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ravenousveggie

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

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Diet Choice

Monthly Loves – May

May seems to have happened in the blink of an eye – it must have been all those bank holidays!

Zoom – this video conferencing software is transforming my life – giving me more time in the office and getting me out of the car.

Bagels – I had forgotten how good bagels are for lunch.  Avocado, tomato and olive is my current favourite filling

The British Library – They have an interesting mix of exhibitions and information, plus an excellent small business support hub.  Makes me wish I live in London so I could attend the seminars more easily.

Magnesium Supplement – transforming my sleep pattern and helping my recovery from a shoulder injury.

Portion Size

Do you ever go out to eat but feel let down by the portion size?  Now I don’t want you to think I am a greedy person with ‘eyes bigger than my stomach’ (as my mother would say).  Its just that sometimes the portion size of veggie food is so much less than that of the meat and fish options. It just leaves you feeling short changed. And hungry.

One of the first things you get asked by non vegetarians is ‘where do you get your protein from?’  Sometimes I sit in restaurants and ask myself the same question.

On a recent visit to Champneys one of the evening meal options was teryaki braised tofu.  I thought this sounded wonderful as I love tofu. So I ordered it. The portion of tofu that turned up was miniscule.  There was one small two inch strip of tofu on the top of some noodles. By contrast those that ordered the meat equivalent had 4-5 similar sized pieces of meat.  They looked at my meal and all commented on the lack of main ingredient.

This isn’t the first time I have noticed this.  Wagamama has done the same in the past. The tofu portion size has always been small in comparison to the meat equivalent.    I am glad to report that this has improved with the latest menu.


More tofu in the latest portions from Wagamama

A local Michelin starred restaurant I went to served up one duck egg in a jus with a baby leek as a vegetarian main. The meat eaters had two slices of meat, plus veg and potato.

But it isn’t necessarily about protein.  Eating out one Sunday at a local gastro pub I ordered a main of pasta.  My other half ordered their famous roast dinner, which cost £15 – only £3 more than pasta dish.  The extra £3 made all the difference – the roast dinner had 3 times the amount of food. My pasta dish consisted literally of a plate of pasta.  No side salad, or bread. And it wasn’t a big plate. I finished my dish quite quickly and watched my other half continue to wade through his pile of food.  My pasta dish was about the size of the side of veg he had. And, apart from feeling hungry, I was left feeling slightly ripped off. £12 for a plate of pasta that probably cost £5 to make.

I don’t know why some restaurants seem to think that vegetarians have smaller appetites. I have not met one yet. Vegetarian food is much cheaper to buy so why charge the same for smaller portions size, and often less complex dishes.   Is it a lack of understanding and thought or is it greed – of the money kind?

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!

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.

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.

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.

Long Time Veggie

Time.  It can be one of those things you lose track of – especially over many years.

I joined the Vegetarian Society in my mid twenties.  Each quarter since then I have looked forward to the magazine arriving with news, reviews and great articles.  All helping me find my way as a lone veggie in the world, and giving me inspiration of recipes to try.

There is a section in the magazine where they look back at vegetarian news of the past., which I always find interesting. It helps me understand the history of vegetarianism and the changes in society and trends in food.  

Time

I settled down to read the latest edition and was soon engrossed. I was reading about the latest tutors to join the cookery school when it suddenly struck me how long I had been a vegetarian for.  The overview of these tutors clearly stated how long they have been vegetarian. Most of them were at the thirty year mark.

Oh so about the same time as me then.  

 

This felt a bit weird.  I don’t know that many other vegetarians.  The ones I do know have only ‘recently’ become vegetarian and only one of them is close to the twenty year mark. One of my colleagues at work asked me the other day how long I have been vegetarian. When I told her she seemed surprised. She didn’t think people could have been vegetarian that long.

As much as I love getting the magazine and have the resources that the Vegetarian Society provides, I am no longer that ‘new’ vegetarian looking for answers that I feel like each time it arrives.  Time has both moved on and stood still. I am becoming one of the older generation. I have the experience and knowledge. I have seen the changes in vegetarian food fads (please no more halloumi!).  Should I be sharing this knowledge more?

Perhaps this blog is how I am doing that.

 

The Vegetarian Society

 

 

 

 

Flyer to Nowhere

A flyer for a new menu at a local pub dropped thought my door.  I have never had the opportunity to go to this place before, even though I drive past it quite frequently, so I was curious to see what they offered.

Flyer restaruant menu

The menu started off well with two starters marked as suitable for vegetarians and so my hopes were raised.  And that is where it ended.  I looked and looked again.  Burgers, Mains, Specials, Desserts – not a vegetarian offering in sight,

In the small print at the bottom were the words ”Please discuss any dietary requirements with us”.  So a glimmer of hope that they could muster up a vegetarian/vegan option if you rang them (and asked nicely).

I fail to understand why you would indicate vegetarian friendly starters and then provide no mains.  The onus is now on me to phone and have THAT conversation, and then feel easily identifiable an slightly awkward when I turn up to eat.

From a marketing perspective is this not a fail from the outset?  A flyer is meant to entice people to spend their money with you.  It is also an expensive form of marketing.  With more people turning to a meat free diet every day, by not advertising meat free options you are excluding 2% of the population.

As teenagers make up the highest proportion of vegetarians you are now excluding/making it difficult for the family trade, which is also a lucrative part of the market.

So a plea to menu planners: double check where your meatless offering starts and stops.  Are you happy with it? And who will you be stopping visiting your establishment?  Can you afford to do this?

So You’re Vegetarian Part 2

Once the initial ‘So you’re vegetarian? – you don’t look like a vegetarian’ comments are done I can guarantee that in 98% of cases the next sentence is ‘I don’t each much meat these days’.

To be honest, I don’t care.  I am not here to make  judgement on your eating habits, unless they are causing you health problems. I’m much more interested in you – who you are, what you do and your interests.  Remarks like these make me feel that the person is trying to justify their diet choice.

Mention of meat consumption always comes before any mention of animal cruelty, or the understanding of where food comes from.  The journey from farm to shelf seems to be completely overlooked.  I do not wade in there and check their understanding of this process, and that they are at peace with their choice.

Blinkered Businessman

It’s the remaining 2% of ‘I could never give up eating meat’ respondents who I sometimes have fun with. This often happens at a buffet where they are enjoying eating the veggie options before the meat ones.  Most of the time I just say ‘fair enough’. This flummoxes them as I think they are expecting a fight.  It is their choice. I understand that – as much a being vegetarian is my choice.

It’s the people who quiz me further, then reveal that they don’t want to know where their food comes from who make me angry.  Its as though as long as it tastes good and is packaged nicely they will eat anything. Which to me is wrong.

Whatever your diet choice you should always be fully aware of what you are putting into your body – where it has come from, how it is processed and what, if anything, is added to it. Are you happy with every element of this process? Just don’t feel you need me to justify it for you.

 

 

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