“I’m not sure what my favorite food is these days,” Sue Cag, a 20-year vegan and founder of Wilmington Vegan, reveals. “I enjoy heartier meals, such as pizza, ‘chicken-fried’ tofu with potatoes and broccoli, lasagna, and deli sandwiches and wraps.”
While the musician—who also owns Karmic Fury Records—has been dedicated to the plant-based lifestyle for two decades, she is very aware of the challenges vegans face and the fortitude it takes to see through their commitment. Understanding recipes, knowing where to dine, how to find dependable resources … it all was the impetus to start Wilmington Vegan in 2011.
“It started as a social group where people could post about experiences online, and we could get together for potlucks,” Cag notes. “I never anticipated so much interest.”
Since, the group has participated in numerous events like Earth Day, Pawz in the Park, and the Earth and Surf Fest. Cag launched a Facebook group, now over 300 members strong, for folks to share in daily support. Plus, her website, www.wilmingtonvegan.com, offers a plethora of resources to keep people encouraged to continue on their path.
“I went vegan for ethical reasons,” Cag admits. “For me it was intuitive. I liked animals, and it was obvious they experienced joy and pain. Not eating them or using them [in products and clothes] was such a simple way for me to eliminate a whole lot of unecessary suffering in the world. It just seemed like a no-brainer.”
After reading “Diet for a New America” by John Robbins, Cag felt more dedicated to the cause. With Wilmington Vegan she created a board and opened volunteer opportunities for people to help at events, as well as with ongoing projects. In May the group published Wilmington’s first-ever vegan dining guide—a comprehensive resource to help diners choose restaurants that abide by their standards.
“The local dining guide took several months to complete and has been a major success for us,” Cag states. “The community values this resource, and we’re so happy to have been able to make it happen.”
Cag’s inspiration for the guide came after traveling through Portland, Oregon.She found a similar resource there and thought: “Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have such a resource in Wilmington? Could it really happen?”
“‘Where can we eat?’ was one of the most common questions I was receiving via email and that was being asked in the group,” Cag says. Though finding the information was attainable, Cag wanted to compile a list from trusted people, like members from Wilmington Vegan. “[It wasn’t] hard [to find places] if you were in the know, but information was never completely accurate, organized, tracked, or updated,” she continues.
Cag and her board members—Frannie Sweeney, Caitlin Campbell, Kim Dicso, Sandra Sharpe, Christine Chavez, Dayna Hines, and Valerie Robertson—personally contacted over 50-plus eateries, businesses, organizations, and grocers about their vegan offerings. From restaurants, like Sealevel Gourmet, Brixx and Clean Eatz, to bakeries like Uprising, to grocers like Tidal Creek and Lovey’s, to the numerous farmers’ markets across town, Wilmington Vegan Dining Guide is comprehensive. It’s also a free publication and can be found at vegan-friendly businesses like Old Books on Front Street.
“One of my intentions with the guide was to facilitate communication with local restaurants and businesses and to show how much interest there is in vegan food choices,” Cag says. “There are more people than we know who are looking for vegan fare. There is such a strong need in our community.”
Cag and her crew already are working on volume two of the guide. They hope to publish up to two a year eventually, and say their list is growing for whom to add to the next edition.
“The response has been overwhelming,” Cag says. “It definitely shows folks there are a ton of choices in our community, probably a lot more than they imagined. It’s easy to find tasty vegan eats in town, and it’s constantly improving, even in a Southern town like ours.”
Side projects are growing rapidly for Wilmington Vegan, too. They’re upstrating a mentor program for vegans who want support, especially those new to the cause. A mentor will sit down with the mentee and talk about what it means to be vegan—to live a thoughtful, compassionate life, by taking animals, the planet, and humans into consideration wholly. They’ll discuss ideas, recipes and ingredients, and how to avoid the consumption of animal products (flesh, fish, dairy, eggs), as well as the use of fur, leather and wool. “[The program] also can be for someone farther along who could use general support in what can be a hostile world,” Cag says.
The group is asking for volunteers or for people who want to serve on the Wilmington Vegan board. New projects, outreach events, communications, web work, and more are on their roster of needs.
Folks can sign up for the Wilmington Vegan newsletter at www.wilmingtonvegan.com, or visit their Facebook group at www.facebook.com/groups/wilmingtonvegan. Pick up a Wilmington Vegan Guide at their official launch party on August 3rd at Wilmington Yoga Center, with proceeds benefitting Wilmington Vegan projects—or download the guide for free at www.wilmingtonvegan.com.
Wilmington Vegan Dining Guide Release Party
August 3rd, 5:30 p.m. • $10
Wilmington Yoga Center
5329 Oleander Dr.
Food and silent auction!