Vegans Vie for the Gold

by Allan Appel | March 26, 2007 9:00 AM | | Comments (5)

IMG_1151.JPGA hundred raging, committed, or still chicken-eating yet aspiring vegans like Matthew Feiner (pictured) converged on the Fuel Coffee Shop on Chapel Street in Wooster Square for the world’s putatively first-ever vegan cupcake-eating contest. The competition was fierce — but steroids-free.

Saturday’s event was organized by Anthony Acock and Lourdes Canas-Jovel (pictured below), publishers of The Little Vegan Monsters Cookbook, for which book launch the meatless, dairyless, yet chest-beatingly intense competitors were gathering from all around Connecticut under a merciless (might the frosting melt?) noonday sun.

IMG_1150.JPG“We’ve noticed,” said Acock, “that there is a surplus of creative vegans statewide, and we decided to launch not only the book, but a promotion company and a website (” The authors’ next project may well be a vegan guide to Connecticut. They are interested also in promoting albums; Acock said there were many vegan musicians. “We had one all lined up, and then the band fell apart.”

No such problem with this day’s event. In an atmosphere definitely sportive, the vegan competitive eaters were stretching and preparing and hearing the rules read out to them as spectators gathered on Chapel Street. There were to be three rounds of seven eaters per, as there were 21 competitors.

And the ground rules were serious. You could eat your cupcake straight, you could dip it in water or soy milk, you could sip water before or after each cupcake. Or you could pour soy milk or water over your cupcake before consumption, which everyone agreed was completely disgusting.

Each round lasted five minutes. The winner, well, it’s not complicated, would have to eat the most during that interval. Everything was on the up and up; no veganish steroids were detected. Each eater had a completely objective human cupcake counter standing seriously behind him or her.

IMG_1156.JPGHere we have the first round underway. On the left is Bill Mannetti, scarfing up a chocolate ginger in one hand and perhaps a blueberry kumquat in the other.

Mannetti, who hails from Seymour, was actually at another athletic event last week in Bridgeport, where he’d heard about today’s competition. “It was an animal rights protest,” he said while he limbered up. “There were people riding bulls, cowboys, in Bridgeport, and we were protesting that abuse of animals.”

To Bill’s left is Derek Oatis, who came down from Glastonbury. He was specializing in the coconut-lime cupcake. His technique seemed to be: eat half a cupcake dry, take a little shot of water, then the next half. The idea was to find a system that worked and to stick with it, like a hitter at the plate, as any athlete knows.

And to Bill’s left we found Becky Lennon, a teacher at the Cold Spring School, who’s been a vegan for only eight months. “I’ve been a vegetarian for eight years,” she told a reporter, “but then I came to realized that the way cows raised for milk are treated is absolutely as bad as cows raised for meat. They are confined in tiny spaces, kept pregnant all the time, and … well, that’s in part why I became a vegan.”

IMG_1154.JPGWhile the competition raged — we shall return to announce the first-round winner — we went inside to see who else had come to the party and what they were up to. Six-year-old Sky Phillips and her seven-year-old sister Sirena were trying to choose between the lemon-raspberry and the banana-pecan.

They are being home-schooled, said their dad Chris, an illustrator from Hartford, who came down to the party having heard about the event from the list serve of the Northern Connecticut Vegetarian Society. (There is also a Southern Connecticut Vegetarian Society, but, and here is the astute market niche being filled by Acock and Canas-Jovel, no purely vegan association.)

“Veganism,” Philips said, “is a lot more for people here than a food choice. It’s a kind of all-encompassing life choice.”

IMG_1155.JPGPainter Sugati Phillips, Phillips’ wife and the mother of the girls, added, “All kids love animals. They also know what pain is. They see that their parents don’t eat animals. We put it together for them, and the kids know about pain to animals, the kinds of things a lot of grown-ups don’t yet have a clue about. In many ways, all kids are, or could be, ambassadors for veganism.”

Outside, the crowd was roaring, the crumbs were dropping, and the first round had just come to an end. Lennon had eaten four, which didn’t quite make the cut. Mannetti had consumed seven, his favorite being the coconut, but that too was not going to get him into the major leagues.

“Ah,” he said, wiping a chocolate-raspberry crumb from his beard, “defeat is sweet.”

Yes, the first round went to Oatis, who consumed eight.

IMG_1158.JPGHowever, he hardly had time to enjoy his victory, because the second round of seven competitors were already eating away. Five, four, three, two, one … and the winner turned out to have eaten 11 vegan cupcakes! Everyone crowded around to high-five Nick “the Juggernaut” Jeanette of New Haven. His favorite was the coconut-lime.

Veganism, the Juggernaut told a reporter, in a tone amazingly relaxed for all his strenuous effort, had profoundly changed his life. How so? “In general,” he answered in that quiet voice one associates with champions, “I’ve become a lot more compassionate. I’m also a fat kid who’s gone from over 200 to 180 pounds.”

The vegan-cupcake paper of record had to leave the competition before all the qualifying rounds were complete. Then would come a final round, in which the individual champions, like the Juggernaut, of the earlier rounds, would then go toe-to-toe eating more cupcakes. The winner of that eat-off would wear the laurel and receive a trophy with these moving words: “Ruler of the Universe/Vegan Cupcake Eating Champion/Little Vegan Monsters/March 24, 2007/In Yo Face!”

Eat on, vegans!

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Posted by: Lovebabz | March 26, 2007 10:56 AM

Shoot, I can't believe I missed this! Hey Paul and Team, can you post these types of events. Thnaks for letting us know about this. I am not a vegetarian, but I used to be and I can't have any dairy (I am severly allergic to milkproteins)and I love cupcakes! This is a whole new world!

Posted by: Leslie | March 26, 2007 2:16 PM

And let us not forget--The cupcakes were delicious! What an amazing event, a sight to behold on Chapel Street, a crowd of vegans and lovers of vegans hooting and hollering and eating it up!

Posted by: moonraven | March 30, 2007 10:59 PM

wish we could have been there. it looks like a blast. yea vegans!
Yea anthony and rock!!!

Posted by: Matt Uva | April 4, 2007 9:01 PM

Not to throw anyone under the proverbial bus, but, "The Juggernaut" was not the one to eat 11 cupcakes in his round to break the unofficial vegan cupcake eating contest world record (records are kept on file in Portland, Oregon).
He did, however, take the overall contest, after I gave him the win in round two. I ate 11. I didn't eat again for three days (Nick ate at 2 different restaurants later), and I never want to see a cupcake again!

Posted by: Matt Uva | April 9, 2007 8:59 PM

to lovebabz: get the cookbook.
search "Little Vegan Monsters" on amazon, or visit their website (pretty obvious, but I won't leave gratuitous plugs).
They've got the recipes for the cupcakes.
p.s. they make it pretty easy to go back to being veg.!!!

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