Taiwan is a country known for its 人情味, or human touch. When foreigners first come to Taiwan, many of their initial observations involve Taiwanese people: “Everyone is so nice!” “No one litter!” “People are so polite here!”

Thus, it makes sense that on an island with one of the best recycling program in Asia and where the president supports gay rights and transitional justice, concern and consideration for humane treatment extends not only to other humans and the environment, but also to animals.

The Worldwide Vegan Bake Sale Taipei, a charity sale with such ethically sound aspirations it could only exist here in Taiwan, took place on June 26th this year at Red Room.

Although I arrived late, the Red Room was still bustling when I got there. The art space, located in an air force base-turned cultural park, had a cheerful, energetic atmosphere as plant-based eaters from all corners of the island came together for the biggest vegan bake sale of the year.

This is the second year of the sale. The event is put on by It’s a Vegan Affair, a Taipei-based community that supports cruelty-free eating. It’s a Vegan Affair, initially comprised of regular potlucks and restaurant meetups, focuses on bringing people together to share plant-based meals. However, organizer Daisy Lin had always wanted to do more for the community.

Then, one of the members, Josette Penzel, found out about the Worldwide Vegan Bake Sale and thought it was a great way for Taipei to earn some recognition from vegans abroad. The bake sale, which takes place all over the world at around the same time each year, is run by A Well-Fed World, a non-profit in the US dedicated to hunger relief and animal protection. The non-profit encourages vegan groups worldwide all over the world to participate in the sale and donate the proceeds to local charity organizations.

The turnout last year wildly exceeded expectations — over 700 people showed up to the tiny storefront and everything was sold within two hours. So, this year the group made the event even bigger.

“We made thousands of cookies, hundreds and hundreds of brownies, a hundred banana breads. The community involvement has been amazing and the support we have had from so many people,” said Josette. “And of course the turnout was incredible, showing people that we have a really strong vegan community here in Taipei. If you want to be vegan you have so many options and so many people here to support you.”

Over 30 different restaurants, bakeries and home bakers participated in the event, donating their time, energy and products. In the days leading up to the bake sale, It’s a Vegan Affair managed over 100 volunteers, coordinated recipe development and testing, as well as oversaw the baking at two different kitchens, generously donated by Grandma Nitti’s and Fresh Bakery.

Paula Perry was the head baker and she produced 90 percent of the goods. She devoted three weekends leading up to the sale to preparation and baking — churning out a whopping 2,700 cookies and 800 brownies. Originally a vegan baker at the “Screaming Carrot” in the UK, Paula has been vegan for decades and is currently raising her child vegan as well.

The desserts on display at the Worldwide Vegan Bake Sale Taipei ran the gamut of veganism, from simple vegan iterations of their egg-and-cream filled counterparts to more adventurous versions that are also gluten-free or raw. The unique desserts put out by Ooh Cha Cha and Plants Eatery (one even had sweet potato frosting!) were sold out before the event was over.

There were some savory options by way of potato and bean empanadas from Sophie’s, quesadillas from Fresh Bakery and an off-the-menu burger from Ooh Cha Cha, all of which were available before the bake sale at an earlier event, the Early Bird Yoga Session.

Daisy, who has been running Vegan Affair for several years and also manages Brightside Projects, which provides plant-based meals and workshops on making plant-based meals to aboriginal communities, was the primary organizer of the bake sale. Vegan Affair’s motivation behind hosting the bake sale lies in raising public awareness about vegan food and building a stronger vegan community. “The most important thing is getting everyone involved on a singular goal that has a positive impact. If someone can wash dishes or bake cookies, [eating vegan is] something that anyone can participate in,” said Daisy.

As volunteers mingled with attendees and exchanged tips on making delicious vegan desserts, I felt that a sense of community was certainly being formed. Many of the participants were familiar faces, as many had shown up at the Taipei Vegan Frenzy the previous month. Restaurant owners also stopped by to say hello to their customers, and photo taking among the event’s patrons was de rigeur.

Eco-responsibility was clearly on the agenda as well, as many vendors were using recyclable or eco-conscious materials. Soul R Vegan Cafe’s tiramisu cups were sold in actual ceramic mugs served with compostable cutlery for a killer deal at NT$150 each. Participants were also asked to bring their own containers as a way to reduce waste and promote environmental responsibility.

Estimated sales for this year are expected to top NT$200,000, a substantial increase from the NT$120,000 made last year. The beneficiaries included Bright Side Projects and two animal welfare organizations: Animals Taiwan, a rescue and rehabilitation center, and Mary’s Doggies, which helps stray dogs find homes in Taiwan and abroad.

Liza Milne, the on-site volunteer representing Animals Taiwan and Mary’s Doggies, provided some insight into the connection between veganism and animal welfare.

“We help out stray animals in Taiwan, but we also need to push for eating more plants, including both vegan and vegetarian lifestyles. Not everyone can be completely vegan, but everyone can cut back a little bit. This would make the world a better place and reduces suffering not just of cats and dogs, but of other animals as well.”

As the event drew to a close, volunteers scurried up and down the stairs, carrying boxes of signs, labels, and leftovers down to the cars that were to take them back to their respective homes. There was a brief pause as a group photo was taken, and everyone jumped right back to work. Stragglers broke off in groups to post-parties at various eateries around the city, while exhausted vendors prepared for a respite in the evening.

It was then that I too took my leave, my sweet tooth satiated without any of the usual guilt that might accompany an afternoon spent gorging on dessert. After all, everything was for a good cause, right?

(Quotes have been annotated for brevity and clarity)

(Feature photo of, from left, Josette Penzel, Paula Perry and Daisy Lin, by Peilin Hsu)

 

 

Darice Chang

Darice is an artist, writer, model and translator residing in Taipei. She volunteered with a metaller turned legislator and facilitated for stories appearing in the BBC, The Washington Post, Bloomberg, L’Orange, and Metal Hammer. She was previously Community Manager at FutureWard Central, Taipei's largest co-working and makerspace. In her spare time she enjoys amazing vegan food, photoshoots, and music festivals.