What LIVING IN FRANCE Taught Me About FOOD

So as you probably already know, in July I was lucky enough to live in France for the month where I did an intensive language course whilst getting the unique opportunity to live with a host family (you can read about my experiences in La Rochelle here). And thanks to this program and this opportunity, not only has my French improved tenfold, but I think the French perspective towards food has rubbed off on me a little.

Luckily for me, Delphine, the incredibly French woman I was living with, is an amazing cook with a passion for food and French cuisine. At the time of course I was grateful to eat such incredible food, but I think it’s only now that I’m truly coming to realise just how much living in France changed my perspective towards food. And here’s how I think it’s changed…

*note to the hungry* maybe go grab a snack and then read…. because some of these pictures might inspire tummy grumbling!

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Eating 1.5kg of moules caught that morning!

Freshness is key

To cook good food, you need to start with quality products. And that means fresh. After you eat truly fresh food, it will make frozen food or week old food taste like flour. I’ll never forget the time that Delphine bought 3kgs of mussels (moules in French) that had been caught that very morning. They were so fresh that they even had tiny little crabs in some of them!

And as for your bread and baguettes, if you have ever had a crispy warm baguette that’s just come out of the oven…. you will understand. If not, you are missing out and must embark to your local bakery immediately to change this.

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One of our favourite restaurants in La Rochelle. The Cave! Unlimited bread and the best rosé around!

Local

Unfortunately you generally can’t buy super fresh food from large chain supermarkets. If you want the freshest, juiciest, plumpest, ripest, most colourful produce, you need to buy local! Buying local means that the food hasn’t travelled as far, meaning less energy required to transport it. Buying local means you’re also supporting local businesses, people and their families.

This also applies to getting your morning coffee. I try to avoid going to Starbucks, Tim Hortons and Gloria Jeans. These huge companies already make enough money as it is. And this whole fair trade thing they advertise… I just don’t buy it. Instead, I’ll opt for a little cafe or street vendor. They’re usually cheaper, nicer, give better service and is all round a better experience.

Keep it simple

I think a lot of the meals I used to make in Australia were very ‘busy.’ I’d make pasta and need to put everything in it, I’d make pizza and need to put everything on it. I think it’s in our culture that we’re taught to believe that no meal is complete without meat, vegetables, potatoes. Or something along those lines.

In France, our meals would be very ‘deconstructed.’ And I mean that in a good way. We would have a bowl of tomatoes, a bowl of lettuce, a plate of steaks, goats cheese and of course some bread. I found that these meals were the most delicious! It purely relied on the quality of the produce and the flavours just did their thing on your tastebuds.

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Macaroons are a must. They’re little and filled with flavour. The perfect treat yourself treat!

Quality not quantity

In France, it’s all about quality. Our meals that we ate generally weren’t huge and didn’t leave you feeling full. But I hate that feeling anyway. Where you’re so full that it hurts to move. The meals we had were all about the quality and you were left feeling so satisfied that it didn’t matter that you weren’t full. And if you felt a bit peckish later, we would have a piece of fruit or some strawberries with mint and yoghurt!

It’s an experience

The whole journey of preparing a meal, from buying the produce, pairing it with some wine, preparation, serving and eating is a beautiful experience. It also made me realise the importance of sharing these meals with special people. Some of the best nights were spent at our dinner table sipping wine, talking about life’s problems and devouring a whole block of goats cheese (I’m looking at you Laura 😉 ).

Oh – And there’s always room for Ice Cream! (Inspired by Elly)

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Ice cream is essential!

The cons however are…

That every baguette you ever have after France is merde! 

I’m trying to carry this perspective with me. That you need to have a healthy relationship with food. Food is there to bring people together, bring pleasure, experiences, happiness and health. We need to put the best food into our bodies so we can get the most out of us! If anyone knows me, they know how much I love food and I’m a strong believer in balance. Because in a balanced diet, there’s room for icecream and macaroons… and who doesn’t want that?

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The epitome of Frenchness – baguette under arm and no care in the world

 

 

 

I was VEGAN for two weeks and it FCKN SUCKED

A few weeks ago, I took on a challenge of being a vegan for two weeks for the Australian Youth Climate Coalition’s (AYCC) fundraiser For the Love Of.  The objective is to give up something you love for two weeks and raise money to go towards educational schemes run by the AYCC. Generally, people gave up things like beer, chocolate or coffee (for those of you that gave up coffee – I applaud you). So obviously I wasn’t going to give up coffee, and I felt like giving up the others were a bit too easy.

Then I discovered that they had a 3degree challenge. Where you give up sweets, wheat and meat. It is these industries that largely contribute towards CO2 emissions and degradation of our environment.

The most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report said we could see a temperature rise of between 3 and 4 degrees by 2100.

I’ve been a vegetarian since the beginning of the year (you can read about my experiences here). So I’d already done the meat thing. How could I challenge myself even further? Become a VEGAN for two weeks. Easy! (Or so I thought). As much as I respect people who are vegan, it’s just definitely not something I could adopt as a lifestyle. So here’s my pros and cons of being a vegan and why my two weeks as a vegan fckn sucked.

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First rule. Source

CON: Shopping takes twice as long

Going grocery shopping takes forever because you’re constantly reading the ingredients list on every product! It’s not always obvious that an item is going to have milk products in it so you’ve got to get our your magnifying glass and actually read the label. I’m sure that after a while you become familiar with products you can and can’t eat and the whole experience is much easier.

PRO: You actually know what’s in your food. 

Because you read the label on everything you’re buying, you actually know what you’re putting in your mouth. Something I rarely did before hand. Being a vegan meant that I reduced the amount of processed foods I would usually buy and opt for fresh food.

CON: It’s expensive

So I only did this for two weeks and couldn’t accurately compare the differences in prices, but I definitely blew the budget on my grocery shopping for those two weeks.

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Yummy smoothies! Source

PRO: You discover new tasty and healthy foods

Because you can’t go to your usual breakfast of skim milk with Weet Bix, cheese melt for lunch or pizza for dinner, you are forced to think outside the box. Especially when it comes to replacing items. Three things that I’ve continued to buy is Almond milk, Coconut milk and the Oats and Chia. I’ve never been the biggest fan of milk so switching to almond milk has made me feel a lot lighter and my tummy a lot happier. The Oats and Chia is absolutely delicious! I have it for breakfast with a banana every morning and it keeps me going for ages. And coconut milk is perfect for curries! Where have you been all my life? This is something I never would’ve discovered if it wasn’t for being a vegan for two weeks.

CON: I literally felt depressed

For these two weeks, I literally felt depressed. Not seriously, but I really didn’t feel myself. It could have been a mixture of other things, but I also think that my diet heavily contributed towards feeling pretty down. One of my friends told me that it was a type of withdrawal experience. Whatever it was, it really sucked.

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Stir Frys are delicious and really easy to make vegan. Source

PRO: I felt healthy and ate yummy foods

Because I was so limited on what I could eat, it forced me to think outside the box and create new dishes. I found that I ate lots of fresh veggies, fruits, rice and beans. There’s nothing nicer than cooking a meal from a recipe you find online and it actually turns out to be amazing! Pinterest will have you covered for all of your vegan recipes!

CON: YOU CAN’T EAT CHEESE!!!

OK so this was the breaking point for me. I love cheese. It goes on everything and with everything. And I love all types of cheese. And telling me I can’t eat cheese for two weeks, well damn I don’t think I’ve ever been so hangry for something before.

VERDICT

I raised nearly $100 dollars for an amazing cause and I’d like to thank everyone who donated! Climate Change is happening and adopting a plant-based diet is definitely a way to reduce CO2 emissions. For those of you out there that are vegan – good on you! I tried it and it just wasn’t for me. I’m a vegetarian for the time being but with my travels to France coming closer and closer, it may be something I give up whilst I indulge on cultural traditions of eating the finest French food ever (and that involves meat).

But it’s not all doom and gloom! The following TED Talk is BRILLIANT! He talks about how we don’t necessarily have to sacrifice milk or meat, but we just have to reduce the amount we consume. I believe that our actions can make a difference and that we should be mindful that our actions and the food we eat can have negative effects on the environment around us. But I also believe that we have to be in it together and we all need to realise that we can’t keep consuming the amount of meat we are at the moment.

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Source

 

 

 

 

 

One Month of Being a VEGETARIAN

So if you remember, in December last year, I wrote down a bunch of goals and things that I wanted to achieve in 2016. And one of them was to try out being a vegetarian. My reasons behind it are environmental because of the amount of CO2 the red meat industry is responsible for. Plus the amount of resources such as water that are put in to producing just the grains to then feed the livestock. For me – it’s a bit of a deal breaker. With a number of my friends that are already vegetarians and me personally never really buying much meat… I thought I’d give it a try. And this is what my first month of being a vegetarian has been like.

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Some amazing bruschetta I made!

Adaptation

Like any new habit, it takes a while for it to sink in and become second nature. For me trying to train my brain to not eat meat, I was off to a bad start.

So, I spent NYE in Melbourne and had a pretty great time. I also had quite a lot of alcohol, so you could imagine my mornings started a bit rocky. On New Years Day (DAY 1 of being a vegetarian), I got up earlier than all of my friends and I decided I would go grocery shopping to buy ingredients to make an awesome breakfast. I bought avocado, tomatoes, eggs, haloumi, mushrooms, bread and bacon. But I bought the bacon for everyone else knowing that they would love it and I would be happy with the rest of what I had bought. Breakfast was a breeze… it was in the afternoon that got a bit tricky.

It was about 3pm and I was starting to crash. I was tired and absolutely hungry. My friend and I were walking the streets of Melbourne, hot and exhausted. When suddenly, we came across a Nando’s! Hallelujah! Finally, some delicious food that I need to get me through the rest of the day. So we went in and bought so much chicken, went back to our apartment and went into a food coma.

Later that afternoon we were out to dinner at a fancy restaurant and I was going through the menu and I said to my friends ‘ah that looks good but I can’t have it, it’s chicke-‘ and then I paused. OMG! I had just eaten a massive thing of Nando’s only a few hours earlier! So incredibly embarrassing and hilarious!

So technically my month of vegetarianism started on the 2nd of January. But it just goes to show how hard it is for your brain to be active in reminding yourself that ‘hey don’t eat that, that’s meat’ or to learn a new hobby. It’s hard and it took me a while! But a month in and I’ve pretty much accustomed myself to it now.

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Munching on fruit all the time. Can’t complain with that. Source
Eating Yummy Foods

Because I’ve now taken meat out of the equation, I’m always looking for something to substitute it for my meals. So I’ve been trying to get a bit creative with my cooking. Using lentils, cheeses, falafels, spreads like hummus, and sprinkling meals with chilli and lemon really give whatever it is that I make an extra kick.

Eating Lots of Yummy Seafood

OK so I’m not exactly vegetarian, but pescatarian (a vegetarian who eats fish and seafood). I made this decision because I love seafood and I need to have some sort of balance of protein and it’s a good way to get my Omega 3. Plus, I LOVE stir fries with prawns and I just wasn’t ready to give them up just yet. I try to eat fish at least once a week. Along with eating lots of yummy seafood and fresh fruit and veges, I feel a lot healthier within myself. I know it’s only been a month but I feel that I have a lot more energy than I usually have. We’ll see how this goes long term.

Saving Money

Going out to dinner is generally the only time I have issues with being a vegetarian. I look at the menu and see the specialty lamb burgers and think ‘damn.’ But – the vegetarian options are usually cheaper and jam packed with amazing flavours!

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Source. 
The Down Side

It was quite interesting to see how the people around me reacted to me becoming a vegetarian. There’s a pretty well known stereotype of vegetarians and vegans always telling anyone and everyone about how they’re vegetarians. I do not do this. And neither do my friends who are vegetarians. Just sometimes it comes up in conversation – like ordering food. The negative vibes wore off eventually but I was pretty surprised by the amount of slack I received from a lot of people around me. Well it’s stopped now so I must of convinced them how good it is 😉

So that’s been my month of being a vegetarian. It’s been interesting and I’ve learnt a lot. I started off committing to a month and I’m planning on continuing it for at least another. We’ll see how we go – and of course, I’ll keep you in the loop!

Are you a vegetarian or vegan? Do you have any suggestions on how to keep going and find tasty new recipes? Let me know in the comments below!

When Will We Learn?

The recent violent storms which shook New South Wales, claimed lives, destroyed property, communications crashed and more or less shut down the state. While the state prepares to clean up and carry on, a bigger problem emerges. The C word. Climate Change. 

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Image from here

Climate Change is real. There’s no denying it and there’s definitely no avoiding it. It will affect each and every one of us. But the poor, helpless and the people who contribute least to to climate change will be affected first.

The Kiribiti Islands are being claimed by the sea, Australian rural areas are in serious drought, ice caps are melting, glaciers are retreating, we’re cutting down forests, causing extinctions, polluting our oceans and our air, sucking, drilling and digging out natural resources and it is believed that World War 3 will be over clean water and food…. and why? For money. But at what cost? We sacrifice our time, soul, patience, kindness, happiness, respect, excitement, passion and love… is it really worth it?

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Image from here

Don’t believe me? Don’t believe the science? Don’t believe reality? Then I have a challenge for you. Go to the sea. By yourself. And sit in the sand. Immerse yourself in the water and float. Water blocks your ears and you can heart your heart pumping blood through your chest. Your weightless as the ocean supports you, slowly moving up and down. Feel that? Freedom? That is the immense power, beauty and tranquility of nature. If you can’t believe in that, then I guess there’s no hope.

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But what can I do? I’m just one person in this world of over 7billion people. One person may not be able to change the world, but one idea can. And the idea of healing the environment is one that we must believe in, in order to make the world a better place.

For more news and information about the NSW storms, click here

Does Working in Hospitality Make You Cynical?

(This post is dedicated to all the waiters working their asses off in hospitality)

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Short answer… yes. Long answer… YEEEEEEESSSSS!

But don’t get me wrong, hospitality work is great. It’s generally flexible on hours, good pay, interesting customers, every night is different and you become really close with your work mates.

People treat you like sh*t – As soon as you step behind the counter and put on your uniform, it apparently gives people the right to treat you horribly. It constantly surprises me how some customers won’t hesitate to yell abuse or personally insult you. I think also that some customers assume that they can treat you like this because ‘it’s your job.’ But the thing is, a lot of people working in hospitality are working towards something bigger. I’m a university student who’s trying to save some extra cash for uni and serving you food isn’t my life. There’s nothing I hate more then people treating me with disrespect because I serve them food and am therefore apparently not worthy of their respect.

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People forget the basics – Have you ever heard of please and thankyou? Apparently not! Kids tend to have better manners than most adults.

People take their food very seriously – It astonished me when people expect a culinary masterpiece when ordering a chicken schnitzel. Really mate, it’s a snitty… what did you expect? Also, calm down if your mushroom sauce is on your snitty and not on the side like you apparently ordered? What difference does it make?

People lack understanding and empathy – We’re working in a high pressure environment, it’s hot, we’re running around at a hundred miles an hour, you don’t say please and thankyou, and then wonder why we’re not giving you our undivided attention. We’ll give you a smile, a ‘enjoy your meal,’ anything you ask for, but please know that we’re human beings and not robots and therefore use a lot of our energy to get things done for you.

You get yelled at from every direction – Not only are you getting yelled at by the customers, but also the chefs, your colleagues and your supervisor.

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Guys always flirt with you – They’ve had a few beers and you’re just trying to do your job and pick up glasses, but some guys feel the need to try and become your best friend. It’s nice to know that I’m looking good whilst at work but come on! Once, one guy said to me ‘you know, for a ranga, you look kinda cute.’ Umm is that an insult or a compliment? I walked away and I think my passive aggressiveness made him feel so bad that he ended up giving me a $10 tip. Now that’s one of the perks of working in hospitality.

However… despite all of these things that cross your mind at night and get you thinking ‘why am I working in this job?’ There are a lot of great things about working in hospitality. Your work friends… they go through it all with you and at the end of the night, you can bitch all about it and they completely understand what you’re talking about. And, you can usually do it over a cold beer. So yes, working in hospitality can make you a bit cynical, but once your shift (or split shift) is over, you can appreciate all the little things in life, like wearing your hair down or getting a good nights sleep.

xxx

A

Is Christmas Really Just Another Day?

This year I was (un)lucky enough to work a split shift on Christmas. Working in hospitality, we were exceptionally busy, being both mentally and physically exhausting. Whilst the joy of public holiday rates kept me going, I couldn’t help but feel a slight pang of sadness flood through me when people said ‘aw you poor thing, having to work on Christmas,’ before finishing with a ‘oh well, it’s just another day isn’t it?’ And that got me thinking… is it?

Our Christmas Tree 2014
Our Christmas Tree 2014

For as long as I can remember, Christmas has been filled with tinsel, presents, big lunches that send us into a food coma, being with family, taking pictures and playing with our new and exciting gifts (by the way, this year I got a selfie stick and have had WAY too much fun playing with it). I have spent 18 Christmas’ with my family until last year where I was overseas celebrating Christmas with my London family at Clarendon 9, and on my 20th Christmas I was woken up early (as usual) couldn’t wipe the smile off my face at the stunning view of our Christmas tree (as usual) and then put on my work uniform and left my loving family at home to enjoy the rest of the day (not as usual). Work was busy (as usual for this time of year) and before I knew it, I was lost in a mountain of dishes, momentarily thinking, ‘yep, just another day at work.’

Our Christmas Feast in London 2013
Our Christmas Feast in London 2013

This got me thinking about how much emphasis we put on certain days of the year. What seems like another Wednesday is suddenly filled with Turkey, Tinsel and Presents… what seems like another Saturday is your birthday and suddenly you’re a year older (and apparently a year wiser), and another Friday means that you can’t eat meat and stock up on chocolate.

Whilst I tried to get through my split shift with the thought that yes, it’s just another day and I’m getting paid twice as much to do the same job… I couldn’t help thinking of my family at home. And that’s why I can’t accept the statement that all the customers said to me that day ‘Christmas is just another day.’ Because (sadly) there’s not many other days of the year that we come together as friends and families, surprise each other, talk, explore, open up, laugh, drink, eat, eat and eat and just enjoy a lovely day off with the people we love.

My (short) Christmas with my family 2014
My (short) Christmas with my family 2014

So would I work another Christmas? Absolutely… the money was freakin’ amazing! But in future, I’d definitely make sure there’s more time to relax and spend time with my family on a special day that we all get to spend with each other.

xxx A

Our little Christmas Tree in London 2013
Our little Christmas Tree in London 2013