Vegan Amsterdam: Bolhoed

September 15, 2009

bolhoed,amsterdam,vegan,travel

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.

amsterdam,travel,bolhoed,vegan

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.

amsterdam,bolhoed

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.

amsterdam,travel,bolhoed

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.

amsterdam,travel

bolhoed,amsterdam,vegan,travel

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.)

amsterdam,vegan,travel

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.

bolhoed,amsterdam,travel

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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…

vegan,food,cake

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.
vegans,comedy
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.)

vegans,comedy

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.

vegan,food

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.

vegan,food

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.

veganfood,sausages

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…

Amelia

Other People talking about the Same Thing
Anesthesique
Jojo

More Pictures
Haphazard Collective’s flickr


Travelling Vegan: Brighton

July 24, 2009

Brighton,travel,fun

This weekend I jambled up to Brighton for a few days to hang out with James, do some juggling and see the sights. It was also my first extended period away from my cupboard full of seeds and fridge full of tofu so I wasn’t sure if I would manage to eat incredibly well while I was away (and yes, that was my first thought after deciding to go) but hey, I survived.

A couple of factors were pretty handy, the first being that James has no food in the house, so vegan or not, I would have needed to buy food if I wanted to eat. Also, he didn’t have to worry about cooking for me, because he doesn’t worry about cooking. The second factor is that James’ housemate Jack is vegan, and he made a tasty dinner the first night I was there, so we bonded about the awesomeness of kale and I discovered that chard looks like rhubarb.

Since I had to buy food anyway, as soon as I arrived (‘Hi, where’s the nearest supermaket? Nice to see you yeah, back in a sec!’) I dashed around the corner and panic bought salad, hummus, a potato and some beans. When I had calmed down appropriately enough to go to Sainsburys, I nabbed some tofu and chopped tomatoes. Bam. Salad and hummus sandwiches for lunch, tofu bolognaise for dinner. (I also went a bit mental and bought all the gear for tasty double chocolate cookies – flour, butter, sugar and chocolate. Foolish…but oh so good.) I’m pretty sure that only eating plant food is cheaper than if I’d craved cheese or meat, though the cookie ingredients did set me back a bit. And the Coppella apple juice. Sweet as sin, really. Delicious.

Easy enough so far. However, I hadn’t gone to Brighton just for the hell of it, I did some work while I was there as well. This work involves driving the length of the country to either perform with fire or teach kids to juggle, usually lasting all day or at least over one meal time. Buying vegan food on the road is inconvenient to say the least, so I made up some hummus and salad sandwiches – which totally failed to satiate me. Grr! Argh! Hunger! Vegan Jack bought some beans and crisps though, which we had in white baps. Good sandwich. He said he ate a lot of that sort of food when he was travelling, then proceeded to drink the beans. Delightful. But filling, yes. I nearly faltered in my resolve when we ended up at a village fayre, where all around was locally sourced meat and cheese and not a vegan option in sight – unless I wanted to buy a whole box full of veg. It was close…I had a spring roll and complained about being hungry for about three hours. Foolish self. Had I been more prepared, I would have knocked together a pasta salad and taken a couple of apples. Of course, not being at home made it all the harder to pre-prepare for a big day out.

I was always under the impression that Brighton was something of a Mecca for vegans, proved by my quick search of vegan cafes coming up with about seven places on the sea front that are completely meat free, as well as the usual ‘this pub does nut roast and is therefore veggie friendly, yeah?’ places. I made it an aim to check out Infinity Cafe and RedVeg and though time constraints curtailed my visit, we did get lunch from RedVeg; a proper fast food place serving falafel, veggie burgers and hotdogs, bean wraps and frrrries. I had falafel (I always seem to have falafel…) and James had a chilli burger. The falafel was good, if quite onion-y and, according to my incredibly carnivorous friend, the burger was passable too. If you’re lost in Brighton, afraid of all the brightly coloured omnivores, then RedVeg is a great little place to hide and munch on some chickpeas while reading all the walls and picking up some of the local scene mags lying around. You can find it on Gardner Street, in the hippy-frippery area. Next time, I’m going to hit up Infinity Cafe and also a veg*n pub we walked past everyday, which I believe is called the William IV.

Despite Jack’s vegan dinners and my salad sandwiches, I didn’t eat half enough over the four days and started feeling quite grumpy and tired towards the end. Before I went vegetarian, I used to intersperse days of eating junk with a day of not eating (because I was lazy, more than anything) and not feel any ill effects (probably because I was still digesting all the junk in my system!) but my body has now grown used to being well-fed every day and makes its demands heard.

Next time, I think it would be good to make a giant saucepan full of some pasta and tofu based dish which can be eaten over a couple of days, buy more snack fruits, and take my seeds with me for salads. I missed my seeds.

In a month or so I ought to be headed to Amsterdam, so we’ll see how I fare with a probable case of the munchies, no kitchen (no fridge, no seeds, no tofu) and a city full of waffle houses…mmm, waffles.

Anyone out there travelled vegan? How did you find it?

-Amelia

Vegan Brighton
-Being Vegan in Brighton.
Eating Out in vegan Brighton.


Turning Vegan

July 8, 2009

chocolate pudding,vegan,food,café

There are as many reasons for changing your diet, as there are changes to make. Giving up meat for environmental causes; eating more protein for muscle gain; cutting out carbohydrates to lose weight; getting more iron to combat anemia; more omega oils for extra brain power (I swear I was smarter the year I ate tuna sandwiches for lunch…); less saturated fat to lower cholesterol; creating a new dish every week to expand your culinary horizons…

A couple of months ago I decided to make the switch to vegetarian and throw in a vegan week. The reasoning behind my decision was that I have always eaten badly: microwave meals when I was younger, cheese and tuna toasties at university, or not eating at all. I wanted to eat more healthily. A couple of my friends and housemates actually used to cook, at least every other day. They could whip up spag bol or smoked salmon with minimum effort – and were occasionally horrified at my poor diet. If I became a vegetarian I knew I would have to look at my diet and what I was putting into my body, thus causing me to eat more healthily.

It did take me a long time to reach this point in my life where I wanted to make a change in my diet. When I was heating up triple cheesy crispy pancakes, or surviving on ham sandwiches, I knew my diet wasn’t the healthiest, but I was at university watching Em and Ed cook tasty, healthy meals for four years before I decided that I could do that too. While these guys were definitely catalysts, I didn’t make any change merely because they hinted that my food choices were going to give me, at the very least, a sugar hangover, if not Type Two diabetes. (I don’t know that I really ate that badly, but apparently Type Two diabetes is pretty prevalent in people with high sugar diets.) If I hadn’t wanted to do something about it for myself, and not solely just because other people were telling me it was the right or better thing to do, I wouldn’t have had the motivation to make any sort of change, let alone cutting out meat and then dairy.

Early on in my vegetarian time I read Becoming Vegan which is full of lists of which foods contain what essential nutrient and in what quantities, as well as in-depth analysis of the purpose of each nutrient in the diet. Needless to say it is quite anti-dairy as well as meat, so even during being vegetarian I didn’t make dairy the mainstay of my diet, though I had still had milk on my cereal and cheese on my jacket potato.
Learning all this before I became fully vegan, and living a sort of veg*n existence, meant that the change to meat and dairy free has been almost shockingly easy.

Previously, I didn’t even know that there was protein in beans. I remember the food wheels at school, with sections for meat, dairy, fruit and veg, grains, and snack foods. Protein and iron was found in meat, calcium was in dairy. Carbs were in grains, vitamins were in fruit and veg. Fat was in snack foods and sugar. Someone may have once mentioned that you could get iron from broccoli, but you couldn’t create a meal around vegetables. Right? (When I say previously, I mean, last year. I really never looked into food before this.) I thought that vegans had to eat incredible amounts of lettuce (why? I don’t know), take vitamin supplements and generally be very careful about what they ate, making sure they got enough of the vital nutrients. (Consider that I didn’t know there was protein in beans. Imagine how hard I thought life would be.) Reading books like Becoming Vegan and a multitude of vegan websites really informed me about all the other foods out there that provide just as much protein, iron and calcium as meat and dairy, often with a lot less fat. I’m not going to go into which foods contain what nutrients here, suffice to say, ‘vegan’ foods are not specialised and can be found down any aisle in Sainsburys. I have found some interesting foods which contain no milk: Ben And Jerry’s Sorbet, Starbursts sweets, Asda stir in Chickpea and Spinach Sauce, McVities Hobnobs (score!). Obviously, always check labels, but there’s a lot of food out there with no dairy and no meat that isn’t in the ‘FreeFrom’
aisle.

Cooking for myself every day does take some effort though. I have to go into the supermarket at least once a week, check labels if I fancy something new to see if it contains milk, and then when I get home preparing a nice evening meal takes at least forty-five minutes with the chopping, slicing, boiling and baking. You know what though? I love it. I’ve never cooked for myself, and for others, as much as I have done in the past couple of months. I’ve never had people compliment me on my food ever! (‘Wow, this toasty is well done.’ ‘Soup microwaved to perfection…how do you do it?’) Trying new foods, putting new flavours together (I cooked with ginger the other day, slightly overdid it, but yummy bean chilli), having friends over for dinner and chatting to other vegans for recipe ideas – I love it. I really enjoy putting all the parts together and coming out with something nutritious and delicious, and the surprise on some peoples’ faces when you tell them it’s vegan!

There have been a couple of difficult points, however. Just before I became vegan, and had been vegetarian for nearly two months, I noticed that I’d lost quite a substantial chunk of weight. I’ve always been at a healthy BMI (not due a healthy diet, just because I used to temper my days of eating crap with days of not eating at all. Yum.) and assumed that I would remain at my previous weight even if I made the switch to eating healthily. Turning vegetarian and eating filling meals killed my sugar cravings for a while though, so I was eating less biscuits, crisps, fizzy pop (particularly those with beef gelatin in, etc) as well as not getting any fat from meat sources, so the weight just dropped off. Since I’m fairly slim to start with, this scared me a little and I decided I needed to up my fat intake, so I strayed back to scoffing biscuits. The day before going vegan I remembered that my reasons for not eating meat were due to health, so I stopped with the biscuits, and went on the search for healthy fats. I started throwing avocado and sunflower seeds into my salads, hemp seeds into everything else (though they do make a bean chilli disconcertingly crunchy…) and drizzling hemp oil over salads and meals. Unfortunately, due to a coconut allergy, I usually avoid nuts, which are also a great source of fats, and haven’t yet managed to get hold of any spirulina (seaweed and superfood), since the best place to get it from is the internet, as health food shops usually sell it in pellet form, rather than powder. (Becoming Vegan, again, hugely helpful with its lists of healthy fatty foods.) It is totally possible to eat unhealthy fats as a vegan; I’ve been making cookies all week, in many forms. Double chocolate and cinnamon being the current favourite. Don’t ask a girl to give up all her vices at once, right?

Most of my friends are completely behind what I’m doing though I did have a bit of an argument with Thom about not eating meat one night. He argued that if a person were body-building, they needed a lot of protein, and the best way to get that was from meat. I explained about the protein content of other foods (there must be other people who don’t know beans contain protein. Beans are my staple food, you might have noticed.) and how you can derive all your protein from one source, (unlike fruit and veg say, where it’s best to get a range) so you could eat nine eggs if you wanted. Anyway, we didn’t resolve the argument that day.
The next day we went to Camden, and for lunch at the Inspiral Lounge (review to come) and after maybe two bites of his cauliflower (nut) cheese, Thom was exclaiming over the deliciousness of the food and suggesting that they go vegetarian for a while, maybe even vegan for a week. (He’s been vegetarian for a week now, though still craves chicken.)
There have been other people who don’t understand why (or how) someone could be vegan, and have even eaten tasty vegan food and not become the latest proselytizer!, who don’t see any reason behind giving up meat, and also see veganism as a ‘restrictive’ diet. I usually have about one conversation with these people about veganism and then leave it. I’m not trying to convert anyone, but it’s hard work when someone close to you sees what you’re doing as a negative action!

Turning vegan has done for me exactly what I hoped it would. I eat better now, pay more attention to my food and know what my body needs to survive. I can cook (!) and have made food which my friends have found not only edible, but tasty. For a while I pondered on the idea of ‘feeling healthier’, but have realised that lately I have been full of energy and madly productive! My skin is also clearer and I feel like my digestive system is working better than ever. (Another side effect of veg*nism: gas. Good for the body, not for your friends. Mmm.)

At first I only planned to be vegetarian for a month and a half, have a vegan week, go vegetarian again for a month or so, then return to eating meat occasionally, but having got this far, I think I’ll definitely avoid having ay meat or dairy in the house, though I may relax my rules a little when it comes to eating out. It’s definitely been a positive experience though, and one I would recommend to anyone looking to eat healthily, do their bit for the environment or just try something new.

For anyone wanting to learn more about veganism

The Vegan Society
The Vegetarian Resource Group -So much information.
Vegan recipes and news
WikiHow To Become Vegan

Some Vegan people

Don’t Eat Off the Sidewalk
Grumpy Vegan
Veganachronism
Food Porn
More Food Porn

A few tips for Turning Vegan

-Research food nutrition using the resources above. There’s protein in beans! Who knew.

-Really want to do it. Otherwise you might end up feeling resentful and restricted.

-Don’t feel guilty or give-up if you inadvertently eat meat or dairy. In my first week of being veggie, I ate out and had roast beef…

-Check labels. It doesn’t take long, and milk powder can be found in the strangest of places. (Pesto, why?!)

-Enjoy it!