Head above the trenches: Are false militant attitudes ruining food for me?

Head above the trenches: Are false militant attitudes ruining food for me?

Before I even begin and before someone clips something from the text below and takes it out of context I want to go on record as saying vegetarianism and veganism are wholesome, respectable practices and I fully support anybody’s decision to partake. I have myself tried vegetarianism to decipher if it was something that would work for me, instead deciding to take a more holistic approach to the meat I eat. I am as responsible as I can be knowing where my food has come from, use supermarkets and wholesale food as little as I can afford and eat game and free range meat provided locally via my own personal network. Veganism at it’s base is done for the right reasons and I am in no way shape or form attacking the practice or the fundamental principals on which it is built.

I am sad that I even have to go to such lengths to protect myself before writing something about food, however this is representative of the times we live in. Where opinion no longer applies to the laws of free speech and every opinion on the wrong side of the mob mentality is tossed aside as hate speech or seen as a by-product of far right sensibilities. The fact is that I believe that culturally we are in a very strange place that requires dialogue and debate, when in actual fact all we are doing is either trashing each other from either side of a twitter branded fence or like myself, sitting on top of it and trying to dodge projectiles from either side. In terms of what we consume per year in the UK the numbers are obviously quite large based on the population, below are the numbers from the September report from the ‘Department of Environmental and Rural Affairs’.

  • Cattle: Beef and veal production was 74,000 tonnes
  • Sheep: Mutton and lamb production was 25,000 tonnes
  • Pigs: Pigmeat production was 73,000 tonnes.

 

This is representative of just one month and for normal people who buy meat from a supermarket these numbers will be one of two things, staggering or unsurprising. The people who are taken back by this likely exist not considering the fact that what they eat used to be an animal and have fallen into a category of people who are very comfortable in their warm and cosy existence where everything just kind of appears before them with little to no struggle. The other camp are the realists who understand what meat is and where it comes from. I myself believe in being as much a part of the process as possible and source my own meat as much as I can relative to the current season as myself and my fiancé have a friend who is a game keeper, which is pretty handy.

At one point in my life those numbers would have shocked me and driven me to do my research sooner than I eventually did, which in turn would have driven me to read more about process and how these things work. As a meat eater I pride myself on NOT supporting factory farming as much as I possibly can given budget and availability of game or local meat as it is a practice I don’t see as sustainable or frankly have much time for. However, instead of seeing these figures and jumping straight onto Facebook or Instagram and giving someone problems for posting a picture of a steak they cooked, it made me look further into how I can minimise my reliance on this without depriving myself of something I enjoy and also increase the quality of meat that I eat. For instance the deep almost wine red colour of wild venison compared to the colour of most of the beef we have come to accept in a commercial environment is genuinely jaw dropping. I also compare this to the experience of eating pheasant for the first time having lived on roast chicken most of my life – an animal that is not a million miles away from each other in terms of species can provide a completely different experience given it’s quality of life, varied diet and existence outside of the sterilised world of factory farming.

So why is it with this in mind that when someone posts a picture of a shoot or a hunt, all they receive is a mass wave of bile and hatred as if they killed their own mother when 50% the people posting the comments have ”steak night with bae’ featured on their profile? Why is it that in 2018 a man can consume a whole chicken in one sitting in a restaurant but when they hunt their own deer they are branded a murderer? It fucking baffles me a lot of the time. I mean in one respect I feel in the UK we are a product of our environment and hunting, fishing and bush craft is essentially not a mainstream part of our culture (which in itself grieves me) seemingly exclusively reserved for the upper echelon of society while the working man eats only the cuts they can afford in their local supermarket or served when they go out to the pub. Whereas in the US, even though society seems to be turning on the hunters somewhat it is at least initially seen as the wholesome working persons way of providing for their family. I think these contrasting views are also accentuated by the history of fox hunting in Great Britain – a brutal and unacceptable practice that involves chasing down a fox with a pack of dogs and results in the fox being torn apart by them. Rather than killed ethically and quickly for food, this is all sport and was subsequently banned as recently as 2005 in England, 2003 in Scotland while still remaining a legal practice in Northern Ireland.

The lack of public land in the UK also means that hunting becomes more difficult as it is something you have to now do on someone else’s land. There is still a healthy amount of places in the UK where you can go on organised shoots or stalks but these again aren’t a mainstream option for most people who love here. Scotland being one of the few truly wild areas of our little island does attract people from abroad to experience a hunt in the highlands, a beautiful setting if nothing else to experience the raw emotion and struggle of harvesting your own food. This became stunningly apparent to most of the people in the Twittersphere this summer when Larysa Switlyk put pictures on her page of her hunting trip to the aisle of Islay with her partner. Oh my… did the people of the internet give her ‘what for’. I did what no person should ever do and clicked on as many profiles as I could to see the kind of person it takes to be so aggressive and vile to another person over something they knew little about and the answer wasn’t at all surprising.

If you are reading this with an agenda then you fully expect me to say vegans here don’t you? I thought so…but nope. It was a diverse and varied group of people of different views and lifestyles with one unified attribute. Complete ignorance.

To kill an animal in the UK or US you have to have permission to do so, either by the land owner, government or relative authority. The animals will also be consumed not just tossed off the side of a cliff or left where they dropped but were any of these questions asked? Of course not. Instead all that was thrown onto the pictures were quotes of disgust and how she should be ashamed of herself. My biggest gripe with this is the lack of questions and umping straight onto the band wagon of ‘fuck you and everything you stand for’. Why aren’t these people calling ASDA, Sainsbury’s or Wallmart murderers? Picketing the chicken aisle or tweeting how Danish bacon is an abomination? Why aren’t they committed to stopping the use of palm oil that is a leading cause of deforestation? (while still consuming peanut butter that is pumped full of it). Culturally would you have ever given a shit about it if it wasn’t on Twitter? Probably not to be fair. I believe if someone said to you in conversation ‘did you hear about that woman that hunted feral goats and stag in Scotland?’ most people would have approached it in a ‘so where is the story here?’ kind of way. The outrage only hits it’s peak when the jury on social media comes together to find their next victim to destroy. Often resulting in social execution without much in the way of a trial.

The point is there are very few issue sin this world let alone this country that as so black and white you can say ‘I AM THIS’ or ‘I AM THAT’ which seems to be a fundamental problem with todays society. Are you red or blue? are you Pro or anti Brexit? My answer, somewhat pedantically has always been ‘I’m Phil’. The only time I ever pick sides is in sport, otherwise I simply want to hear both sides and pull my own takeaways from it based on my views and opinions, not just adhere to what one team or the other is saying I should think. The problem is that for some reason this now bleeds into what we eat. Because I eat a responsibly harvested wild pheasant I am potentially classed as ‘murdering scum’ whereas the VW Golf that smashed 3 of them on the way to get their cornflakes is guilt free. Fundamentally should VW or another car manufacturer be attacked for not having Pheasant or badger safety in mind when designing the latest family saloon? Probably not lets be fair.

The problem is not their point of view necessarily but their approach to an apposing one, just as you would try to sell something to a customer a point of view can be taken or left where it stands. If I was to force someone to purchase something it would be seen as the wrong approach and an unethical way of doing business and yet when it comes having an opinion or belief, we seem to be stuck within a social juxtaposition where people seem to think telling someone to ‘fuck off and die’ will have a better result than ‘but why do you think that?’ I’m not a hundred percent sure calling someone a murderer has ever stopped anyone eating meat and I’m sure from a contrasting point of view throwing the word ‘snowflake’ at anyone ever stopped them in their beliefs either. Both sides are culpable and as guilty as each other. What creates change is open and honest dialogue about the issues that matter to you. Militant attitudes only serve to create militant groups and while the title of this article specifically referenced the left in it’s first draft (as I have certainly been attacked more regularly by people who firmly put themselves into this camp) it is worth showing my distain for people who do it the other way too. It solves nothing. It goes even further to solving absolutely nothing when either side are doing it just to resist the other rather than actually having any real belief in what they are saying.

I absolutely adore food. That’s why I have this blog, it’s why I choose to use my spare time writing about it and why I spend the rest of my free time thinking about it or cooking it. This joy that I find in consuming the fuel I need to be alive is a basic and wholesome practice, that has existed since the birth of fire gave us the ability to change the form of raw ingredients to create new and exciting oral experiences. If you are to try and dampen that with aggression or hatred rather than a long form conversation then I have little to no interest in speaking to you. You personally are not the problem. Your approach is and if you fix it you may make more progress in convincing people to change something. Whether you are a hunter speaking to a vegetarian (who often share similar reasons for doing what they do!!!) or a pescetarian telling your chicken farmer associate the benefits of a fish heavy diet there are always certain sensibilities you will share because of something that gets lost in translation… we are all people. Personalities with billions of differences and similarities alike. How do we even scratch the surface if we are telling each other to get fucked all the time because of what we eat for dinner?

Take religion as a very broad example. Does picking a faith and shouting things at the others ever achieve anything apart from causing pain to both sides? no not really. Check the daily news for details… and how many people are newly recruited to a religion by someone knocking on a door during dinner after a hard days work? I would hazard a guess at not many. But how many change religions and beliefs based on sensible, appropriate conversations or simply having access to the information available to that person when they need it? I would put my mortgage on that being a much higher number. A perfect example of this was during one of Steve Rinella’s book readings around 6 years ago (one of my absolute heroes) where there was a comment thrown at him by a vegan gentleman and Steve had what I class as one of the more beautiful conversations on YouTube. Both showed compassion to each other and they bother agreed to meet in the middle and hear each other out. Isn’t that the way we should always do it? Check it out below.

 

So in summary, yes, I think modern food related culture and my own enjoyment is somewhat ruined by all the in fighting. I like to enjoy the process of finding, planning, preparing and cooking my food but often find myself being told I am in the wrong in one way or the other by either ‘side’. I would like to make a plea to my Vegan, Vegetarian, Meat eating, fish catching friends and readers alike – I implore you to think about the ways we approach communication. There are so many important issues we could discuss if we actually spoke openly rather than shutting ourselves in boxes just to achieve more likes and retweets than the last guy because you ‘shut that guy down’. We all need to be better at it and for all the points you feel your scoring nobody wins at the end. After all is said and done this is simply my thought process put into writing which some of you may disagree with… and that’s fine. It’s just how we deal with the next part that matters.

 

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Local heroes: Feast Foods

Local heroes: Feast Foods

Something that has always really bothered me in Wolverhampton is the lack of choice when it comes to food and I am mainly referring to the city center, as there are a few small independent businesses that have fashioned a place for themselves within the boundaries of WV, but the city centre has always been a bit of a joke. If your satisfied with KFC, McDonald’s and Subway then you’re going to love it here but the majority of us (millennial’s especially) want and need a lot more. We are all increasingly enthusiastic to experience new things and try food and drink we maybe haven’t had access to before.

This is why I am trying to do a series of write ups centered around the few local newcomers that are trying to make a difference and offer us an element of choice, innovation and food with some heart. If you are local and you care about food enough to take a leap of faith on that idea that you have had bubbling away under the surface for as long as you can remember, then we want to speak to you. Whether your making waves in Wolverhampton or within your own town or city, you deserve as much spotlight as we can give you.

First off the bat is the wonderful Feast Foods. Feast Foods are a vegan and vegetarian food delivery service based in Wolverhampton that offer clean, natural lunches available Monday to Friday and right to your place of work. After trawling through the city streets desperate not to settle for a Sainsbury’s meal deal many times it is music to my ears knowing that someone is putting their energy into giving people a healthy alternative to the usual suspects. I caught up with the mind behind Feast foods, Nadiah to find out more.

Hi Nadiah, so How did Feast foods come about?

I have always enjoyed making a lovely lunch to look forward to – it’s all I think about and I count down the hours until I get to sit and eat something delicious. Everyone would comment on my lunch that I had rustled up and would always ask for a little taste. There was defiantly a lot of food envy going on! It wasn’t until a friend of mine approached me to make what I was going to have for lunch for him as well, that I started making extra lunches for friends and family. Before I knew it, friends of friends and colleagues were asking if they could also order a lunch from me, and so FEAST was born. It’s as simple as that.

Who are the Feast foods team?

Me, myself and I. The FEAST team simply consists of just me (Nadiah). I am the brains behind FEAST and I cook every order myself. I do everything.

Are you looking to challenge the common attitudes towards vegan and vegetarian diets? Some people might think it can be quite limiting.

 I am not necessarily trying to convert people to become a vegan or vegetarian. However, I do think it is very important for people to understand where their food has come from and what they are eating. People are not aware of the health and environmental issues eating meat and dairy have, and there’s a misconception that a meal has to contain meat or dairy to be tasty.

For me FEAST is not only about creating healthy vegetarian and vegan dishes but also a way to educate people on what they can eat with it being not only tasty but healthy too. For instance, did you know…

‘Vegetarians and vegans live, on average, six to 10 years longer than meat-eaters.’

 ‘A typical pig factory generates the same amount of raw waste as a city of 12,000 people. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, raising animals for food is the number-one source of water pollution.’

My father, who is Jordanian used to make me the most amazing home cooked Middle Eastern dishes when I was younger. I never appreciated it until I went to university in Brighton and didn’t want to eat these unhealthy, tasteless ready meals. So, I put my apron on and started to experiment in the kitchen. Everything was cooked fresh and I developed an understanding and appreciation towards food, and some very happy, well-fed flat mates! My mind and body benefited from eating well.

Given we are currently experiencing a national obesity crisis, I think it’s more important than ever to reassess what we are eating. We should be eating all these beautiful natural fruits and vegetables instead of constantly grazing on foods that have effects on our bodies and the environment.

With your concept being so unique in the area, do you think Wolverhampton has more potential when it comes to food? 

 Definitely – Wolverhampton has huge potential when it comes to food. Compared to other cities, it’s very difficult to find somewhere to eat in Wolverhampton, especially for vegetarians or vegans or those looking for a healthier option. I really struggle to eat locally and find this frustrating.

I believe we need to give people more options than always eating at fast food chains. If we only provide these unhealthy choices it is impossible to make a healthy choice. People are now interested in keeping fit and changing their food diets so we should be offering the people of Wolverhampton a chance to use their palates instead of eating processed food.

I believe FEAST is the first step towards this, and offers people in the city an affordable way to eat at least one meal a day that is meat free, fresh, healthy and delicious. I hope others start to see the potential in Wolverhampton and continue to invest in the city’s food industry.

If you could suggest one of your dishes to convert somebody who wasn’t sure about veganism, what would you pick?

I would suggest the Black Bean Chilli with Nachos. It is so tasty! It is packed with aromatic spices, rich in flavour and completely addictive. Made with crisp peppers, black beans, mixed beans and served with mini garlic nachos, it is so simple but always a satisfying lunch.

 Whats everyones personal favourite dish from your menu’s so far?

 With an exception to the Black Bean Chilli dish I get asked frequently for the Falafel Salad Box to be put on the menu. I make authentic Middle Eastern falafel, which is served with homemade houmous, soy tzatziki, flat bread and a mixed salad. I also sell this dish in my new food trailer

Where would you love to see Feast Foods in 2 years time?

 I would love to have café or coffee shop serving delicious healthy veggie and vegan food and craft coffee. I used to work for a coffee roastery in Brighton and miss having a beautiful coffee now that I have moved back home. If I could bring this to Wolverhampton too, I would be really happy for completely selfish reasons. I would also like FEAST to be doing frequent events and food festivals with our new trailer.

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Finally, anything you would like to say to the readers?

 I really believe that Wolverhampton needs and deserves new, fresh and healthy food options. At FEAST, my mission to fill this gap by designing exciting dishes with fresh and nutritious ingredients at an affordable price.

90% of my customers are meat eaters and all of them keep coming back to order FEAST lunches because they feel happy and healthy for eating natural, meat free, delicious food. FEAST gives the people of Wolverhampton the chance to have a choice to eat delicious, nutritious and healthy lunches!

I am very passionate about contributing to where I live and hope this can make a real difference. Equally, I look forward to one day being able to provide jobs to people in Wolverhampton who share the same work ethic and passion for food that I have.

 

Thanks to Nadiah for giving up her time to tell us more about Feast foods and helping to diversify options available to the local community. It’s a brave move starting any business but starting up something that goes against the grain is even more bold. I wish her the best of luck in the future and hope you all support her if you can. You can find FF on Instagram for some beautiful examples of their dishes and visit The Feast Foods website  to get involved!

 

 

 

Peanut butter pie (And the discovery of Brighton)

During the transitional period from the old blog and my change in circumstances that forced me to have some downtime from writing, I visited Brighton to see my fiancés best friend and her partner in Brighton. Id never been there before and thought it would just be the usual sort of British seaside town brimming with rock shops, amusements and novelty gifts, albeit with a more southern twang in the dialect. I usually despise being wrong but I must say I’m quite happy to say that I couldn’t have been more wrong about Brighton.

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Barring London, I genuinely don’t believe I have been to a better melting pot of modern, youthful culture, foreign flavours, gastronomic innovation and classic heritage. It just boggles the mind as to how diverse Brighton is when it comes to the people, the food and the experiences available to you. You can have fish and chips if your looking for the traditional seaside Heron gull enticing flavours or you can go crazy and have chilli and lime fish with sweet potato fries, a plethora of vegetarian restaurants (which were fantastic!), confectionery you have never even thought of before and vendors that push the boundaries of what you think you can buy from a stall. Not forgetting that this is the spiritual and physical home of choccywoccydoodah. Spell check is going mad at me for that but if you haven’t seen the TV show it’s a business that build the most ridiculous chocolate creations you have ever seen. http://www.choccywoccydoodah.com

When we arrived the weather was, in a word, horrific. I have never heard thunder like it and the rain was hitting the window so hard it was like a swarm of furious birds frantically scratching at the window to get at us as we tried to sleep. However we were blessed to wake up to beautiful blue skies and a heat that had the potential to burn my ridiculously sunshine shy skin to a level that can only be compared to a well-done baked potato. The combination of the amazing food that surrounded me during my trip combined with the crisp, blue sky and crystal clear seas left me with a lot of inspiration to come home with. Summer in Brighton had taken me from someone who had a few ideas to someone who was ravenously clamouring to create….with a sweet tooth to satisfy. This recipe is the perfect fit for someone who wants to give their family a treat for a day or give themselves a treat for a few days!

So we made the following recipe. A peanut butter pie sounds a bit rich and chewy doesn’t it? Don’t worry you don’t just tip a jar of peanut butter into a flan case! See below for the recipe for this funky little number.

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What you’ll need:

For the base –

  • 25 oat based biscuits (Finely crushed) but any plain biscuit will do!
  • 70g melted butter

Tip: Preheat your oven at 170 degrees.

For the filling –

  • 225g peanut butter (We used smooth but nothing wrong with using chunky)
  • 225g cream cheese
  • 175g icing sugar
  • 225g double cream (Well whipped)

Method:

  1. In a food processor blitz the biscuits into a fine sandy texture, add the melted butter and whiz into a lumpy consistency. Ensuring all biscuits and butter and mixed together.
  2. Put the mix into a medium pie dish and cover the base and sides well. Bake for 5-7 minutes in the oven.
  3. Mix the peanut butter and cream cheese together until its smooth. Add the icing sugar and mix well until combined.
  4. Once this is done, add the cream to the peanut butter mix and stir through until again, well combined.
  5. Pour the filling into the base (preferably by now it has cooled) and spread evenly.
  6. Chill for at least an hour before serving.

Note – Always mix the ingredients for the filling separately and not at the same time to achieve the best consistency!