“We welcome you all on the 10th March to the opening of London’s very first, fully vegan farmers market. . . “ Well, it’s nice to be included. And to quote Rizo the Rat: thanks for making me a paaaaaaaarrrrt of this!
My aim for this blog, for the lack of a less cliche term, is to have adventures in food. Try different things and have different experiences and get out of my comfort zone a bit. Y’know, the typical Millennial, “I’m-too-good-for-wetherspoons” romantic, alternative living ethos stuff. I have never been to Portobello. I do not eat much vegan food. And never been to a farmer’s market. This is my territory. Boldly eating where no Poet of Cuisine has eaten before. . .
So far this has gotten me to try my first authentic Jewish Bakers, drink in a Bavarian beer hall, and chomp through a mushroom burger, and now I find myself at an event curated by Plant Based Events, a company focusing on meat free events and showcasing up and coming merchants of vegan.
Recently, they’ve curated London’s first Vegan Fashion show in Brick Lane last October and created a valentine’s day event the following Spring – appropriately titled “Vegantines” – which their lively facebook page assures us went extremely well. Lately, they’re determined to drive up the number of vegan markets, now curating London’s first completely vegan farmer’s market hosted near Ladbroke Grove tube station. With people this passionate and Eventbrite tickets going for free, it’s worth taking a punt to eat yourself out of a comfort zone.
“. . . Gone are the days of having to walk past a hog roast as you enter a farmers market or have to unfortunately buy your fruit & veg next to the meat and dairy stands. . . “
“the weather[;]. . . from spritely sunny. . . before chucking the cutting, cold winds of a disapproving mother in law at us. . .”
“Just checking, can I cross holy ground?”
Perhaps it’s the zeal of adventure hindering me; I was the first person there besides the sellers, arriving well before the 10am opening time, so kicked my heels around St Charles Square and saw everyone setting up their places. Heading through into the playground of the All Saints Catholic College (“quick, hide the breakfast rum!”) and with no sign of a hog roast in sight, these farmers are wielding aforementioned and promised vegan goods in style.
Making chat with the person at the gate, we enter and also greeted by the event curator. They inform us that the weather has stunted the event’s number of sellers. Several stalls had pulled out. Indeed, it was a task to not notice the climate, early on changing from spritely sunny and going from heavy and dark clouds, before deciding on chucking the cutting, cold winds of a disapproving mother in law at us. And just when you thought we were living instead of surviving, there were a few drops of rain to kick our ass with. You can pour on us, but you can’t rain on these guys’ parade. The focus we met of those brave few that remained kept us enthralled. We made sure to keep Dorothy and Toto tied to the ground as we did up our coats, and tightened our scarves against the bloody. typical. english. weather.
My main interests were the traders, “. . . serving up the best vegan cuisine available right now. . . “, which I resolve to try all of. Playing the leader of the pack and picking at random, I bumble into K&RLondon on the far side, and pick up a couple of stress relieving candles for my troubles. Potently strong, packed full of calming savour of lavender, Geranium, citrus and ylang ylang (“so good they named it twice!” ) free of animal products and toxic paraffin and burns for 30 hours. Okay, so I’ve got something to reclaim my zen with now, onwards with the new!
“A Cairoful of Nut Butter, Please!”
I encounter a table full of Jake’s Boost, proprietors of nut and seed butter; yielding the gloriously immature chalkboard sign: Jake’s Nut Butter. A quick chat with the guys and I walk away with a pot of Superboost, the most nutritious of the various blends and pastes on offer. They also sold homemade carrot cake – packed full of rich currants and bursting in flavour with sweetened oats and flaky icing.
It was hard not to notice the organizer, smiling and asking patrons how they were and helping stalls with blown over signs and tangled tarpaulin. Getting personally thanked for taking an interest with a sincere handshake on our way out went a long way in my book as well. Through the rapid exchanges it was difficult not to share his joy which kept the buyers moving amongst us and talking in the blustery Spring. He talks about how he wants to build the market up, hopes the weather improves as the year goes on so the numbers rise. He talks about DJs at the night market and how he looks forward for when people will be able to chill on the grass during the summer. The clouds may have gathered, but for that guy, talking and sharing conversation it was hard not to bask with him.
Battling a chill-you-to-your-core breeze, Nature’s Natural Vegan Eats didn’t seem to be having too much luck; franticly holding down pot lids and keeping signs stuck to posts, while with good humour offering eggplant lasagna, chickpea and potato curry and sweet chilli plantains. With sides of falafel and tofu smothered in a BBQ sauce. Never had plantains tasted better to me. Having said that; this was my first time trying it. It was deliciously sweet and had a fine mingle with the sweet chilli and onion that was in the mix. The main sauce had a custard type texture and colour. The tofu on offer soaked up all the sauces and made for delicious marinade bites. And the falafels were just plain dam fine. Clearly expertly homemade, peppery and herby, with the BBQ sauce to ward off the dryness.
The most structurally
survived sound tent Cairoful suffered the least from the weather. Safe in their breeze battered tarp and ready to serve up Egyptian food. Choosing the Koyasha box – “is it Kosh-oya?” – which seems to consist of chickpeas, noodles and pasta, some sort of split pea (which I could have sworn was plain ole regular beef mince) topped with cheese. Adding a splash of chilli and garlic sauces respectfully. All together makes for a great handful of something hot and comforting. With a lasting garlic breath guaranteed to keep the flies away. They trend under the hasthtag #eatlikeanegyptian and I hope to see them again.
After all that food, one’s mouth tends to get dry. Luckily, Sapling are here to quench thirsts and deliver more health benefits than a Holland and Barrett with their invigorating tonic. Vodka. The seller boasted of being 100% British, and extremely high quality, “using only the middle 30%”. Whatever you ethically inflict on your body taken care of, Sapling also promise you the earth; when you buy a bottle from these guys, you’ll fund projects to plant trees. Bottles come with a printed serial number on the lid for the tree you plant. It’s drinking for the environmentally conscious; coming on sweetly smooth, hitting you softly with a strong, sensitive build up. They’re working on gin next.
Situated next the NNVE are the infectiously charismatic and cheerfully chatty Bodi, selling Hibiscus Ice Tea; Appropriately bottled and sold as The Hit. A complimentary shot of that and I’ve an ear full of health benefits and a head full of synonyms for the word “crisp.” It’s sharp and spicy and will revitalise the dullest of evening companions.
Lastly, for desserts are Kind and Sweet curators of brightly coloured jars of sweets which wouldn’t go out of place on a shelf in Hogsmeade. Free samples of gummys provided plenty to chew over as I pluck up a fiver for a jar of sherbets and candy necklaces and bubblegum pellets.
Running on the opposite side of the market is a stall full of baskets, selling curios of wild garlic, celeriac and avocados (“2 for £1? Take that £1.50 each, Sainsburys!”), with the usual fruit and vegetables varieties of tomatoes, bananas and apples etc. A cohort grabs two avocados, two limes and a pepper. It’s loaded nachos for dinner now. One more meal free of cruelty.
“Everywhere you go take the weather with you!”
So, we leave the playground with bags full of scented candles and sweets, and guts full of vodka, curries, gummies, health tonics and Egyptian cuisine. It’s unique, it’s homemade, it’s exotic. With a jovial, genuine handshake the organiser wishes us a good day and the promises of good time at the Vegan Night Market. And all I had to do was brave the cold and battle the elements for a few hours.
My only teensy bit of criticism, which may not even be valid as not every seller showed, is this – we’re outside, in the cold, in the morning. It couldn’t have just been me wishing bitterly for a coffee stall?
Nonetheless, this was London’s first ever vegan farmer’s market and I’m very thankful that we were there for that. They’re onto a winner with the idea, even under trying conditions, selling only to a handful of people they give it their all and end up with a glowing review for their troubles. It’s safe to say you should keep an eye on Plant Based Events, they’re quickly becoming shorthand for a great adventure in food.
So let’s see about this night market next time. . .
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How hot do you like your clodhoppers? Do you plan on getting to a vegan farmers market any time soon? Were you there? Agree? Disagree? Comment below and let us know!