Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Artisan Vegan Cheese from Nutcrafter Creamery

Glasgow based vegan cheese co' Nutcrafter Creamery have been on my radar for a while and I finally had the chance to try a couple of their cashew based cheeses whilst I was road tripping in Scotland this summer. I picked up two of Nutcrafter's cheeses from Roots, Fruits, and Flowers in Glasgow; The Decadent, a flavourful, salty, air aged, Scottish dulse infused cheese, and The Essential, their smooth, spreadable, double cream style cheese. I ate them both on Oatcakes next to lochs all over Scotland which made my travels even more delightful.

As a self confessed vegan cheese fiend I obviously needed to get my paws on some more of their cashew cheeses and luckily the lovely peep's at Nutcrafter were more than happy to send some new flavours my way. My package included the The Volcanic, an extra aged black ash covered cheese, and The Indulgent, a fresh chive chèvre, as well as their almond parmesan, and a jar of their delicious cream cheese.

The Volcanic is definitely the best ash coated vegan cheese I've tried. This is probably a personal preference thing but I find that the black ash itself can sometimes be a little too intense overpowering the delicate flavours of the cheese itself but this was spot on and probably my favourite of the bunch.

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Confectionary NYC

I fell hard for Lagusta's Luscious long before I ever tried their chocolates thanks to word of mouth and the power of the internet. That may sound strange but chocolate is one of my favourite things and when you do as much vegan foodie research as I do you know where to find the good stuff. After years of gazing at the Lagusta's Luscious website and following their beautiful Instagram feed I tried their chocolate for the first time in June 2014 after winning a voucher at Vida Vegan Con, waiting patiently for my chosen chocolates to ship, and sitting on the doorstep on my Austin Air B&B on delivery day because I knew that everything would melt in the hot Texas sun. 

As soon as I bit into my first caramel I knew was in love, I'd never be satisfied with mediocre vegan chocolates again! 

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Vegan in New York City

I've been struggling to write about food recently. After volunteering at the refugee camp and writing about my experience there writing about doughnuts and cupcakes seemed tougher than usual. Almost as soon as I got back from France I spent a couple of days catching up with friends, headed to London to march to Parliament Square with Help Refugees, the charity I'd been volunteering with, and the very next morning I was on a plane to NYC. I was excited but feeling pretty guilty that that's just a thing I can do because I happen to have been born in the UK. I didn't get a lot of time to process my experience before flying over here but since I've been here I've been setting aside time for self care; reading books, reading blogs, walking in the park, watching movies, eating all of the foods, and just giving myself time to do these things has reminded me that writing this blog is activism, it's just a different kind of activism! I don't know why I forget this sometimes but I do.

Travelling the world as a vegan can be the best, I know that I've mentioned that the hunt for vegan eats often makes you veer off of well trodden tourist routes and into neighbourhoods that the average tourist probably doesn't visit and this is no different in Hanoi, Budapest, or NYC. I've found it to be true everywhere. Brooklyn Whiskers is one of these spots and you need to venture deep into Bushwick if what you want is a top notch vegan danish.

As you can tell by the name the people who set up this cafe are really into cats, even their biscuits are kitty shaped and you must check out the bathroom if you're a cat person!

Friday, 16 September 2016

Volunteering with Help Refugees

I recently returned from a two week trip to Calais where I spent my time volunteering with Help Refugees. If you read my last post you'll remember that I was running a donation drive in Brighton to take food donations to Calais in my van and it was a huge success, so many people brought generous donations along to both Punktured and The Hope and Ruin, and Infinity Foods gave me a generous donation of dried and canned goods. As well as filling the van with lentils, tinned tomatoes, biscuits, rice, sugar, tea, and more I was also able to raise £1050 which covered a weeks worth of fresh food for Refugee Community Kitchen who currently feed over 2000 people a day.

The refugee crisis in Calais is actually worse than I understood it to be before I went over there, the most surprising thing to me was finding out that it's not an officially recognised refugee camp. There are no large aid agencies like Oxfam or Amnesty there on the ground distributing aid in fact the only organisations working in the jungle are small grassroots groups like Help Refugees. There are over 10,000 people living in the camp and numbers are growing every day, the majority or refugees come from Afghanistan, Sudan, Pakistan and Eritrea. These are people who risk (and often loose) their lives trying to get to the UK to claim asylum. Despite the Dubs amendment passing in May no unaccompanied refugee children have been settled in the UK under the new law. Just let that sink in for a moment. Over four months ago the UK government agreed that we need to resettle unaccompanied refugee children but since then we have done nothing about it. Nothing. The mental and physical health of vulnerable children (children as young as eight) is declining every day and we're over here planning to build a £1.7m wall to keep people away?! It's appalling.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Food Donation Drive for Help Refugees

This past week has been a whirlwind. Between getting my IUD replaced early last week (OMG that hurt so bad), to flying to Scotland and back today to investigate some exciting future plans I've met up with friends in London for delicious vegan eats, volunteered at FRIEND Sanctuary in Kent, hung out with my dad, spent time barbecueing and hanging in a hot tub with old friends, and even squeezed in a little dinner date with Nick's oldest friends and their new (to us, she's actually four months old already) baby. I've basically been all over the place!

In between all of this madness (don't worry I've scheduled a self care day for tomorrow!) I've been organising a food donation drive for Help Refugees. Nick and I will be driving our little camper van to Calais to volunteer at the refugee camp there. Did you read about my fun European road trip adventures last summer? Well whilst Nick and I were zig zagging across the continent in our silly tiny van with our British passports we passed numerous refugees who were unable to cross any borders. They were camping in city parks, being blocked from getting on trains, and arriving on Greek beaches with nothing after the most horrendous journeys. I think that it's bullshit that I can travel pretty much wherever I want because of some weird twist of birth whereas these people, not migrants as the British press are so fond of calling them, people, are what? Just meant to stay put whilst their countries are bombed? Where there are no opportunities for their children? Where they face persecution? Where members of their families are being killed? One of the first things I saw when we drove off of the ferry into France last summer was all of the fencing around not just the camp but all of the roads leading from the camp to the ferry and train terminals and I was both horrified and disgusted that my government was paying for this to keep refugees, people who by definition have been forced to leave their countries, away from the UK. Aside from feeling saddened by the state of the world I felt like I needed to at least try do something to help. 

Nick and I will be at the refugee camp for two weeks and I think we're mainly going to be volunteering in the warehouse sorting donations. It doesn't make sense to drive an empty van over there so we're going to try to fill the van with as many donations as possible. If you're in Brighton you can donate some food this Thursday 25th or Friday 26th at Punktured or The Hope and Ruin. I'll be at Punktured, located on Gardner Street close to Infinity Foods, between 11am and 6pm on both days and then at the Hope & Ruin, on Queen's Road, on Thursday night from 6pm - close. Don't ask how I'm going to be in both places at 6pm on Thursday, I'll figure it out. Maybe I'll run! If you drop donations off at The Hope & Ruin you get the added bonus of getting to order some delicious food from Beelzebab whose food I am totally obsessed with. The loaded fries are especially uh-mazing.

Help Refugees have to be quite strict with the donations that can be dropped off, there are only a small number of volunteers sorting through them and then an even smaller number manning the kitchen and cooking food for people. This is why everything has to be non perishable, donating some gorgeous veggies from your allotment would be a lovely idea but they wouldn't be good by the time our delivery slot rolls around on Sunday and they need a lot of each item to feed everybody.

If you'd like to donate here's your shopping list, screen shot it and grab a few things! 

• 1kg bags of sugar
• 1 litre bottle of oil (vegetable or olive)
• 1kg bags of rice
• 750g bags of salt
• Tinned pulses especially chickpeas and kidney beans (ring pull tops only)
• Tinned tomatoes (ring pull tops only)
• Dried red lentils
• Dried fruit and nuts
• Vegetable stock cubes
• Biscuits (good vegan biscuit options include Bourbons, HobNobs, McVities Fruit Shortcake and Lotus Biscoff)
• Tea
• Coffee

No one person needs to donate everything single thing on the list. A few small things will be really helpful, maybe your local shop will have an epic deal on canned pulses, or litre bottles of oil will be going cheap at the corner store you pass on the way to work. Every little helps!

Some of you super sweet people have let me know that you'd like to help from afar and I super appreciate it! Y'all are the best. Help Refugees need fresh fruit, veggies, herbs, onions, garlic, and potatoes so we'll be using any monetary donations to buy these things at a supermarket in Calais. The best way to donate is probably via Paypal to jojo.huxster@me.com with a note that it's for Calais but if you have any other ideas of how to get cash to me then just holler on that same e-mail.

Thanks for reading! See you soon!

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Open Day at Friend Animal Rescue

It's no secret that I'm vegan primarily for animal rights reasons. I went vegan in 2005 after a short period of vegetarianism and I've never looked back. I've always loved animals, from the rabbit my parents finally let me get after years of begging, to the sheep that lived in the fields near where I grew up, I wanted to hug them all. I made the connection between the animals we see grazing in fields and the food on my plate at quite a young age but but my mum wouldn't let me go veggie and, as a kid growing up in the middle of nowhere with no idea where to even buy food, I just kept eating what was put on my plate. No lamb though, I just couldn't deal. Farmed animal sanctuaries like Friend, located near Tonbridge in Kent, are important for so many reasons. Firstly they're a refuge for the animals that make it out of the meat, dairy, and egg industries. Without sanctuaries these animals would have nowhere to go aside from the slaughterhouse.

Friend are currently caring for over 100 animals including cows, pigs, sheep, goats, cats, ducks, geese, chickens, and turkeys. It's a really fun place to visit. One of the goats was so friendly, whenever I spotted him he was making friends with another group of visitors! As well as believing that farm sanctuaries are essential for the animals that live there I also see farm sanctuaries as an essential education tool.