Search

ravenousveggie

Thoughts on veggie food, work, play and life in general

Monthly Loves – November

November seems to have gone by in a flash.  I was lucky enough to have a few days off work, which resulted in some great restaurant finds!  

  • Winchester -lovely place for a short break.  Beautiful architecture, great museum and lovely shops.  Mkre sure you go when the market is on – a lovely mix of stalls.
  • River Cottage Kitchen – I love Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s Much More Veg cookbook so took the opportunity to eat at his Winchester restaurant.  The food was amazing, although most of the veggie/vegan food options are side dishes. But don’t be disheartened. The portion sizes are good and the variety of choice leaves you wondering what to order, and hoping your meat eating  companions will order some of the sides so you can try them.
  • Incognito Cocktail Bar – An interesting and quirky cocktail bar, serving a lot of different drinks, with modern twists on your old favourites.
helena-yankovska-434536-unsplash
  • Kinder Tech – This is a small, local opportunity to have your tech issues answered and fixed for free.  Run by volunteers from the people behind The Kinder Living Show, this twice yearly event gives you the chance to find out what is wrong with your tech, possibly get it fixed and find out if it is worth fixing.  They will also take your old tech and make sure it is recycled.
  • I was lucky enough to attend the Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall.  A beautiful, emotional and humbling evening.
  • Green People shampoo – the only shampoo I have used that means I don’t need conditioner.  My hairdresser is amazed by it and is looking to get it stocked in the salon.

Why go networking?

Networking – when you run a small business this can be a vital way of selling your goods or services.  If you belong to a larger company you may be asked to go to find potential clients. Love it or hate it networking can be really effective at drumming up new business and finding good contacts for you and your clients

I was talking to a networking event organiser the other day and was surprised to hear how demanding networkers can be, and why some people go networking when there is no obvious reason as to why they are there.

Networking events have different formats – from free and unstructured, mingling in a room (buy your own drink/food), to paid for fully structured.  I like the free format ones (much more relaxed), and I also like some of the structured ones, as the content can be good and the format can help focus my mind.  I don’t enjoy the over structured ones that focus too much on the input/success of everyone in the room and following a very prescribed format. This can sometimes reduce the amount of good networking time and comes across as very rigid.

The format of these events is usually well known up front and it is a good idea to try each type to find the structure you are comfortable with.  Also you need get to understand the mix of businesses in the room. Are they your target market or do they have access to it? Other than that you tend to get out of networking what you put into it.  It is a two-way street.

I have occasionally seen people at these events and wondered why they are there.  They seem only interested in their own product and don’t want to know what the other person offers.  They don’t tend to do so well!

Some seem to come for the company – they don’t appear to explain their offering, or have much to say as to why you should use them.  They do put business the way of the others in the room, but never seem to wan, or get, any business. They are often the least prepared for the meeting.  I have met a lady who confessed that the reason she goes to networking was to get out the house, meet people and have a bit of structure to her day.

I have seen people sign up for some of the more structured events, and then complain on how they are run and the information provided.  They want a list of attendees – rather than collect business cards and write their own notes. To me this is lazy – you need to be listening to, and taking your own notes of what others in the room are looking for.

Networking pays dividends when you make the most of it – connect on LinkedIn soon after the meeting and book 121s between meetings to get to know your fellow networkers better.  Also don’t be afraid to book a 121 with the event organiser, and don’t wait for them to book one with you. Networking event organisers often run more than one event each month, so remembering to book 121s with members can slip through the net.  

You also need to identify if your target customer is in the room.  If you are offering professional services for companies with 50+ employees, then the casual get together at a local pub is unlikely to produce any contacts.

Whatever your reasons to go networking do review your return on investment.  Are you getting back in business more than you membership and meeting fees? If not you need to review if you are making the most of the group, or if it is time to leave and find a more suitable group.  And also, be nice to the organiser!

Happy networking!

Is the increase in vegetarian and vegan options a good thing?

Everywhere you go people are talking more and more about the need to eat less or no meat.  On a daily basis my social media streams are filled with people showing the latest vegetarian and vegan options available in their local supermarkets and from local suppliers.    

As a long time supporter and volunteer with Greenpeace I occasionally feel like screaming when people talk about how they have changed their diesel car/reduced plastic/eat more organic food/reduced their meat intake.  Don’t get me wrong these are all good things, but also subjects I have been talking to people about, and taking actions on, for the best part of 20 years. I almost want to say ‘why are you only just becoming aware of this? Have you not been listening?’

It sometimes feels that actions are being taken because it is fashionable do so.

The increase in vegan food available is also added to this list. Not because I don’t believe that eating less or no meat is a bad thing.  It is more to do with the ethos of being vegan – to ensure no harm is done to animals. Or as per the Vegan Society “Veganism is a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.”

The majority of food manufacturers are now offering vegan options. Hurray you say?  Well possibly not. An increasing number of these companies are ones that have low ratings on the Ethical Consumer scale, often for animal testing, factory farming and animal rights on the rest of their products.  By buying these vegan friendly products from such manufacturers you can be inadvertently funding the animal harm vegans fundamentally aim to avoid.

Vegan Burger

Photo by Deryn Macey on Unsplash

In the past the truly vegan product suppliers have not sold their products through the large supermarkets because they do not hold the same ethical stance.

My other issue with a lot of the products is the amount of processing involved.  People often site the health benefits of going vegan but potentially they are eating more processed foods as the food producers bring all these new food to market – vegan margarine, vegan ‘pulled pork burgers, vegan cheese.  This rise in ‘functional foods’ started with the convenience of Quorn style burgers – to appeal to meat eaters who want to reduce their meat intake easily. I feel this has now spread to the vegan menu.

The same happened with FairTrade foods.  Nestle made their Kit Kats from FairTrade chocolate and everyone cheered.  Very few were aware of how much damage Nestle does as a company. And many don’t mind as they have the Fair Trade badge on some of their products so all must be good, right?

Wrong.

From environment, animals, people and politics Nestle is one of the lowest ethical rated companies you can come across.  Tesco and Asda don’t score much better.

Back in 1944 when The Vegan Society began I wonder if the founders dreamt of such a wide variety of foods being available?  And would the founders be happy with them today?

For me being vegetarian or vegan is about more than the food you eat.  It is about the ethics behind the food and products you buy. To do this you need to be aware of the companies behind the brands.  The Ethical Consumer is an eye opening read, and a useful tool if you want to make more ethical decisions about your lifestyle.

Perhaps I yearn for a time when vegetarian and vegan food was simpler,  less processed. You bought a lot of it from your local health food store as it was too specialised for the supermarket.

Having more variety and access to veggie and vegan foods is good.  Just make sure you are happy with the companies behind them, and how they are made.

Food on the move

You have been working hard all morning.  Flitting between meetings, telephone calls and getting to through the to do list.  You then realise that you are hungry and forgot to pick your lunch up. Or your day has changed and you no longer have that lunch time meeting that was in the diary.

 

What to have for lunch?  You don’t have time to get to your favourite cafe or sandwich bar.The only other alternative is the sandwich van that comes round, or the local supermarket.

 

For me this fills me with dread.  The lack of variety for food on the go for vegetarians is depressing.  The usual offering of egg mayonnaise or cheese sandwiches – stored to such a cold temperature that they don’t taste of anything. Then you spot it.  A lovely looking salad – tomato, rocket, pasta – yum! Then your heart drops as you see it has chicken with it. Bowls of lovely looking noodles and pasta but all with added chicken, feta or tuna.

 

I love noodles and pasta.  The only vegetarian pasta offering is cheese and tomato sauce, or the joy of more feta.

 

It goes back to my previous blog talking about how difficult it is to get a vegetarian salad.

Food on the move
Photo by Alice Pasqual on Unsplash

This got me wondering how difficult it would be for the companies to produce a pick and mix salad selection?

 You choose your bowl of basic salad, then add your carbohydrate – pasta, noodles, potato, couscous – and then your protein option – nuts, breads, fish, meat.

 

Ok this will be a nightmare on the packaging front, but from a hunger satisfaction perspective this would be great. If you go into a service station or supermarket late at night you will see all these bowls of food sitting there.  By splitting out the ingredients you could make them more attractive to the person who just wants a quick ready made salad to go with their planned evening meal.

 

Its just a thought to make food on the go just a bit more inspiring.

 

Monthly Loves – October

What an interesting month October turned out to be.  It started by working for a client in Berlin for a few days and ended with some exciting changes on the job front.  In October I also loved the following:

  • The Ethical Consumer Conference – I have been meaning to go to this for the last few years and this year it happened.  A really interesting day covering various topics from fashion to plastic. It was also very inspiring to see so many women keynote speakers who are running their own ethical businesses.  Ethical Consumer

 

Monthy Loves - October autumnal colours

 

  • Autumnal colours – we have had quite warm weather this year which was abruptly stopped by a cold spell.  I thought I have just missed the opportunity to go out walking to see the changing leaves, but luckily managed  a f
    ew hours enjoying the seasonal changes of colour

 

 

  • A fabulous meal at Sagar Restaurant.  A refreshingly different vegetarian/vegan Indian restaurant with three branches in London.  Sagar

 

  • After a particularly long and testing day at work on a very cold day getting home toIMG_0611 make my favourite comfort food – chickpeas, garlic and pasta – or Tuoni E Lampo as it is sometimes known.  I found this recipe many years ago in Rose Elliot’s book ‘The Bean Book’. Quick and easy to make. You can also add chilli, broccoli and
    pine nuts to make it into a more substantial meal.

 

 

 

 

  • This recipe for baked gnocchi from The Green Roasting Tin. A fabulous cookery IMG_0606book with both vegetarian and vegan dishes.  Will definitely be making more dishes from this book.

 

 

 

 

 

  • The Forge, Slindon, Sussex – I met a client here and we had the most wonderful lunch.  All freshly made, sourced locally and with with a veggie/vegan range of cheeses. It is also the village shop and well worth a visit.  

Just Desserts?

I have a really sweet tooth and I always look forward to dessert.

 

At home I like old fashioned desserts such as banana custard, apple pie or crumble, and rice pudding.  All the warm, comforting dishes of my childhood.

 

However eating out can be a bit more tricky.  Not from a decision making point of view (well sometimes!), but from identifying if any of the desserts are veggie/vegan friendly.

 

This is one of the things that annoys me the most, next to places only offering a vegetarian starterDessert Menu.  Some places are really good at identifying the vegetarian/vegan/gluten free options on their starters and mains.  But when it comes to desserts this information is frequently missing. The waiting staff, when quizzed tend to give you a blank look as they don’t know, and then have to quickly scuttle off to the kitchen to ask.  

 

For a while I assumed that if nothing was marked as being suitable for my dietary requirements then there was nothing I could eat.  And I wouldn’t ask, and the restaurant would miss out on selling more food.

 

I went to a new dessert restaurant this week that has opened up near where i live.  I was amazed to find that the extensive menu had absolutely no allergy/suitability information on it.  I asked the staff what was suitable for a vegetarian. The young chap said nothing was suitable as everything contained milk.  I politely corrected him and said that’s ok, I’m not vegan. Then I quizzed him about he marshmellows and the cheesecake. He was quite vague, but was saved by a co-worker who seemed to know her ingredients.  

 

I asked why there was no information on the menu and he replied that their suppliers change all the time so they can’t guarantee what ingredients are being used from one week to the next.  In view of the recent issues with Pret, and the staff member’s lack of understanding of dietary requirements, I did find this a little worrying. I doubt i will rush back and will definitely tell all my friends who I know have food allergies.

 

So not labelling menus is not only a pain for the customer trying to decide what to eat, leading to potential loss of business, but could also lead to a medical emergency for those not wary enough to ask.

Veggie Christmas Menus

Its that time of year when the Christmas party is being organised.  Desks fill with seemingly endless piles of menus. This time last year I wrote about how much cheese seemed to be on the menu for vegetarians.

So once again I start the sifting of menus.  Hopes being filled by lovely starters, only to see the same thing rehashed as a main.  Or goats cheese and blue cheese being snuck in where, quite frankly, it isn’t required.  I have even come across three venues that have no vegetarian or vegan option at all.

Overall tVeggie Christmas Menushis year’s offering seem to be a bit better though.  A move back to the days of nut roasts (hope they aren’t as dry as last year’s) and a move to root vegetables in various forms.  but most of them still have cheese attached to them in some form or other.

One menu I have come across has lovely starters and desserts, all marked as vegetarian, but no main course.  There is the option to have just two courses, so should I go for starter and dessert? Or ring them and see if they can do a veggie main? The first option would be better for the waistline.  The latter option will make me feel like the awkward one, but probably make the evening go by more easily. Decisions, decisions.

All the menus I have seen so far are very ‘brown’ looking.  None of them reflecting any of the colours we like to fill our homes with at this time of year.  

I would still like to see something like a spinach and mushroom roulade, a chickpea wellington, cashew nut and red pepper roast or spicy butternut squash with chickpeas.  All these go well (in my opinion) with the traditional Christmas veg.

Despite all the moves this year to vegetarian and vegan diets becoming more mainstream the Christmas offering does not seem to have kept pace.  Alas the world of variety of food for vegetarians at Christmas is one that continues to pass the majority of caterers by.

I would love to know what disappointing menus have you come across this year.

Charity Collection

Once a year I do a Street Collection for a charity I am involved with.

 

This involves turning up on a Saturday in my local town centre and standing still for as long as I have volunteered for.  I also have to be polite and welcoming to all the passers by.

 

Standing still in a busy shopping area can be quite hazardous, and has become more so over the years.  With so many people engrossed in their phones, or talking to others, you often get walked into.

 

For my first collection I was very nervous.   How will people react? Will I collect any money?  Will I remember all the rules (no shaking the tin, no heckling the public, stand the correct distance apart from other collectors….). Will I be warm enough? Can I stand for that long?

Donating Money To Charity

 

Collecting can be a lonely time.  Lots of people milling around you but very little contact with them.  Crowds tend to come and go, and towards the end of lunch time the area can become almost desolate of people.  Still,  you sand there in the hope that someone will come by – and even if they give you a smile that can be as encouraging as getting a donation as well.

 

Fifteen years later I now treat these sessions as a time to switch off and people watch.  Sometimes I feel like I am on one of the programs where the person stands still and a lot of activity happens around them.  I get to see the public at its best, and worst.

 

Fathers sharing precious moments with their children whilst mum is off elsewhere. Children throwing tantrums. Couples arguing. Happy people. Distressed people. It is also a chance to catch up on the latest fashions – spotting the best dressed and giving a mental prize for the best and worst dressed person you see.  

 

The strangest thing about doing a street collection is people’s’ reaction to you.  Some give money just because you are there collecting, even though they have no idea who you are collecting for.  Some assume from how you are dressed and the colour of the tin that you are a charity they know so give money. They seem a little confused when you explain who you are, but give money anyway.  Some give because their children are desperate for the sticker you hold in your hand. And some avoid you any which way they can.

 

The best people for me are those that stop and ask you who you are collecting for and what it involves, or those who have been on the receiving end of the service the charity provides.  This always leaves me feeling a little warm and fuzzy inside – to know the difference the charity can make.

 

So next time you see a charity collector, take time to understand who they are collecting for, give if you believe in their cause, but above all give them a smile and say hello.  It will bring a smile to their face and break the monotony.

 

Getting Prepared

Do you spend enough time getting prepared?  Prepared for what? It could be the day ahead; the important client meeting, job interview, special occasion.  Anything. Or do you know these things are coming up but somehow end up spending less time preparing than you thought you would, or thought you needed?

 

I do a bit of both.  Usually successfully, but sometimes I sit there and go ‘oh damn, I really should have put a bit more effort into this’.  Sometimes events and situations that appear to be straight forward, turn out not to be and you have to think on your feet.  Or prepare in a different way.

 

I go to a lot of networking events and have prepare for each one, usually the day before, by writing my 60 seconds (if required), thinking about my goals for the meeting and making sure I have business cards with me.  Just occasionally neither of these actions happen. So what do I do? Well, being the daughter of two hoarders, I usually have a stash of business cards in my handbag and wallet and keep a box of them in the car. This last one has bailed me out on numerous occasions, and helped when a casual conversation in a queue, or at a social occasion, has led to some new business.

Getting Prepared
Photo by Kyle Glenn on Unsplash

But what about not preparing for the meeting?  Well I do keep in my notebook a ‘stock’ 60 seconds that I can pull out and use.  In these situations I also hope that I can do my pitch half way round th group. That way I can pick up on themes or complimentary services that I can provide.  This also gives a double whammy of showing that i have listened to those before me , or understand the other skills in the group, and appreciate what they have to offer.

 

Some people are naturally good at preparing.  My partner prepares for meetings and events weeks in advance – planning out what he needs to do each day to get ready.  I find myself both in awe and dismay of this at the same time. However, whatever he is doing, he always does it well. Fail to plan, plan to fail as the old adage goes.

 

My problem with planning is that I used to plan for everything.  I had a reputation for being prepared for things, but also felt this made me come across as inflexible – as though if circumstances changed at the last minute I resented the change after all the effort I had put in.  I realised that even if you put a lot of effort into planning, most people don’t realise or appreciate it. I spent a long time trying to free myself up to e able to ‘go with the flow’ and just enjoy whatever happens next.  Be in the moment. Enjoy the moment.

 

So now I am in a weird no-mans land of being mostly prepared and occasionally not, but then making the most of each situation.  Some days I find this refreshing and congratulate myself on how I did. Some days I give myself a good telling off, and promise to do better next time.

 

Where are you on the preparedness scale?

 

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: