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March 22, 2011 at 7:15 PM

Score one for Seattle Vegans

Saturday and Sunday, Seattle-area vegetarians, vegans and the veg-curious will gather at Seattle Center for a big green bite of Vegfest 2011. There they’ll graze on samples from 200 vendors, watch cooking demonstrations, listen to health-care pros discuss diet and nutrition, and rub elbows with folks convinced the world would be a better place if we’d all choose to lie down with lions by giving up lamb — among other things.

Among them is a leading voice in the Vegan community whose Vegan Score blog, and same-name Twitter handle and Facebook page, have become the social-network equivalent of a community center. This local entrepreneur has made it her not-for-profit business to introduce us to the people and places that score big in the lives of those living the vegan lifestyle. So, in the spirit of ripping her off, allow me to introduce you, via the Q&A format she uses to profile her “Vegan of the Week.”

If the (vegan) shoe fits, wear it, says Anika Lehde — the force behind Vegan Score, seen at The Chocolate Shoebox near Phinney Ridge.

Name: Anika Lehde [say: An-EE-kah LEE-DEE]

Age: 37

Neighborhood: First Hill

Vegan circa: 1993. “I’ve been vegan a long time, and even I had thought being vegan was for those who were extremely political or otherwise counterculture. But it’s a surprisingly diverse group. About two years ago I started volunteering at Washington state’s only all-vegan grocery store, Sidecar for Pigs Peace, and my whole idea about what a vegan was got turned around. Vegans are people trying to follow their own conscience” — by not eating meat, dairy or eggs, or using animal by-products including leather and wool. “They’re Jiminy Cricket!

“At Sidecar I met 4-year-old vegans and 70-year-old vegans, pilots and hairstylists, lawyers and military men, as well as punk-rock kids and hippies, like you’d expect. And not just people from Seattle, but folks from all around the Puget Sound. I was moved so much by that experience, it completely inspired the Vegan of the Week.”

Why I find her interesting: Because she sees Vegan Score as a “network for sharing” local sources for vegan food, fashion and events, and has made it her mission to turn the city on to places like The Chocolate Shoebox, Seattle’s first all-vegan shoe and chocolate boutique. Looking for love? She’s recently launched a vegan matchmaking service. Want a T-shirt? She’s co-founder of Lion’s Share Industries, which puts local art and meaningful messages on eco-friendly tees.

Like me, Anika enjoys ferreting-out great places to eat, including Tidbit Bistro, where she was awed to learn they’ve got a special vegan menu — after asking her waiter to hold-the-cheese. But if I were to invite her to dinner at Sullivan’s Steakhouse, rather than say “No way!” she’d say, “I’ll find something, even if it’s a salad and fries.”

Sure, she’d rather meet me for brunch at her vegan-restaurant favorite, Plum Bistro. Or at the Highline, the vegan bar where she’s crazy about the fried pickles. And if I invited her to a party at that meat-lover’s paradise known as my house, she says she’d offer to bring a vegetable platter, perhaps with a dip on the side made with Vegenaise — a mayo substitute available at QFC and PCC.

Why vegan: “Because being vegan is not about being pure and perfect, it’s about defining what you don’t want to be a part of, about making decisions in line with your values.”

Spends time: At Sidecar, in the University District, volunteering Sunday nights, and at her office in Pioneer Square as co-owner of Projectline Services, a marketing firm with 150 employees in Seattle, Bellevue and London.

Anika suggests: “Try a couple vegan meals. Read a couple blogs. Toe-dip. There’s no magical on/off switch that says you have top become a food radical.” Read “Vegan: the new ethics of eating” by Erik Marcus. Check out VegSeattle.com. Order a vegan “starter kit” via the PETA website. And since Anika’s not much for cooking, may I suggest “Clean Start” by Terry Walters, with 100 vegan recipes meant to inspire you to “eat clean and live well.”

If you see Anika on the street: Inquire about the citywide Vegan Chili Cook-Off to be held May 15. And ask about the coffee-table book she’s putting together with photographer and Vegan Score Southend contributor Rebecca Bolte, profiling 52 Seattle-area vegans.

Comments | More in Vegetarian/Vegan

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