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"Just be who you are, calm and clear and bright." - Richard Bach, Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah

Main Street Vegan Academy, part 3

(All Main Street Vegan Academy entries.)

Friday morning Victoria offered several very useful lectures on public speaking and the nuts-and-bolts aspects of working with clients. She’s so knowledgeable practical and wise. If you ever get the chance to hear her speak (or better yet, attend the vegan academy yourself), you should JUMP on it. And read Main Street Vegan, of course! She presents everything you need to know in such an easy and loving way; I admit that some of us vegans get REALLY impassioned to the point where we might alienate the “veg curious,” but in her books and on her podcast, Victoria’s approach is always gentle and friendly.

After Victoria’s talks, our classmate Ilana gave us an introduction to Ayurveda, which is an ancient Indian tradition of natural healing. (Ayurvedic practitioners generally use milk and ghee, but some vegans are modifying the tradition–see Talya Lutzker’s new book The Vegan Ayurvedic Kitchen. Talya was a guest on Victoria’s podcast last month.) I’ll write more about Ayurveda in a future post. Then we took the subway downtown to Pure Food and Wine for a languid lunch, and by that I mean three courses over three hours, or close enough to it! (I’d been there earlier in the week with Kate and Sara, remember, and while the company was excellent my burger was a little disappointing. This meal more than made up for it!)


The Mediterranean salad: arugula, kale, kalamata olives, tomatoes, pumpkin seed macadamia parmesan, balsamic vinaigrette. Awesome.


Brazil nut sea vegetable croquettes with a tartare sauce. If I had to pick my very favorite dish out of all the meals at NYC vegan restaurants I’ve had, this would be it. It’s the sort of thing you really want to recreate at home, but you know you won’t be able to! Exquisite. (I also ordered a “swan greens” juice–cucumber, spinach, dandelion, pear, grapefruit, tarragon, spearmint, and yuzu…which I now know to be an East Asian citrus fruit, thanks to Dr. Google.)


I was a bit skeptical when this lemon bar showed up—it looked kind of plasticy—but appearances can be deceiving and all that. Really flavorful—a PUNCH of lemon—and a perfect almond coconut crust.


After lunch we walked to an Indian grocery, where I picked up a bunch of interesting powders and oils Ilana recommended on the fly. (This photo with Ilse, Zachary, and Stephanie.) I haven’t had a chance to try any of them yet, but when I do I’ll let you know how I find them.

Then it was on to Moo Shoes, which I somehow hadn’t visited since 2004. I’m happy to say that vegan footwear has come a LONG way in that time! (By the way, my other favorite place to buy fashionable, quality, breathable shoes is Vegetarian Shoes in the UK.)

Margo gave some love to the Moo Shoes resident kitty.

I spent so much time trying on shoes that I missed out on Babycakes (everyone had left by the time I got there, and I didn’t feel like eating cupcakes by myself), but I did manage to meet up with my pal Kathy (for whom I used to work back at HarperCollins) for cocktails and some delicious gourmet pizza with Daiya cheese (made of arrowroot and tapioca as opposed to soy, by the by–melts just like dairy cheese) at Pala, which offers a vegan menu. (Sometimes I do wish I still lived in New York…!)

Saturday morning we reconvened at the grocery store around the corner from Victoria’s apartment to meet her daughter Adair, who was playing our hypothetical client. I picked up several new pieces of knowledge in the course of the “tour,” the most scary of which is that tin cans contain BPA unless otherwise noted on the label. You know how water bottles will say “BPA free”? That’s because studies have indicated that BPA is a carcinogen. So you have to look for cans of soup or beans or sauce that specifically say “no BPA.” Here’s a list of seven brands you can trust on (If you do a quick Google search on BPA, you’ll find that it’s the organizations profiting from it who say it’s perfectly safe, and it’s not like you can actually trust the FDA, due to the influence of said corporate interests.) Afterward we went back to Victoria’s for Fran Costigan’s talks on food demos and comparing all the different kinds of vegan sweeteners for use in pastries and desserts (coconut sugar, date sugar, rice syrup, Sucanat…) Her new book, Vegan Chocolate, comes out in November, and the confection on the cover looks every bit as decadent as an ordinary chocolate cake. (But like I said, you enjoy your treats way more when you know they’re fair trade and cruelty free…)


After lunch we had a panel discussion with Gary Gibson, Dianne Wenz, and Jaime Karpovich, all MSVA graduates, who offered more practical info on starting a vegan coaching business.     Michael Parrish DuDell gave the next lecture–half was marketing and business-y and the other half presented the case for veganism from an environmental standpoint. Did you know that raising animals for food contributes more to global warming than every mode of transportation in the world combined? It sounds unbelievable, but this is a statistic generated by the U.N. in 2006. No one is making this up; no one would ever want to. You can see why Michael says he initially went vegan for the sake of the environment. That night we went to Blossom for dinner. I’ve had pretty good meals there in the past, but nothing truly inspired until Friday night: 


Seitan Frites Au Poivre with creamy mushroom peppercorn sauce, shoestring fries, and grilled asparagus with horseradish cream. The chocolate mousse pie was awesome too, and I almost collapsed with ecstasy as I sipped the organic mint chip shake Lindsay ordered.

Sunday was our last day. We had lectures from Sharon Nazarian on social media and Rynn Berry on the history of veganism. Professor Berry’s talk was absolutely fascinating, and I’ll be blogging about his books (Food for the Gods, etc.) in the months ahead. (He even gave me an extremely useful tidbit for my Edinburgh novel! Like I said–collecting the jigsaw pieces…)

A refreshing glass of gingerade and a Mediterranean panini at Peacefood Café on the UWS, where we celebrated our graduation. The chickpea fries (in the background) were INCREDIBLE.

After lunch and a round of goodbye hugs, I went to a wine bar with Ilse and Stephanie to continue our conversation, but I didn’t order a glass myself since I was heading out to Park Slope for yoga with our classmate Jean. That was another full circle experience for me, since I used to go to that studio when I lived in Brooklyn nine and ten years ago. (More about this when I blog about my pretty-much-daily practice at Back Bay Yoga.)

Thus concludes my MSVA recap, although I do feel I ought to take another post for reflection as opposed to “we did this and this and this.” It would be impossible to overstate how much I loved and learned from this program—I’m truly only scratching the surface here!

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Hi! I'm Camille. I only write stories that could never ever happen in real life, though I do believe in real-life magic. If we were in the same room I'd fix you a cup of tea, but for now we'll have to settle for a virtual connection. I'm really glad you're here.