Welcome to the Just V Show in London, one of the only places on earth where a vegan doesn’t have to worry about what they are putting in their mouth. Well, almost…
The thing I love about these types of shows is that you never know who you will end up chatting to
As a vegan you become pretty used to filtering out what you can eat from what you can’t eat at events – tweaking menus, explaining honey isn’t vegan and ending up with hummus can be a little tiring. So I was hugely delighted to reach the vegan zone at Just V Show in London’s Olympia. The event is split into three zones coded by carpet colour – pink for vegans, green for allergy sufferers and lovers of natural and organics in blue. My joy at stepping on to the pink carpet could only have been shared by Dorothy stepping out on that yellow brick road. Vegan stands aren’t confined to the pink zone, and it’s worth exploring the others. Just double-check before you sample anything!
With a bamboozling cornucopia of stalls to sample, I had planned ahead and noted a few that I wanted to make time for – such as the brilliant Fry’s Family Food, who own most of my freezer space, and dairy-substitute specialists Follow Your Heart and Rebel Kitchen. It’s worth having a look at the free guide and noting their locations before it gets too busy to move and you get so laden with freebies and bargain buys you physically can’t go on.
We arrived just after 10am on the first day and were pleased the queue was fast moving, slowed only to grab free goodie bags. On entering to the left we were greeted by Sheese (100% dairy free), offering the first, much-welcomed sample of cool creamy Philadelphia-style cheese. So far, so good!
Shimmy past non-vegan products from the green and blue zones as you make your way to the pink vegan zone at the back. Here, we were greeted with an impressively colourful stand from Aduna, award-winning African superfoods made from baobab, a 100% natural and organic African superfruit. Samples of dried baobab were bagged.
Opposite Aduna were vegan favourites Follow Your Heart, where the charming guys handed out samples of their Vegan Egg powder and offered some good discounts on their other ranges. Bugger, bags heavy already. Next time I will bring my backpack.
I had two requests from my 5 year old daughter this morning – to find some really ‘super dooper yummy’ marshmallows and some ‘cool’ pin badges. The badges I discovered courtesy of the wonderful ladies at Animal Equality who are heroes really. If you are with any non-vegans or need that extra encouragement, head over to their booth. They are informative, kind and friendly – and they have badges!
As for the marshmallows – Freedom Confectionery have a bowl big enough to stick your head in and get your fill. They are doing some fesitval offers (three bags for £6) and I left clutching delicious squidgy examples of strawberry and vanilla.
I had a quick sniff around the heavyweights of Tesco Free From, Linda McCartney’s and Asda, which all had samples on offer. However, I wanted to focus on discovering new companies and products, so the next stop was the endless ranks of vegan chocolates, including beautifully crafted dinosaurs, butterflies and tiny wizened chocolate Yoda heads, from cacao geniuses Cocoafeliz.
I kid you not, I too joined in the chorus of confused praise for this strange combination that would work perfectly on a cracker.
On to bakery Ruby’s of London – hopefully not followed by the diabetic clinic (only time will tell). Wow, what an amazing sea of all-vegan cupcakes, doughnuts and cakes. If my own Ruby had been with me we might have cleared the stall – this is the Wonkaesque sort of thing that kids dream of. They mostly supply online and are worth checking out – delicious.
I’d been wanting to sample Lewisham-based More Than Meat’s zero-cholesterol meat-replacement products for ages and so was a little disappointed they only had one product to sample (a jerk burger). However, it was worth the wait and I will be ordering their sample selection online.
Hands down the most amusing find of the day was Veggie Pets’ vegan birthday cake mix for dogs. Perfect for my cockapoo’s first birthday in August, aka the social event of the summer! Just the thought of icing a dog’s cake raises a smile. I can already recommend these guys as my dog and cat have been on Benevo and Yarrah for some time.
And the cheapest discoveries were bottles of sauce – fiery Jonkanoo pepper, jerk and Firestick at just 50 pence from Jamaican producers Walkerswood.
Emily’s Fruit Crisps, gorgeously packaged and a lovely flavorful change from normal crisps, went down well down into my gut as well as my wallet as I grabbed a few to take home. The pea one is worth an added sentence.
I left clutching a couple of medicinal syrups that should cure our ills and keep Relate marital services at bay.
I was drawn to Rhythms having overheard a shocked passerby declare that sauerkraut and coconut was a perfect flavour match. Really? Sauerkraut was the enemy of my childhood and I haven’t touched the stuff for 20-odd years since my mother forced me to eat it. Gingerly, I had a tentative try of this fermented food snack that looked strangely like cottage cheese and, I kid you not, I too joined in the chorus of confused praise for this strange combination that would work perfectly on a cracker. I was concerned my dear mother might fall from heaven at the sight of me licking my lips post-sauerkraut!
The thing I love about these types of shows is that you never know who you will end up chatting to. I found myself at the Dol Rosa Canina booth discussing what some would describe as monthly ‘women’s issues’ and the state of my Husband’s pickled liver – a delightful and not unusual marital combination – with an ex-RAF guy who looked much younger than his years. I left clutching a couple of medicinal syrups that should cure our ills and keep Relate marital services at bay.
As the crowds grew thicker, and gliding around became more of a bag-bumping bruise fest, I had one last wander around. I’m glad I did as the last two booths I found were Orethic and Nova. I happily chatted to the friendly owner of Orethic about pineapple leather replacements and eco panty liners – as you do! I left armed with the latter and headed to my last and the most captivating booth belonging to Novo.
Seeing a bit of Welsh eye candy expertly rotate a courgette with a drill (yes, he did) certainly had a queue of ladies wide-eyed, myself included. Sex sells, especially when we are talking phallic-shaped veg. I left with my very own half-price Novo peeler-cum-spiralizer (RRP £30) and have already had a little go at home to reassure myself I hadn’t wasted 15 quid. I haven’t and it’s as easy to use as it looks. I’m pretty sure this is going to (quite literally shape) many meals to come, starting with my daughter’s creation of apple spaghetti this evening.
I hate to end on a grumble, but even in the pink vegan zone, there were a few near non-vegan foods that’s almost slipped in my mouth. Henderson’s Relish strangely had bread made with egg to use as a dipper into their (admittedly lovely) Worcester-style sauce. To me that is lazy planning when you are exhibiting at a vegan event and had I not asked I would have been none the wiser.
Unfortunately my friend took an unwanted hit of dairy, but I like to think the wondering perpetrator with his tray of samples has backed off from the pink zone. Other than having to just double-check with a few stalls and a few near misses, it was a brilliant day out. Thank you to all of the lovely people who took time to talk to me and let me try such amazing cruelty-free products. I left with my soul lifted, knowing that being vegan means being part of such a wonderful community and I really wouldn’t have it any other way.