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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.



Oat May 4, 2009

Posted by tuimeltje in administrative, breakfast, food, travel.
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Before I went ahead and spent two months living somewhere not my flat most of the time, I wondered about what facilities would be available to me there and how easy it would be for me to cook and store anything decent. It all turned out very well, both the available facilities (the freezer has some door-issues, but is still usable) and the totally cool and considerate omnis, but before I was able to find this out I figured I might as well go prepared.
Make sure I at least had a decent start to my days.

Some time ago Dino had an episode of his podcast in which he shared some ideas on how to have easy meals when traveling. Apart from saying things that made me want a rice cooker like crazy, he talked about little bags or containers or whatever you have containing quick-cook oatmeal with little additions that would become a decent breakfast or snack after adding some hot water.
I first went with this idea some time ago, when we went to Germany with the band again (and again I didn’t come across any falafel places. Saw lots of snow, though, which more than made up for it), mostly trying it to have something decently filling in case the catered foods weren’t too vegan.
Something where I could just add hot water.
I didn’t have much hope for a decent taste, but I could live with that provided it filed up my belly nicely.
Turns out my combination of things to mix in with the oats gave me something that was actually quite tasty, even with just hot water added, so I thought that might be a nice thing to bring along now.
Hot water tends to be easy to come by.

The things I used for this easy breakfast mix:
-Oats. The quick-cook sort that only requires a minute or so of boiling/microwaving.
-Dried things. Raisins, goji berries, dried red date bits I got at an Asian supermarket.
-Crunchy things. Mixed nuts, sunflower seeds, some more things from an Asian supermarket, like foxnuts, lily seeds(? something lily-like, anyway), and thin little almonds.
-Powdery things. Cocoa, cinnamon.

Basically what you do is put the desired amounts of each thing in a container with a good lid, shake it around for a bit to mix it up properly, and take it with you when you think it might come in handy. You can play with the additions for a bit, see what you like and what you can find.
I used a 1.2L flat Curver container which got me through the first two weeks with a few breakfasts left.
As for final preparations, in Germany I put a little bit in a plastic tumbler with a decent seal, shook it a bit (decent seal, yeah? Important), let it soak for a few minutes, and ate it.
Around here I just put some in a bowl, added some boiled water, and it stand for a bit while I took a shower before eating it.

Not only properly filling, but quite tasty too. Yay.
It’s likely to become a standard food to bring along to places where getting a decent vegan meal might not be that easy. I always used to take along some handy packets of salt, pepper, and ketchup, maybe some insta-soup, but this will make a nice addition to my survival kit.

As a bonus, a picture of a bell pepper I found in the supermarket recently. I didn’t intend to buy any, but I couldn’t resist this one. One side solid green, the other side wholly red.
It made me happy.
Not the same kind of happy as a humourously-shaped carrot would, but that’s fine. Happy’s good.

Some administrative things. Soon I will shut down the fandom veganism blog. I don’t have the time to properly maintain it, so I’ll just move the two posts here and see where it goes. I still very much like the idea of a blog like that, though. If someone else is setting one up and wants contributions I might just add my bit, but for now any fannish veganism will be posted here.

Piped July 29, 2008

Posted by tuimeltje in food, non-food veganness, travel.
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As promised, the highlights of my recent trip to the UK, during which I played my pipes very fast, got neither seasick nor carsick (yay for ginger!), feel I easily met this year’s quota of pub-time and karaoke-time getting drunk or singing (became aquainted with the combine harvester song, though), had a delightful meet-up with Sinead, did some proper cultural stuff involving museums, ruins, and cemeteries, ate well despite not having access to a kitchen, wondered what the Irn Bru flavour reminded me of, and enjoyed the occasional random sudden fogs.

Starting with the food, since this is a food blog. We did not have access to the kitchen this year. Normally we do, and someone makes something approximating a proper English breakfast. Since this involves a whole bunch of animal bits, I tend to stick to factory bread with peanut butter, to which I added some kale this year. Unexpectedly decent combination, that.
Beyond breakfast, though, this kitchen is hardly used. So I’ve gotten into the habit of taking care of myself, making use of basic supermarket grub.

Lucky for me, there are several supermarkets and a health food store near the place we always stay, so getting my hands on food is terribly easy. The old stand-by is a tub of hummus with a bag of washed carrots, supplemented with whatever looks convenient. Which is quite a lot, actually. This weekend I ate beets wrapped in local kale (it took me a while to figure out the ribs are best removed, though), those long pointy peppers, untoasted cinnamon-raisin bagels which didn’t taste as cinnamon-y as I’d hoped, and the red salsa-spicier-than-expected refried beans mix as seen on the picture below. All of it decent, varied grub that didn’t require heating.
And people still say being vegan is intrinsically difficult. Yeah, right.

On Saturday, we did a bit of piping for a veterans parade. The reason we were there, really. And it was one of the biggest ever this year, which was incredibly cool.

After the piping was done, I took a train to Edinburgh to meet up with Sinead, one of the people on the picture below. I’ll leave you to guess who’s who.
Just out of random curiosity, are the Dutch the only ones who give three kisses on the cheeks when meeting friends or relatives? I think Sinead was used to two (were you?) and I once got kissed twice by these random Spanish girls. And while my boyfriend’s family has easily adapted to my third kiss, I’m pretty sure they initially stopped after two.

We generally hung out somewhere green and chatted (Sinead knows loads and is funny), which seems to be what I end up doing with people I know through internet-related things, and always ends up being surprisingly easy and an enormous amount of fun (I am not by nature a particularly social person). I was vaguely nervous about this meeting, but that pretty much went away once I’d had a short phone conversation with her that got cut off almost immediately after I’d relayed the basic information because she sounded very friendly.
We did some light hiking around Holyrood Park, which looks like it’s quite a ways away from the city centre but is confusingly close.

And since this was a vegan meet-up, a food exchange took place. Sinead gave me some Scottish not-cheese, Sheese, with proper oat biscuits to put it on, some very cool looking vegan haggis I will have to put on a proper baked potato (I had the omni variety at the very first band function I attended and remember actually quite liking it. With this one I won’t have to achieve a state of denial about the actual ingredients before enjoying it, which is excellent), some interesting smelling soap, vegan not-milk chocolate, a box of truly divine chocolate curry balls (this cocoa-spice thing needs further exploration), a box of yummy local cherry tomatoes fresh from the farmers market, and a very tasty and filling fresh chocolate flapjack which was so much better than the sticky sugary thing you get in supermarkets. It really does deserve a dance.
I lugged along a bunch of mostly licorice-type things since she mentioned liking it once. It’s pretty abundant here and not so much in most other places. And dried capucijners. Those don’t seem to be eaten anywhere else and I’ve yet to come across a vegan who doesn’t appreciate legumes.

Proper Scottish thisle from the park to prove I did actually set foot in that country.

On our way back to the ferry, we visited Lindisfarne, a tidal island, where we didn’t have time to do much except marvel at the sudden appearance of a good fog. We were all amused by the tide warning signs. Actually, whenever we mentioned going there, people made sure to ask if we’d checked out whether we’d be okay with the tides, which makes me think the picture used wasn’t photoshopped.

Check the tide tables, people. The car you save may be your own.

Two Again July 23, 2008

Posted by tuimeltje in administrative, dinner, food, rant, travel.
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Two things, mostly related to my internet access and posting frequency, though it does end with a rant.

One, I’ll be hanging out in the UK for a few short days, playing my pipes and spending too little time with Sinead. I’m unlikely to have internet access there at all, though I’ll bring my camera and post about the highlights later.

Two, I’ll be moving soon. I’ve been sort of looking for a flat for a while now, what with me getting slightly tired of student housing and looking forward to living with my boyfriend, but this is still happening rather suddenly so I’ll have to arrange a bunch of stuff quite quickly. All very exciting (my own (tiny) kitchen! Gotta get me a fridge…), but again something that’ll lead, if not to scattered internet access, at the very least to scattered internet time.
And scattered me, certainly. I’m not particularly organised at the best of times, but combining a hardly-prepared move with a job and a nice bit of cat-sitting is probably going to leave me temporarily flaily and absent-minded.
Or, uhm, more flaily and absent-minded than usual.

To make this at least vaguely about food, I should maybe mention the soup I made on Monday. Last week, when I made the salad with the last of the rice and beans, I kept some of the celery stalks, hoping they’d last until this week so I could make me some lentil soup to make use of my lentil stash and actually make something with those tinned diced tomatoes I’ve had lying around for, like, ever.
They lasted, so I made soup. It was good, though I should’ve maybe used fewer of those dried red peppers.
Live and learn.

Since I eat my lunch at work these days I rarely have the materials to make a decent sandwich meal, the kind I eat Tuesday evenings on the train to band practice, unless I make a special effort. For last night, I kind of forgot about that (see? Scattered).
So instead of sandwiches, I took along the frozen leftovers from the lentil soup. Which hadn’t properly thawed when I was on my way there, so I took the time to try that bain marie thing when everyone else was having coffee. While it’s better hot, it’s not too bad eaten cold. Eating it with bits still actually icy, however, kind of sucks.

Apparently (getting slightly ranty here), a basic, simple lentil soup is a strange and exotic food to your average Dutch omni. And not the good kind, either. The freaky outlandish sort that looks like puke.
Now I can’t argue too much with how the soup looked, as I’ve probably puked up things that vaguely resembled this soup, but the lentil is a fairly humble and incredibly common legume that is much more exciting than most people’d think.
Not freaky, and it shouldn’t be that strange and exotic to people who seem to like curry (the UK sort, from a nice jar or served at a friendly pub) and I assume were at least raised vaguely Protestant and might still be practising in some way or another. Red lentils are, like, totally biblical and everything.
Just ask Esau.

Also, me eating my lovely not-particularly-exotic soup shouldn’t make people tell me all about their worldly oh-so NOT VEGAN culinary experiences involving grubs and that thin webby bit between a duck’s toes. Really, it’s not what I want to hear when I’m bloody eating.
I generally quite like these people, but sometimes omnis confuse me. I strongly suspect they (omnis in general, but it became pretty obvious with this crowd) would like to make my eating habits all about the food so they won’t have to think about that pesky little ethical concept underlying it all (and since the food is obviously icky, they don’t have to try that, either). Why else would otherwise considerate people appear so unaware of how a vegan might feel about their NOT VEGAN culinary adventures? This was the sort of thing where the less adventurous omni would either get grossed out or get upset about the cuddly critter eating, so the only reason I can think of as to why someone would discuss it with me is that they see veganism as just another kind of adventurous eating, which would be one hell of a way to not get it.

It’s times like those that make me appreciate vegan freaks, people who know their legumes and also occasionally feel like aliens among their barbaric acquaintances.

Oh, Belgium June 8, 2008

Posted by tuimeltje in dinner, food, travel.
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While Belgium is closeby and not too different culturally and linguistically (well, Flanders, anyway), there are some minor differences. Some involve keyboards (stupid AZERTY!), some involve slightly different meanings for certain words, and some involve food.
For instance, they like their chips. I don’t know about the rest of the country, but the area where my boyfriend lives has a pretty high density of chip shops. Generally the sort that rather smells like, well, an old-fashioned frietkot (I’m still suspicious about what they use for frying).
They also seem to be hugely distrustful of Dutch chips for no good reason, but whatever.

Proper home-made Belgian chips:
Made by my boyfriend’s grandmother, basic marinated tofu made by me.

Another thing that’s ever so slightly different is the bread. While it is a basic food just as much in the Netherlands as it is in Belgium, it seems to have even more of a significance there. I can’t quite describe it, and it may just be a difference between families rather than between countries, but still. Belgian bakeries have bread-vending machines. That’s different.

vending machine

Also, they are, again, somewhat distrustful of Dutch bread. I think it’s something to do with the way it keeps longer, probably due to the addition of certain additives.
The lack of (at least some) additives might explain why bakeries are open on Sundays as well. At least I think they are. I’m pretty sure we stopped by one on a Sunday once.

Not so much a difference, but a food that’s not commonly found here. Chervil soup.
No picture of that since I didn’t eat any this time, but occasionally my boyfriend’s mum makes a batch when I visit, and it’s absolutely lovely stuff.

Some more foodie things we did involved visiting a local vegetarian restaurant and stopping by Stonemanor for some Brit food.


While I don’t actually like crisps, I tend to find a packet of Walkers salt and vinegar incredibly hard to resist. It’s really only because the stuff’s not available here at all outside of shops catering to expats and the occasional Britain-related festival.
At least I managed to not buy the Irn Bru.

I didn’t get as much as I’d expected and easily stayed within my self-imposed limit. It helped that TruFree seems to have done away with the puddings (they also changed the ingredients of their custard cream and bourbon biscuits so they now include milk. I had no intention of getting those, but still. Grrr) and there were no ingredient lists for the many frozen bagels they had.