Why You Need to Book a Ticket to a Foodies Festival Near You

Josh Eggleton

This weekend, I had the absolute pleasure of attending the Bristol Foodies Festival. One of 10 Foodies Festivals across the UK this summer, the Bristol special took place on Durdham Downs. Three days of deliciousness against a backdrop of whispering park land and good grooves included everything from a cake theatre to demonstrations from top chefs. I had family in town for the weekend and all being enthusiastic foodies themselves, the universe really had aligned perfectly and so of course we spent Sunday scoffing our way round.

The weather could not have been better and we could smell the BBQs all fired up from across The Downs. Upon arrival we headed straight to the Chefs Theatre to sign up for Josh Eggleton’s afternoon slot. This local lad is a Michel Star Chef at The Pony & Trap down in Chew Magna. Having heard nothing but good things about said gastropub, I simply had to see what he would be wowing us with. The theatre tickets are free, but on a first-come, first-serve basis. If you attend one of these festivals, I recommend checking out the timetable ahead of time and getting your tickets upon arrival so you don’t miss out. The four areas worth paying a visit are: The Chefs Theatre, The Cakes & Desserts Theatre, The Drinks Theatre and Kids Cookery Theatre. See what appeals to you before you go so you don’t miss out. *Vegan readers: Sarah Sibley will be demonstrating a vegan chocolate & raspberry bundt at all of the festivals, so be sure to get a ticket for that one (swoon)!*

Until our 2pm Egglton-extraordinaire event came round, we were free to roam, tummy-first. The first port of call was melt-in-the-mouth liquid nitrogen sorbet from Whipsmiths. I opted for lemon & elderflower. It was fascinating to watch them create the treat right there on the spot and even better to taste. Post-ice, we did a recce of the site. This took us past coconut water, specialist liquors, a sexy cocktail bar playing an excellent selection of lounge music, stall-after-stall of street food and a yoga tent! Who knew this would be included?!

As I’m on the subject, I’ll mention that one of the things that rather quickly jumped out at me is how well-balanced this festival felt. I’m a plant-based eater and always feel quite put off when food festivals are all about the meat and not much else. I feel like it’s a cop out of getting creative with your cuisine. If you’re in the same boat as me, you need not worry at all. The Foodie Festivals do things right. There is plenty on offer that you can and will want to eat. Plus I really appreciated the yoga ‘wellness’ element thrown in here in Bristol. It was just one of the ways that this festival was able to add in something unexpected and wonderfully wholesome for you and your family to enjoy.

After a chillax in the sunshine, we headed into the cool of the Chef’s Theatre where Eggleton mesmerised us with his years of knowledge and expertise. I loved how he bigged up vegetables and emphasised the importance of eating local and natural foods. He’s opening up another Salt & Malt in Wapping Wharf soon and it sounds like he’s got great plans to give back to RNLI via specialist Monday-night menus. One more reason to love the guy, if his cooking doesn’t already blow you away.

With 8 Foodie Festivals left across the UK, I recommend planning a visit to one near you this summer. London kicks off on the Bank Holiday weekend (May 27th-29th) followed by Newcastle, Birmingham, Blackheath, Tatton Park, Edinburgh, Alexandra Palace and finally Oxford from September 1st-3rd.

Bristol Foodies Festival

Exotic Tagine Wiltshire ChilliWhipsmithsJosh EggletonBristol Foodies FestivalBristol City Yoga

Bristol Foodies Festival

Bristol Foodies Music

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The Environmental Cost of the Instagram-Friendly Foods We’re Eating

Instagram Avocado

There’s no denying that these days there is a particular ideal that we strive for. Or feel we ought to strive for. It’s the kind of lifestyle that all the healthy lifestyle ‘become a green goddess’ sites are flogging. All the top Instagrammers are snapping it. All the popular Youtubers are promoting it. It’s the chia-seed-sprinkling, smoothie-bowl-consuming, yoga-doing, quinoa-basking lifestyle. Haven’t you heard of it?

What ever happened to eating local? That one fell by the wayside some time ago, I guess. It’s not trendy enough to consume different variations of root vegetables in the UK in winter time. God forbid we shine the spotlight on bread and potatoes to get us through the coldest months! No, let’s focus on imported goods that really aren’t that fresh or tasty by the time they get to us. At least in comparison to their foreign brothers and sisters. Eat a Mexican avocado and you won’t even be able to look at the ones in Sainsbury’s next time you’re in there.

So I’m totally going to put it out there: I AM GUILTY! I am a maple-syrup-drizzling, almond-milk-drinking, tofu-wolfing, guacamolivore through and through. I love food and am forever experimenting with new recipes, preferably void of animal-derived ingredients.

However, the gut instinct tells me that it really is best to eat local. Because local is fresh. Fresh is highest in nutrients. Nutrients = body love. So I’ve compiled some research on some of my fashionable, imported staples to look at the environmental footprint that I am contributing to.

  1. QUINOA: a grain generally eaten like rice. It’s gluten-free and easy to digest, plus packed with loads of essential vitamins and minerals. Is it any wonder that this crop with the frequently-butchered name is so popular amongst the healthy-eaters across the globe? But let’s talk about origin. Quinoa has been a staple of the Andes since way back when. Bolivians, Peruvians and Ecuadorians happily chowed down on quinoa without qualm until it rose in popularity around the world. Now, this cash crop is causing devestating effects. The demand for quinoa increases and farmers are selling more and more of what’s being grown. The local stash is dwindling because of it. And because it’s a source of income, farmers sell their quinoa for export and are eating nutrient-poor staples like rice and pasta instead, thus depleting their health. And for locals wanting to eat it, sadly now because prices have increased so much, many can’t afford it.
  2. AVOCADOS: those sensitive green souls. Yes they infuriate us, doing the dance to perfectly ripe so quickly that many of us miss it, but get a good one and you almost feel as though you can die happy right then and there. Rich in many vitamins and healthy fats, they are delicious on their own or used in many recipes as a dairy substitute due to their exquisite creaminess. But the problem is that demand is sky-high, with so many of us wanting them several times a week as part of our normal diet. And this is bad news for the Mexican landscape. Because farming avocados is so profitable, many farmers are ignoring the law and destroying mature pine forest to make way for more avocados. And there’s also the issue of pestiside use and water consumption, specifically 272 litres per handful of mature avocados produced. For drought-ridden California, it means growth isn’t such a smart choice.
  3. ALMOND MILK: an excellent dairy substitute for your morning cereal. I adore almond milk. I think out of all the dairy alternatives, almond is my favourite. But much like the aforementioned water-guzzling avocados, most of our almonds come from California and they too drink up all the water you can throw at them; 5 litres per almond to be exact. Not only that, but California’s almond bloom – which occurs every February – relies on 85% of US honeybee hives to pollinate them. It’s the largest managed pollination event anywhere in the world. Pretty mind-boggling! But there are many concerns with bee health declining due to pesticide use and time on the road being ferried to California from across the country.

The environmental cost of transporting foods around the world is one of the fastest-growing sources of greenhouse gas emissions. And a diet consisting of imported foods uses roughly four times the energy compared to a local diet. But trying to grow tropical foods in the far north and south or vice versa isn’t the answer either. The change in climate and biodiversity from where the foods are naturally grown means intensive temperature, pesticide and fertiliser use is required. That ultimately outweighs the costs of shipping them in.

And if you want to look at another aspect of what is considered inefficient energy distribution of food, this study from Cornell published 20 years ago found that the grain currently used to feed US livestock could instead be used to feel 800 million people. To put that into perspective, the current US population is just over 300 million.

So what’s the answer? Let’s be honest; we can’t really revert to living on an entirely local diet because we’ve developed a palate satiated only by the colourful variety of produce we’ve come to know and love. The variety is healthier and more exciting, after all. It would simply cause uproar if we had our exotic foods taken away. But rather than reversing things – which human nature rarely has a tendency to do – what about progression? What about renewable energy, intelligent farming and zero-carbon transport? What about taking new approaches to the old-school way we’re doing things? Or, if you want to go local, I bow down to you.

 

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Sustainable Produce: Comparing Farmer’s Markets to Supermarkets

When it comes to ethical food, there are a plethora of things to consider. These include: origin, fertiliser run-off, pesticide, packaging, cost, health, intolerances and so much more. Shopping locally, growing your own, and dumpster diving are some ways of trying to be more environmentally-friendly. It all depends on what matters most to you and what you have available.

Like most people, I want fresh, healthy, delicious food. But considering environmental factors, I also want organic, local and packaging-free as far as possible. I consume a mostly vegan diet, although I do sometimes eat eggs from local chickens. Therefore, the majority of what I consume is plant-based. This is stuff out the ground or from a tree that really has no reason to be packaged in plastic. Yet if you step into any supermarket, a sea of packaging is what you’ll encounter.

One way I can choose to reduce my waste is by shopping at a farmer’s market. I’m pretty lucky living where I do in Bristol, because there are some great ones available within walking distance or easily accessible by public transport. Throw a car into the mix and Somerset is my oyster.

Below is what I picked up from the market today. It cost a total of £13.70 and most of it is sans packaging.

fruit and veg from market

To put this into perspective, if I went to my local supermarket and spent the same amount of money, it would have only included the items below:

fruit and vegetables

So, that’s no parsnips, potatoes, carrots, garlic, kale, bananas or leaks. And one less beetroot. A bit sad, really.

What does this tell us? It tells us that supermarket shopping your way around a plant-based diet isn’t such a smart move. It offers convenience, of course, so late night desperation shops are possible. But for the weekly shop of produce, markets are simply the better choice. Produce is fresh, generally local (well, whatever is in season) and they don’t force you to pay for the unnecessary packaging. Therefore, the bill is so much cheaper!

Whilst buying all this deliciousness, I spent a while talking to the owner of the place. I wanted to find out more about the trade, how long he had been in the business and whether he enjoyed it. I found out that he started the company with his then-wife 25 years ago. Back then it was a roaring trade. A couple a week in different parts of Bristol and he was raking in the money. It was very profitable, apparently. So much so that he was able to take 5 holidays a year in some of the most exotic places around the world!

Then, fast forward to the early 2000’s when supermarkets began opening on Sundays and it crippled them. Sunday markets – including his – were suddenly dying out in the blink of an eye. Supermarkets offered convenience: a place to get everything under one roof. So to the consumer, there was no longer a reason to purchase from the farmer’s market. It was no longer the only option. And stall-owners felt powerless to this change in shopping mentality.

Did he enjoy it, I asked. The response was oh yes, very much so. He just wished that the business was still booming, but that it was nice to see young people still choosing to shop for their produce this way.

This isn’t a lesson in history, but rather a look at where we can go from here. Whether it’s zero waste, local, organic or whatever else, farmer’s markets can offer it to you in a way that mainstream supermarkets simply can’t. Sure, we’d probably all like to grow our own or have a neighbour provide us with our goods each week, but let’s be realistic. Urban dwellers have more limited options.

I look around at my peers now and more of them each day it seems are finding a penchant for plant-based eating. With diets switching, now could be a great time to look at a lifestyle change as well. Can we go full circle and revert to more wholesome, intentional consumption habits? Support local and ditch the packaging perhaps…?

The only thing that I can’t recycle from my above bounty is the celery packaging. The kale and mushroom bags can be recycled and the rest will be making its way into my belly this week. Compare that to 10x more packaging from the supermarket equivelant and I honestly cannot fault it. You could argue that ‘well, everything isn’t organic is it? Or local?’ but I ain’t a saint. To me, right now, this seems like the best possible way of consuming my five-a-day given my options.

It can be easy to slip into feeling powerless as a consumer. You cast your eye on the sea of packaging and feel as though you’re fighting a losing battle. But remember that while you might not be able to change what the supermarkets are stacking on their shelves, you can choose what you buy and where you buy it from. There is mighty power in that; in marching to the beat of your own drum.

Use this exciting time while we’re still in ‘new year’ energy to perhaps re-think who you are supporting and where you’re spending your hard-earned cash. How would you like to look after our environment? Choose to support a local market stall and you’ll be sending less to landfill, that’s for sure. And that’s only the beginning. You’ll probably have a great conversation and a smile thrown in too.

 

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Let’s talk about soy

soy_tofu

Today I’m addressing soy. It’s unbelievably common, massively in demand and certainly a part of my diet. But it’s controversial and there’s wide concern over the implications of consuming this plant on such a large scale.

Soy beans are legumes native to East Asia. Process them in various ways and you’ve got everything from protein-rich tofu to dairy-free milk, emulsifier soy lecithin to flavour-enhancing soy sauce.

The problems

There are more than this, but below I’ve listed the two main concerns that we seem to have regarding the consumption of soy.

  1. Rapid Deforestation to keep up with global demand
  2. Phytoestrogens in the body

Deforestation & Demand

There is a huge global demand for soy products. Firstly, there is the Asian market who have always used soy – particularly in place of dairy for many who are lactose-intolerant. Next up there is the increasing demand for plant-based or vegan alternatives to traditional protein sources. Next there’s soy used in candles, adhesives and other industrial practices. Then, as an emulsifying agent in various processed snacks. But finally, overtaking them all as the number one demand for soy is as an animal feed.

Each year, large areas of South America and Asia are cleared of native rainforest to make way for soy (and palm) plantations. This happens in much the same way as these areas are cleared to make room for livestock. The two go hand in hand, with the soy being grown and harvested to feed the livestock. In lands where the grass doesn’t flourish, but food is needed to plump up the cattle, soy is the alternative feed. And much of the time the soy has been genetically-modified to be herbicide resistant.

A great argument for plant-based or vegan living is that you’re missing out the middle man. I completely agree with that. It’s much better to be eating the soy bean than eating the cow that’s eaten the soy bean. If everyone did that, we wouldn’t cause so much deforestation. We wouldn’t need the land for the livestock, so you can forget that. We’d only need to be cultivating soy for human consumption.

Phytoestrogens

When I worked in skincare, I had a client once who approached me very concerned about finding a product that didn’t contain soy. She explained to me that she had miraculously overcome a battle with breast cancer and her doctor instructed she be sure to avoid soy. She explained how soy is a phytoestrogen (a hormone not produced by the body, but rather ingested). Her doctor had informed her that some studies had shown the consumption of soy (and other phytoestrogens) could increase a woman’s risk of breast cancer.

This was the first time that I had heard of such a thing. I did my research that night and have read much on the subject since then, but the studies seem inconclusive. There’s about the same level of evidence as studies on parabens. There’s no concrete evidence that eating soy will make you more likely to develop cancer. At least not that I’ve found.

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Try as I might, the carnivorous males in my life still moan at me when I prepare tofu. They exclaim with flailing arms that they don’t want to grow boobs. Based on the research I’ve done, I can’t see my weekly soy intake as being a problem at all. But I am mindful where I purchase my soy from. I have a responsibility to make ethical purchases, after all.

What can you do to eat soy sustainably?

  1. Avoid GMO. A quick search on the websites of Cauldron and Alpro – two large soy retailers here in the UK list commitments to staying GMO-free. So thumbs up from me on that one.
  2. If you eat meat, buy local and grass-fed to reduce your potential GMO soy demand.
  3. Reduce the number of processed foods you’re eating – especially those that contain soy. Eating whole foods is better for so many reasons, but this is a good one for sure.

 

 

 

 

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