Monthly Archives: March 2012

Faaaailure

The first time I failed, it was about four days in and I genuinely didn’t realise that my mead-flavoured-wine would be made with actual honey.

The second time I failed, it was still less than a week in and someone leaned over the top of my desk at work with a bag of Milky Way Chocolate Stars. I grabbed a handful and stuffed them into my face because I don’t like it when strangers ask me about Bingo games because I don’t KNOW anything about Bingo games.

Third time: “Wait, Pesto has CHEESE in it??? ”

Then I spent about a week thoroughly pleased with my new discoveries of hazelnut milk, soya creme caramel and aduki bean kievs. Twice I was making Cheese sandwiches for Steve, the cheese made it all the way to my mouth and I stopped myself at the very last second. I made it through the worst day yet; if I was EVER going to deliberately give in and stuff ‘real’ food into my mouth it would be the time I went to the Chinese supermarket at two in the afternoon, yet still before lunch. Bacon and Spring Onion brioche twisty things? Assorted pastries? Seafood Party noodles? Various delicious sauces to tip on tofu that have STUPID SHRIMP in them? Chocolate Pocky?

Despite all this I made it! I survived by making a Sriracha Udon thing. Then I felt better. Fully committed to being a Vegan for another 21 days. I even commented that I was more than half way, and plotted some delicious Artichoke Risotto for dinner.Then I got distracted in Costa and forgot that the coffee was for Steve and that I needed another coffee-type product for me. I was busy reading the back of all the crisps and settling on ‘Carrot and Beetroot’ so they ACTUALLY SAID VEGAN on them.

I was so distracted by this that I ordered a coffee and a hot chocolate, both with Soya Milk because a little bit of my brain was working.

Then I drank the Hot Chocolate. Made with Chocolate. Milk Chocolate.

So I’m the WORST Vegan ever.

Still got 21 days left. Still gonna do it, all the way to the end. Not going to get £10 prize.

But that’s okay.


Can there be Cheese yet?

Right now, I am VERY sick of being a stupid vegan.

I made it through all the beer in the world last night. I thought I’d struggle with resisting delicious cheesy takeaway but I ate (and enjoyed) an entire vegetable kebab with salad. Then I went to sleep.

Waking up twelve hours later I happily munched my way through a spicy mexican bean burger wrap with Jalapenos and Butternut Squash.

“Oh what a lovely healthy delicious  lunch” you’re all thinking. “That sounds lovely”.

Smug bastards, with your ‘KFC’ and your “Burger King” and  your “‘Cereal and Milk”.

Then I went to work, armed with a box of soup and some slices of bread.  La la la, I’m going to toast stuff and dip it in soup, and soak up all the delicious nutrients. La la la.

I make this soup all the time from my wonderful book of wonderful soup. It’s brilliant.

Turns out the soup tastes of dirt. Vaguely tomatoey dirt. Maybe it’s the beer speaking because Steve says he’s been eating it and it tastes fine to him. I ended up gnawing on crumpets that I found in the fridge under other crumpets with mould on them.  I was going to pour Strawberry Sauce on them but I cant risk that ‘natural colourings’ are not made from beetles.

I sprinked them with salt.

Om. Nom.

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Nom.

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Cheese?


Then I stood at the fridge and ate 160g of Tofu from the box…

I decided to be a Vegan for lent, despite a complete lack of belief in God in general and Christianity in particular. Yes, I borrowed the bits I needed and left the whole ‘Jesus’ thing but who doesn’t? Find me one person who turns down the presents and turkey and cake at Christmas?

If we can borrow Christmas Dinner from the Christians I figure I might as well borrow a bit that’s intended to make us stop and think about something that we normally take for granted.

Besides, Steve bet me £10 that I couldn’t do it.

Even though I spend a good part of every day missing cheese, and the easiness of just going to KFC on the way to work or Burger King at two in the morning, it’s not as dramatic a change as I thought it would be. I assumed I’d struggle to find things to eat, and get to explore all kinds of things I’d never normally get to try.

I thought I’d have something more worth blogging about…

As it turns out, I’m eating pretty much the same stuff as I normally would, just more often and with fewer variations. It’s costing me less overall as I don’t have to spend money on meat and fish. And takeaway.

The biggest drama was right at the start, as I didn’t realise that Quorn has egg in it, but then I also didn’t realise how good green lentils in a can are (really, make it like bolognese and try for yourself!).

I don’t miss meat at all, and I love houmous enough that I barely miss cheese in my sandwiches. It gets annoying when I want to make a recipe: lasagne, pizza, pie from the Pieminister book I bought Steve for his Birthday.

The positives:

Vegan Fajitas are as good as non-vegan, and I put more effort into my Guacamole than I would have done. I invented something so good to spread on toast that it’s better than cheese. (Half a cup of semi-dried tomatoes, a tablespoon of Jalapenos, and a tablespoon of olives blended into a paste. Try it Try it Try it) I remembered Pesto exists, and discovered Hazelnut milk…I invented a rather wonderful sweet and sour vegetable recipe that I would never have tried before. So many times I’ve used meat or cheese rather than having to think about what else would make a heap of vegetables into a delicious meal (jalapenos, sweet chilli sauce and garlic work just as well).

The absolute worst part is how little I can eat from restaurants. Bizzarely, I find that pizza-type places are better than classier real food options. If I want to go to Pizza Hut, I can just get them to leave the cheese off, and pick delicious toppings like Jalapeno and Pineapple. This worked particularly well today even though Steve had a blue cheese and mushroom Pizza just LOOKING at me.

If I want to go to Pieminister however, I can get them to leave the cheese and dressing off my salad, which I can eat plain from a plate with no pie. Still, I completely believe that I could happily be Vegetarian if I didn’t ever want to go out for dinner.
What I notice most is how much I’d eat before, simply because it was there: Plates of cakes in work, McDonalds (which I’ve never particularly been fond of) just because Steve wants it. Pizza just because it’s more fun to sit on my bum than go to the kitchen. I haven’t deliberately given in yet, but one time I accidentally gulped down a handful of Milkyway Chocolate Stars because someone offered them to me and I was too busy fighting with someone about a bingo welcome bonus (they expire after 30 DAYS, PEOPLE!) to think about it. I understand for the first time the appeal of ‘diets’, however ridiculous (no carbs! only orange foods! only things with the words ‘Jenny Craig’ written on them! etc etc) because if you’re sticking to a black and white list of Yes and No foods then you know the rules, even if they don’t make sense, and though you have reasons and excuses for eating something not on the list, the simple fact that it’s not on the list stops you. So much of being a Vegan doesn’t make the absolute most sense, health-wise (such as the time I ate chips wrapped in bread when what I actually wanted was a flame-grilled chicken and mushroom kebab with salad) or moral-wise (it can do, if you try hard enough, but even being a vegan is far from perfect) but overall I feel like it’s an improvement on both parts.

Then there’s days like today, when I get in from work, stand in front of the fridge while Steve makes himself a bagel and I eat an entire packet of marinated Tofu just because it’s there.

To demonstrate exactly what I’m doing, here’s a sample menu from a good day:

Two Kiwi Fruit and a soya yoghurt for breakfast
Houmous Olives and Tomatoes on toast for lunch (in which I notice I don’t like white bread AT ALL)
Falafels, guacamole and peas with butternut squash for dinner
Banana from the free work fruit bowl
An entire bar of dark chocolate
Multivitamins + iron because I remembered.

And from a bad day:

75 grams of dark chocolate, 2 Soya Creme Caramels for lunch
Half a litre of chocolate Soya milk
Toast, with marmalade
Some olives eaten from a jar
Half a bottle of Margarita mix from a lovely trustworthy man called “Cactus Jack” who sells his product for £4 a litre in Lidl
Chips, wrapped in Naan bread, spread with Chilli Sauce

I’m still less than a third of the way into it, so I’ll keep y’all updated.

Eventually I’ll get round to writing down some of my thoughts about the moral side of eating, and being a vegan.


So I write reviews now, apparently…

I’ve never written a restaurant review before, but I had such a fantastic time eating lunch today that I think I need to.

We planned to go get Panini based items from the Hippy Hippy Shake (om nom, by the way) but events conspired towards dragging us to Hanley and we ended up in The Big Strawberry.

For anyone who hasn’t seen me in the last 10 days* I’ve gone Vegan for lent. Not for any deeper or more spiritual reason than ‘Steve bet me £10’ but I’m taking it rather seriously.

*anyone who has seen me in the last ten days knows that sometimes I just sigh ‘Cheese’ with a little whimpering noise and drift away from whatever conversation I’ve been having.

ANYWAY, I’ll tell you all about that another day and get back to reviewing stuff:

We wander in and I instantly feel fear because at first it looks like we’ve wandered into someone’s living room. There’s a bunch of people sitting about drinking coffee and talking loudly in a nice cozy homely type environment. When I get a grip on my senses I realise I am in the right place, since there’s a giant menu exactly in front of me and one of the loud talking people is inviting us to come in and choose some food.

We’re greeted by a lovely bubbly lady who looks about our age and who I really hope is the owner because of the sheer enthusiasm she has for this place and, seemingly, everything else she’s talking about. Holding two conversations at once she introduces us to the menu “We’ve run out of tons of stuff, including eggs and anything vaguely mexican”, whilst chatting away to what seem to be the only two customers. She tells me she’s been Vegan for two and a half weeks and seems delighted that she’s beaten my ten days, and tells me all about plastic rubbery Vegan cheese they’ve just introduced in Tesco.

I liked this place immediately.

The menu, by the way, didn’t have one single thing on it that I would turn down. If you asked me a week ago I could think of maybe four things to put in a Vegetarian sandwich. Here there are at least double that of just Vegan foods and about a dozen more Vegetarian. Then there’s soups, too. I love soup.

I hear there was a Vegan Lasagne and I am disappointed that I was a week too late to try this, but I’m plotting to return so I’ll get one eventually.

We took our Vegan Chocolate Brownies upstairs to the little seating area and gulped them down while we awaited the rest of our lunch. These, incidentally, were the best Brownies ever, since they were exactly as good as non-vegan brownies, but twice the size.

Times like this I wish I was less of a socially awkward paranoid weirdo, or that the downstairs part of The Big Strawberry was a little bigger because while we sat at lovely wooden tables admiring the Cello in the corner, the two book cases of real people’s books (rather than the sad collection of the sorts of things people leave in book exchanges in Costa), and the fact that the salt and pepper pots were shaped like cupcakes, I got the feeling that we’d be completely welcome downstairs joining in with the lovely random people and the owner (who didn’t stop laughing for half an hour) talking about frog legs, decent quality Soy milk and growing cow meat in jars. (eww, maybe and bleurgh respectively) and the fact that ‘Hazelnut Milk tastes like the tears of a Fererro Rocher’ (direct quote). We listened in and made comments quietly to each other and Steve was all cynical because that’s what we do, but I bet we could have done that completely happily to their faces had we been down there too, and it cheered me up just to be there.

The food, when it arrived at about five past three, was lovely. A Vegan All Day Breakfast Panini, by the way, is wonderful; stuffed full of Vegan Sausage, Beans, Mushrooms and Hash Browns. I’ve recently discovered the joy of putting potato based things in bread, and for my first ever Vegan Sausage, I was pleasantly surprised. The coffee is strong, and is squirted out of a real old fashioned coffee machine into an Ikea mug served on a plate rather than a saucer, with brown sugar as the default option.

Steve appeared to enjoy his Falafel, Salad, and Thai Chilli wrap (I sampled, and I did)  and sipped away at the Latte he decided to buy, insisting that Coffee was ‘growing on him’ and that he ‘needs to learn to like it like a normal person’. When the food was brought up she noticed he seemed to be struggling and happily offered to water down the coffee if we’d like, then rushed off for yet another journey up and down the stairs.

The upstairs bit sits on a lovely balcony thing that looks out through the glass-fronted building. Sadly it looks out onto bins and the front of the Chicago Rock Cafe, but we got to watch assorted track-suited delights to civilisation wander past eating chips and coke on the other side of the glass for once and it was significantly better than being surrounded by them in a KFC type environment.

Side note: has everyone else noticed that above the toilets in the KFC in Hanley the words ‘Colonel Whatever’s Chicken’ written on the wall cuts off after the letters ‘Colon…’ to make way for the doorframe? Heee hee

In between listening in and quietly having opinions on being a Vegan (do free range chickens have a better quality of life than the farmers who grow Soya Beans? What’s the pollution impact of cows vs. meat grown in a jar? blah blah blah and concluding that it has probably been impossible to eat ethically for at least 60 years) we realised that the art on the walls was probably trying to be a vagina metaphor, and that one wall was in fact made entirely out of curtains stapled to book cases (I hope someone lives behind it and pretends they live in a New York loft in the 90’s rather than in Stoke On Trent. It’s what I’d do).

We also realised that the menu and the Open sign both featured pictures of kittens with human mouths. I wish I’d taken a photo because I can’t find it anywhere on Google but it was absolutely brilliant. The general atmosphere is everything Costa wishes it had, plus some actual personality, and costs about a third as much to get to appreciate it.

I would thoroughly recommend this place to anyone with an hour to spend eating lunch, whether you normally eat cow burgers or not. Whether I stay Vegan or go back to cramming cheese into my face as fast as I can get it, I completely agree with the concept of lovely high quality local pleasantly sourced food and will happily sacrifice the better-organised but soul-lacking meal times eating rapidly produced identical sandwiches in Subway in order to get it. It inspired me to keep enthusiastic about the whole Vegan thing (30 more days now) and, through its simple welcoming un-pretentious niceness made me happy for the whole afternoon.

Go there. Be happy too.

UPDATED: Found it on their Twitter page!

Clicky for the twitter page, if I did this right...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


You can’t polish a turd.

About a two and a half years ago, we moved house. Having just stumbled out of university the house that we found ticked all the necessary boxes: it had a roof, it was cheap (furnished for the price of unfurnished, oooooh), and it had a tiny pokey overgrown garden. “That’ll do” we said, and moved in.

It was July, so it was vaguely warm in there and the mould had not yet begun to grow. We overlooked the fact that everything in every room was the same pale grey/yellow colour. We happily scrubbed the kitchen and bathroom back to being livable, sorting piles and piles of the previous tenants paperwork and junk into a collection of binbags. (Hey Mrs Shirley? Those reminder notices are trying to hint that they want you to PAY for things, ya know?).

We realised the house was a bit of a shit hole, so we took photographs of the major offenses and shipped them off to the letting agent, along with a big list. We told them we’re not overly bothered about getting them fixed as we liked the rustic look of the dog chew marks in the back door (though reattaching the fireplace and the shower rail would be rather nice). They chuckled to themselves and filed it away in a big orange folder.

Years pass…

Some art I found on the internet, clicky for the link

We realise that, though we can continue to put up with it’s general grubby grottiness, the house is way too big for us, freezing cold all year and far from anywhere fun, including work.

We decide to move.

We find a beautiful little house with a giant black kitchen, a park out the front and the weirdest purple wallpaper up the stairs. It’s wonderful. The only thing wrong with it is that it’s not in York.

We move, spending day after day cleaning the house we just moved out of. We get it clean. It’s not sparkling, but it’s more than fair, if you use the general definition of fair as ‘as good as you found it’ because we left it considerably better. The kitchen is all shiny with bleach and cleaning fumes, the mould in the bathroom has been scrubbed back into the grain of the surfaces rather than perching on the top. (A hint to anyone designing a bathroom: If you don’t want mould, don’t make the bits round the shower out of WOOD). We hired a rug doctor to get the beige carpets to go back to being a slightly lighter shade of beige. We scrubbed the doors and the windowsills until the paint started peeling (didn’t take that long, actually).

The letting agent rang this morning. They’re not happy. Neither were we, my dear. That’s why we moved out.

As Steve put it “You try polishing that turd like we did for several days and see how happy you are then”.

Sadly he didn’t say it to Homesearch.

We go in there with my massive list and ask them exactly how they’d like us to fix the damp in the walls, or if they can suggest a better type of bleach to re-coat the bathroom in. I describe in vivid detail the unpleasantries of having to shower somewhere that has big weird stains in the bottom of it that just won’t leave, that have been there longer than we have.  I politely suggest how convenient it is that they take £150 from the deposit to pay for cleaners, which they clearly didn’t use the last time someone moved out, so there should be £150 just lying around from then that they can spend THIS time. I list the things we fixed, the things we had to clean and throw away those first few days.

I take offence to being told to polish a table that was covered in unpaid bills and newspapers when we found it. I’d go so far as to say that I’d quite like to leave a little nugget of poo in the fluorescent light that they ‘need’ us to clean. This light will be ripped out soon, seeing as though it won’t turn on. Instead I’ll whinge here, once, and then get over it.

I don’t really have an end to this story other than ‘and so we went back and cleaned some more, as bitter and resentful as two people can be’.

But that’s sad, so instead I tell you all, little blog readers: complain as loudly and as soon as you can, so that no-one will ever dare blame you for other people’s mould.