Just as I was getting sick more than two weeks ago, the rough and ready crowd who belong to the Hastings Vegan Dining Club got together for one of our, er, Vegan Dining Club get-togethers. Sadly, the notes I made about the delicious meal have subsequently disappeared. I blame my cold. (Wait! See below)
Suffice it to say that everything was delicious. And vegan. The theme of the evening was comfort food. Hence the sausages, which were served with a sausage and mash pie. Of the three trays of sausage and mash pie made, only two made it to the dinner table. The resident dogs made off with one of them. This news resulted in adoring mumbling noises about how wonderful dogs are. Which is, I guess, what you’d expect from an animal-loving group of vegans, who, between us, have many rescued cats, dogs, sheep and chickens as well as many others who, no doubt, are being rescued as I write this.
Next up is a scary Halloween Meal and a Christmas mince pie and sherry evening.
I found my notes:
The sausages were made from red rice and wild rice which was mixed and cooked to an inch of their life. This was shoved through an Osker (heavy duty mincer) with pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, commercial (Sainsbury’s organic stuffing mix), mint, onions, sage, herb salt and dried tofu. About 30 sausages were made. An additional 24 were also made that were gluten free. onions. sage. Brazil nuts (presumably chopped) were added to the mix post-Osker.
The sausage and mash pie was made from homemade baked beans, sausages, mashed potato, herb salt as well as haricot and black eye beans stewed in tomatoes and cooked in a pressure cooker with molasses.
Dessert was a raw pancake which was made by blending bananas and oats, which is spread on a dehydrator. The sheets were peeled off as big flats and folded gently into trumpets. They were served with home made custard and elderberry and blackberry jelly.
The evening was hosted at the vegan B&B, Bay Tree House, which is highly, Very Highly, VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
You know Britain is seriously at risk from a slash-and-burn and shock-and-awe ConDem coalition government when even the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds runs a campaign to protest against spending cuts. As good as the RSPB is it can hardly be characterised as an organisation which you would expect to see at the barricades, is it?
Life in the Old Town is nothing if not interesting. For example, I chronicled over the last few months the growth of a group of five baby Herring gull chicks who I watched from the back of my house. We know one didn’t survive and as the other four have gone I presume they all made it. But we’ll never know for sure. From time to time, a fledged gull will sit on the same roof and an adult gull will be with her. It’s difficult to tell but I assume that’s one of the four with one of their parents. Most of the gulls are fledged now but there’s still the occasional one or two on rooftops around and about. Their unmistakable cry like a squeaky wheel is omnipresent. The babies will be recognisable through to next year because their plumage doesn’t become fully white until after their first birthday. The gulls still kick up a racket all day and night. They’re at their noisiest now but as we approach the autumn their numbers begin to decrease and all the hyper-activity of rearing a family diminishes. So, they quieten down but their cries are part of the audio soundtrack of living in the Old Town. Frankly, I love hearing them and wouldn’t want to live anywhere else now without their banter and chit chat to catch up on daily goings-on.
The Old Town comes into its own three times a year when it’s Jack in the Green in May, the Carnival in August and Bonfire Night in October. These phenomenal events are community driven and organised as well as fundraising events for local charities. Talk about the Big Society! David Cameron would learn a lesson or two from the big-hearted folks who live in the Old Town and its environs.
Anyway, we’ve just had Carnival Week, which is basically a traditional English seaside summer celebration with a busy programme of various activities. One of the highlights this year was the attempt to break the world record of the greatest number of people dressed as pirates in one place. Apparently the record was held by somewhere with an unpronounceable name on the European mainland with some 1,500 people. The good people of Hastings couldn’t have that and smashed the world record with more than 6,000 people dressed as pirates in one place.
If that wasn’t enough excitement in one lifetime this week telly chef Jamie Oliver was in the Old Town filming an ad for Sainsbury’s, the supermarket company, which recently won an award from Compassion In World Farming for its policy in support of higher welfare systems for broiler (meat) chickens. I believe in acknowledging people like Jamie and company’s like Sainsbury’s when they take steps away from animal cruelty. Sure, I wish Jamie and Sainsbury’s would go vegan; however, they are no indications that this is going to happen in the foreseeable future. So, I believe, we thank them for the steps they’ve taken and encourage them to do more.
Anyway, Jamie and what seemed like a crew and extras (local residents) combined of more than one hundred plus loads of equipment packed into the small garden outside my home to film some of the ad. While trying to work from my home office I periodically went to the front of the house to take photos. My interest in such things is not necessarily the “glamour of show business” which, frankly, leaves me cold, but more to do with observing the organisation and effort that goes into producing a film albeit an ad for the telly. It was equally astonishing and frightening. All that expense for a telly ad?! There’s no telly in our house. They’re evil machines that keep people stupid. I doubt whether I will ever see the ad, which is fine by me. Nonetheless, the experience was interesting if for no other reason than seeing a film production company behave like a monolith invading and then disappearing as quickly.
A telly series based in Hastings and filmed quite a bit here is Foyle’s War. (Carnival Week includes Foyle’s War Walks.) This is one of those British costume dramas which marry nostalgia and a not-too-challenging plot line. It is based around the character of Christopher Foyle, a Detective Chief Superintendent, and set during and after World War Two. It’s in stark contrast to where I used to live and the detective series filmed there! I’m speaking of Baltimore and Homicide: Life on the Streets. As interesting as it was to watch Jamie et al filming, it was nice to see them leave so that the Old Town and its residents, including the gulls, can have the place back to ourselves.
I am haunted by a dream that I live in a country which is run by a government that was never elected; which is implementing a legislative program that was never put to the people at a general election; which consists of a second chamber that is unelected; which is commented upon by a media that is compliant; and which enjoys the support of those whose entitlements are mostly hereditary or, at least, class based and, therefore, natural to them and no one else.
Two vegans, one vegetarian and one non-veg ate at Zilli Green in London’s Soho last night. They universally acclaimed the dinner as outstanding. The style of cuisine is “Italian vegetarian with a fusion mind from across the world.”
For appetisers, T had the Peppers, Courgette Aubergine & Parmesan Terrine with a Watercress Pesto Dressing. It was presented very well but had a surprisingly mild flavour. (Zilli Green ensures the cheeses they use are vegetarian and do not include animal rennet.) G greatly enjoyed the Mixed Vegetable Tempura. It wasn’t oily as it is so often cooked. It was also presented very well and greatly admired by everyone. J and K had the soup of the day. This was a delicious creamy base of beetroot, coconut and sage with a splash of balsamic vinegar. Both said it was delicious. The beautiful deep red colour striking. All felt the soup was the best appetiser.
Selecting dishes for the main course was challenging as the choice is outstanding. After much deliberation and discussion, T had the Ricotta, Artichoke & Truffle Ravioli with Butter & Sage Sauce; J picked the Tofu Sausage with Spring Onion Mash, Mushroom Gravy & Mushy Peas; G opted for the Lightly Smoked Tofu Cake with Tarragon, Skin-on Potatoes, Mixed Greens & Sardinian Bread; and K went for three vegetable dishes, which were Rosemary Roast Potatoes – Skin On, Mixed Greens and Chargrilled Mediterranean Vegetables in Cider Vinegar & Mint Dressing.
Generally, everyone agreed the dishes were creatively presented and pleasing to taste. The ravioli was delicious, said T, who admitted to “inhaling it.” J, an American visiting London who wanted a traditional meal, thought the tofu sausages and mushy peas were “good enough that a bloke from Newcastle wouldn’t know the difference”! G said the lightly smoked tofu was a satisfying combination of mild flavours. And K snaffled down the three vegetable dishes and confessed to looking forward to a return visit when he could try more.
We picked a Maris Syrah vegan, organic and biodynamic French red wine. J thought it had an “excellent bouquet, very smooth with a little bit of fun at the end — a peppery finish.” K would have preferred it to be a bit drier but G and T disagreed. We all thought, however, the Maris was a good choice which complemented well our various choices.
The desserts at Zilli Green did not disappoint. Indeed, they ensured our dinner was totally enjoyable. T had a Selection of Homemade Italian Ice Cream which, she said, was vanilla and almond flavoured and were “Delicious!” J picked the Creme Brulee with Passion Fruit, which he described as a very hot custard with a caramelised top. G and K shared the Organic Tofu & Limoncello Cheesecake and the Dairy Free Tiramisu. All were worth going to Zilli Green alone!
The service was excellent, including a very attentive and caring Maitre d. Head chef, Enzo di Marino, and Award winning Italian chef and restaurateur, Aldo Zilli, are to be congratulated on producing an outstanding restaurant. The meal was as good if not better than some of the best veg/vegan restaurants that we have enjoyed in such American cities as New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Guardian columnist Felicity Lawrence got to the heart of the matter in her recent column when she concluded, “In their Big Society [ConDem coalition] – which casts everything as personal responsibility – social injustice, like obesity, is indeed a moral failure, but only on the part of those who suffer it.” So, this morning’s news that the Food Standards Agency is to be abolished and folded into the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is not surprising. Under the cover of the need to cut the country’s debt, which they claim is the responsibility of the previous Labour government while conveniently forgetting about the financial crisis caused by the “casino bankers,” the ConDems pursue an ideological agenda to privatise state programs like consumer protection and health care. What’s next? Slogans such as Your National Health Service is brought to you by Pepsi, BP and McDonalds.
Today’s news from The Guardian that Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury, blocks a decision to appoint a gay cleric, Dr Jeffrey John, the dean of St Albans, as bishop of Southwark demonstrates how a spiritual institution loses touch with the humanity it supposedly represents. Clearly, I don’t know the details of this incident and nor do I wish to; however, there is something fundamentally obscene to read that
The theologian [Dr Jeffrey John], who is now dean of St Albans and has entered a civil partnership with another clergyman, his partner of many years, has long maintained that the relationship is chaste and thus complies with Church of England rules for its gay clergy. [my emphasis]
Whose business is it what you do in the privacy of your own home between loving and consenting adults?
Apparently, Dr Jeffrey John was considered for the position of bishop of Reading seven years ago but had to retire because of a campaign against his appointment organised by conservative evangelicals. I don’t see how anyone could believe an all-loving god is also a homophobic bigot.