success, failure and lassitude

courgette lime and avocadoI had a free Sunday yesterday and spent the morning in pyjamas reading, writing and reconfirming my political views with the upcoming election just a few weeks away, and then scanning recipe books for a lunch that could be conjured from the current contents of the kitchen. Who’d have thought brazil nuts, avocados, lime juice and mint with a good glug of olive oil would make a tasty pesto? I adapted a recipe that called for “spiralised” courgettes to perform the pasta job and instead stripped the courgettes into ribbons with the potato peeler and lightly fried them off before mixing them up with a serving of wholewheat tagliatelle and the pesto. It all made for a strangely refreshing dish of pasta that I would certainly repeat, and even though I had halved the quantities in the recipe I have enough of the smooth green and creamy pesto leftover to spread over breakfast toast or to use as snack-time dip. (The original recipe that inspired me is here.)

There was also time for some baking which didn’t go so well. Having made some tasty savoury muffins last week which have frozen well and that I’ve enjoyed alongside a salad for a home lunch and as a standalone travel snack on a busy day of car journeys, I tried to adapt the recipe for something sweeter. I am not sure yet what I did differently or wrong, but I think it could be converting those wretched US cup measurements into grams that have caught me out again. I have decided to stick post-it notes on the recipes I use and make sure I write down the conversions before I start.

Finally, carrot cake bites, except I just didn’t fancy getting my hands messy moulding the gorgeous mixture of chopped cashews, dates, raisins, orange zest and grated carrot into the current in-vogue ball shape, which then would require rolling in a bowl of desiccated coconut (although i wonder if cocoa powder might not be an idea for a luxe version). No, I decided instead to press the lot flat into a baking tray and fridge-bake. It worked. And, did I mention the mixture is spiced with ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg? It’s like a little bit of Christmas when I open the tin.


Image via A Cozy Kitchen


Emily Davison RIP

Suffragette Emily Wilding DavisonIf ever I need retail therapy, my drug of choice is books with stationery, especially notebooks, a close second. Time stands still when I am browsing in a bookshop which makes it best as a solitary activity, any sense of someone else getting fidgety and bored curdles the moment like cider vinegar in soy milk. I use online bookshops if I am looking for particular titles or want to send books as gifts, but as the high street has become a homogenous, culture-free, theme park of shopping with the demise of small independent retailers of any sort (and the demise of real choice), I feel I am doing my bit to try and keep books available. I have never bought an e-book for myself; they are the meat-substitute of the literary world.

Since January, when this vegan enquiry began, I have acquired five new cook books, two books on nutrition and another five books on veganism with reference to agriculture, food production and climate change. I have never learnt so much in so short a time. I am clued up on nutrition sufficiently to know that the global western diet as a piece, not just the eating of non-human animals and products, is harmful to health and shortening the lifespan of adults and children everywhere, and  I understand better than ever that all the choices I make in my everyday life, all of them, are interconnected and affecting an entire ecosystem, namely this blue planet.

I am also acutely aware that I can’t stand on my own  in front of the galloping horse of global capitalism like Emily Davison and stop 57,000 cows a day being slaughtered and going through the golden gates of just one fast food chain, or turn the Earth’s thermostat down as easily as I turned down the one in my own house to save resources, but I do know that I can use the vote Emily and other women fought for me to have. No vote is a wasted vote. And if the choice is hope over fear, then there is only one choice.

on hunting

Riders and hounds on fox huntThere has been some collective outrage this week on social media sites as big ‘game’ hunters publish their victory selfies. Posing next to the recently murdered corpse of an animal is at the very least tasteless, in my opinion. I had also thought that hunting was the domain of poachers but it seems it is a leisure activity enjoyed by the wealthy who pay large sums of money to bag a prize specimen. It isn’t without risk of course as a story  broke this week testifies to a professional hunter and tracker being trampled by the bull elephant they had been stalking.

There isn’t anything like big game in the UK but there are seasons for hunting certain animals like deer, and ‘game’ birds like pheasant and grouse. Hare coursing is outright banned, while rabbits, hares and foxes can be hunted all year round except for a reprieve for all but the foxes on Sundays and Christmas day – bizarre.

There are 45,000 hunt members in the UK, according to the Countryside Alliance, and 186 dog packs recognised by the Master of Foxhounds Association, so fox hunting is still popular among those that take pleasure or prestige from such activities even though the Hunting Act of 2004 restricts pack dogs to stalking and ‘flushing out’, not the kill. This is done by gun or bird of prey. Boxing Day meets are big events and flush out hunt supporters who are striving to overturn the legislation and allow dogs to complete the kill. Last year a staggering 250,000 supporters turned out. That’s a quarter of the number of people who turned out in London in 2003 to protest against the Iraq war!

This all has very little to do with a vegan diet, but it does have a lot to do with the discussion around the role of non-human animals in entertainment, and the persecution of a single animal for pleasure either by a professional hitman, aka hunter, or by a group of well-bred horses and riders and their baying hounds..




plant-based v. vegan

labelIt’s important to be clear when sticking another label on yourself as they have the habit of being self-limiting. Yesterday, I confessed to being an introvert by which I mean I am very happy with my own company not that I am a predominantly self-interested person, quite the opposite, but I do need regular doses of one-time and concentrate best when it’s quiet, unlike DD who concentrates best with youtube and netflix.

On the subject of labels, I’ve been wondering about “plant-based” and “vegan”. Are they interchangeable?  A little bit of googling later and it seems the former is typically used when referring to a diet that is completely drawn from plants and their products, usually as unprocessed  or as “whole” as possible. This means obviously fruits, vegetables, grains, pulses, and seeds. The term does not always drive other lifestyle choices like the shoes you wear or the political party you vote for e.g. you could wear a plant-based-Tory label. The latter seems to motivate choices that go beyond diet, which makes it uncomfortable for me to be writing this as I sit on my old leather sofa. Vegan dietary choices do of course include the plant-based components but also processed products like tofu, almond milk and (for me) gingernut biscuits, which of course don’t grow on trees but contain no ingredients derived from animals.

With all this in mind, I have to hang my hat on the vegan tree even though I sort of like the sound of ‘plant-based’ better, for I wouldn’t buy another leather sofa, would buy a vegan pair of shoes, and will vote for a political party that puts the greater needs of the world at the top of its agenda. But, and this is why labels are so limiting, what label do you choose for yourself if you’ve made dietary choices wider than plant-based, you buy handmade shoes from Church, and TTIP is not something overly concerning you?

PS – i wonder if Church could ever be challenged to make a vegan edition of their fantastic brogues?

a thousand times a thousand

it takes a thousand voices quoteI love the feeling of waking up, of surfacing. The mental state seems clarified by dreams and sleep. I love watching first thoughts bubbling up and popping. One caught me by surprise today inspired by listening to a podcast by a creative business coach. She unexpectedly found herself deciding she wanted to help one million people make a positive change in their life.

The question that came to mind as I lingered under the warmth of the duvet, disturbed only by bird calls in the trees at the foot of the garden was: what if I could inspire one million people to pledge one plant-based day per week? No animal products on the plate just for one day. And then, the free falling brain asked, what if those people then inspired just one other person to do the same?

The answer to that, according to my calculator, because I am not good with large numbers, is that one million x one million equals a trillion. That’s a far bigger number than the current population of the planet, which is somewhere between 7 and 8 billion. I realised with some relief that I wouldn’t need to directly inspire 1 million people, because heaven knows I’m an introvert and wouldn’t have a clue how to do that. If I downsize my aspiration to 1,000 people though, which feels a little less monumental as a collection of zeros,  and then they all in turn inspired just one other person, the million would be more achievable, and then if each of those inspired good people inspired someone else then we’d be right back at the 1 trillion mark, or at least all talking to each other about something that could change the planet forever.




thursday update (v)

post it note good jobSporadic blog posting does not equal decline in everyday efforts at a plant-based life. Here’s a snapshot of latest progress.

1. Butter proves to be the agent-saboteur. I still buy proper butter for DD whose favourite food apparently is fresh white crusty bread with a good slather of soft golden creaminess. Have to say when I have a migraine, it is exactly the food I crave when I start to resurface. Anyway, I have to put my hand up, if there is a round of toast being prepared I still enjoy it best with butter. Will try better.

2. Juicing and Smoothing. I no longer have these once a day as I try to reduce sugar intake. I still love fruit but choose to crunch apples, chew bananas and chomp my way through a punnet of blueberries to get the fibre benefits, rather than blitz the lot to a mess. Then, on juicing days it’s about fruit-combos, green blends, and extra ingredients like cashew nuts, dates and coconut milk.

3. Dining out is not easy, but social networking groups are a great source of tips and scare stories.

4. Talking of social networking, receiving retweets and likes continue to be great in several ways not least of all because by following up on the tweeter or blogger I get to see what they and their followers are up to. This leads me on many informative trails and time-wasting opportunities.

5. Never buy any of those sachets of Chinese stir fry sauce from the supermarket with modified starch, colourings etc – i just made the MOST delicious sauce that I stirred into veg, noodles and tofu as they finished cooking and spinach leaves were wilting: blitzed up 2 cloves garlic, an inch of ginger, 2tsp sesame seeds, 1 tbsp olive oil, 2 tbsp agave nectar (bit less next time) and 3tbsp soy sauce. Easy.

dining out

menu cover designI always enjoy the prospect of meeting up with friends and sharing a meal at a restaurant. I have a date to look forward to quite soon with friends who are ex-colleagues, who escaped a world I am still somewhat entangled in, so there will be a sharing of tales from life on the outside and inside.

Busy women, it usually takes a few emails to find a lunch date but here we are with a mark in the diary.  The only outstanding question is where? There are  plenty of restaurants and watering holes in town and finding something vegetarian has never been a problem, but mining the menus for something vegan could be problematical.

A call out on social media has come up with a couple of certain options and a couple to be confirmed. It seems it’s time for more vegans to eat out and create a bigger demand. It is not that difficult to cook something interesting without resorting to animals and their products.


Image source via