Across the pond, there is a noteworthy vegan dinner club that has grown by leaps and bounds — so much so that one of the members might turn it into a cafe. As reported by longtime animal activist, Kim Stallwood, in Hastings Life, some residents of the “fishing villages” of Hastings and St. Leonards created a tiny rebellion against the ubiquitous consumption of sea “food,” a “secret vegan society” of sorts. Starting with just a small handful of vegans who were interested in expanding their food horizons and creating “more adventure in the culinary arts for those who don’t want their food killed for them,” the Hastings Vegan Dining Club was created — and Kim is a proud card-carrying member. And it’s clear that Kim has indeed expanded his own personal food horizons: “I testify willingly to enjoying a delicious Sunday afternoon English cream tea, discovering Bombay street food, taking comfort in a traditional Christmas dinner and even experimenting with such dishes as chocolate ravioli. We’ve also had TexMex, Caribbean, 1970s dinner, classic French, Burmese, Thai, Korean, faux Domino pizza, Italian and Halloween Scary!”
Sounds pretty divine. Understandably, over the past three years, membership had grown from the core group (or should I say “hard-core” group?) of six to 20. At this point, one of the members, Maresa Bossano, decided to take the next logical step, rent a space, charge admission, and make this delicious food available to a wider, and not necessarily vegan, audience. Indeed, at the most recent dinner, a whopping “30 guests sat down at a very long table laid with red and white check tablecloths decorated with bay leaves and candles for an Italian peasant vegan feast… (We didn’t eat Italian peasants, by the way.)” Maresa is now working on plans to open a vegan cafe. Clearly, Hastings is ready and willing to delight in her dream right along with her.
This is inspirational for so many reasons. Let’s dissect this for a moment (this is the kind of dissection that is allowed):
- First, you have a group of vegans who wanted to creatively expand their palates and their food adventures. So they alternated locations and cuisines and created a fun platform to try every food they could re-create in the cruelty-free way. (And as if I need to say it, there’s no such thing as a food that can’t be made without icky and mean meat, milk, and eggs — Meet the Shannons proves that with their veganizing-the-Betty-Crocker-cookbook-adventures.) This kind of supper club is something that anyone can create in their own community. It’s particularly useful in areas that are not as vegan-centric as, say, here in New York City. And it can also create a community and welcome in the veg-curious (let’s win ’em over with cupcakes!).
- Then, the dinner club grew to such a big number that one creative and eager member hosted a dinner night and charged per head. Reminds me of Brooklyn’s 4 Course Vegan, a weekly communal dinner experience created by Chef Matteo, which aims to provide “a place to gather, to eat, to enjoy, to relax, to converse, and to share ideas.” This concept is also replicable, and a portion of the proceeds can even be shared with various animal rights causes.
- In its next incarnation, due to the wild popularity and success of the Hastings Vegan Dining Club, a cafe — a for-profit “food activism” venture — will soon be in the works. As you know, we’re big fans of for-profit activism like this. If you build it, they (the vegans, the activists, the world) will come.