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ravenousveggie

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

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Positives From Covid19 and Lockdown

For all the fear, anxiety and unknowns that Covid19 had brought to the world  it is easy to overlook the good things that have come from this virus.

Good things? I hear you say? Well yes.  We know the air is cleaner, seas are clearer and nature is enjoying the lack of human activity.  Whilst we are all having difficult times during lockdown, there are some positives coming out of this.

I have friends who were feeling quite frazzled at the beginning of this year.  Being furloughed has enabled them to rest.  It has given them the chance to recharge and re-evaluate what they want to do with their lives, whilst not having the pressures of juggling work, home and family.

This enforced rest has enabled long running injuries to heal, and thoughts to slow down and stop.   Our bodies have needed rest from our hectic lifestyles and this virus has given us the opportunity to do so.

We now have a greater sense of community – neighbours are helping each other and as consumers we have moved to using local businesses instead of larger brands.  Businesses have learned, quickly, how to change their offering and go to the customer, instead of expecting the customer to come to them.  

Photo by Melissa Askew on Unsplash

I am not denying that having reduced freedom of movement, being separated from friends and family, alongside financial worries is not stressful and isn’t affecting everyone. And some are coping much better with the situation than others.   But I do believe that this enforced down time has opened up new opportunities and behaviours and has given a lot of us some much needed space to regroup. 

Hopefully we will come back stronger and determined to make positive changes for our future.

Monthly Loves – April 2020

The world in lockdown has affected many businesses – some stopping completely and others finding new ways to provide for their customers. Her are just a few of the business and sites that have brought a dsmile to my face during April.

Harries Coffee for finally teaching me the right way to make decent coffee using a cafetiere. I haven’t tried the coffee yet but will be ordering some soon.

Oat Milk from Milk & More – In my opinion as good as Oatly oat milk but delivered to your door in the most gorgeous reusable/recyclable glass bottles. In conjunction with my new found coffee making skills I may never have to go out for a decent coffee again. Milk & More’s veggie/vegan range is very good, with a commitment to avoid plastic packaging wherever possible. And all delivered to your door!

Nature – I am lucky enough to have a small garden to relax in. I’m not the best gardener in the world and with my love of wildlife my garden tends to have a slightly ‘wild’ look to it. I tend to leave the edges of the garden to wild flowers that naturally seed themselves and just keep them in check. In April the Forget-No-Nots have been lovely and have brought a burst of colour and joy to the days of lockdown.

April Loves - Forget Me Nots

We have been trying to support local businesses where possible during lockdown. One business has been Al The Pie Man. He usually has a stall in our local market and is now doing home deliveries. He dose meat, veggie and vegan options. I had the Mushroom Stroganoff which was lovely. The sides or mash and peas with wild garlic were also very good, in fact I’m tempted just to order the peas on their own! Usefully the pies come marked with what they are, so no nasty surprises in serving the wrong pie to the wrong person!

April Loves - Al The Pie Man

Where Have I Been?

Its been a long time since I last posted.  There are many reasons for this absence, but the main cause was work.  I ended up working seven days a week to make ends meet for a while. On top of this I was studying and planning my wedding.  Time for writing just disappeared, as did time for going out and experiencing new products and places to eat. Even my home cooking suffered as I could not think of new recipes to make or have the time and inclination to go shopping at the larger out of town supermarket to buy the ingredients.

We will all, at some point in our lives, have a time in life where everyday life becomes all consuming.  I have seen friends and family go through this. It doesn’t mean it is a bad time, but your focus will get reduced to the things you need to do.  

Part of me is disappointed that I was unable to write much during this time.  I didn’t even complete my daily journal for four months. The other part of me is at peace and has oven myself permission to do this. There are only so many hours in the day, and me no blogging regularly hasn’t affected the world.

Also during this time there was a lot going on in my head but I wasn’t sure how to get it  out. To an extent I was afraid to put pen to paper/fingers to keyboard. I had a combination of fear and a massive writing block.  It was almost as though I didn’t know where to start.

I think I am over that now.  I have compiled a list of ideas to write about.  Daily life has changed on so many levels (not just because of coronavirus), and I now have time to regularly write.

So watch this space and hopefully there will be some posts to make you think/ smile / shake your head at in the near future.

Monthly Loves – October

October was a busy month for me as I was concentrating on setting up a new business offering.  This has taken a lot of time and didn’t leave much time for going out and finding new things. Hopefully I will have more to report on next month!

  • I did attend The Ethical Consumer conference which was very good.  I came away with loads of ideas on how to make my company more ethical and sustainable.  Not sure I will be able to convince my directors to take any actions, but I’m working on it.   
Photo by Monika Grabkowska on Unsplash
  • Now the days are drawing in we are revisiting the roast dinner on a Sunday.  I’d forgotten how much I miss roasted beetroot!
  • Had a lovely family meal at The Wheatsheaf, Esher.  Good veggie options, including a roast.  A very popular pub so if you go do book in advance.  The low points are the lack of parking and it gets quite hot and stuffy so wear layers!  The food is definitely worth going for though!
  • A client meeting that didn’t last as long as I thought it would meant that I could visit Seasons, Forest row.  Probably my favourite organic supermarket, which I have been visiting since the late 1990s.
  • If you are looking for another great  place to eat out tryThe Horse Inn, Hurst.  This pub has recently been refurbished and offers a great selection of food, from tapas and bar  meals to lovely dinners. The Vegetarian and Vegan menus are well worth a look at. The christmas menu also looked really inviting.

Monthly Loves – September

Another busy September, however this year I managed a  week away and came across some lovely things:

  • Bel and the Dragon.  This is one of my favourite boutique hotel and restaurant chains.  On a recent visit to the Windsor branch I was pleasantly surprised by their veggie/vegan range of food.  In the past it has always been a bit lacking but now the choice is really good. Not the cheapest place to eat or stay, however for a treat it is definitely work seeking out.

  • Windsor Castle – we went here to do the tour.  I admit I baulked at the entry price, however once in it was well worth it.  A great look at the history of the monarchy. My only slight quibble is that there is not much on our current Royal family.
  • I love curry and whilst visiting the NEC we found this great Indian restaurant not far away.  Jilabi had the most amazing range of food.  The waiter asked us our likes and challenged us to try new things.  The food was fresh and tasty, and just kept coming. On top of this it is very reasonably priced.  Well worth a visit. Only thing to bear in mind is that when we went they didn’t have an alcohol licence.  Not to worry though – there is a Tesco in walking distance!
Photo by Jason Leung on Unsplash
  • Sainsbury’s Avocado Sandwich – In our week off we inevitably ended up buying  a quick lunch from a petrol station. The one we went to had a Sainsburys supermarket at it, and I found the most wonderful avocado sandwich.  It was such a relief in the endless sea of cheese and egg mayonnaise offerings!  
  • Beefeater have got a new menu out and I was really impressed by the vegetarian chilli.  I am a bit of a purest with my chili and prefer it with kidney beans, however this offering with lentils and beans stood up well.

My Mentoring Journey’s End

As my social media feeds fill up with the faces of embarrassed, frightened and smiling faces as the back to school frenzy gets underway, my year of mentoring with The Girls’ Network  is coming to an end.

It feels a bit weird.  As most people are starting something new I am finishing.

When I began mentoring back in January I remember worrying that I wouldn’t be of much use.  I don’t have children and my lovely nieces and nephews are either in their last year of university, or are successfully making their own way in the world.  

I don’t have much contact with teenagers.  Will I be too out of touch? Do I really understand the pressures they face?  Can I remember being that age?

I had little knowledge of why my mentee was on the programme, or why we had been matched.  With the other mentoring I do I know why we are meeting.

At our first meeting I was really nervous and I came a way half expecting my mentee to drop out, or not turn up for the next session.  But as the months went on we made a connection, shared our experiences, fears, failures and successes.

Photo by Alejandro Escamilla on Unsplash

We even made it on to the local news in a piece about The Girls’ Network.

It was our last meeting this week and we have a good discussion around how we had found our few months together.  What we learned and liked. Where our strengths and improvement areas lie. I had been of use and made a difference in my mentee’s life.  How much we had laughed and enjoyed the sessions each month. also what we learned from each other and from the mentoring process.

As we said goodbye I realised that I would miss our meetings.  On the drive home I wasn’t sure if I would want to mentor again at this stage.  Would I get it right next time? Would I like my next mentee as much? Would I be asked to continue?

When I got home an email came from The Girls’ Network talking about the next cohort and hoping we would sign up again.  

I have learned a lot from this experience – from improving my  communication and organisational skills, through to realising that although a lot has changed since I was a teenager, a lot of things haven’t.  And that is where I can listen, challenge and provide support and guidance.

Monthly Loves – August

For the first time in many years I managed a short break in August. Normally I have been the one who is happy to work whilst others have holiday with their families. Its less crowded and cheaper out of season! But this year was different and it was good!

On our trip to Dorchester we went to Vivo Lounge.  One of a chain of ‘Lounges’ they have a very good vegetarian and vegan menu and fabulous cocktails.  Definitely worth finding your nearest one for a good night out.

The King and Thai – an excellent family run Thai restaurant which caters really well for vegetarians and vegans.

The Hendover Cafe – another family run business offering breakfasts, lunches and tapas evenings.  Great friendly service and good quality food. 

We finished off August with a visit to The Woking Food Festival.  This was well run and had a multitude of stalls selling lovely vegetarian and vegan food.  From sauces to pies there was so much choice! Although being surrounded by so much food made me loose my appetite, I can recommend the dosa, sauces and pickles from Ollo Foods.  

Woking also has a lovely food walk in between the two parts of the Peacock shopping centre (Market Walk).  A great range of food stalls and a lovely fruit and veg stall selling everything from broccoli to kohlrabi and mooli.  A real treat and a good reason to go back to Woking!

Halloumi Burgers – Just a Posh Grilled Cheese Sandwich?

Readers of my previous blogs will know that I am not a massive fan of cheese and halloumi and feta are at the bottom of my list of cheeses I do like.  I simply don’t like the taste of them. Sorry.  

Strong flavoured cheese can also trigger my migraines and I know that if I avoid it, I don’t get them.

My problem with cheese is that,  having been a vegetarian for so long, and knowing that there is a vast array of foods I can eat, when you eat out every veggie meal seems to have cheese with it. 

And yes I have been offered the halloumi burger without the halloumi in it by a new waitress who had very little understanding of the menu.

If you look through The Vegetarian Society Magazine the majority of recipes contain cheese of some sort.  And if you are vegan well vegan cheese is rife.

One of my other bugbears is the price of vegetarian food when eating out.  Last week I paid £12 for a bowl of pasta with a mushroom sauce. No salad. No bread.  Just a bowl of pasta. It was delicious, but when it comes to portion size I wasn’t that impressed.  It didn’t feel like £12 of food and skill to cook it. Especially when compared to the meat and fish main courses which were £2 more but had a third more food on the plate.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

So imagine my joy at the halloumi Burger.  A frequent menu item where restaurants want to cater for vegetarians, and dished out at a pound or two below the price of a meat burger.  There is not much that goes into a halloumi burger. It is a bit of grilled cheese in a bun with some dressing and salad.. Meat burgers can have a much more complicated preparation, especially if they are made on site.  They can contain different flavourings and different types of meat (which we know is expensive). 

It is a glorified grilled cheese sandwich.

And why charge so much for a slab of cheese in a bun?  I can go to my local cafe and have a toasted cheese sandwich with garnish and chips for less than half the price of a halloumi burger (in fact their halloumi burger is generally half the price you pay elsewhere).

I like eating out with friends and realise that it is difficult to put together a menu to please everyone.  I am just hopeful that the current trend for halloumi and feta (all those salads!), changes soon. Or that the people compiling the menus step back and look at their menu and go ‘is that value for money, and is there enough variety?’

Reducing Travel

My job involves meeting people and therefore travelling.  Where I live and work is well connected to London, but not so much to the South Coast or the surrounding towns and villages.

I go to a lot networking events, plus I like to meet clients in person.  This means I spend a lot of time in the car travelling between appointments and events. Although I have a hybrid car and try to drive efficiently, I am still concerned about the impact of my travel on the environment.

I’d like to take public transport more, but the journey times and the cost start to make it look more prohibitive.  A thirty minute drive to Brighton equates to just under two hours by either bus or train. The bus is the cheapest option but the WiFi is not stable so precludes much working on the way. The train costs twice as much as driving and is generally unreliable.  

Of course I am looking at this cost in terms of time and money and not the impact on the environment.  

But I need to have a mindset change.  A lot of my client conversations can be quite personal  and detailed. I like to meet face to face as I can see their full reaction to questions and suggestions.  In my previous corporate life I used to use video conferencing a lot. The picture quality was ok, but time lag could make conversations difficult.  I have tried Skype over the years but always found that the system drops out after about 15 minutes.

Recently I was introduced to Zoom.  I joined a group call and was amazed by the quality and stability of the system.  So I have started to book Zoom calls with existing and potential clients. This has so far been met with enthusiasm.

Using video conference to reduce travel
Photo by Alejandro Escamilla on Unsplash

Looking at my diary this is freeing up much more time in the office and means I can walk to work more.

There will still be days where using the car will be the only practical option, however I am committed to making these days the exception rather than the norm.

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