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ravenousveggie

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

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ravenousveggie

Brain Meltdown

Some days you get home and just feel as though your brain is in meltdown.

Today was one of those days.

My first client today is a lovely lady who I visit once a month.  The main aim is to keep her up to date on dealing with her paperwork and supporting her to navigate a complicated financial situation and also sorting out care for her elderly relative.  Today’s challenge was to keep her on track.

Due to a family health scare, her mind was understandably elsewhere.  As usual I started by asking her what tasks were top of her priority list, and started working on these.

The first one was easy and soon dealt with.  The other was a bit more tricky. It involved confirming a seat on a flight and printing a boarding pass. Normally this is quite straight forward, however a strange alert came up when I tried to reserve the seat.  I rang the number on the site and soon all was sorted. I then went back in to print off the boarding pass. This time it showed the seats I had booked but still wouldn’t let me pass the seat reservation stage. Alarm bells started ringing.  My client then recalled an email she had received the day before saying that the flight had been cancelled. She had dismissed it as a scam email as the the email address didn’t look correct and there were numerous typing errors throughout the email.  Added to the fact that we could still go ahead and log on to confirm the flight, with no mention of cancellation, it was put down to being a scam.



Photo by Matteo Vistocco on Unsplash

We found another phone number and rang it.  This took us through to a a customer service centre and a lovely chap who confirmed that the flight had been cancelled and apologised that he could not rebook the ticket for the time that was needed.  He also took on board that the email looked fake, and gully explained the reason for the cancellation. Not much help for my client who was travelling for work, and could not rebook to a different destination.  I was more taken back by the fact that one part of the same company did not know that the flight had been cancelled.

After this the rest of the tasks were soon dealt with and I was soon on my way to my next meeting.

This I knew would be more challenging.

I have a mentee who is just starting up a business. The business idea is sound, and my mentee has a lot of experience in the area.  But my mentee is an over-thinker. If any scrap of doubt can creep in, it will. Our first meeting was quite intense – my mentee swinging from complete confidence to giving up her dream in the space of every twenty minutes or so.

This meeting was to discuss the content for her new website.  I had previously had a panicked telephone call the week before as my mentee became over anxious about what she was writing and again felt like giving up.  Twenty minutes later I had managed to calm her down and get her back on track. It was her desire to get everything right first time that was holding her back.  And if she couldn’t think of the perfect thing first time then she seemed to go into a spin and start questioning everything.

So it is fair to say that I was going to this meeting with a little trepidation. My mentee was all smiles and looking relaxed when I arrived. She produced the pagers of copy for her website and I started reading.  It was all good stuff – covered everything it needed to, from the background of the company to services and charges.

I was half way through the first page when it started.  A barage of questions and doubts and ‘is this right?, or should I change this?’ To be honest I really wanted to shout out ‘will you shut up and let me read?!’, but I thought better of it – the genteel patrons of a Waitrose coffee shop probably wouldn’t survive it.

By this point in the day I was tired and trying to concentrate on what I was reading, whilst being asked questions about sections I hadn’t read yet, just didn’t work. I stopped what I was doing. My brain stopped. I just stared at my mentee – paralysed by the amount of things I was being asked to do and not managing any of it.

A few moments later I was back in the room.  Putting my game face on and getting my mentee to calm down.  We calmly went through each area she was having issues with and came up with alternative wording, or put her fears to rest.  An hour and half later we said goodbye and went our separate ways.

When I got home I just felt exhausted.  My brain felt soft and mushy. I looked at the kettle – I knew what it did but had no idea how to use it.  How could this have happened to me? I have had days where I have been pulled in various different directions by different clients (and the same ones!) and had to field multiple interruptions, but never had I felt like this.  Part of me wanted to feel angry at my mentee. Surely if she has this amount of doubt on the finer points of her business then she won’t be able to sustain the business. Should I tell her to stop aiming for her dreams and go an get a job?  But her background and experience says differently. And the business idea she has is really good.

I resolved to put it down to experience.  I can’t expect all mentees, or clients, to be calm and not sweat the small stuff.  Or to realise that things can usually be changed in the future – websites updated when the perfect wording comes to mind, or business cards and flyers changed when the first batch runs out.  I just need to find a better way of dealing with this situation in the future.

My biggest issue now was to tend to my mushed brain and get myself back on track.  A task which involved something slightly stronger than a cup of tea.

A Fair Price

As a vegetarian its fair to say a number of people have commented on how much cheaper it is to eat out than a meat eating diet.

Most of the time I agree – vegetarian meals tend to be cheaper.  They have cheaper ingredients and tend to be quicker to make. However sometimes I think vegetarians pay over the odds for what they get.  

Today I went to a pub for lunch with friends.  They fancied a proper Sunday Roast and I knew that the chosen place did good roasts and also usually has a good choice of vegetarian meals.The selection was good, however the meals are on the pricier side – roasts stat from £15 and the vegetarian mains from £12.

But what do you get for your money?  For the roast you get three veg, the most enormous Yorkshire pudding, roast potatoes, gravy and of course the meat.   For the veggie meal I had a bowl of pasta with mushrooms and a a sauce. Not the most exotic or expensive ingredients. I declined the parmesan that came with it on the  grounds that A) parmesan is not vegetarian and B) I can’t stand the taste of it. And that was it. No side salad or veg. No bread nothing. My friends thought I was starving as the food disappeared so quickly, but the truth of the matter is that it was really difficult to eat a bowl of pasta slowly without it going cold. And the size of the roast dinner portion meant that you needed a good twenty minutes to eat it.  I admit finishing my main and feeling hungry – longing for the desserts (if only I could be sure which ones were veggie friendly from the menu).



Photo by Adam Jaime on Unsplash

I have been to some similarly priced establishments where the size of the salad justifies the price and you do feel that you have eaten a satisfying amount, had more than three ingredients. and still paid less.

I pointed this out to my friends and you could see the penny drop and general agreement around the table.  When it came to puddings the vegetarian friendly options were the same size as the other. So why the discrepancy for the main meal?  People don’t mind paying more when they feel that they are getting quality and value for their money.

More and more as a vegetarian I feel I am loosing out in restaurants, and that the price I pay does not reflect the portions I receive when compared to the carnivores.

 Just because I am vegetarian doesn’t mean I am not hungry!

Monthly Loves – December

December – that month of cramming in work, parties and shopping before a long break (if you are lucky) where time seems to stand still and days become one big blur..  

  • Christmas Festivities – although Christmas has changed for me a lot over the last few years, I still enjoying to see the energy and enjoyment it brings to so many people.  
  • I had a lovely Christmas meal with a client at The Half Moon at Warninglid.  Probably the best veggie meal I hd out this month. Not sure what the usual menu is like, but I know my other half will love the food there, so planning a trip back at some point.
  • Hot chocolate made with almond milk.  The best dairy free alternative and flavour combination I have found to date.
  • Mal Maison – probably my favourite hotel chain who also cater well for vegetarians.  The staff are always welcoming and the decor is sumptuous. Don’t visit very often but I am never disappointed.
  • Christmas Dinner – I made a simple but gorgeous veggie main using Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s receipe for baked mushrooms with kale and walnuts. It went perfectly with all the roast veg and trimmings and was really filling. And it to no time to prepare and cook! Find the receipe in his River Cottage Much More Veg book
  • If you read my latest blog you will think I did nothing over the Christmas break, however I did spend a good few hours planning my business for the next 12 months.  Business planning sounds quite boring, but I am now focussed on what I want to achieve, and how to achieve it. I found it a very energising process and am looking forward to 2019.
  • Presents – my lovely friends and family showered me with an array of environmentally friendly and home-made gifts, helping my journey to reducing plastic and treading more lightly on the earth.

Christmas

Christmas can be a strange time of year.

The weeks before are a whirl of shopping, working hard to get ahead for the days off, and attending various seasonal functions – parties with work, networking groups friends and family.

In previous years I have always been incredibly busy at this time or year.  On top of all of the above I was in a choir and it was our busiest time of the year.  So by Christmas Day I was normally worn out and coming down with a cold. But I still loved Christmas.  Getting together with family who I don’t get to see that often. Having a few days off. Watching endless hours of TV.  Occasionally venturing out into the fresh air.

But since my parents died, and I split up with my husband, Christmas has been different for me.  It doesn’t seem to have the energy and fun it used to have.


Photo by Fancycrave on Unsplash

My new partner does not have much family and has never really been into Christmas celebrations.  He sees it as a good break from work, but is not into visiting family. It has given me an appreciation of Christmas from the perspective of someone who has never really celebrated it since childhood.  

So for me it is about creating our own traditions for this time of year.

For the past two years we have been to our local for a lunchtime drink, and then home for a relax in front of the telly, and then our Christmas meal in the evening.

This is a lovely way to spend the day – fresh air and exercise from the walk to the pub and back, plus meeting friends.  Then a very un-stressful day making dinner for the just the two of us.

This year we have had a good break, doing very little, with one family get together with my family.  This is always a great occasion as we just love catching up with all the news. The day is about food, drink, relaxation and having fun.  No stress. Everyone gets on really well. Food wise it was relly good as three of my nieces and nephews have turned veggie over the last yer, so I was no longer the only veggie at the table!

After a few days or relaxation and long lie ins I confess that at one point I had no idea what day it was!

Now we are coming to the end of the brek I do sit back and think I haven’t achieved enough.  But then I worked hard in 2018 and didn’t have more than a week off at a time, and often worked seven day weeks.  So I have given myself permission not to get worked up by the length of my to do list. I will just re work it nd catch up over the coming week.

So whatever your take on Christmas I hope you had a good break, doing what you love the most and having a rest where possible.

Weighty Issue

When people find out that I am vegetarian 95% of the time they remark” really? You don’t look like one”. Apart from asking “what does a vegetarian look like?” I never really know how to react to this.

Society today is obsessed with the  ‘perfect body’. We know that magazines  are full of photoshopped images and that most people now have a distorted idea of what a healthy body should look like – at any age.  Even though I am aware of all of this it does make me slightly uneasy with my own figure.

I mostly eat healthily  – veg, salad, pulses, nuts, fruit – however I have a very real love affair with sugar.  I don’t do artificial sweeteners and haven’t found a stevia product I like the after taste of.  



Photo by Rod Long on Unsplash

This sugar issue means that I am slightly more ‘cuddly’ in the middle than society would like.  I am still a healthy weight though.

Various changes in myth life  over the last few years have meant that  I am not getting to the gym as much (or ever) as I used to.  I pretty much work 6 days a week. This means that on my free days catching up on housework and relaxing tend to get top priority.  Getting out to exercise has dropped off the priority list.

I am very aware that this is within my control (to a great extent).  I have chosen to re-prioritise exercise in my life. It is something I am reviewing.

My busy life means that I tend to have less time to prepare food than I used to.  The ‘on the go’ food options for veggies predominantly focus on cheese and bread options, or over chilled sandwiches of egg or tomato that leave them tasteless.  Or chips. Love chips!

Although the range of veggie food is slowly changing, for me interesting, tasty, easy to eat veggie food on the go still mostly doesn’t exist.

With a bit of extra effort I can remedy this situation, and I am making changes.  However wouldn’t it be nice to have a larger, more widely available choice of healthy , vegetarian fast food?  All those shelves of chicken salad – could we not have the option of buying a salad and then a ‘protein’ to go with it?  A flexible meal deal to appeal to everyone? Or am I the only one who is bored with the current offerings?

For now I am putting extra effort into making my own lunches and tking healthy snacks with me. It still doesn’t stop the lure of a good doughnut, but it is a start.

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.

 

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