Campaigning with Vegan Food.
Viva has over 170 local contacts, the Vegan Society 140, Animal Aid over 150 and the Vegetarian Society has 100 local groups and information centres, all with a declared interest in promoting the benefits of a vegan diet (which is of course great for vegetarians and meat eaters too). Whilst much valuable work is done with street stalls, leafleting sessions, school talks and media liaison etc, we feel that there is a much underused opportunity to spread the message by actually putting food directly into the public’s hands (and stomachs!).
*footnote: See “Vegan Campaigning Tactics” from Vegan Campaigns (London) for all other aspects of vegan campaigning.
A varied vegan menu offering well presented tasty vegan food speaks for itself and, if sold at a fair price, or given freely in return for donations, raises the funds to build a self-supporting campaigning group. There are many opportunities to cater in this way, from buffets at meetings and family celebrations, to council functions, community fun-days, green fairs and even, for the well established, music festivals. You could start by providing food at local group meetings and demos, progress through free food give-away stalls and build up to arranging a vegan food fair and answer requests for local event catering by getting yourselves onto the Catering Directory, compiled by Veggies.
Where possible we source ingredients from vegan companies to ensure that they are suited to (almost) all dietary needs*. Many people avoid animal products for a wide range of reasons so we recommend that caterers abandon their vegetarian menu in favour of a vegan one. We find that this strategy enables every variety of lacto/ovo/veggie/vegan and lactose intolerant customer to be served from one set of options, as well as creating a more innovative and healthy menu for vegetarians and meat eaters alike.
Vegan catering doesn’t have to be based on direct substitutes for animal produces, but if your aim it to reach non-vegetarians then offering familiar ‘accessible’ alternatives can be most effective. When, on a leafleting stall, you hear for the hundredth time “I would be a vegetarian, but I love bacon”, consider the effect of given the doubter a freshly cooked BLT with Redwood Rashers and challenge them to tell the difference, (other than the lack of grease, cholesterol & saturated fats).
Some Product Ideas:
Veggies Burgers are handmade on site from a dry mix that we make ourselves from organic ingredients, including soy, oats and wholewheat bread crumb. We make 1.5tonnes a year. It is distributed to the retail and catering trade by Lembas, the wholefood specialists in Sheffield.
Sosages – Veggies makes its own ready made frozen sosages, distributed by us by Lembas. However we admit that we do not have the technology to make them well suited for mass catering use. However we also do a dry mix which, like the burger mix, is ideal for mixing on site in appropriate quantities.
Other suppliers of sosages include Fry’s (from Beanies) and Redwood, who we understand are working on a hot-dog style sosage. Avoid Quorn, Tivalli, (some) Linda McCartney products which are not vegan, and therefore not suitable for all cultures and diets.
If, like us, you favour local and/or organic foods, then the Big Barn website will help you find suppliers of bread and vegetables near the location of events away from home.
We hear of caterers that keep a single dairy cheese sandwich option on their menu ‘for vegetarians’, perhaps forgetting that vegetarians, in common with everyone else on Earth can eat vegan food, especially when a wide range of non-dairy block, slice and cream cheeses are available such as Redwoods ‘melty’ cheddar slices, ideal for burgers, their Cheddar & Cranberry Cheezly for sandwiches and Bute Island Mexican Style scheese on crackers.
The Milk Thing
If you mission is to show the general public how ‘natural’ vegan food can be, why would you wish to confuse the message with something as unnatural as baby food in grown-up drinks, and the baby food of another species at that!
Whilst we urge the use of the most ethical products available, in the case of non-dairy milk it is probably best to consider your audience. For a predominantly vegan crowd you could use the most ethical choice, ie Plamil milk. Veganism is a simple first step in ethical living. Those that have taken that step should be encouraged to take the next one, by supporting UK-based, independent companies run by vegans, ie Plamil (and Veggies!).
However for a public that is possibly being introduced to soya milk for the first time it is important to use one that ‘works’. Therefore you may wish to try out some other brands, in order of Ethical Consumer rating: Sojasun (15), Sunrise (15), or GranoVita (13). Some of the supermarket brands work well too, if you are comfortable buying from a global company with little regard for the local community. Note that whilst they make the most technically successful soya milks, Alpro/Provamel is owned by Deans Foods,the largest dairy company in the USA, who also trade in animal feeds.
Cakes and Cookies
People often ask how we make such scruptious cakes without eggs or butter. We have no idea – we simply don’t use eggs or butter! Apparently the secret is to follow a simple recipe, such as those on Veggies website, and to use vegetable oil to replace the egg, with baking powder and vinegar helping it to rise. Many excellent cake books are available, the best of which can be obtained from Veggies, including:
Ronny’s Cake Scoffer, Manda’s Mmm…yummy cakes and Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World by Isa Chandra Moskowitz
A simple chocolate cake recipe:
For 26cm x 20cm tin – 12 generous portions
340g / 0.8ltr organic wholemeal flour
8g / 1.5 tsp baking powder
230g / 250ml organic demerara sugar
500g / 100ml fair trade cocoa
180ml / 115g sunflower oil
20ml / 2 dsp cider or wine vinegar
10ml / 1 dsp vanilla essence
1. Stir all the dry ingredients together
2. Mix the wet ones together and add when ready to go (yes it’s runny)!
3. Bake straight away at 175 C (gas mark 4) for 45 mins.
4. Cool in tin and ice with chocolate icing
90g / 200ml icing sugar
8g / 1.5 tsp fair trade cocoa
20ml / 4 tsp water
PASTRIES can feature a huge range of fresh, local, seasonal produce with protein enhancing beans, pulses, tofu etc. They are quick and easy to make with a pre-made puff pastry, such as some Jos-Roll lines. Pastry for sosage or nut rolls is easily made with flour, water and vegan spread.
If you are lucky enough to live in a multi-cultural community like Nottingham, check out small, family-run restaurants and take-aways for simple finger foods like authentic spring rolls, samosas, onion bhajis etc.
A simple Onion Bhaji recipe:
Approx 40 x 100g, or 70 x 60g for buffets. Gluten free.
• 1kg Gram Flour (Chick Pea Flour)
• 10g / 2tsp Chilli Powder
• 10g / 2tsp Turmeric
• 20g / 4tsp Garam Masala
• 10g / 2tsp Baking Powder
• 10g / 1tsp Salt
• 2-3kg Onion
• 1ltr Water
• 1ltr Sunflower oil
• Slice onions into thin half rings
• Mix dry ingredients. Add water to make a dropping consistency batter.
• Add onion to batter in sufficient quantity to coat them.
• Using wet hands make tablespoon portions into loose balls.
• Deep fry immediately & quickly in hot oil, whilst baking powder is active.
The way in which you serve your food can enhance the ecological benefits of the diet you are promoting. Some might question you commitment to reducing the waste of resources inherent in the production of meat and dairy products, if the alternatives are served in oil-based plastic packaging! Veggies has a long established policy of ‘minimal packaging’, which our event catering survey shows to be much appreciated, cutting down on the mountains of waste often seen around other catering stalls – waste paid for by the customers in the price of their meals. At the very least packaging should be biodegradable and better still composted by the caterer themselves.
It is not always possible to follow this strategy 100% due to practicalities and sometimes customer resistence. Although our use of reusable ‘proper’ mugs is very well received (so that we play no part in the disposal of 6 billion polystyrene cups every year), we have been less successful in encouraging customers to accept fruit juice in returnable beakers. Whilst they seem to prefer individual portion drinks in tetra packs or cans we are at least happy to be able to collect back these drink containers, as well as glass and plastic water bottles for recycling.
* Although Veggies foods are suitable for all cultural and ethical dietary choices, we do need work on more wheat free/gluten free options. We hope to develop a gluten free burger and cake. Meanwhile, when available, we use a proportion of organic spelt flour, an ancient form of wheat flour which causes less intolerance. However, as it is stone-ground by Green’s Windmill in Sneinton, Nottingham, this is subject to the availability of grain, and wind!
Health & Hygiene
Catering businesses should be registered with their local authority, and inspected by their Council’s Environmental Health Department. The results of inspections are available to all via the national ‘Scores On The Doors’ website. Whilst all local authorities work from nationally co-ordinated guidelines, we find that each has it’s own preferences. As we work in probably 50 different council areas each year the variation in advice has enabled us to draw up our own ‘training manual’ suited to the needs of a vegan caterer.
In particular as we use no animal products, no eggs, milk, cream, dairy cheese and (obviously) no meat products, environmental health officers are usually well pleased to see many of the high risks associated with those foods eliminated, before the inspection even begins. However other risks of contamination, stale food, safety hazards etc still have to be addressed conscientiously. Key staff and volunteers attend a Basic Food Hygiene training course every three years, (such courses often being hosted by us at our base at Nottingham’s Sumac Centre). Let us know if you would like to join us on a future course at our vegan social centre.
From a caterers point of view using only animal-free ingredients make sound business sense. The need for refrigeration in much reduced, such that a solar or wind powered cold box is often sufficient and, for single day events, picnic cold boxes with ice bricks will keep critical items between 0 & 5 centigrade. The key numbers to remember are that hot food must be kept above 63c and reheated food must be held above 75c for at least 30 seconds.
In addition to Food Hygiene regulations, separate legislation and many event organisers require that caterers and other stall holders have a written ‘Risk Analysis’ Statement. Eg:
- Check gas fittings on arrival and daily.
- Isolate at bottle as well as at equipment when not in use.
- Display warning notice
Boiling Water Hazards
- Ensure boiler is in a safe location.
- Display warning notice.
- Provide tea/coffee in pump flasks to minimise individual access to boiler.
Risks of Infection
- maintain constant supply of hot water for cleaning hands, surfaces and utensils etc.
- staff to wear suitable overclothing, wash hands & tie hair back
- Keep foods in organised, designated areas, off the ground
- Keep animals and small childen out of kitchen
- supervision by Food Hygiene trained staff
- Identify designated areas for storage of food and equipment
- Be alert for boxes, guy lines etc
Risk of cuts
- Train staff in safe handling of knives
- Designate storage space for sharp implements
- Keep flammable items away from flames
- Use fireproof tarps, marquees and structures
We find it valuable to keep a close count of sales at each event so that, when invited back in subsequent years, or when taking on similar new events, we have a ball-park idea of how much food to take. This helps reduce waste and, more importantly, helps ensure that we take enough cake to feed every one! As we pass distant events on to other caterers in favour of new events closer to home, we are happy to share this knowledge with the other nominated caterers.
As well as the selected vegan caterers listed in this guide, Veggies also compiles comprehensive directory of vegan and vegetarian caterers on our website. As well as being a useful reference for event organisers, we also welcome feedback from caterers themselves to help us pass on potential work in their area for events that we are unable to attend.
Vegan suppliers include Redwood, Bute Island, Plamil, Fry’s/Beanies.
Wholefood wholesalers include Lembas, Essential, Suma, Community Foods and in Scotland, Green City Wholefoods
If you choose to use disposables, seek out potato starch or bread plates, wooden cutlery etc
There are several similar on-line suppliers of catering equipment and sundries. We tend to useNisbetts
For gas, make a note of the Calor location finder: www.calor.co.uk/find-a-stockist/
We supply the following by Mail Order, or by courier for trade supplies to caterers: Burger Mix, Sosage Mix, Hemp Burger Mix, Burger Scoop, Burger Press and cellophane discs.
How to do it guides (inc recipes):
Vegan Campaigning Tactics – Vegan Campaigns (London), Food Not Bombs Handbook, Anarchist Teapot Guide.
Another Dinner is Possible, Veggies Scoffer, Return of the Cake Scoffer, Mmm…Yummy Cakes, Vegan Cupcakes take over the World
Event Catering Tasks
Veggies operation is successful because 28 years of experience has been put into designing the most efficient layout of our catering trailers or table-top set-ups for our style of catering.
We are less practiced at field kitchens for weekend gatherings, for which we recommend the Anarchist Teapot Guide, and the extensive notes created for the dozen pure-vegan neighbourhood kitchens catering at the Camp for Climate Action.
For Free Vegan Food Fairs the advice booklet, “Vegan Campaigning Tactics” and the briefing from Vegan Campaigns are recommended.
The typical breakdown of tasks for running a Veggies Catering trailer can be adapted for other similar operations. We break the process down into the following roles, which are rotated around the volunteers at regular intervals.
1 – Serving packaged foods, including serving cakes and pasties without touching them, and handling cash. This person is mindful that cash can be a source of contamination.
2 – Hot drinks, washing up and maintaining hot water supply. At quite times these two roles can be combined.
3 – Fresh food prep – salad, onions etc. Having moved here from washing up, hands are as clean as can be!
4 – Prepare burger buns with salad. At quite times these two roles can be combined.
5 – Prepare freshly made Veggies Burgers onto the cooking griddle.
6 – Serve cooked burgers into ready filled buns. At quite times these two roles can be combined.
7 – Take a break
8 – Look after Free Info Exchange and Book Stall. At quite times these two roles can be combined.
We are less practiced at field kitchens providing full catering for gatherings, for which we recommend the Anarchist Teapot Guide, but we have identified these roles to help things run smoothly.
Liaise with the organisers for advise on expected numbers and budget. Should you work to a tight budget to keep cost down, but run the risk of running short, or allow for 50% more – but who will pick up the bill for surplus foods. Find out if top up supplies can be bought on the day and if funds allow take extra long life wholefoods, grains etc.
Designated Kitchen Co-ordinator
- assess best layout of facilities in available space for food prep & service, hot drinks, washing up, storage, info displays
- designate storage areas for fresh goods; wholefoods & packaged stock; utensils and equipment, personal stuff
- fit gas, start heating water, clean hands, surfaces etc
- designate and advise everyone the location of the first aid kit (check contents) and the fire extinguisher(s). Is there a first aider on the team? If not, what arangements have the event organisers made.
- check again and be aware of contents of ALL boxes, crates, etc to ensure essential items, inc fresh foods are not ‘found’ in van or under everything else when reloading after the event.
Hot water is the key – without constant and plentiful hot water willing helpers will not be able:
- Clean hands before handling food
- Clean surfaces before beginning food prep
- Maintain washing up facility
- Keep everything clean – and cleared way to make more space
- Make Tea & Coffee
Top up boiler a little at a time – a full boiler of cold water will take over 30mins to boil, a small amount in a ready boiling urn or kettle will re-boil very quickly.
So “Top up boiler a little at a time – do not turn off until full and boiling.”
It far more efficient to make tea/coffee in flasks, rather than mug by mug, reducing individual risks of scalding. Individuals will also make their own brews until all water is used, rather than keeping boiler/kettle topped up.
Maintain washing up facility
‘Field kitchen events’ – 3 bowl system
1 – fresh, hot, clean final rinse water (keeps soap suds out of the tea)
2 – hot, soapy washing-up water
3 – previous washing up water, reused as ‘pre-wash’, to soak or wipe food scraps etc, before proper wash, to keep washing up water fresher longer. In particular never put mayonaise jars or margerine tubs into ‘best’ washing up water as it will make it greasy. Soak and prewash these separately.
This is what you do when washing up water need changing:
- get a fresh bowl of clean hand-hot rinsing water
- slide the previous rinsing water along, add washing up liquid and extra hot water, use for ‘proper’ washing up
- slide the previous washing up water along, use it to pre-wash greasy plates etc.
- use the previous pre-wash water to soak pans or to deal with seriously mucky/greasy stuff
- keep topping up the boiler, little and often
Did I say ’3′?
4 – hand wash water for catering – crew and washer uppers
5 – hand washing facilities positioned alongside the dinner queue for everyone else
6 – even ‘dirty’ washing-up water can be saved, if appropriate, to soak big cooking pots, especially if they have burned or stuck-on food.
7 – food scraps tub for compost or dogs
Washing Up … D-I-Y or Rota?
“In a world without bosses there will be no servants or slaves.”
To encourage the d-i-y ethic, campaign gatherings tend to encourage everyone to wash their own plates. However in muddy fields, after living ‘on site’ away from your mum for a few days there is a risk that everyone’s hands may not be as clean, and it is not practical to expect everyone to wash their hands before washing their plate. It may therefore be preferable to (dis)organise a spirit of mutual aid, whereby everyone takes a turn in washing up for (say) approx 5 minutes before passing on the spunge to the next willing volunteer.
Use or draw up these notices:
“Warning – Boiling Water. If boiling top up a little at a time. Do not turn off until full and boiling.”
“Washing Up Water”
“LPG Gas No Smoking”
Gas bottles should be stored outside your stall, secured upright away from anything flamable and protected from interference.
Check that you have servicable gas regulators – if in doubt buy a new one. Stash a spare somewhere for when the regular one is lost, forgotten or ‘borrowed’.
Use copper pipe and ‘crimp’ clips where-ever practical.
Check rubber hose and screw-thread clips at each occasion – replace when worn, or when date printed on hose is due to expire.
Check for leaky connections with washing up liquid (look for bubbles) or source some prefessional spray. This cannot be bought over the counter unless you are a ‘Corgi’ registered gas fitter, but is available on the web.
Checklist for Vegan Free Food Give-away Street Stalls
- Food samples donated by veggie cafes etc, & their fliers
- Hot water flask, bowl, handwash, nail brush, aprons or catering t-shirts
- ‘Laminated’ wipe-clean table, disinfectant spray, clean wet ‘j’cloth
- Food display trays, kitchen towel and/or paper plates, serving spoons, tongs etc
- Info & recipe leaflets/booklets, posters, tape/pins to attach
- “Why Vegan” – Vegan Society, or “Vegan Beginner” – Vegan Campaigns (London)
- Animal Free Shopper – Vegan Society (or see booklist)
- What’s Wrong With McDonalds – Veggies
- something with contact details for your groupde
- local listing of veggie/vegan shops, restaurants, caterers