Vegetarian smorgasbord draws big crowd in Airdrie
The aroma of spices hangs heavy in the air. The table is jam-packed with casserole dishes, soup bowls and serving trays overflowing with salads and spreads. The line up for the food is significant, with about 60 people attending, and everyone seems to have come hungry for the Feb. 10 event at the 50 Plus Club, located in the Airdrie Town and Country Centre.
“I’ve been going to the potluck off and on for about three years,” said Kodesh Gagnon, 30, of the Airdrie Vegetarian Club’s monthly meet-ups.
Gagnon grew up vegetarian but began eating meat when he left his family home around the age of 18.
“I’m trying to get back to finding ideas to eat more healthy,” he said of his reason for participating in the veggie potluck.
Gagnon is not alone in his carnivorous cravings at the vegetarian club as the group is open to all types of dietary styles.
Included at the Feb. 10 dinner were vegans who eat no meat or products that come from animals such as dairy or eggs; vegetarians who will consume dairy products but no meat; semi-vegetarians who still eat the occasional piece of fish or chicken; and full-on omnivores who will eat meat of all kinds.
Gagnon said he finds the group very welcoming even for those who eat meat saying, “It’s not just about converting to vegetarianism.”
“Pretty well anybody who is interested in healthy food can join,” said Ida Unruh, 73, who has been with the club since its inception in 2001. “We get people of all ages.”
Indeed, the feeling of the event was more of a very large family dinner than that of a club meeting. There were children, young adults, seniors and middle-aged participants. Newcomers where openly embraced, even hugged by one gentleman and were introduced to people at their table and those surrounding them. Laughter filled the room and was only matched by the constant flow of conversation throughout the dinner.
“We haven’t had to do much advertising, just word of mouth,” said Unruh.
She added interest in the dinner club has been high since its outset. In fact, the club had to change venues to accommodate its growing number of members.
People at the event openly shared tips and health hints that have worked for them and were quick to make suggestions of what dishes to try at the potluck.
The potluck is free but requires participants to bring in a meat-free dish to share with the group. Dishes can be a complex soups or stew or a simple veggie tray. Each month there is a new theme at the dinner. This month’s theme was for Valentine’s Day and focused on a heart-healthy diet and lifestyle.
The feature recipe included in the club’s newsletter was for a mixed bean salad, which had a tangy-sweet taste from the lemon juice and honey included in the recipe. Another big hit at the event was a cream of vegetable soup that uses cashews for the creamy goodness instead of dairy.
“You get used to a certain way of eating and you lose the taste for animal products,” said Unruh, who calls herself 99 per cent vegan.
The guest speaker for the meeting was Mandy Lieble, a lymphatic masseuse who demonstrated how to perform this form of light massage. The technique helps drain the lymph nodes, which she said helps to purify and detoxify unhealthy fluid that surrounds our connective tissues. The lymphatic system is linked to the heart because the heart helps the lymph nodes send white blood cells and antibodies throughout the body.
“It is very informative,” Gagnon said of the meetings. “You learn a lot and you can share different recipes,” he added, saying he got two recipes from the February dinner.
He said he is not someone who would go out and look for a cookbook so he likes the convenience of being exposed to new meals and being given new recipes at the potluck.
Both Gagnon and Unruh spoke of a common misconception they have experienced as vegetarians.
“Some people believe you can’t be completely nourished without eating animal products,” Unruh said.
She added she raised two perfectly healthy children on the vegetarian diet and is in great shape herself.
“Being healthy is the main thing in life,” she said. “You’re happiest when you’re healthy.”
The dinner club’s next meeting will be at 6 p.m. on March 10 in the Airdrie 50 Plus Club at the Airdrie Town and Country Centre. For more information, contact Ida Unruh at 403-948-5067.