Being vegetarian

IMG_2894After reading about how Lloyd transitioned to a vegetarian/vegan lifestyle (you can see the post here), I thought it would be fun to share my own experience.

Grab a cuppa, this is going to be a long one.

My name is Simone and I’ve been a vegetarian for twelve years.

And yes, that was totally supposed to sound like the introduction to an AA speech.

Up until then I had eaten meat my entire life without any kind of second thought. My favourite meat was chicken and if it was drizzled in lemon then all the more reason to eat it.

KFC was a Saturday staple in our house for years when I was growing up. I’d either join my dad and wait in the car whilst he bought a big bucket or I’d sit at home waiting in anticipation whilst I geared up for my Saturday in with my chicken and an episode of Charmed.

When I think about that now my nostalgia is tinged with mild nausea.

There was nothing about my upbringing that would have made me think any differently and I was pretty ignorant about the fact that my food didn’t have a face therefore it was just food. Where it came from I didn’t know and quite frankly never thought about.

Years later I made friends with two brothers who changed my life. They were the first vegetarians I had ever met and I was kind of in awe. They weren’t ashamed to tell anyone they were vegetarians; in fact they enjoyed speaking about it and were more than happy to share the research they had done on the subject. All of a sudden meat was no longer just this fleshy juicy food that I’d been eating my whole life. Meat was a cute bird that had been taken away from its mother; had it’s neck twisted to the point that it snapped, hung upside down on a conveyor and had its feathers plucked from its body before being prepped to become our food.

It left me shocked and upset. How could this be the norm? Don’t we eat animals that die from natural causes? It was a true awakening.

The change to being a vegetarian didn’t happen overnight (as much as I wished it could have). I managed to not eat meat for a whole week and then OOPS – I made a ham sandwich.

But…that was the last ham sandwich I have ever eaten!

I would like to have said that I had a supportive network at home in the early days but that wouldn’t be true. I think nowadays a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle is much more accepted but back then it was still a relatively new ‘movement’ that belonged to activists and hippies. My parents scoffed at me becoming vegetarian and thought it was a passing phase. Nobody tells you that to be a vegetarian means that you have to be a ninja turtle (i.e have a hard shell) – and if you don’t have one then you’d better bloody grow one quickly.

The people who were supposed to support me the most left me in tears on more than one occasion. All of a sudden the fact that I was and am naturally pale was because “I don’t eat meat.” I was ridiculed, given health “advice” from people who had no right to tell me what was healthy and what was not, I was judged regularly for my choices and I couldn’t go a Christmas without my choices being brought to the limelight in ways that were only ever meant to get a kick out of everyone else but me.

This is rarely the case these days; my parents have now fully accepted that being vegetarian comes as part and parcel with me and although I will occasionally be the brunt of a joke here and there especially from colleagues I know it’s in jest.

When I became a vegetarian I must admit that I didn’t know a thing about food. My idea of cooking was to boil some pasta and toast some bread thus pasta and bread became my staple foods. I remember often feeling very tired and it was obviously because my diet was so bad at the time.

I’m happy to say that things are so different nowadays!

Being a vegetarian is something that has became a part of my identity. There is so much more to life than eating meat and contributing to the ethical and environmental issues that there are in the world. Lloyd being vegetarian too makes everything easier and although he is THE chef, I also partake in some cooking from time to time and we have some amazing vegan recipe books to assist us. Although I mostly eat vegan I don’t class myself as vegan…yet. I still eat cheese from time to time even though I’m lactose intolerant and it kills me (I’m a glutton for punishment.) I think that I’m ready to take the next step but that will come with having our own place. Our own kitchen, our own fridge and freezer and our own fully stocked pantry.

All in all the road has been a bumpy one but it’s a journey that has been worth every second.

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Do you have a story you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments!

A Walk around Birgu

Birgu111A few weeks back I spontaneously found myself heading to Birgu to explore the city by myself. I used to go off on adventures alone at every chance I could get however it has become something that I seldom do anymore, so I decided that this needed to change! As well as wanting to get some exercise and fresh air, the act of exploring at my own pace with nothing but my camera has always been something I revelled in.

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Birgu also goes by the italian name of Vittoriosa and makes up one of the three cities situated on the opposite side of Valletta. The city itself played an important role during The Siege of Malta and was the home to the Knights of St John who made it a capital city way back in 1530.

Today, it still holds onto its charm and is well worth spending a good few hours getting lost in the quaint alleyways (it’s easy to find your way back out though I promise!)

Birgu is a mini city of plentiful character and is kind of how I imagine and wish Malta was everywhere. At the same time it makes me appreciate these places so much more now that many parts of Malta have become urbanised.

To get here from Valletta, simply take bus number 2 or 3 from the bus terminus.

One thing I noted that it was impossible to find an atm to withdraw money which was a shame! I would have needed to take a 20 minute walk into a neighbouring city which normally  I wouldn’t mind but it was downhill and a scorching hot day so be sure to carry cash with you in case there are any artisan markets around (which there was on that day).

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Why we need to go back to New York

StreetsofnycNew York, New York!

Our trip to NYC was jam packed, exhilarating and exhausting. Over the space of those 14 days we walked 190km only taking the subway once and a return train to New Jersey.

It’s impossible to see everything in two weeks. Hell, even a lifetime is a stretch! But we did get a taste of the apple and that just made us want to take another bite. Although we did LOADS (see this for a brief itinerary) there was so much more left to experience.

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Here’s what we’ll try to pack into our next trip (note that there is no if in that sentence!)

  • Ice skating in Central Park
  • Take a trip to the top of the One World Trade Center
  • Staten Island Ferry
  • Coney Island
  • Watch a game at Madison Square Garden
  • Watch another show on Broadway
  • View the skyline from a helicopter
  • Rockefeller Tour
  • Discover more vegan/veggie restaurants and food trucks
  • Spend more time in Brooklyn and Greenwich Village
  • Eat more pizza
  • Watch the world go by
  • Visit the Brooklyn Flea Market and find a bargain or two!
  • Visit more botanical gardens
  • Take the audio guided tour in Grand Central Station
  • Spend a full day in The Met
  • Listen to music in a jazz bar
  • See more street art
  • Fort Tryon Park
  • Museum of Bodies (if the exhibition is still ongoing)
  • See some abandoned subway stations

Ok so it seems like we may need another two weeks after all!

New York, we’re not finished with you yet.

New Yorkers, do you have any tips for getting off the beaten track in the city?

The Journey to a Vegan Lifestyle

Guest post by Lloyd.

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If I were to try and imagine myself at 26 I would never in a million years have guessed I would have stopped eating meat. If my family were to go out for a meal it was always a safe bet that my order would be a big burger, mixed grill or a steak.

Although Simone is a vegetarian it didn’t really have any influence on my own diet to begin with due to the long distance. Even when we were together, if we went out to eat I would order the same meals. However, when it came to making stuff at home I was keen to try cooking up some vegetarian dishes. I was always happy to test new recipes and explore alternative options to meat so I guess it didn’t take much for me to jump feet first into the veggie lifestyle.

I can’t pinpoint an exact time where I made the decision to give up meat for good but the idea certainly developed from the time I watched a documentary film called Cowspiracy. I watched it near the beginning of 2015, but the film has gained a lot more coverage since one Mr. DiCaprio was involved as an executive producer for a new cut of the film later on that year.

It would be very easy to shrug or turn a blind eye to the message the film is putting across but the information really struck a chord with me and has definitely influenced my life choices since watching. The main point I took away from the film was just how drastically our obsession with meat has affected our planet. Now, I’m not posting about this to try and push my personal beliefs onto anyone, but the film is very thought provoking and I strongly recommend giving it a watch.

Luckily for me the change to animal free products and food was incredibly easy thanks to how accessible these were from local grocery stores or online back in the UK. Even though there were plenty of pre-prepared “sausages” and varieties of veggie burgers there is nothing more satisfying than creating a whole meal from scratch, plus – it tastes so much better!

As a starting point those sausages and burgers will be your saving grace. They’re a perfect jumping off point to ease yourself into a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle and are so simple to prepare with a plate of veg, couscous or mixed salad. But it won’t be long until you’re moulding your own burgers or “sausage meat” patties and creating all kinds of culinary delights like stir fries and buddha bowls!

It may all seem like a bit much to begin with, as it is such a huge step. If you were to conduct some research about veganism you may also find it overwhelming to find out just how many obscure ways animal products can be used in your day to day foods and other general ingredients. For example: a lot of companies use bone char during the refining process for their sugars and plenty of wines and beers are processed with isinglass (dried swim bladders from fish).

One of the major issues people seem to have with going vegan is that “there is so much you have to give up” but it needs to be viewed more as an opportunity to expand your repertoire of recipes and take more care with what you’re fueling your body with. So why not create something delicious safe in the knowledge that it’s completely cruelty-free! From personal experience I have cooked a lot more and with so much more variety since changing my eating habits and although there are some traditional dishes with a veggie twist, there are no feelings of nostalgia for those meat eating days.

I can remember at the very beginning my meals were always kept very simple whilst learning more about the lifestyle and finding what worked for me. Breakfasts would generally consist of a toasted bagel with vegan spread or porridge. But you can also mix it up with some smoothies, fruit salad or even some vegan pancakes!

With most other dishes I would cook up a decent sized batch so that there were at least 2 or 3 portions to use for future lunches and evening meals. Those meals would often be falafel, salads and some basic soups and curries.

Nowadays we are a lot more adventurous with our meals and will have a go at pretty much any recipe we find that sounds tasty. Lately we’ve been making a point of working our way through a handful of vegan recipe books we’ve picked up and will have to share our best finds in future posts.

Do you have a recipe or your own story you’d like to share? We’d love to hear from you too!

We’re off to Barcelona!

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T minus 24 hours until we go for a short city break to the city of Gaudi.

This will be our first time visiting Barcelona and with only three full days we have a lot to fit in. To be honest up until this very moment we haven’t planned a single thing that we’re going to be doing so I’m going to get my research cap on and start searching through my favourite blogs and on Pinterest for (p)inspiration!

If you’re interested in checking out our resources I’ll pop them below too.

The Tourist of Life talks about finding an undiscovered spot in Barcelona

Hand Luggage Only have a plethora of material to get through:

6 Must see Pieces of Architecture by Gaudi in Barcelona

A Local’s Guide to Barcelona: 27 Things You Really Need To Know About Visiting Barcelona

10 Things To Do And See In Barcelona, Spain

The Complete Guide To Visiting Barcelona

Pin the Map Project:

The Top 5 Things To Do in Barcelona

Travelettes:

How to Spend 48h in Barcelona

11 Things to do in Barcelona for free

Barcelona: The Perfect Weekend Getaway

10 Fun Things to do in Barcelona

 

If you have any tips then please do leave a comment!

xo

 

Saying “ciao” to Gozo’s Azure Window

“Azure window fell apparently” was the message I received from Lloyd as I sat anxiously waiting in the dentists reception to be seen last Wednesday.

In that moment I’m sure my heart skipped a beat as I tried to process that information.

It had to be a joke, surely? I opened the web browser of my phone and desperately searched “Azure Window Gozo” in Google but my signal was so low that the page just kept loading and loading without any return.

I informed my dad who was sitting next to me and was met with the same reaction. Blind shock and an empty feeling inside.

I’ve stood in front of the Azure Window in Dwejra, Gozo too many times to count. Each and every time I would take a picture, regardless of whether I had one already. Each and every time we were there it was with different people or different circumstances and so this is why I did.

We looked around the crowded room, clearly no one else had seen or heard the news by this point or it would have been like the Times of Malta comment section in there; a multitude of mostly frustrating opinions and debates. Whilst waiting for an x-ray of my mouth I finally found some signal to read the news article and this is what I saw:

Until seeing this, I hadn’t realised the extent of the loss. The entire structure had been swallowed by the raging seas.

In 2013 studies had shown that erosion was inevitable, but until something like this happens you don’t quite comprehend just how much of a loss it is.

I saw comments on Facebook about how pathetic it was that so many people were upset about the natural occurrence and to that I will just say yes; yes I’m saddened that a natural structure has collapsed and left us with no more photos left to take of its beauty. Yes i’m sad that I won’t be able to take any more friends and family to see the Azure Window again. Yes i’m sad because it is a loss to so many people. It may just be a rock formation but it was a wonderful one. If that makes me pathetic then so be it.

I feel so lucky to have stood in front of its beauty so many times over the years.

Ciao for now x

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Azure Window 1

Azure Window 2

Taking a bite of the Big Apple

foodmenusAs with any venture to a new destination, trying out a variety of restaurants and searching for those hidden gems can be a lot of fun and an experience all of its own.

Having spent two weeks in New York I’d like to think we got a pretty good idea of the “must try” spots within a few block’s radius of where we stayed. And although we did find plenty of delectable dishes, I know that we could go back again and again and still try new, unique places each and every trip.

I’ve compiled a list of spots that I would recommend to anyone who finds themselves nearby, enjoy!

P.S., Sorry for the lack and bad quality photos – Simone usually only remembered to take a photo after she had eaten and by that point it’s not really worth it! Oops.

This was our first “proper” meal out in New York. I had the chana masala sandwich whilst Simone opted for the bowl version of the same name. Having spent a full day on our feet this food was very well received and the hearty portion and explosion of flavours were a fitting reward for the 26,000 steps we’d taken that day!

 

 

We tried the location on 8th Avenue, the upstairs has a huge window with stools along it so you can enjoy your food whilst watching the bustling in the streets; ideal for people watching. We both had the hummus and falafel from the “just hummus” section of the menu, the hummus was lovely and creamy and the falafel was well done, crisp outside and nice and soft inside.

When becoming vegetarian, falafel quickly became a staple food for me. I can always find happiness in a fluffy pitta bread stuffed with warm falafel and a handful of crisp salad – nom.

Hummus and Pita co New York

 

When we stumbled across this spot on W 50th Street we were just looking for a quick bite on the way to check out Times Square before the New Year crowds started filing in. We were surprised it was so empty, until we came back outside and saw the barriers had been put up to block access toward the focal point of that evening!

The “create your own plate” provides a wide variety of “Proteins” and sides to create plenty of delicious combos.

The little Beet New York

Apologies, I literally only have a photo of the bag.

 

This restaurant kept cropping up near the top of a lot of “best pizza in New York” lists that we found, so as it was so close, we decided to give it a try. I can definitely speak for the both of us when I say we fully endorse the high ratings!

Getting a veggie pizza right is difficult at the best of times, the ingredients naturally make the base soggier and it can detract from the experience when you spend most of your time scooping toppings back onto your base.

This was not the case (so much) with this pizza. The base maintained a crispness and crunch but wasn’t hard. The sauce/tomato/toppings ratios were spot on so that nothing was taking over each bite and masking the other two. Granted, the price tag on the end of this was more than a lot of the other dishes on this list combined, but, when in Rome…

On the way to check out the Best of NYC cruise by Circle Line we stopped off at this little cafe to warm up before an afternoon on the water. We both had a hot chocolate and some pastry treats. It was a really cosy place and we could have easily spent an afternoon there if we weren’t so tied for time.

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This place is a good pit-stop to grab a snack as you’re walking the streets of the concrete jungle. Pick a base, protein and toppings from their salad bar style layout. More tasty falafel – you can’t go wrong!

You may have noticed in one of my previous posts, we visited this place a few times during our stay and it was always awesome! We kept coming back for the chilled out, pub vibe and that veggie burger with sweet potato fries!

 

I decided to check out Terri’s on a day when Simone was a bit run down and some comfort food was needed. As it’s a vegan friendly menu it’s one of our absolute top recommendations. It also helps that the food is incredibly moreish! Even if you are a die-hard carnivore, you will be pleasantly surprised at the alternatives on offer here. I went for the meatball sub and philly cheesesteak along with a chocolate milkshake. Plus, several milkshakes during the remainder of our stay.

Another amazing restaurant for Indian cuisine. There’s plenty of styles, mains and sides to choose from, trying them all is the perfect excuse to keep coming back! We both chose the feast option from the menu and I would recommend ordering the onion pakora strings as an added side.

Indikitch New York City

I’m almost embarrassed to say that we only discovered Bite because it was near the local “by Chloe.” restaurant. This place certainly deserved recognition on it’s own – be sure to try them both!

There were a wide range of soups, sandwiches, salads and general plates including some vegan and veggie options. On both occasions we tried the soup along with a sandwich each. The middle Eastern vegan ciabatta featured each time and can be ordered as part of the combo option on the menu.

We never saw this place and it wasn’t full – please don’t let the thought of a long wait put you off, though. The service is quick and friendly and the food is absolutely worth it. It’s vegan, they serve sweet potato fries, it’s all reasonably priced and they even do dog treats! The more I think about this place the more I want to go back!

Unfortunately, we only tried four of the mains, but I would be happy if they only had those to offer. The beetroot ketchup and chipotle aioli are both an amazing accompaniment so be sure to fill up a small pot with each of them when you pick up your napkins! I can’t imagine eating anything simpler or better than a bowl of fries and those two sauces.

Our dining experiences

It’s reassuring to know that although it’s a country that loves its grilled meats and fast food, there were a hell of a lot of vegetarian and vegan options to cater to us – as well as any other dietary requirements you can think of.

Everywhere we tried the atmosphere was always warm and welcoming. The staff were always polite, engaging and helpful which was a really pleasant surprise for us and was much appreciated.

As for the food itself we can only hope that similar establishments can really take off over here. The only thing we did notice was apart from Bite, everywhere used disposable cutlery and plates; which can seem like quite a waste. But the washable over disposable debate is a lengthy one and is not something I want to wade in on here!

On a personal note we’ll definitely be trying to replicate some of the dishes we tried and putting our own spin on them!

Let us know in the comments if you have any more vegan/vegetarian food recommendations!