By Andrew Smith

I wanna start with a quick disclaimer: this article is not about converting you meat eaters out there to a 100% plant-based diet. Is bacon delicious? I personally can’t remember, but the gratuitous fanbase it maintains would lead me to believe that it is one of the only foods worth living for. So eat your bacon, have a hamburger and grab some chicken nuggets. I only ask that you do so in moderation.

If you read the title of this piece, you have likely made the assumption that its author is one of those veg-heads that you’ve heard so much about, and you would be correct. I became a vegetarian in the fall of 2010, and this past summer I went the extra mile and evolved into a full-fledged vegan.

Yes, I miss ice cream, and the ritual of ordering pizza with friends is practically irreplaceable, but when looking into the environmental cost of animal products, I felt making this small shift in my diet was something I could do with a lasting impact.

So bring on the relentless jokes, asking, “Is this air vegan?”, or handing me some grass and calling it a salad. Because I know what you’re thinking: no animal equals no flavor. Well, I am here to tell you that there is an untapped market for some absolutely mouthwatering plant-based meals out there.

The annual New England Vegfest in Worcester, Mass., offers a multitude of vegan substitutes for various meat and dairy products. (Photo: Andrew Smith)

On April 28th, I made the trip out to Worcester, Massachusetts for the 10th Annual New England Vegfest, a vegan food festival that filled an entire convention center with snacks, food-trucks and pastries as far as the eye could see.

I ate donuts, curries, cannolis, ice cream, shawarma and just about any other food I could have imagined. I was only able to attend the event for an hour, but I can assure you, I made the most of it. I departed with my wallet lighter and my pants tighter, absolutely in awe at how far plant-based cooking has come, and that is the ultimate point I wanted to make.

The immediate rejection of vegan food by non-vegans as “flavorless” or “boring” is exactly what drives vegan cooks to make their food that much better. They know that the only way to grow their base is to make their vegan version just as good, if not better than the original, and that is precisely what they’re doing.

Sure, fake cheese has a way to go, but when it comes to meats or milks, there is a world of plant-based options just waiting to get the job done, and you don’t need to go out to Worcester to give them a try.

21 Oak in Manchester and ION in Middletown are just 20 and 35 minutes away respectively, and I can assure, you can guarantee an absolutely decadent meal at either. Bloodroot is a vegan restaurant and feminist bookstore located in Bridgeport, which, let’s face it, is something you had no idea you needed until this very minute. And if you’ve got the money to burn, Candle 79 in New York City will hands down deliver some of the best plates of your omnivorous life.

There are a variety of affordable and tasty vegan restaurants located in Connecticut alone. (Photo: Andrew Smith)

I get it. I really do. Meat and cheese are delicious, water is wet, these are just the facts of life. But I challenge you to eat vegan or even just vegetarian once or twice a week. Before long you’ll realize that maybe you didn’t need a side of bacon for your meat-lover’s omelet. Trust me, your body and the planet will thank you.