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Mite August 9, 2009

Posted by tuimeltje in food, review, snack, travel.
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I’ve just come back from the annual UK trip with the band (though no Sinead this year, unfortunately). This year was the 250th anniversary of the battle of Minden (big parade, unfortunately without Brigadier Coutts), so some Dutch re-enactors of KOSB-ness were sharing the barracks with us. It’s always amusing to expose new people to something like pb&kale sammiches.

While doing my usual enthusiastic grocery shopping I came across something so British I would’ve bought it even if I loathed the stuff.
The things I came across? Marmite rice cakes and Marmite breadsticks.

Luckily I’m rather fond of the stuff so I didn’t just buy it for the novelty value. While it’s not, as far as I know, particularly popular in the Netherlands, I’ve always had access to it. Not sure if my parents liked it (though they might have. My mum used to eat that smelly green Swiss powdered cheese. People eating that might eat anything), but my grandma always had it (should’ve bought here a bag too, perhaps…). I doubt I much cared for it until I went vegetarian or even vegan, but now? Good stuff.
So the idea of rice cakes and breadsticks, two foods my mum gave me as snacks when I was a kid, with Marmite, a food which is, to me, both very British and very family? Made me quite happy indeed.

The rice cakes were most tasty. Properly Marmite-y but not so much Marmite that the taste is overwhelming. The breadsticks, however, I didn’t like quite as much. They weren’t bad, just not as Marmite-y as I would have liked. They were kind of bland, only slightly more flavourful than your basic plain breadsticks. Shame, really. If they still exist next time I have the opportunity to buy me some I’ll stick to the rice cakes.


– – –

The day after we came home, we had a barbeque.
I’m not very good at barbeques. It’s not a social event that played a big part of my upbringing or something I have particularly fond memories of, and after going vegan, spending an evening watching dead bits get cooked is not exactly my idea of a fun time.
However, this one would be attended by some people who’d been unable to come along on the trip, two of whom had gotten some very good news while we were away and I really needed to hug one of them, and it’s just a lot of fun spending some non-musical social time with these people. They’re a good bunch.
So I went.
I had intended on making some fancy stuff to show that vegans can have great barbeque food, but I was too tired and lazy to even look up something about vegan barbequeing, so I ended up simply stopping by the supermarked I passed on the way to pick up some basics that would feed me well enough.
Being: A courgette, a box of cherry tomatoes, a baguette, two portabello mushrooms, and a bag of mixed green veg.

Using the courgette, the tomatoes, the host’s garlic and the host’s cool home-made skewers, I made more vegetable skewers than I would be able to eat that evening (sharing time!). The mushrooms I just oiled and roasted.

Before roast:

After roast, with additions.
Vegan BBQ - after

While fairly average food (portabellos could probably do with something more than just olive oil) and a lot of exposure to dead bits, I do like to count the barbeque evening as a success. I had a great time and my omni mates were positive about my food. They needed my urgings to eat some too more as an okay to eat “my” food rather than a bit of a push to eat the freaky, way too healthy stuff, which made me happy.
Of course, if they’d have framed courgette, tomato and garlic as something weird and freaky, only to be eaten on a dare or to cultivate their culinary edgy will-eat-anything image, I would have denied them the permission to ever eat Italian food again, so it was in their own best interest.

– – –

I’m still not entirely sure what Irn Bru reminds me of, but I’ve narrowed it down to something purple. Probably. Maybe brown.
Should match nicely with the orange, yeah.
Also? Walkers changed their crisps so now only the basic salty ones are vegan. Bastards. I don’t actually really like crisps, but I quite like having some Salt & Vinegar ones when in the UK just because they’re not available here and they have this sharp and rather acidic flavour which, while not wholly pleasing, is quite interesting.
The only portion-packaged S&V crisps not containing something obviously animal-derived were the McCoy ones, if I recall correctly, but they had a few things listed that I didn’t bother to try to pronounce even in my head, so I decided to just forgo crisps this year.
Luckily I found the Marmite stuff. Much better!

ETA: One thing that amused me terribly, for no other reason than the fact that it had a kangaroo on it and smuggling kangaroos into the UK makes me think of bouncy hijinks, is this DEFRA poster or what have you.



Falafel Again July 9, 2008

Posted by tuimeltje in breakfast, eating out, food, review.

Last week I took this little exam that I should’ve passed a few years back. This time, despite not actually having physically practiced some of the skills for at least a year, I passed. Go me! (And everyone else, since the other students taking the exam that day all passed as well)
I thought this called for a little celebration and I figured I might as well feel a little more festive about the Maoz falafel I’d promised myself after Bonnie mentioned something about aubergines.

So yesterday I figured I might as well go, since I had the day off and waiting any longer would make the exam results-link a bit fuzzy. Again this falafel ended up being effectively what I had for breakfast even though it was technically speaking early in the afternoon.

My Maoz aubergine with lots of stuff on:
Maoz Falafel

It was very tasty. While the aubergine taste wasn’t very obvious, it was this slight difference, mixed with the falafel, that made the whole thing better. I’m very glad I learned about this option.

It’s been a while since I last visited De Falafel, so I’m not sure I can make a proper comparison but I’m going to try anyway.

-I think the price is about the same at both places. There might be some differences, but nothing huge.

-Both places have green olives as part of their salad bar. However, the Maoz ones still have the stones, which is a little inconvenient.

-The rest of the salad bars are quite similar, with similar veg and similar sauces, though there are some minor differences. I think De Falafel has sauerkraut and that yellow sauce, and Maoz has some salad that looks like it has mayo on it and an extra chili sauce on top of that other red, peppery-looking sauce.

-Maoz, however, has more variety. You can have your falafel with added hummus, aubergine, feta (not vegan, but still. It’s an option), and avocado, and you can have large and small Maoz. They also sell chips. The pictures suggested fresh juice was sold, but all I saw was your basic cooler with bottled crap. Apart from getting those things on their own, you can get one of their menus.
De Falafel is just falafel. You can buy some bottled drinks and choose between white pita or wholemeal pita, but that’s it.

-I think both have both while and wholemeal pitas available, though I didn’t know this about Maoz until the surly guy asked the customer after me what kind of pita he wanted. I’d have gone for wholemeal if I’d known…

-When I visited, both places were staffed by a slightly surly and not particularly inviting guy. I suspect the students work weekends and possibly some afternoons, because I know that, at De Falafel, at least, I’ve usually had generally friendly people serving. Next time I might try visiting during the weekend or something.

Last time I visited De Falafel, things were a bit messy there.

-I have no clue about the labour practices and working conditions in either place, though I know Maoz is one of those franchise chains. As I’ve only seen one of De Falafel, I suspect that one isn’t. I’m not sure it makes much of a difference to me or the workers, though.

-I’m not entirely sure, but I think both places have their hours tied to shop hours so if you want falafel after 6-ish (9-ish on Fridays), you’ll probably have to go elsewhere.

-De Falafel has been too long ago to accurately compare flavour, so I can’t say too much about that.

At this point, I’ll probably divide my falafel-buying between the two, but if De Falafel continues to be somewhat messy or I find that Maoz is actually tastier, this may well change. At the moment the main things De Falafel has going for it is not looking like its part of a chain and my habit of walking in that direction, and I’m not actually sure those things are all that relevant.

Evaluate June 24, 2008

Posted by tuimeltje in food, review.
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I’ve been meaning to post this sooner, but it’s been a crazy few days and I’ve not had much time.

It’s time for an evaluation of 13 days of more-or-less gluten-free living. Yay!

All-in-all it was pretty easy, though eating lots of veg for lunch at work helped a lot. A normal Dutch lunch is a few slices of bread, and me not having to worry about thinking up a lunch in addition to a dinner was most convenient.

However, I was probably not quite as strict as someone with coeliac disease would be (certainly not about the work veg, I’m pretty sure half the food there contains shoyu), so it’d probably be a bit more effort if I’d really needed to avoid gluten.

I have tried a few gluten-free snack subs which weren’t bad, but weren’t that great either. The Garbo bread was better than I’d expected, though. Some time ago I tried Garbo’s cinnamon buns and they were a little dense and gummy and didn’t have much flavour beyond sweetly cinnamon.I’ve read the same often goes for gluten-free bread, so was pleasnatly surprised with this loaf. It wasn’t gummy at all and while it was a little different from the bread I’m used to, it wasn’t bad. Certainly not as icky as the thing I once tried at the restaurant where I worked some years ago.

While I probably won’t go totally gluten-free unless a pressing reason to do so ever comes up (I do love seitan), I will probably make eating the stuff an exception rather than a rule. At least when I’m in charge of the food.

I didn’t feel much difference to my general well-being during the project. The only thing I noticed was the bit about the subtle craving and the more (or less, depending on how you frame it) mindless eating, but that really was fairly subtle and kind of odd and I’m not sure what to make of it.
The first gluten-again day I had a quick bread snack at work, and I did get that “want more!” feeling. It was a bit odd. It felt so normal, and not very strong. Just like it’s absolutely the most natural thing to want more and more and more of that totally yummy food. However, when I had bready food later on, I didn’t notice that feeling.
I’m not sure I get that more-for-the-sake-of-just-more feeling for other foods when I’m not actually that peckish. Even with chocolate I can just have one cube and leave the rest for later these days. I enjoy it, and wouldn’t object to more, but unless I should really be having a proper meal, I don’t particularly care if I get more or not.

Basically, further study and more data required.

Now that I’m back to gluten-y food, I’m not really noticing that much of a difference, though a busy few days of little sleep and lots of social is probably not one where I’ll get a good idea of my general well-being.

In short, it was a fun project which got me thinking about my food differently and got me something to further explore.

Hasta La Pasta June 3, 2008

Posted by tuimeltje in review, snack.
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While on my way to visit the boyfriend, I got a little peckish. Not unexpected, seeing as lunch was rice cakes and a bit of chocolate. So when I had to switch trains at Brussel Noord/Bruxelles Nord and had some spare time between trains, I thought I’d check out the nearby GB express to see if they had some quick vegan food.

They had a bunch of salads, and one of the pasta salads actually looked vaguely vegan (the veg ones all seemed to have dressings, which tend to be full of weird things) so I figured I’d check the label. I checked the whole damn thing but was unable to find the ingredient list until I gave the container a good shake and looked at the bottom of the container lid.
That’s right, they put the ingredient list somewhere you’d not be able to properly read it until you open the container. Something the staff doesn’t like you doing before you’ve actually paid for it.

Still, they had the good sense of putting the allergy info on the outside. That’s something, I suppose.

Some more shaking, a good bit of squinting, and taking into account the allergy information led me to conclude it was most likely vegan, so I bought it. If it had turned out to not be vegan after all, I’d have gone back in to return it with a polite (but Dutch. Apart from not being too confident at French, I would not have been in too a polite a mood and would’ve expected Brussels Belgians to be able to speak both the city’s languages, no matter how much they generally seem to dislike speaking Flemish) explanation.
Luckily (the check-out woman was friendly and didn’t look like she needed the hassle) this wasn’t necessary as the salad was indeed vegan. Okay, so ten out of ten for selling random prepared vegan food, but minus several million for good thinking, yeah?

Horribly flou pic of container containing bland and somewhat filling food:

See? It’s a big label. Big enough to print both the Dutch and French ingredient lists somewhere.
Big enough to put up a little box telling us that customers thought this was a Good Product, apparently. Don’t you think the actual ingredients have some priority over that?
And this is just the one side, too. The other side was simply a bunch of red with some random and utterly forgettable print. No letters. But plenty of room for some.

I’m pretty sure I don’t want to know how this “fresh” salad will keep until August (or July. I forget), which is should be able to do according to the label. Before I ate it, that is.
Best not to think about it, really.

Falafel! April 25, 2008

Posted by tuimeltje in dinner, eating out, review.
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Since my time in Germany didn’t get me any of the falafel I was looking forward to, I thought I might as well get me some right at home.

At De Falafel:
De Falafel

Not too long ago a Maoz opened up fairly close to De Falafel, but I keep going to this one. I’m not sure if there’s a quality or price difference, but De Falafel has less of a chain feel to it than Maoz, which I like. Besides, it was here first.
Also, it’s on a more convenient route to my place. While Maoz is probably not even half a kilometre further away, it feels weird walking that way.
The Stadhuisplein area is just not my kind of place.
Maybe it’s that SkiHut place…

They changed the prices somewhat since I was last there. IIRC, a white pita used to be cheaper than the wholemeal one, but now they were the same price. I think they simply raised the price of the white ones. Not that I really mind. It makes choosing the wholemeal one easier.

Hiding falafel
Falafel, hiding under a bunch of veg and sauce.

While the falafel was good and perfectly satisfying, I was vaguely disappointed about the whole thing.
I’m not sure, but I think I got more falafel last time I went there. And the salad bar wasn’t kept up as nicely as it normally was. The counter was kind of messy and they were nearly out of some things. The beet bits were just a few pathetic strings and there were just a few bits of carrot left. The veg didn’t have that much flavour, either.
The tahini dispenser gave pathetic little squirty blobs of sauce rather than a nice good amount. I had to push the thing a few times before I got what I wanted, when before just one push would do.
I hope it’s just this once. When I went there before things always looked clean and abundant, so I’ll probably go back there next time I want falafel because of habit and convenience. But if it turns out to be the start of a general decline of the place, I might consider checking out if Maoz has wholemeal pitas.
There are many kebab places which sell falafel (most do, I think), but that big freaky meat thing they have hanging around kind of puts me off my food. Also, I doubt they do falafel as thoroughly as falafel places, with salad bars and everything.