Sunday, September 14, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

What a year for vegan food in Philly!

I'm hopeful that for 2014 the definitive chronicle of vegan eating and vegan living in the Delaware Valley will be V for Vegan. But for 2013 it's pretty safe to say that chronicle was my column in the Daily News. So here's a look back at some of the big vegan moments in 2013 through the lens of V for Veg. Maybe you missed a few of them, or maybe you just want to relive the magic.

What a year for vegan food in Philly!

Clockwise from upper left: Internet-based options for finding vegan food; jackfruit; Mark Bittman; The Vedge Cookbook.
Clockwise from upper left: Internet-based options for finding vegan food; jackfruit; Mark Bittman; The Vedge Cookbook.

I'm hopeful that for 2014 the definitive chronicle of vegan eating and vegan living in the Delaware Valley will be V for Vegan. But for 2013 I'd like to think that chronicle was my column in the Daily News. (At least I don't know of anyone else who was going for that title.) So, as 2013 draws to an end, here's a look back at some of the year's big vegan moments through the lens of V for Veg. Maybe you missed a few of them, or maybe you just want to relive the magic.

The beginning of the year saw the launch of VegPhilly, which we mentioned along with a variety of high-tech options to find vegan food in and around town. And to be even more helpful enough I pointed you to three local manufacturers making a big splash with vegan products (Michael's Seitan, Bobbi's Hummus and Moshe's sandwiches and snacks at 7-Eleven).

This year vegan cheese really arrived. Daiya continued to show up on more pizzas, sandwiches and grocery shelves, but the biggest push was the publication of Miyoko Schinner's Artisan Vegan Cheese. Taking off from the oft-heard refrain "Oh, I could never give up cheese!" I pointed out that now you don't have to - vegans can enjoy this curdled confection without the cruelty inherent in dairy production - which led to the classic Daily News headline (and yeah, I should've seen it coming) "Vegans don't have to cut cheese."  There was also a column on Vegan Pizza Day (featuring Philly's beloved vegan pizza joint, Blackbird), and later in the year, John Schlimm's The Cheesy Vegan sealed the deal, making it onto my end-of-year Top 10 list.

Of course we did in-depth looks at other vegan food favorites too. Early on V for Veg tipped you to the trend of enhancing dessert tastes and textures with counterintuitive vegetable components like avocado, black beans and chipotle. Later on we turned more straight-ahead luxurious with Vegan Chocolate, Fran Costigan's sumptuous, genre-defining cookbook that was published by Philly's Running Press.

Desserts aside, we brought you the inside story on jackfruit, which is showing up locally as a meat substitute in formats like tacos, after doing so for centuries in eastern and african cuisines. And back on more familiar ground, pumpkin got its close-up in the fall along with other sweet autumnal treats.

Throughout the year V for Veg brought you insights from big thinkers (and doers) on plant-based eating. Mark Bittman talked about his" Vegan Before 6" plan, as laid out in the book of the same name, and I tried to talk him into setting the VB clock back; T. Colin Campbell, co-author of The China Study, followed up on that groundbreaking work (which detailed how animal protein intake is associated with various human cancers) with his holistically-oriented polemic, Whole -- and talked with V for Veg about it;  we learned about power foods for the brain from Dr. Neal Barnard, author of that book, and for Thanksgivukkah, we chatted with TV star (and thoughtful vegan) Mayim Bialik about making room at the table for every type of eater.

Meanwhile, the landscape of vegan dining around Philly continues to populate with new finds and new spots. I've pegged 2014 as the year we start seeing serious vegan fast-food chain competition in this region (Chipotle already added the vegan sofritas burrito shortly after that column) but at least we already have one chain, as HipCityVeg opened its second location. Meanwhile, I did two virtual tours of vegan-friendly eateries in the Philly suburbs - one in the spring and one in the summer. I even found vegan options making their way onto "historical" menus, from Colonial Williamsburg to Philly's own City Tavern, and not as anachronistically as you might assume.

Two last developments worth mentioning are that in 2013 Philadelphia finally clambered aboard the Meatless Mondays bandwagon, which led to both cheers and jeers from vegans of different stripes and plaids, and that Philly's premier vegan restaurant -- whose owners have done more than anyone else, in multiple ways, to boost our city's vegan dining scene -- has compiled its culinary secrets into a "home version" of its stunning vegetable-centered dishes - The Vedge Cookbook.

That's our wrap-up for this year. We'll do more looking ahead in coming days, but for now: Happy New Year -- Stay Safe -- and Go Vegan!

About this blog
Reach Vance at lehmkuv@phillynews.com.

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