Vegan Venture – A Summary

It feels like a very long time since the Vegan Venture cookery day, so I thought I’d better post about it before I forgot any more details. Getting to Altrincham, where the Vegetarian Society is based, was something of an adventure – I’m not very good at last-minute plans – but I made it eventually.

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When I finally arrived at the hotel and managed to check in, I wandered round the hotel foyer and bumped into a girl who turned out to be my roommate. She took me to meet the rest of the group and we headed out for dinner at a nearby Indian restaurant. It was a really nice evening; we chatted about our various paths that had brought us to a vegan cooking course, and my roommate told us about her experiences as a vegan veterinary student. Looking back, this conversation was the start of the tipping point for me, but more on that later.

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I AM going on the Vegan Venture course after all!

I was so excited when I answered my phone this afternoon (it’s lucky I even noticed it was ringing, it’s normally on silent and out of sight) and the friendly woman on the other end of the call said “we have a space on the Vegan Venture course after all, would you like it?”. There was a waiting list of NINE but by some amazing chance I was the one who was available 🙂

It is seriously exciting, because she told me a little more about the course and the arrangements. I will get the train there tomorrow, they put us up in a hotel overnight in shared rooms so I’ll get to know my room mate a little bit, and then we all have breakfast together on Saturday before the course starts. We’ll cover knife skills, which is something I’ve been wanting to do for ages but haven’t been able to find a class for, and lots of healthy, cheap, fast meals. It’s mainly aimed at students, which is ideal for me because even though my cooking has improved a huge amount since I started this blog (has it really been three years? Madness!), I am still not very confident and mostly just follow recipes and use prepared mixes or processed ingredients.

It feels as though all the details have fallen perfectly into place. My train is late enough tomorrow that the bookcase and vegetable box which I’ve ordered should both have arrived before I leave, and I’ll be back on Saturday night in plenty of time for my mum and stepdad visiting on Sunday. I’ve got no plans or commitments for the next two days other than unpacking my room and tidying up a bit – and cooking is much more exciting than that!

Of course I will tell you all about it when I get back, and hopefully I’ll remember to take some photos of what we make. Looks like this has turned out to be the summer of vegan cooking after all!

A vegetable-cooking whirlwind of an evening

After the excitement of the goodies I picked up at the market and community shop, I was even more keen to get to the cooking class yesterday evening. Initially I’d been a little concerned that we might spend the evening going over the absolute basics – how to roast a potato, how to saute a carrot, how to steam a sprout – but I am very glad that I was being overly pessimistic. I had never tried any of the recipesbefore, and although I was keener on some than others, I’ll certainly be using a few of them again.

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Plans for August

I find it hard to believe that the end of this summer job is approaching so fast, but on Saturday afternoon I will be on a train wending its way back towards my new flat. As I said a few posts ago, I won’t be attending the Vegan Venture course this year unless somoene drops out, so instead I have made new plans and will be attending two cooking classes over the next two months: one on cooking vegetables, and one on cooking beans and pulses. The classes are based fairly locally and they’re very reasonably-priced, which surprised me somewhat to be honest! I think they’ll both give me some of the confidence I need to start branching out into a more vegan lifestyle.

I have also located my local food bank, and will be making a trip there as soon as I’ve amassed some more non-perishable items to donate. My own financial situation is limited but reliable; I may not be hugely affluent but I can fairly confidently say that my income will exceed my expenditure for the next three years as long as I’m sensible. I won’t struggle to feed myself. Having that luxury means I have a duty to assist those who don’t: people, normally families, living precariously and reliant on the welfare support that is rapidly vanishing in this country. People whose circumstances have not been as favourable as mine. I don’t want food banks to be necessary, but for as long as they are I will support them.

Now that I’ll be living alone, and a convenient Food Bank box will no longer appear in my kitchen at the end of each academic term for left-over tins and unopened packets, I need to make a bit more effort but reading Jack Monroe’s blog post today reminded me to take the first step of that effort and find my nearest drop-off point. This time next week, I’ll take the second step and double up on my weekly shop. I might even set myself a goal: buy two of everything for the price of one, simply by swapping out branded products for the value range. Living below the line showed me that there’s no need to pay twice as much for the same product.

That being said, another thing I’m planning to do next week is visit a local health food shop which has recently started doing weekly deliveries of fruit and veg boxes. If the quality seems good and the quantity is right, I will sign myself up for a weekly box. It might not be the cheapest way to buy produce, but the reality is that I simply don’t bother buying as much fruit and veg as I should. Having it arrive at my door each week will, in combination with my newly-acquired vegetable cooking skills after next week’s class, hopefully spur me into actually cooking and eating the things!

Not Going on the Vegan Venture Course

I received a slightly disappointing email today. I had not heard anything from the Vegetarian Society about my application to attend Cordon Vert’s Vegan Venture course, which is open to people aged 16-25 and funded by the charity, so I emailed the Grants Secretary to find out when I would hear. Apparently she had attempted to email me before, and unfortunately although I’ve been approved for the grant, there are no spaces left on this year’s course.

It’s not all bad news though, because I will be top of the list for next year’s course, and it’s still possible that someone might drop out this year. I’m sad because I had hoped that this summer would be my Summer of Veganism, but I will nonetheless be trying out new recipes, cooking up a storm and making some changes to my regular diet. I’ve already begun selecting recipes I want to try out, mostly from Poppy’s Patisserie and A Girl Called Jack, which will be a lot of fun.

At the moment I’m doing no cooking at all. Breakfast and dinner are not only provided but compulsory parts of my job (as they are a good way for students to find me each day if they have queries or problems), and on the whole they’re pretty good. For lunch we’re left to our own devices, so I have bought a large mug and several different just-add-hot-water instant meals (pasta Mug Shots, flavoured cous cous, soup sachets) since the only “cooking equipment” I have access to is a kettle. It’s not the most exciting cuisine but I spent under £20 on four weeks’ lunches as opposed to £6 a day if I went to the nearby cafe. It is making me even more keen to get back into my kitchen and cook for myself though.