Oat milk and blind luck: Trade Show Vegan hits Confex 2020

Regular readers will remember that back in January (how is that only last month?) I committed to being a Trade Show Vegan in 2020. That is, in 2020 I would go vegan at every trade show I attended.

On my way to the opening day of Confex 2020, I was not a big fan of January me. In fact, my precise thoughts were as follows: “Why on earth did January me suggest doing this? January me is an idiot. February me HATES January me.” It was before 8am and I hadn’t had my morning cup of tea. In fact, I couldn’t have my morning cup of tea because tea isn’t vegan, because tea has cow’s milk in it, unless you’ve prepared in advance and bought a vegan alternative to milk, which I, erm, hadn’t.

Angry and tired, I made my way to the station in search of a train and a caffeine fix. This is where things picked up. I live in Brighton, which is the easiest place in the world to be a vegan. You can’t move in Brighton for alt-milk and falafel, so I quickly found an oat milk latte and a vegan croissant and boarded the train to London.

Hours later, cursing the delayed arrival of Crossrail, I arrived at ExCeL. The show’s move from Olympia didn’t seem to have deterred many event professionals making the trip out east on the DLR, although the opening of the Elizabeth line cannot come soon enough.

I dipped in and out of a couple of education sessions and caught up with some contacts, but very quickly my mind turned to lunch, and more specifically, what on earth would be on offer. Venturing out into the wide, bustling halls of ExCeL it became clear that being plant-based left my options somewhat limited. Would the burger place do a vegan option? No. How about that noodle place? Stupid question. The chicken place? Oh come on.

Finally I found a salad place, which had falafel and houmous salads all marked up as vegan and ready to go. Perfect! Except it’s February, I’ve been traipsing around a trade show all morning and I want something a bit more substantial than a salad. Something warm at least. I put the salad back in the fridge and continued my search.

Meatless Meatball Marinara

Meatless Meatball Marinara

The next place I spotted was Subway, proudly boasting about its Meatless Meatball Marinara. Now we’re talking! Did I want it toasted and with cheese? You betcha! Hang on, that is vegan cheese isn’t it? Of course it is, phew. Two minutes and £6.50 later I had a six-inch sandwich bursting with salad, vegan meatballs, vegan cheese and vegan garlic mayo. And another two minutes later it had disappeared, but not before I took that rather snazzy photo of it. It tasted better than it looked, honest. In fact, it was actually nice.

After that I treated myself to a coconut latte from Costa, which is doing free alt-milks at the moment, which made my vegan adventure both easier and cheaper.

After a couple more hours at the show I met up with a contact who suggested going to the pub, which is the kind of suggestion I can get fully on board with at the end of a long day at a trade show. However, approaching the bar, I was suddenly beset by a terrible thought: is beer vegan? I scanned the pumps, I couldn’t see a handy green V anywhere. I went through the ingredients of beer: hops, barley, water… is that it? Surely it’s vegan? Hang on, don’t some beers use fish guts for filtration? Where had I heard that?

Crossing my fingers, I ordered a pint of Moretti and hoped for the best. Google quickly revealed that on this occasion I had been lucky – Moretti is indeed vegan! Yes! I had a further pint to celebrate this wonderful bit of good fortune, and then headed home, having somehow made it through my first day of Trade Show Veganism intact.

However, I have to admit it was only the venue’s vast range of culinary options and a bit of blind luck that helped me stay vegan at Confex 2020. I suspect that my further adventures in veganism this year won’t be quite so plain sailing…