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The best way to dine at a potluck? Muffin tins!

Image: Cherie Devine

Six percent of Americans are vegan, according to a 2017 report by Top Trends in Prepared Foods. For the vegan-curious and the 6 percent living in our city, the Vegan Society of P.E.A.C.E. (VSOP) hosts two community potlucks each month. All ages and backgrounds are welcome to attend. There is plentiful literature, starter guides and supportive, experienced vegan veterans to help answer questions interested newcomers may have. There is always a discussion, film-screening, food demo or speaker presentation at each event. You will also partake in the most delicious courses of prepared at home by plant-based gourmets.

There are two regular potlucks. One, on the second Saturday of each month takes place from 6-9 p.m. at Houston Community College’s Conference Center in Houston. The other is the fourth Sunday of each month, 1-3 p.m. at the HEB in League City. RSVP online here

Attendees are asked to bring a vegan dish to contribute to the potluck. This can be as simple as a fruit or veggie tray purchased at the grocery store, or as involved as a meal lovingly made at home. This writer prepared a hand-tossed, vegan pizza with veggies, Daiya cheese and tofu sausage. The first time I attended, I brought store-bought hummus and crackers, and the contribution was still well-received. When you enter the venue, you will be directed to the check-in table to make a $5 contribution to help cover the cost of the facility rental. Then, you will be shown to the main dining area, where you can set your food on the serving table. Each guest is provided a label for their dish to write down the ingredients they used; good news for those with food allergies.

After settling in, you will find a table and mingle with the other dining guests formed of people from all backgrounds and education levels. I have met doctors, lawyers, restaurant personnel, artists, college professors, stay-at-home moms and dads, chefs, secretaries and construction and oilfield workers, all of whom have one thing in common: the desire to live cruelty-free and healthy. I have enjoyed shooting the breeze with these various characters about many topics, even non-vegan-related. 

When guests have arrived and the buffet table is full of the visually-appealing nourishments, we all make our way through the line to collect samplings of each dish. Everything looks so good, I am careful not to miss anything. Plates are provided to keep the event as Earth-friendly as possible and folks are encouraged to bring their own reusable dinnerware. At the Downtown potluck, if you bring your own plate, you will receive a raffle ticket to win a prize. An interesting idea I’ve seen, is to bring a muffin tin as your plate. This way, you will be able to sample each dish without compromising the integrity of the taste from all of the decadent rice, beans, seitans, pastas, salads, soups and pumpkin spice cheesecakes—with a side of ‘nice cream’—from mixing together on your plate.

In my experience attending, there has been no “food-shaming,” pressure, or judgment. The food and company have been divine, which has kept me coming back. VSOP and potluck regulars do an excellent job of making vegan-curious guests feel welcome and respected. “We don’t want fellow vegans, or those interested, to feel alone,” explains Anuj Shah, JD, Ph.D. of VSOP. “You do not have to be 100 percent vegan to attend. For anyone who likes good food and has questions, or wants to connect with other like-minded people in this area, these are nice gatherings.”

Next month will bring the big, annual “Thanks-living Potluck” on November 11, 6-8:30 p.m. at the HCC Conference Center. Approximately 120, $10 tickets will go on sale this week. Thanks to Houston sponsors and donors, VSOP is able to make each year’s event a sold-out success. There will be live entertainment to pair the overwhelming offerings of mouthwatering, plant-based cuisine.

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