees at the Université du Québec à Montréal Coeur des sciences. The following two years, the festival was held at the Bonsecours Market, seeing 15,000 attendees in 2016. Now in its sixth year, the 2019 rendition of the festival was expected to accumulate nearly 20,000 attendees at the Palais des Congrès over the Sept. 21-22 weekend.

Christoper the Pig. Photo by Cecilia Piga.

Many of the kiosks showcased food items such as ready-to-eat products you could purchase there. There were cooking ingredients from brands like Redpath, plant-based drinks, cheeses and meat alternatives — but there was so much more. There were kiosks showcasing food supplements, clothing, reusable and sustainable alternatives for everyday items, makeup, and even kitchen supplies geared towards making an effort to be more environmentally conscious.

With all these different aspects, there was a variety of people in attendance, including families with young children and babies. Also in attendance was Christopher the Pig, famous on Instagram — he has more than 82,000 followers and his profile describes him as a “public figure” — for being a rescued miniature pig (who actually isn’t so small). Christopher is featured on merch of Vgan Styles, a clothing brand that had their own kiosk at the festival.

If you’ve ever wondered how long it takes to organize a festival of this size, Jonathan Levac-Chaloux says people were working on it since before he was elected president of the administration council at the general assembly in April. One of the reasons it took so long, Levac-Chaloux explained, is that they were trying to find more zero-waste serving options for the festival.

“It was better this year compared to last year, we definitely took a step forward; it wasn’t the full distance we hoped to achieve, but we’re going in the right direction,” said Levac-Chaloux.

Vegan since Sept. 1, 2014, Levac-Chaloux is familiar with the festival, having attended it in previous years. He has seen the evolution and the growth of the festival as well as the vegan movement in Montreal.

“This year, being on the organization team, I see the extent of the progress and the extent to which people know we’re a big festival in Montreal,” said Levac-Chaloux. “The fact that we have more exhibitors helps with having more of a variety of services available at the festival,” he added about the different kiosks at the festival.

He explained that at the beginning there was a focus on food. But now there is a shift in what was showcased, as already explained — some of it still related to food.

“Me, being a vegan, I know that being vegan is more than just about food,” said Levac-Chaloux. “It’s a lifestyle.”

Photos by Cecilia Piga, Video by Calvin Cashen


Vegan athletes break down stereotypes

When you think of a football player, a hockey player or a bodybuilder, veganism doesn’t necessarily come to mind right away. But with increased popularity, a vegan lifestyle has become more prominent for athletes.

At this year’s Montreal Vegan Festival, former CFL safety for the Montreal Alouettes and Saskatchewan Roughriders, Marc-Olivier Brouillette, was the spokesperson. On Sunday, Brouillette was on the All Gain, No Pain: World-Class Vegan Athletes Break Stereotypes panel to talk about his life as a vegan athlete. Also on the panel was former NHL player Georges Laraque, nationally certified fitness trainer John Lewis, as well as wellness coaches and couple Josh Goldman and Rebecca Theofanis.

During the hourlong panel, a moderator asked questions, the first being “how long have you been vegan?” Brouillette began by saying he’s been vegan for four years, having played his last three seasons in the CFL as a vegan, and citing the 2016 season as his best ever.

“As a professional athlete, when you get to that level, everyone’s good,” said Brouillette as he explains why he made the switch to being vegan. “How am I going to find that extra edge, that’s going to make me, Marc-O. Brouillette a better football player?” After doing research and after a short period of time implementing veganism, he realized the benefits and hasn’t looked back since.

Lewis was already a vegetarian. When his mother was diagnosed with colon cancer and doctors told her it was due to too much animal protein and fatty foods, he did more research and finally made the switch to being vegan. In Theofanis’s case, she made the switch after doing her research and with the aim of reducing inflammation in the body, increasing her ability as an athlete and increasing her longevity in life.

As for Laraque, he’s been vegan since 2009, which was his final NHL season. For him, the switch to a vegan lifestyle happened after seeing the documentary film, Earthlings, which asks the viewer why we, as a society, tend to value some animals above others – which the film labels “speciesism.”

The next question was where the athletes got their protein since they don’t consume animal products. For protein, a general consensus was that it can be found in everything, just not every food has the same amount. Laraque brought up a popular argument that humans need to eat meat just as animals do. The difference between us, though, is that when animals eat meat, their prey is still alive so they’re receiving all the nutrients as their body breaks down the meat. When humans eat meat, it’s already dead and processed, so we don’t get nearly the same benefits.

As for misconceptions they’ve dealt with as vegan athletes, Laraque brought up how not all vegans are necessarily healthy. Some turn vegan and don’t fuel their body with nutrient-filled whole foods, often eating meat alternatives. “The reason why I stopped [eating meat] is not to find something that tastes the same that’s actually really unhealthy,” Laraque said.

Also spoken about throughout the hour were intermittent fasting, food pairings, the amount of protein you actually need, each panelist’s favourite food and more.


Feature photo by Cecilia Piga, Video by Calvin Cashen



Eating out as a vegetarian with allergies can be quite tricky and pricey; so I’ve set out to find the top vegetarian restaurants in Montreal.

LOV is a vegan and vegetarian restaurant with four locations: three in Montreal and one in Laval. Their concept is to serve customers healthy, eco-friendly, botanical meals without compromising taste. LOV’s philosophy revolves around what they call their “eco-commitment,” which involves serving wines from organic farming and using local suppliers and ingredients.

With this information in mind, I was excited to try it out. I was drawn to the Montreal-based restaurant from the moment I first saw their California-bohemian decor and stunning menu passing by.

My first impression upon entering the Laval location in Centropolis was that the design was meticulously thought-out and beautiful. Shades of white, lace, swinging cocoon chairs, and plants all over the restaurant transported me to a Malibu beach. My friends and I were greeted with a smile and given the option of indoors or outdoors – we chose outdoors in the shade.

Photo by Brittany Henriques

Usually, my biggest challenge is to find meatless plates free of peanuts and almonds (because of allergies). On that day, I was also on a carb-free, dairy-free, sugar-free, fermentation-free diet (doctor’s orders). Nevertheless, based on my prior research, I was confident I would find something for me at LOV.

The menu is composed of seven starters and 15 main courses, four of which are salads. As a picky eater, I like knowing most of my options aren’t simply salads. I was immediately drawn to the Coconut Curry, a $15 dish composed of basmati rice, kale, carrots, curry coconut milk, and lime.

Unfortunately for me this time, rice was off my list of options. As other options, there was Pok’ai’ – cauliflower rice, cucumber, avocado, compressed watermelon, edamame, cashews, wakame, shiso, and sesame ginger sauce. The $16 plate fit my dietary restrictions, but I was very worried about the odd compressed watermelon thrown into the mix.
Instead, I settled for the Truffle and Caviar, a $14 meal composed of zucchini spaghetti, oyster mushrooms, arugula, tapioca caviar, and truffle sauce. The plate was very well presented, colourful, and was the perfect portion for my smaller-than-average appetite.

I went to LOV during lunch time, and barely had to wait for my food to arrive. My Truffle and Caviar plate was very good, but I worried there was an extra ingredient in the sauce not indicated on the menu. After my meal, I asked the waitress if the sauce had any other ingredients and she told me some soy milk might have been added for creaminess. I was disappointed to know there was an added ingredient I wasn’t aware of seeing as I was on a restricted diet. I should’ve asked prior to ordering, but I simply trusted the menu.

Nevertheless, the meal was fantastic, but note to self and others: always ask your waiter for a list of all the ingredients if you have any dietary restrictions or allergies.

As a whole, I would give LOV an 8 out of 10 for overall look, service, and food.

Student Life

Broken Pencil: The death of avocados

More everyday food items than you think aren’t vegan friendly

In the last two weeks, news outlets like The Washington Post, Huffington Post, The Daily Meal and Vice Munchies have published articles about why avocados aren’t vegan-friendly. All these articles debating whether vegans should boycott avocados, yet no articles about whether people should boycott honey and beeswax products. Suspicious.

The wave of vegan avocado-related articles started when Sandi Toksvig, of the BBC’s comedy quiz show QI, revealed to listeners that avocados—as well as almonds, butternut squash, kiwis, melons and many other fruits and veggies—aren’t vegan-friendly. And all for the same reason: their harvesting cycles rely on pollination from honey bees. The most obvious example of non-vegan food made by animals (as opposed to from animals) are dairy products, such as milk and butter.

Ethical beekeeping does—and must—exist in order to maintain the global chain of food supply. However, in lieu of mass overconsumption and globalization, the degree of human interference in the pollination habits of honey bees has increased dangerously. According to a study conducted by North Carolina State University, the overall health and lifespan of honey bees was shown to be adversely affected by the commercial transportation of bee colonies for pollination purposes—or migratory beekeeping. Now a widespread agricultural practice throughout Europe and North America, migratory beekeeping involves attaching artificial beehives to the back of transportation trucks so the food items being transported are pollinated en route. Multiple experiments within this study showed the lifespan of travelling bees to be one day less than stationary bees. Although this may not seem like a drastic difference, it is when we consider that the average forager bee’s life span is only 20 days, the study suggested.

What a lot of people—even vegans—may not realize is that a single honey bee will produce merely a 12th of a teaspoon of honey in its lifetime, according to the Vegan Society. Imagine how many bees it takes just to fill one jar of honey. How many jars have you gone through this year alone? Migratory beekeeping is just one of the many anthropocentric factors contributing to the endangerment of honey bees.

Now, back to avocados (yes, we are still talking about avocados). They arguably aren’t vegan-friendly, but who cares? The Vegan Society acknowledged in an interview with Plant Based News that “it is unfortunately not possible or practicable to avoid [indirect harm to] other animals in most farming at this time.” So, if you’re not ready to give up avocados, here are a few other ways to better wield your sword of purchasing power. Instead of honey, try date syrup, agave nectar or maple syrup for cooking, baking and sweetening drinks, respectively. Avoid buying honey-based or beeswax products. If you have access to green space, lavender, thyme and oregano are all plants you can grow that help bees pollinate. In general, try to support local food distribution networks and farmers’ markets as opposed to transnational food chains. And please, do not fret the death of avocados. Save the bees!

Feature graphic by @spooky_soda

Student Life

Making veganism palatable

Chef Jean-Philippe Cyr talks about the food industry and his diet transition

Are you curious about vegan food? Always wondered if it’s affordable for you as a student? Here’s your chance to learn more about it! The Montreal Vegan Festival will be hosting its fifth edition this weekend, on Oct. 20 and 21.

Given the festival’s success in previous years, organizers had to relocate from Marché Bonsecours to the Palais des Congrès for this year’s event. The Montreal Vegan Festival is one of the biggest in Canada and is free for all, since the organisers want to keep it accessible and affordable. Many activities and workshops will be held in both French and English by well-known vegan chefs—such as Gaz Oakley and Sébastien Kardinal, a French chef and founder of, a platform for an array of restaurant reviews, food tastings and new recipes.

Jean-Philippe Cyr—known for “La cuisine de Jean-Philippe,” a Facebook page, website, and now a book of recipes translated into English—is this year’s festival spokesperson.

Photo courtesy of Danny Payne.

Environmental and ethical issues surrounding the food industry are some aspects of veganism the chef wanted to share. Cyr said that, since the 1960s, the world population has doubled, while the population of cows has quadrupled, meaning our beef consumption has increased significantly in that time. He also mentioned issues concerning antibiotics given to the animals we consume. Cyr said the main problem our society faces now is caused by industrialization. “Back in the day, people had a cow and a pig to feed the family; it wasn’t a major environmental problem,” he said.

Cyr is a good model for students that want to try to out a vegan diet. He said becoming a vegan can’t be done on the drop of a dime—it requires a period of transition. “I was a classically [trained] chef, already cooking vegan food in a Buddhist temple, but still I was going to McDonald’s like everyone,” said Cyr. When asked about how he began cooking vegan food, he said his breaking point came one day when he had to serve lamb at a funeral home. The atmosphere of the funeral home combined with the fact that Cyr was serving a dead baby animal was, for him, a revelation. “It was an intense connection,” he said. That day, Cyr decided to quit his job. His wife suggested that he start sharing his vegan cooking knowledge online—which Cyr thought was a good idea—so he began to do so on Facebook.

Aiming to make vegan food accessible to as many people as possible, Cyr offers alternatives for traditional recipes to help make this transition easier. “My meals are simple and easy to do and are cultural references; spaghetti sauce tastes the same whether you put beef or tofu. There are ways to eat vegan without noticing it,” Cyr said. “I am a chef, not a nutritionist,” he added.

If you are on a tight budget, switching to a vegan diet can actually help you save some money. “Last time I checked, chickpeas were still cheap and tofu is half the price of ground beef,” said Cyr.

The Montreal Vegan Festival will take place Oct. 20 and 21 at the Palais des Congrès. Jean-Philippe Cyr will give a workshop on how to prepare tofu on Saturday, Oct. 20. On Oct. 21, he will take part in a vegan poutine contest with Sébastien Kardinal.

Feature image courtesy of Danny Payne.

Student Life

Lights of All clothing brand sheds light on sustainability

Local designer Katia Hagen launches fall collection with her all-vegan, cruelty-free brand

The photograph of a nebula, an interstellar cloud of dust, is what inspired the fall collection of the Lights of All clothing line. Launched in April by 25-year-old local designer Katia Hagen, Lights of All is Montreal’s first sustainable vegan clothing brand.

The entire collection illustrates the seasonal essence of fall. Among the collection’s pieces is the “Envelope” winter coat. This thick, belted garment was named as such because Hagen wanted customers to feel like they were laying in a sleeping bag in the woods, looking up at the stars. The vegan suede hoodie and vest are called “Fawn” because the designer pictured wearers coming across a baby deer.

Lights of All’s first pop-up shop ran from Nov. 10 to 12 at Espace Pop on Park Avenue. It was Hagen’s way of getting to know the people who are interested in her brand and to receive first-hand feedback. Hagen is a fashion design graduate from Lasalle College and has interned in New York City at Peter Som, Marchesa and Jason Wu.

“When I moved back to Montreal, I realized I didn’t know any vegan, high-quality brands or local designers that are specifically vegan and sustainable,” she said. So Hagen decided to be that designer. Although she had never dreamed of creating her own clothing brand, she put her life savings into Lights of All. “I made all of the patterns, fit it, test it, then I cut and sewed it. Everything is handmade,” she said, adding that all the work was done in the extra bedroom in her apartment.

When Hagen was struggling with depression, sayings such as, “the light at the end of the tunnel,” and other light symbolism made her hopeful. This is why her brand name includes the word “light.”

“I also wanted the name to represent that I’m vegan, and ‘of all’ is the essence of light in everybody, the planet, even pigs and cows,” Hagen added.

All of the clothing designed by Katia Hagen is
vegan and handmade. Photo by Mia Anhoury.

All of the clothing designed by Katia Hagen is
vegan and handmade. Photo by Mia Anhoury


















Vegan clothing is made from fabric and materials that are cruelty-and animal-free. No leather, wool, suede, down or silk is used. A little black dress in Hagen’s collection is made of tencel, a fabric made from wood cellulose. “It’s soft like silk but without any cruelty. It’s also very breathable,” she said. A blue tie-dye dress, named “Nebula,” is made from a combination of organic cotton and hemp. This is where the sustainable part of Hagen’s brand comes in—organic cotton is made with less water than regular cotton, and without the use of pesticides or harmful chemicals.

Using excess fabric from the brand’s apparel, Hagen also makes tote bags. While creating a particular shade of grey she had envisioned, Hagan realized she enjoyed using fabric dye. “With a hand-dyed piece, it’s super unique for you and a little work of art,” she said. According to Hagen, the dye she uses is eco-friendly because it uses less water than natural dyes and is also better for your skin.

Instead of following fashion trends, Hagen said that “part of being eco-friendly is that I want my clothes to last and focus on classic styles.” As one of the first designers to create a line of vegan clothing in the city, Hagen is optimistic about the future. “Down the line, I have big dreams,” she said. “I want to open a shop in Montreal with a studio upstairs where I make everything with other people.”

To learn more about Lights of All or purchase the latest collection, visit the website.

Photos by Mia Anhoury

Student Life

Montreal festival is a vegan’s paradise

May contain eggs, milk, butter or gelatin are words that could not be found anywhere at Marché Bonsecours this weekend. Ingredients like soy, nuts, legumes and tofu, on the other hand, were readily available.

On Nov. 4 and 5, vegans from across the country gathered for the fourth edition of Montreal’s Vegan Festival. Conferences, culinary demonstrations, dégustations and over 30 stands introduced aspects of veganism to the public.

In the scenic Old Port, the market was packed to its maximum capacity throughout the weekend. A stage was set up on the lower level to host conferences and culinary demonstrations by vegan cooks, artists, athletes, philosophers, sociologists and bloggers. The upper level offered different options of vegan food, drinks, desserts, skincare products and clothing. Festival goers ranging from toddlers to seniors lined up for free samples of cheesecake or kombucha. Some tried on winter jackets or even got a vegan tattoo.

After five years of experimentation in her kitchen to veganize her favorite comfort food, Sam Turnbull attends Montreal’s vegan festival for the first time. Photo by Elisa Barbier

Among the many people hosting conferences at the festival, Antoine Jolicoeur Desroches, a professional triathlon athlete from Quebec, discussed the health and athletic performance benefits of a vegan diet. Three years ago, Jolicoeur Desroches made the decision to become a vegan after seven years as a vegetarian. “I had always been careful with my impact on the environment, but I had never thought of the impact my eating habits could have,” he said. For Jolicoeur Desroches, his ethics toward the environment were far more important than the effect this new diet could have on his body and practice. Nonetheless, the results were positive and noticeable. “My performance increased. It became easier to recover, and I became able to use all the energy my body was uselessly spending to digest animal products,” he said.

He advised young athletes to make the transition slowly, adding days or meals throughout the week that eliminate animal-based products, such as “meatless Monday.”

“[Veganism] is a lifestyle that must be established for a lifetime through progressive change,” Jolicoeur Desroches said. He added that traveling for competitions has not hindered his eating habits. “There are always local products like fruits, vegetables, pasta, potatoes or rice. Also, having a set of spices is good to diversify seasoning,” he said.

Seasoning is big part of Sam Turnbull’s daily life. The Concordia alumna and author of the blog “It doesn’t taste like chicken” attended the festival to discuss her new book, Fuss-free Vegan, about vegan comfort food.

Unlike Jolicoeur Desroches, Turnbull made the full transition overnight five years ago after watching a documentary on animal cruelty. Growing up in a family of chefs, butchers and hunters, Turnbull loved cheese and meat. “When I made the switch, it is because I knew I should, not because all of a sudden I was obsessed with vegan food,” Turnbull said. “At first, I started looking up vegan recipes, but it was all kale, quinoa and energy bars. So I started my blog because I don’t eat that way,” she said. Turnbull’s blog is unique, as it features recipes focusing mainly on comfort food like pizza, burgers, sandwiches and dessert—foods that people don’t usually associate with veganism.

“It is all with easy-to-find ingredients at local grocery stores, not weird powders or maca root,” Turnbull said with a laugh. She encourages students to follow a vegan lifestyle since foods like cheese and meat can be expensive compared to fruits and vegetables. And diversity in taste is easily achievable using spices. “You can make a delicious meal with beans and rice as long as you have the right spices in it,” Turnbull said.

Vesanto Melina hosted a conference on Saturday afternoon providing nutritional advice for the public and the dietitians assisting the festival. Photo by Elisa Barbier

Beans are also the solution for Vesanto Melina, a dietician and lead author of the book The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Beans represent a source of vegetable protein often forgotten, according to Melina. She was a vegetarian for more than two decades before making the transition to veganism 24 years ago. As a dietician, Melina discussed the dos and don’ts of a vegan diet, but also how to get all the nutrients your body needs.

Learning to add beans, peas and lentils to your recipes as well as acquiring non-dairy sources of calcium in your diet is often forgotten. “Once people have those knacks and they make sure to take vitamin B12, things move along really well,” Melina said. Vitamin B12 is an important nutrient that comes from bacteria often present in meat products.

“Vegans don’t lack nutrients more than anybody else,” Melina said. She emphasised that anybody is at risk of malnutrition in Canada—especially those who lack vitamin D during the long winters. “It is easy to find vegetal proteins or calcium that are more efficient than animal ones,” Melina said.

Photos by Elisa Barbier


A variety of options for veggie-loving students

Concordia Animal Rights Association advocates for a vegan lifestyle

For the average university student, finding the time to eat—let alone eat healthy—during a busy school day can be challenging. For a student eating a plant-based diet, it can be downright impossible.

Lucky for veggie-lovers, Concordia University is one of the best places in the city to study as a vegan, according to the Association Végétarienne de Montréal (AVM). In 2010, the Concordia Student Union (CSU) passed a motion requiring the university to ensure all activities on campus offer vegan options. According to the AVM, the initiative was brought forward by Concordia alumnus Lucas Solowey when he was a member of the Concordia Animal Rights Association (CARA).

According to Caitlin Yardley, CARA’s current volunteer coordinator, CARA members are still “huge promoters of the vegan lifestyle.” As the university’s official animal rights club, CARA’s mission is to work towards the protection of all animals through awareness, activism and encouraging compassion towards all living beings. “[Veganism] can be a very positive lifestyle change,” Yardley said.

While she has practiced a vegan lifestyle for six years, Yardley has been a vegetarian since she was eight years old.

“I originally became a vegetarian purely out of no longer enjoying meat,” Yardley said. “As I researched more about the harm caused to animals […] and the health implications animal products can have [on humans], I eventually became vegan and have never wanted to go back.”

When she began her studies at Concordia, Yardley became involved with CARA to bring awareness to animal rights issues and encourage students to get involved with the organization.

“We get to inform Concordia about injustices animals face, which [students] may be unaware of or ignore,” Yardley said.

As a partner of PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), CARA definitely cannot be ignored. PETA provides CARA with free media and goods to distribute to students attending their events. The student group also offers a variety of volunteer opportunities, such as working with Guardian’s Best Animal Rescue Foundation, Chatopia (a Montreal-based non-profit cat rescue) and many other animal-oriented organizations.

CARA holds a variety of events each semester. Earlier this month, they hosted their annual Vegan Thanksgiving, where students could enjoy vegan treats while learning more about the food industry.

“The Vegan Thanksgiving was a great success this year,” Yardley said. “People really enjoyed the food we were giving out, which included veggie sausages, mini pumpkin pies, brownies and banana bread. Even those who were skeptical about the faux meats ended up liking them.” Yardley added that many people who were already vegan or vegetarian came to the booth to express gratitude for the event.

“[It] was great to see,” Yardley said. “When I first became vegan, I knew no one else who even expressed interest in taking part in the lifestyle. Within the past few years, there has definitely been a huge shift towards people becoming vegan.”

This shift has become increasingly apparent at Concordia. With the People’s Potato, the Green Beet, the Hive, le Frigo Vert and a number of other conveniently located veggie-friendly food stops, eating a plant-based diet is becoming increasingly accessible on Concordia’s campuses.

Concordia student Sara Shields-Rivard has been a vegetarian for over two years.

“At first, I found it difficult because many of my friends at the time were not vegetarian, so when we went out to eat, we could never agree on a place,” Shields-Rivard said. “However, since then, I’ve discovered the vegetarian gems of Concordia […] These places have made being a vegetarian in university much easier.”

Shields-Rivard said, with the readily available vegetarian options on campus, avoiding animal-products is often the easier, cheaper option. “If you go to the People’s Potato, all you have to bring is a Tupperware and some change for donation.”

As a Concordia student following a mostly plant-based diet, Hannah Gold-Apel said she does not have a problem maintaining her diet at school.

“I find it pretty easy to eat plant-based at school, especially with the free vegan lunches provided at both campuses,” Gold-Apel said. “All in all, I think Montreal is a pretty good city to be a broke, vegetarian student in.”

For students interested in animal rights or a plant-based diet, Yardley said there are a multitude of events to look forward to in the near future. This Wednesday, Oct. 18, CARA will be hosting a coffee break event in the JMSB lobby, where students can sample a variety of dairy-free milks. On Oct. 26, CARA is partnering with Anonymous for the Voiceless to hold an anti-fur event called “Who Are You Wearing?” that will take place in the JMSB lobby from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. For Halloween, CARA will be hosting a themed event where they will be giving out cruelty-free makeup.

More information can be found on CARA’s Facebook page or at their office on 2020 Mackay St., P-303.

Graphic by Zeze Le Lin

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