SEVENTY years ago this month, Donald and Dorothy Watson, of Britain, took "the beginning and end of vegetarian," coined the word "vegan," and with a couple of dozen vegetarian friends formed the Vegan Society. That auspicious beginning is celebrated on Nov. 1, this Saturday, as World Vegan Day.
The celebration's taking a local turn this year with Philly Vegan Day. There's never been a better time to check out vegan food and vegan living, because this joint will be jumpin' with vegan activity of all sorts.
First, I hope everyone will join me at noon at Essene Market & Cafe (719 S. 4th St., 215-922-1146) for the official reading of the proclamation naming Nov. 1 Philly Vegan Day.
American Vegan Society President Freya Dinshah will speak on vegan history and on dynamic harmlessness, a practical philosophy espoused by her late husband, AVS founder Jay Dinshah. Also featured will be Christina "Christina Cooks" Pirello and cruelty-free salon owner Juliene "Juju" Featherman. To fortify yourself for this "vegucation," enjoy items from Essene's all-vegan cafeteria and juice bar for 10 percent off.
If you're in West Philly, drop by the Penn campus between 1 and 5 p.m., when the Penn Vegan Society will share info and food samples at the Ben Franklin Room in Houston Hall. Check out vegan offerings from ABC Cakes, Pure Fare, Shakti Catering, Koliyan and Naturally Sweet Desserts.
Want to learn more about making your own vegan dishes in a hands-on setting? Andrea Kyan will lead a free workshop on vegan meal prep - yes, including samples - beginning at 4 p.m. at Pure Sweets & Co. (1706 Locust St., 215-985-1706).
For more schooling, stop by the Bala Cynwyd Library (131 Old Lancaster Road, 610-664-1196), where a display of vegan-oriented books greets you at the front door.
Certainly, veganism encompasses more than food. But it's the food thing that makes vegan living seem hard for many people. So if you just do one thing on Vegan Day, try some of the food that's put Philly on the vegan map.
Over two dozen venues are doing something special to mark the occasion of Philly Vegan Day.
* Hot Diggity (630 South St., 267-886-9253), the first venue to be profiled in this column, came out of the gate with 20 percent off vegan hot dogs, wings and other items for anyone who says "Happy Vegan Day."
* Vedge (1221 Locust St., 215- 320-7500) and V Street (126 S. 19th St., 215-278-7943) are donating 10 percent of Saturday gift-card sales (valid at either place, and they don't expire) to animal-rights organizations.
* New Harmony Vegetarian Restaurant (135 N. 9th St., 215-627-4520) will have a 10-percent discount on all items with mention of Philly Vegan Day.
* And VGE Cafe (845 W. Lancaster Ave., Bryn Mawr, 610-527-3091) will donate 10 percent of Saturday sales to the American Vegan Society.
Some other places are marking the occasion with some new or different menu items.
Dottie's Donuts will offer a "Super Vegan" doughnut Saturday, while Govinda's Gourmet To Go (1408 South St., 215-985-9303) will bring back vegan chili for the day. Blackbird Pizzeria is doing a vegan version of the "Philly taco."
"It's traditionally a Jim's cheesesteak wrapped in a slice of Lorenzo's pizza," explained co-owner Mark Mebus. "We'll have oversized cheese slices on hand and see how many people want to take the challenge."
Not to be outdone, Vegan Commissary (1703 S. 11th St., 215-964-3232) will launch its Thanksgiving sandwich (grilled stuffing bread with chestnut puree, sweet potatoes, cranberry jam, green beans, mushroom gravy and fried onions). Through November, sales of that festive sandwich will raise money for holiday charities of the East Passyunk Crossing Community Board.
Weavers Way Chestnut Hill (8424 Germantown Ave., 215-866-9150) will feature a fully vegan hot bar, with "delicious original recipes prepared in-house by our talented team of extraordinary chefs!"
Other spots pitching in to make Vegan Day a rocking good time include: South Philly's Down Dog Healing Cafe; Clark Park's Kung Fu Hoagies; the Flower Cafe at Linda's, on Maplewood Mall; Real Food Works; and Koliyan. Su Tao Cafe, in Malvern, is hosting a dinner to celebrate the vegan movement's 70th anniversary.
You can find a complete and growing list with all the specs here.
There, you'll also see many local folks, vegan and non, committing to their own creative Vegan Day doings. (Daily News columnist Stu Bykofsky's is especially cool.) Maybe yours should be on there too? Let me know.
Whether you're taking steps to a more ethical and eco-friendly diet or just want to try something different, this Saturday is the perfect day to get out there and eat like you mean it!
writer, musician and 12-year vegan.
"V for Veg" chronicles plant-based
eating in and around Philadelphia.
@V4Veg on Twitter.