Friday, November 27, 2015

Very Veggie

One week's worth of veg / Vegan curry made with cauliflower, parsnip, mushroom, and red bell pepper
It didn’t take very long after moving to London to realise that, when working a full-time schedule in one of the world’s busiest cities, even a grocery shop can be hard to fit in. The last thing you feel like after a day at the office and a 40 minute commute is to amble along the Tesco aisles, figuring out what to have for dinner.

More importantly, something I began to notice was the horrific amount of waste that is generated by the hundreds of food outlets, shops and supermarkets across the city (let alone the whole country). I started to feel guilty for pouring my money into institutions that methodically throw away food that is perfectly fit for human consumption, along with all its individual packaging. It is truly astonishing how the world's resources are exhausted beyond capacity, only to then be wasted because the food produced reaches its 'sell-by' date.

Beetroot, halloumi, onion salad
I started looking for ways to make sensible choices when it came to my food. The upside to living in a big city like London is that you have a lot more freedom in this regard. I decided to stop eating meat (poultry, pork, red meat etc)  and it was easy for me to find vegetarian and pescetarian alternatives everywhere. This was already a huge step and another long discussion, but my next step was searching for a farmer's market for my fruit and veg.

I soon discovered Growing Communities, a Hackney-based non-profit organisation that sustains a farmer's market in Islington and a weekly veg scheme, whereby they put together a bag of locally sourced, seasonal veg which you can then collect from your nearest pickup point. I had already heard about delivery veg schemes run by bigger companies like Abel&Cole, but I felt that the whole point of me doing this was to direct less money towards bigger 'corporations' and feed it directly into local, sustainable sources like GC and the farmers they get their veg from. Luckily for me, one of their pickup points turned out to be a 5 minute walk from my house!

I've now been on the veg scheme for over a month and I'm absolutely loving it. It means less trips to the supermarket (not more than one every 2 weeks), and much less money spent while there. I never have to worry about what to cook anymore - instead I research and invent recipes based on whatever the bag provides - which means that my knowledge of veg and cooking in general has increased dramatically. I'm always happy to see the odd bit of soil or misshapen veg as it just reminds me that this actually comes from the ground! 

Starting the veg scheme was the perfect way to complement and complete my fish-eating-non-meat-eating (pescetarian) diet, as well as keeping my body 'in sync' with the seasons. It feels amazing to know that the food I'm eating is the same food that my ancestors would have eaten at this time of year, and not exported half way across the world and pumped with hormones. I think the foremost vehicle for change when it comes to food production is people's attitudes. We all need to adjust our approach to food - to one where we use and adapt to what is readily, and naturally, available, rather than allowing the industry and its resources to be exploited in order to meet our unrealistic demands.

Excuse the poor quality of the photos but my kitchen light is terrible and I'm not the world's best photographer!

Leek and feta frittata / Butternut squash, carrot and coriander soup
Quinoa, onion, mozzarella salad on spinach leaves with salmon / Roast carrots, celeriac root, broccoli, plus a halloumi side salad

Friday, November 13, 2015

Patrick Watson @ IAH

This review was published on online music magazine Both Sides Now, see it HERE

When I found out that Patrick Watson was coming to London, I knew I had to try my best to get tickets. The name refers to both the Canadian singer-songwriter himself, and the four-piece band that sprung, somewhat accidentally, out of his solo career. The band has now produced five studio albums, each one marking a new stage in their eclectic musical exploration.

Patrick Watson’s style is hard to pin down, and they’re famed for using weird and wonderful instruments in all of their live shows. While their 2012 album Adventures in Your Own Backyard had what I would describe as a folky, acoustic sound throughout, their newest album (which this tour is promoting) Love Songs For Robots gives way to layers of instrumentation, echo and more ‘sonic’ type sounds. It makes for an emotive, contemplative listen, and one which I pretty much played on repeat leading up to the concert.

The London show was staged at Islington Assembly Hall, a renovated theatre venue that reopened in 2010 and is a generous size for its 800 capacity. Here, nobody was worried about being pushed or blocked by the crowd - we could really immerse ourselves in the music. The stage, set up with decorations matching the album’s artwork, stood high above us, framed by a beautiful proscenium arch. This set up meant that we had a great view wherever we were standing, but it was intimate enough for us to feel close to the artists and see their facial expressions and movements clearly.

The band came on and jumped straight into the album’s title track, immediately drawing people in with its cinematic sounds. The acoustics were good, with clarity through the individual instruments and Watson’s enchanting voice, the absolute highlight of the show, all of these elements working together to create a magical, poignant tone. They moved between the new album tracks seamlessly, with Watson bouncing around the stage juggling between piano playing, vocals, and at one point, a capella with all four band members gathered around one microphone. These guys were an absolute pleasure to watch as you could see that they were pouring their heart and soul into the performance and really enjoying it - it was an epic production that came across as sincere and humble.

Rather than an abundance of flashing iPhone screens, which is the sad reality of a lot of gigs these days, it was so refreshing to see everyone totally absorbed in the special atmosphere this band - in particular this incredible man - created. It was a concert that I enjoyed from beginning to end, but for me, the key moments came in the encore, when they performed Know That You Know, with its deep, soulful beats combined with Watson’s haunting voice. He then moved on to perform a stunning solo piano rendition of Adventures in Your Own Backyard from the 2012 album.

I can’t really say enough about this man and his band – watching them live was an intriguing, unforgettable experience that left me in a bit of a trance (and with tears in my eyes), the same way a great movie captivates you long after the end credits. I think Watson possesses the kind of raw talent that emerges a few times in a generation, a man totally committed to  losing himself in each moment of his performance. I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for his next London visit as I would love nothing more than to watch him again.