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..





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.

messy business

paniniThe most difficult challenge of late is dropping into cafes for a mid-shopping light lunch with darling daughter. I usually look forward to a break from the cosmetic counters as much as my DD looks forward to a break from book browsing – at least we both share a passion for the stationery stores.

Our go-to light bite is a toasted panini. Of late the options have strayed beyond the obvious sundried tomato, pesto and mozarella into more interesting combinations like goats cheese, spinach and beetroot chutney, but none as yet have strayed into the vegan zone. We usually choose two different options and then share half and half. I wash mine down with a herbal concoction while DD chooses a creamy mocha that leaves a frothy, chocolatey residue to be spooned out and enjoyed. More dessert than beverage.

Not wanting to cause a fuss on our most recent retail lunch, I convinced myself that it would be easy to pick out circles of melted goats cheese and just set them aside. It isn’t. It’s a messy business, totally unsuccessful and not to be repeated. Next time it’s no lunch or, at the risk of mystifying the barista, get the cheesy bits removed before the panini sees the heat.

thursday update (iv)

note to self post it note1. No need to worry about my work trips to Moscow, eating out vegan style is doable, but I will pack miso soup sachets, porridge oats, and seed mixes.

2. Caring about the food I eat and the way it is farmed and produced cannot be separated from acquiring greater political awareness e.g. the scandalous TTIP and the even more scandalous realisation that something so far reaching is outside of the democratic process.

3. Sometimes sweet, chunky, milk chocolate is the only thing that will do. But I haven’t given up on the idea that whatever it is in my body that craves this food can’t be satisfied by something vegan.

4. Life is not too short to stuff portobello mushrooms, which are apparently just grown-up button mushrooms.

5. Best soup of the week: another carrot favourite this time roasted with orange zest and caraway seeds before blitzing with stock.

thursday update (iii)

post it note remember1. New word: carnism, and how eating animals is a social conditioning.

2. You can very easily get caught out when you are rushing around town, with no time for lunch and need a quick bite. A healthy looking fruit and nut bar and a green juice? Sounds good, until half way through the bar you turn over the packaging and discover skimmed milk powder in the list of ingredients. Why? What does milk powder have to do with dried fruits and nuts?

3.Ginger Nut biscuits are vegan – hurrah. They were my late mum’s favourite, so I think about mum now when I rip open the orange wrapping (her favourite colour) and tip them in the biscuit tin. I like to dip them in Red Bush tea at various times of the day. They do contain palm oil, though – that’s a nasty I would like to be avoiding.

4. I am not very good at making hummus. I thought it would be easy but I didn’t get the texture right nor the balance of lemon and garlic. Better luck next week.

5. Best soup of the week: Roasted carrots from the veg box, with cumin seeds and lemon. Blitz with stock. Delicious.

thursday update (ii)

post it note good job1. Most common question from curious friends: “Don’t you get hungry?” I suspect when I say plant-based diet they think I am chewing the cud from dawn till dusk  in an effort to keep up my calorie intake. I need to invite them to dinner.

2. Carbs, fats and sweet things can be vegan – so when nerves are raw and comfort eating is needed there is no need to feel stranded with a bag of leaves (see above). Vegans do eat cake.

3. Planning. Not just being sure of the basics in the cupboard, fridge and freezer, but browsing recipes in advance of shopping rather than half an hour before cooking, and getting ahead of myself with baking, sprouting and soaking cashews (more on that in another post).

4. Lapses are not the end of the world. They’re just old habits sitting in the exit lounge waiting for their plane out of here. They probably have a lot to tell me if I take a moment to sit down and enquire.

5. Best soup of the week: a sort of spicy parsnip combo. Basically, sweat till sweet some onion, add a teaspoon of curry paste, add chopped parsnips, stir to coat. Add stock and coconut milk. Simmer till parsnips are soft. Cool. Blitz. Bon appetit.

thursday update (i)

0108 Post it note Reminder

1. Olive oil solidifies enough in the fridge to be spreadable on toast or fresh bread. Pure and tastes fantastic.

2. Avocado also spreads well and with a few drops of balsamic vinegar* has revived occasional breakfasts from the usual go-to winter porridge sweetness.

3. Shock, horror, I don’t need digestive biscuits with tea. If I need a snack at eleven, I take one of the homemade “energy” balls from the fridge. I make them from whatever nuts and fruits are in the cupboard. Bind the mixture with coconut oil and nut butter. Then roll in desiccated coconut. It does the trick beautifully.

4. Check labels on what seem to be obvious veggie/vegan products and don’t assume a vegetable soup is veggie let alone vegan!  The take-home? Make more soup and store in trendy kilner jars in the fridge and/or freeze.

5. Miso is back on the menu, not quite daily. Best combo this week: leftover sweet potato blitzed with veggie stock and chopped fresh ginger. Add miso (made into paste first). Garnish with chopped spring onions. Quick and yummy

*balsamic vinegar is a fermented grape product, is it vegan? I do hope so.