Postmedia may earn an affiliate commission from purchases made through our links on this page.
From Tofu Magique to Black veganism, the ninth edition of Montreal Vegan Festival, Oct. 8 and 9 at the Palais des congrès, has a buffet of offerings for plant-based diet converts and the plant-curious.
Caroline Huard, a.k.a. Loounie, has watched the event grow into one of the fall season’s main culinary attractions. The cookbook author and media personality was a volunteer for the first few editions of the festival — back when she worked as occupational therapist — and returns this year as its spokesperson.
“It’s a big honour,” she said. “I started at the bottom, supporting the cause. Now I’m happy to use my community to help Montreal Vegan Festival shine.”
Huard is not a chef, and she didn’t study vegan cuisine. She came by her love of plant-based foods naturally in 2011, first for health reasons as she looked for a cleaner diet to fuel her running habit, then out of a concern for animals used in industrial farming, and for the environment.
“I didn’t have vegan friends in real life,” she said. “It was online that I could communicate with people.”
She taught herself how to prepare vegan meals and began sharing photos and recipes on Instagram, where her following began to grow. But things really took off in 2018 with Tofu Magique. Her simple recipe for spiced tofu (available on her website, loouniecuisine.com) went viral and is now available ready-made in Metro stores.
“I didn’t eat a lot of tofu (before that),” Huard said. “I found it high maintenance and didn’t really like it. I wanted a recipe that was easy and could go with anything.”
She has since published two cookbooks: Loounie cuisine: recettes et astuces 100% végétales, in 2019; and Loounie cuisine 02: encore plus de saveurs 100% végétales, in 2021.
The Montreal Vegan Festival is an opportunity to discover not only vegan food, she explains, but the benefits of a vegan lifestyle.
“A lot of people are not necessarily vegan, but they want to reduce their consumption of meat,” she said, noting that the festival is a great place to try new foods, learn about plant-based products by local companies and attend talks on interesting topics.
Huard will give a cooking demonstration on how to make shredded mushroom tacos, Sunday at 11 a.m. The demo will be in French.
One of the weekend’s special guests is Joe G. Thomas, the 76-year-old founder of Black Vegans of Toronto. The group of more than 600 members meets regularly and hosts events including the Toronto Black Vegan Festival and the first edition of Black Vegans of Toronto Holiday Market in December, which is open to all.
“We invite people from all walks of life and all races to come enjoy our food,” including vegan versions of Caribbean favourites like curried goat and oxtail, he explained.
Thomas believes it’s important to have a vegan group specifically for people of African descent.
“We’re not just a Black version of a conventional vegan group,” he said. “It’s not some kind of cosmetic diversity we’re trying for. There are some deep-rooted, historical reasons why we have to focus on our health, in particular because of our dietary history due to the enslavement of our ancestors. We have so many issues and so much trauma related to food that we need to address.”
Thomas is the author of Let Food Be Your Medicine Today: Live Healthy and Strong on Plant-Based Whole Foods and the owner of Atiba Farm, a for-profit social enterprise initiative of Black Vegans of Toronto, which he started four years ago. He’ll give a talk Sunday at 2 p.m. about Afro-Veganism in Canada.
“The main reason I champion this lifestyle is the results,” he said. “The level of energy, clarity and calmness I feel, I want to get on my soapbox and preach to the people.”
AT A GLANCE
Montreal Vegan Festival takes place Saturday and Sunday at the Palais des congrès. For tickets and information, visit festivalveganedemontreal.com
11 of Montreal’s best vegetarian and vegan restaurants
6 new vegan restos to get your fresh food fix
Vegan for the win: Athletes talk plant-powered performance at Montreal Vegan Fest