Strictly speaking, this year’s National Vegetarian Week is a British affair–and proudly so. It was the brainchild of The Vegetarian Society, a UK educational charity which, at 164 years, is the world’s oldest vegetarian group. But thanks mostly to in the Internet and social media, vegetarians around the world are joining in.
The program is an awareness campaign aimed at promoting the vegetarian lifestyle, according to the group’s website. This year’s Vegetarian Week, which runs from May 23rd to May 29th, will feature barbecues (the Veggie-Q), wine and cheese nights, free food giveaways, film screenings and information sessions, from Cornwall all the way up to Aberdeen.
Restaurants and groceries are also offering discounts on vegetarian meals and products. Some, such as the YeoPans Chinese Takeaway in Manchester, are offering “meals of the week,” and Birmingham’s Wildmoor Oak Pub and Restaurant has created a special vegetarian menu. A vegetarian buffet in Wales, a free food tasting in Hounslow, a banquet in Mirfield–there’s something brewing in just about every town.
Also part of the event are the Cauldron Hero Awards, given to individuals, groups, and businesses who have shown initiative in spreading and advocating vegetarianism in the UK. The Angel Inn in Skipton and Edinburgh’s L’Artichaut shared last year’s Local Organisation Hero awards, thanks to their local promotions of NVW in their respective towns.
There are also competitions for young cooks and vegetarian chefs. A live cook-off is planned in Altrincham, Trafford, the winner of which will be given the Cordon Vert Chef of the Future award. Among the prizes up for grabs are a full year’s membership to the Vegetarian Society, a basket of approved products, and a scholarship to the Cordon Vert Diploma program.
Earlier this year, aspiring school-age cooks took part in Young Veggies, a series of school competitions that invited children aged 12 and below to create vegetarian meal plans for their schools. Another category asked older kids to create airline menus. The contests were designed to fit into the regular school curriculum, although schools can opt to offer them out of session.
National Vegetarian Week was first celebrated in the UK in 1992 and has since gained widespread recognition as one of the biggest events of its kind in the world. The Vegetarian Society has also become an authority in vegetarian product quality standards, with foods bearing the “Vegetarian Society Approved” label enjoying much higher sales.