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ravenousveggie

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

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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.

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.

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.

 

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