Eating (Fewer) Animals

I weighed myself after a shower this morning and got a shock when it registered 13 stone 9 1/2 pounds!  This is 4 pounds, or two bags of sugar I like to think of it, lighter than when I weighed about two weeks ago…  Now I do walk the dogs a lot more and climb the Brecon Beacons occasionally with Debbie (who is the slimmest I can remember in 27 years of marriage) but that can’t be the full story.

No, it seems that Emma coming home from Glasgow has triggered off more than just frequent trips to the leisure centre for swimming and sauna for me dear readers.  It’s also led to a fundamental change in my eating and drinking habits so let me explain.

When I was still working, over two years ago now, I got into the habit of drinking wine to relax every night & unwind.  I don’t think I was alone either as I’m sure that I’ve read somewhere that Runnymede in Surrey has the highest incidence of hazardous home drinking in the UK.  Moving to Wales on a retirement income curtailed somewhat the excesses but not entirely.

However in the same way that I stopped smoking almost overnight years ago when I married Debbie, I’ve now limited my drinking to the odd pint of beer when out of the house and we plan to drink at home only for celebrations such as Christmas or the New Year.

I’ve also started going to the local library in recent months too, something I’ve not done since leaving university.  Now I’m a creature of habit when it comes to books and tend to stick with a regular diet of my favourite authors like Tolkien (Frodo Baggins) or MC Beaton (Hamish Macbeth)!  However on a recent occasion Emma borrowed “Eating Animals” and recommended I read it.

In all honesty I found it hard going on multiple levels given I knew its likely content but had consciously chosen to blank out from my conscious thought.  The game changer for me however having listened to Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall recently was remembering  his answers to the question if there was anything he wouldn’t eat.

Remember Hugh’s nickname is “Hugh Fearlessly Eats It All” but he replied he wouldn’t knowingly eat factory farmed chicken and pork.  Indeed when looking at Mr Foer’s book there was an endorsement at the bottom of the front page from Hugh recommending the book to all “flesh eaters”.

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Reading the way these living creatures are treated so cruel in life and death yet largely within the law I have resolved to do the same.  Hugh still eats meat and fish but is aiming to reduce it significantly and I plan to do the same.  I think me giving up seafood would be tricky given my lifelong love of shellfish and crustaceans, but maybe I can avoid factory farmed fish and those from non sustainable sources.

To be transparent I’m really looking forward to our Christmas Day organic turkey from the local farm at Raglan.  However the days of “all day breakfast”, ready meals or buying chicken and pork are over for me, at least for now, while I see if I can make the change.

Interestingly, both Debbie and I had already reduced hugely the amount of beef & lamb we were eating, perhaps as a result of her low fat diet that she’s followed since moving back to Wales.   She loves fresh vegetables too so I think there is a chance I can succeed become mostly vegetarian, although I would never impose my choice on anyone else for sure!

So there we have it, a call based 50% on health and 50% conscience.  I don’t think I could go vegan permanently and eliminate milk and eggs but you never know, so watch this space for further weight updates and see how I do!

Eating (Fewer) Animals

Escape To Llanfoist Meets River Cottage

I’ve always been a huge fan of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall ever since I saw the first series of Escape to River Cottage back in 1999. The idea of leaving the rat race behind always seemed like a wonderful dream to me and perhaps subconsciously led to the title of this blog!

Well yesterday evening marked the start of our third Abergavenny Food Festival since we “escaped” and we celebrated in style by watching him being interviewed on the subject of “A Life In Food” in front of a packed Borough Theatre.

We got there just before 7pm to get the best seats for a 7.30pm start!

Amazingly enough Debbie and I even managed to get front row seats in the middle directly in front of him and also got him to sign his new book “Much More Veg” afterwards!

Tridos are a Dutch ethical bank that funded his acquisition of River Cottage HQ
The yellow post-it note had our names on 🙂

The session included Hugh extolling the benefits of roasted Brussels sprouts, abhorring  takeaway coffee cups and packaging that can’t be recycled, the benefits of having 4 children to aid with a runner bean glut, getting fired from River Cafe for being too messy, his first TV job (as producer) on the BBC QED show “Maggot Mogul” which followed the exploits of a maggot farmer supplying fisherfolk using discarded chicken byproducts of intensive farming.

It was really on the latter topic that Hugh got quite passionate about not eating chicken or pork raised under such regimes.  Although he’s not vegetarian himself yet I suspect from listening to him that this is his sense of direction.  His first “veggie” book “Veg Every day” is the number one best seller in the UK of that genre.

Eventually they opened up to audience questions so I  asked him why he went from a very small beginning at the original River Cottage small holding to a 60 acre farm where he operates his cookery school at River Cottage HQ.  He answered saying essentially that it was the ideal size to keep some animals, grow loads of vegetables and host up to 30 people a day enjoying the events they run there.

When he came to sign the book for us he thanked me for asking the question and was delighted when I asked about his first book “Cuisine Bon Marche” and asked if I had a copy to which I answered in the negative alas.  As I’m writing this blog I’ve just ordered it second hand for £3.15 including P&P!

My impression of Hugh was that essentially what you see on TV is actually him in real life.  He seemed to be wearing slip-on cowboy boots which I’d not seen since the 1970’s with crumpled trousers and t-shirt.  All the while drinking a pint of beer both during the interview and after the show when signing the book.

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He was older (naturally) and wiser I think about the eating of animals and answered one question from the audience by saying that he could give up fishing, but not cooking if he had to choose. I believe he is a genuine campaigner and frankly a thoroughly nice chap and we had a great time in his company!

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Escape To Llanfoist Meets River Cottage