Vegan Amsterdam: Bolhoed

September 15, 2009


On the Prinsengracht, one of Amsterdam’s main canals, cozily hidden behind sheets of trailing ivy, is Bolhoed, a vegan friendly, vegetarian café, staffed by the be-dreaded and tattoed, decorated with knick-knacks your Gran would covet and serving absolutely delicious food in delightfully generous portions.


Since there’s nothing outwardly declaring it to be a café we would have walked right past, if it hadn’t been for the outdoor seating area and my penchant for staring into other people’s houses (which is how Kat and Lia found it later as well. Staring questioningly into windows is a part of the Amsterdam experience though…) It looked inviting enough, for a start the windows are painted with flowers and the odd cartoon person, and inside beckoned warmly to our soaken selves.


Inside, it’s more like a café than a house, but only just. The odd knick-knacks, leaf stencils and cat might have you confused for a moment, but the counter with salad bar, coffee machine and customers soon give it away. We trundled in and bagsed the only free table. It wasn’t particularly busy, nevertheless. The other, huge, wooden tables were all occupied by one or two coffee drinking book readers or ladies-what-lunch. Most people in there were of an age, but then it was mid-morning on a Tuesday. By all accounts it’s buzzin’ on the weekend, but while we were there the atmosphere was pretty calm and chilled out.


We made ourselves comfortable, hanging our wet jackets over the chairs, and perused the menu. Everything is vegetarian, with plenty of vegan options also. I don’t remember most of what they offered because it seemed pretty standard fare; nut roast, sandiwiches, but the ragoutcroissant really stood out. I was completely intrigued by the notion of a croissant containing anything other than chocolate – in this case, leek, seaweed, tofu and curry – that it had to be ordered.

The food did take a little while to come but it’s not as though we had any pressing engagements anywhere and I was too busy enthusing over the ‘real’ apple juice – thick, cloudy and sweet, the kind which fights off infections and Fascists – and trying to get a perfect picture of the cool twisted-wire tree hanging on the wall to count the minutes off.



When my dinner did arrive though, it would have been worth any wait. It was giant. A giant parcel of folded pastry covered in sesame seeds, which I cut into eagerly. Inside was green mush, my favourite!, with chunks of tofu. I gingerly forked some into my mouth, where the pastry practically melted on my tongue and then the curry had a party with the seaweed. Everyone at the table tried a little bit, then clamoured for more. The side salad was also way more than the usual slice of cucumer and sprinkle of cress, so much so that I thought they were going to try and charge me extra. Not so! They just give you looooads of salad. My friends ordered a salad on its ownsome and were presented with salad, and skewers and a massive dollop of cous-cous. All for the low low price of roughly six euro, same as mine. (Since I’d read that the place was dear, and we were in Amsterdam, I’d expected far higher prices.)


Bolhoed is a really charming little place, which I highly recommend for good tasty filling food and veg. According to other sources it can get quite busy on the weekends – and I can see why – so the advice is to book ahead. If you have the choice though, go mid-week, either with a paper or close friend, hang out and take your sweet time devouring the giant croissant. Nom nom nom.



Safety Nets

September 10, 2009

Paris,travel,Eiffel Tower

We spend a large portion of our lives creating and maintaining safety nets for ourselves. These usually take the form of family, or a network of close friends. Having a job makes us feel secure, as does the mortgage which allows us to live in the house that protects us from the elements. Many people put effort into cultivating as many of these safety nets as possible, so if something goes wrong in one area of our life, we know we still have our brother to rely on, or those savings tucked away to cover the rent. If we let go (or are let go), then poof! We know there’s a fairly soft landing for us. It’ll be hard to climb back up the ladder and get on the trapeze again, but at least we didn’t go splat.

A couple of my friends recently moved to France. One has to complete four months at a French University for her Degree, and the other went for the adventure of living in a foreign country, trying to get a job in a place where he doesn’t speak the language so well, and generally seeing what he could achieve.
Both of them have the usual safety nets back here – family homes to go to, friends who miss them, and the Uni goer has a boyfriend to come back to. If it all goes wrong out there, they know they can come back to the UK to open arms and a place to stay. They won’t go splat.

But, how does this affect their feelings about the change?

All the Uni goer’s safety nets are here in England, at the moment. If she doesn’t make friends quickly, has trouble with a Professor or even just gets lost in the new town, her first thoughts will be about missing home, missing the comfort of her boyfriend and the ability to call us up at any time to hang out. For the adventurer, he has no specific reason to stay in France, other than his desire. If he doesn’t find a job fast enough then his option a) is to come right on home and start again.

We cultivate safety nets to catch us when we fall, but isn’t there more pressure to hang on when all that’s between you and that faraway sawdust strewn floor is the air?

I’m not suggesting a quick family-cide before setting off for a new country, or disposing of all your savings before setting up a new business venture (because you’ll need those…).

I am suggesting that before heading into unknown territories, we release ourselves from this safety net thinking. Don’t think about fallback option a) or fallback option b). There is no fallback. Tell your family not to get in touch. Lose your Savings Account number. Don’t look down. Focus completely on what you want or have to do. Then do it.

Because the only other option is: SPLAT.

If you need help procrastinating…?

September 9, 2009

giant under water monsters
The Fudge Factory

I’ve got the goods. Well, some goods. A bit.

# The Dullest Blog is just waiting to waste your time…

# Spend a while in Wonderland. Though when I say ‘a while’ I do mean ‘forever’…

# Ever tried Guerilla Gardening? This is what you get when you take GG and + origami = Poster Pocket Plants, and it looks a little something like this.

# The morbid macabre side of me loves these Human Organ Ink Blots. Mmm, purdy.

# And the traveller side of wants to go get lost on Mars, especially here, and here.

And then, while relaxing from all that hard procrastinating, I’ll chill out and watch a Cosmic Ballet:


London Vegan Festival: review

September 7, 2009

I found out about this at almost the last minute on The PPK and booked a coach the very next day after checking out the programme and pictures on the website. £14 seemed pretty reasonable to be able to be stood in a room filled with that many vegan cakes, brownies, biscuits…plus, like, stuff! So I packed my bag (extra jumper, pasta salad) and off went I.

Upon arriving, I did a quick sweep of the two main rooms, keeping an eye out for the PPKers, but somehow, magically almost, gravitated towards a cake stall. I’ve been disappointed by vegan brownies before, but this one was moist, squidgy and chocolatey. I ate it while sitting upstairs, watching the crowds mill beneath me. There were loads, and loads, of people there. I didn’t expect it to be empty, but it was difficult to navigate the stalls at times! Particularly around the chocolate stalls…


I spotted the PPKers after a bit, by Jojo’s bright pink hair and wandered down to accost them with a ‘I don’t mean to sound creepy, but are you from the internet?’ They were, and recognised me right back, which was handy. Most of them were hungry, so while they queued for burgers, Anesthesique and I went to see Andrew O’Neill, who is a funny, funny man, and vegan.
He is (genuinely) hilarious. We laughed hard and fast as the funny kept rolling, with brief musical interludes like the scat-nav as ‘sorbet between the jokes’. The man’s timing is impeccable, no doubt, and while his diet may be cruelty free, he certainly isn’t. ‘What super power would you have?’ ‘X-ray vision.’ ‘What, so you can see women’s bones?’ He railed against the anti-BNP campaign, ‘Hope not Hate’ as well, deeming it too wishy-washy. Needs more oompf, yeah. What about “Kill a Facist for Grandad”? I’m down with that…I could quote the whole set, but then you might not bother going to see him, and you’d only regret it. (Unlike these guys, who’re lovin it.)


Onto the food…the rest having already eaten, they highly recommended the bacon and cheese burger from Veggies, where we duly headed. I’m not a big fan of fake meat, but I figured it had been long enough since eating bacon that I wouldn’t notice. I was spared any comparison, since they were out of bacon anyway.


I had the Cheezley burger, sans bacon, regardless, and despite dropping half the salad while I juggled juice, burger and camera, it was yum. I’ve missed having a mouthful of meat, y’know? It wasn’t anything like a regular burger though. It was better. For a start, when you come to an oddly hard but smooth bit there’s no wondering ‘What the hell part of an animal was that?’ And guh, meat, cheese, ketchup…how I’ve missed you all smooshed together. Ode to the burger, over.


On to the creme egg! If there’s anything I used to love more than meat (and Oreo’s – which are vegan in American?!), it was creme eggs. I literally stopped short when I saw the sign and had to buy one, even at £1.20 a pop. It was worth it though; rrreally rich and took me about ten minutes to eat while we wandered around the stalls.

Amidst many an animal cruelty stand, and despite all the bakeries, I spent most time (and money) at the Active Distribution stall, browsing the books and flicking through the ‘zines. I picked up a few relating to Anarchy, so hopefully I’ll be running my own lawless utopia by the end of the week. The Secret Society of Vegans also had some wikkid stuff, from stickers, mugs and t-shirts to snack and goodies. Num. I picked up a couple of stickers, coz they got skulls and unicorns on.
Secret Society of Vegans

The PPKers had already spent too long at the Redwood Foods stall, but I was called in by Holley to give my verdict on the hot dawgs (as someone who might still remember what the meat versions tasted like. I’m pretty sure I was the baby vegan of the group) and they were almost exactly like regular over-processed hot dawgs – which I’m not 100% sure contain meat anyway. Tasty, though.


At the last moment I spotted a gap around the Concious Chocolate stall and snagged a Choca Mocha Magic – which I haven’t tried yet. I plan to hold a ‘dark chocolate off’ sometime soon and it may be entered as a contender.

Having made the rounds, the others left and I attended a workshop on ‘Veganism, Anarchism and pacifism’ run by Gerard Bane, who is from Ramsgate and introduced me to some Canterbury vegans. Hurrah! I had thought the workshop was a talk – I wanted to learn more about anarchy – but Gerard treated it like a seminar, asking leading questions and encouraging us to discuss. A couple of people staye don point, with one gent pointing out that anarchism is growing your own veg and darning your socks – giving a homemade finger to capitalism – and there was a brief discussion about animal issues vs human issues and how many people malign vegans for caring more about animals than humans. I didn’t feel that I learnt that much from the discussion, but i did realise that there is a lot of misinformation being purported in the Vegan community – one woman particularly began talking about how most alcoholics are meat-eaters and that their livers can’t cope with the carbohydrate-heavy nature of a vegan diet. It wasn’t really the right forum to point out that vegans doesn’t just eat pasta and potatoes, but hopefully she wandered the food stalls afterwards and noticed the almost complete lack of the above items.

Considering I went solely to purchase as much chocolate as possible, I did rather fail in that aim. However, I met some cool people, made some contacts and picked up some interesting literature, so it wasn’t a total fail. Oh, and discovered vegan cream eggs. I will learn the fondant secret…


Other People talking about the Same Thing

More Pictures
Haphazard Collective’s flickr

London Vegan Festival

September 5, 2009

It’s tomorrow, I’m going.

I plan to eat as much dark chocolate as possible, see
Andrew O’Neill, a vegan comedian (does that make him funnier?) and go to a talk on Veganism, Anarchism and Pacifism – about the politics of being vegan. Will report when I get back on Monday morning.


Concern for Climate Change

September 3, 2009


When at Lounge on the Farm (Early Bird 2010 tickets on sale now, by the way), we signed with Friends of the Earth to pressure our local MP’s into signing Early Day Motion 845 on deforestation for feed crops and climate change.

EDMs “are formal motions submitted for debate in the House of Commons. However, very few EDMs are actually debated. Instead, they are used for reasons such as publicising the views of individual MPs, drawing attention to specific events or campaigns, and demonstrating the extent of parliamentary support for a particular cause or point of view.” – from the Parliamentary website

This is the letter I recieved from my local MP Julian Brazier. He is unable to sign this motion until it has been approved by others but he ‘understands the concern.’
I particularly enjoyed this line: “In the short-term, however, there is no doubt that demand for imported feed crops will continue and that, without it, our livestock industry would collapse.” And we can’t have that.

As a vegan, I ‘donate’ as little as possible to that sector and would happily see it collapse. The concerns which Julian Brazier truly understands are those of the government, and the Government’s concerns are for business. If the livestock industry collapses, that’s a whole load of profit (and jobs) they’re never going to see again. Of course, if the livestock industry keeps going the way it is, that’s a whole load of rainforest and clean air we’re never going to see again. Well, we won’t see those days. But our children might, and their children probably will.

When it comes to sending a message to the people in power, signing postcards is all very well, but the places we spend and items we spend on send an equally, if not more effective, message. While never buying meat or dairy again is probably the biggest f-you to the livestock industry currently contributing 18% of global greenhouse emissions, that idea doesn’t necessarily float everybody’s boat.

Friends of the Earth suggest cutting down on animal products, and consumption in general, advising people to only buy what they need and re-use that which can be. I advise people to purchase any animal products from local, sustainable sources and support farmers who treat their animals better and don’t use feed that has more air miles than you do. Or you could just eat tofu. Om nom nom.

If you haven’t already, please go to FOE and
find out how to urge your local MP to sign this EDM. The more awareness, the more possibility of change. The more possibility of change, the more rainforest our kids will have to go backpacking through.

If you’d rather do something FUN and support their Fix the Food Chain campaign, then head to the Hammersmith Apollo on November 12th for LIVEstock, hosted by Friends of the Earth where the latest and funniest stand-up comedians have been herded together for ‘barnstorming comedy of the rarest breed.’ Go, laugh, support.


Travelling Vegan: Amsterdam

September 1, 2009

Amsterdam. City of great culture and architecture, omni-present canals and bikes, the Red Light District and the Rijksmuseum, and food, food, food. Oh, and cheese.

The last few times I’ve visited Amsterdam bakeries and steakhouses beckoned from every corner, waffles glistening with chocolate of every shade and sprinkles of every colour, doused in sugar or steeped in caramel, strawberries adorning their sweet lattices, so I wondered how I’d fare for convenience food what with having to eschew the delicious crisp yet chewy with just the right amount of sugar waffle option. Oh, and cheese.

We camped this time, at Zeeburg, which I recommend most highly, so there was no real option to cook food. As such, we turned to Albert Heijn for succour. There is one on practically every corner, and they must have sprung up in the last year or so, because neither I not Holly (my other Amsterdam frequenter) remember there being quite so many. Still, good for us!

One day, I swear I will travel vegan and attempt to eat properly, but as it is, we all survived on a diet of tigerbread (and they do wholemeal tigerbread in Holland!), hummus and crisps. I also had an apple a day, and popcorn. Lots of delicious popcorn. The Albert Heijn ‘extra puur chocolade’ with 72% cacao mentions nowhere that it contains milk, so I stocked up on that too at 82 cents a bar. As you can see in the photo below, there was also a large array of pre-packed salads. For some reason I didn’t think to buy one, but they’re there, they’re vegan, and they’re convenient.


As for places to eat, there were plenty. Before I left I checked out Veggie Place and Happy Cow, making a list of around eighteen places that looked good, including a couple of health food shops. While I was there we managed to make it to Bolhoed on the Prinsengracht, which deserves, and will get, its own post. For sheer convenience, there is a Falafel place in every district. There are five Maoz Falafel places in Amsterdam, and having not come across one before, I have to say they’re pretty good. It was 4€ for quite a hefty serving, but the best part is the salad bar. (Isn’t it always?) We didn’t take full advantage, I pushed some cucumber and cous-cous in the nooks between falafel and pita before we rushed for our tram, but there was a couple in there who were clearly experts. They would take a couple of bites of their pita, revealing new crevices which were perfect for spooning a little more taziki into, or tucking some more lettuce around, then sit down, take a couple more bites, and repeat. You probably can’t get away with this so much when it’s busy, but we were there around ten or eleven in the evening.

For breakfast the next day, we ended up at the Soup Kitchen and had Sweet Potato soup. After checking the website just now, I realise that it probably wasn’t even vegetarian, but it came with soft white bread and was damn tasty. Perhaps I should learn to say ‘Is there milk in this?’ as well as ‘Thank you’ when I travel now. (Bedanke, by the way.)


I think three days is probably an adequate amount of time to survive on hummus and crisp sandwiches, and if you have a little more money than we did (and a tin-opener, or camping stove…) then Amsterdam does cater well to vegetarians, and vegans, alike.

At the end of this month I’m going to Corsica with my family, and I imagine it will be quite interesting to see if they appreciate my vegan input. We are expected, by my Mother, to buy and cook our own food, so I don’t think it will impact too much on the family table, as it were, but they also like us to all eat together. Watch this space!