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6 May 2016

Shopping with Bristol Pounds

Last week I challenged myself as a newbie to Bristol, to do a food shop using JUST Bristol Pounds. This 'city specific' currency is wholly new to me and I find it fascinating. What I wanted to know was whether the Bristol Pound (£B) is a thing designed to appeal to tourists or whether real Bristolians are using it for every day purchases. After all, if they are - this is a good thing - because more of the £B goes back into Bristol than the standard pound, thus, its supporting the local economy in a more effective manner. I headed down to the Visit Bristol shop last week to purchase my pounds - all very easy - it was a straight swap, cash for cash. I asked the lady behind the counter who she's selling them to. She told me that they sell a lot of them to all sorts of people including lots of locals and definitely not just to tourists (despite there being a Japanese couple behind me in the queue who told me they were buying them as a souvenir). Anyway, with my directory in hand, I headed out to buy some food. It was a small achievable list which was mainly vegetables with a few rogue items (chipotle chilli and tortillas) which I needed for a recipe I'm working on. I spent a couple of hours walking from town up to and along Gloucester Road and as I went along, I was really impressed to see just how many places accept the £B either in cash or text form with big clear window stickers announcing that they accept the currency. I found that on Gloucester Road alone, there were numerous places - greengrocers, cafes, delis and international shops - where I could shop. My favourite though, was back towards town. Bear Fruit, a pop up grocers in the Bear Pit and very convenient for home. I spent some time talking to the guy there, explained what I was doing and why. He loved it and told me how great he thinks the £B is. I picked up almost everything I needed that day with just a few items I had to resort to else where for. My experience was wholly positive - it sparked conversations and made me feel part of the community. I'll definitely use £B again. They help the community and give you a sense of belonging which is greatly appreciated by me, a newbie to this great foodie city! So thank you to the Bristol Good Food Diaries for welcoming me in and giving me the idea for this challenge! Nailed it!
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12 May 2014

Final day!

OK, so I decided to end on a high note! This is a picture of the absolutely delicious meal that I had on Friday at the Folk House, which has the most wonderful locally sourced and reasonably priced food, and where it is as easy as pie to pay with the Bristol Pound. I didn't think I would be able to top that, so I ended my challenge there a bit early. To sum up, it was more difficult to carry out my challenge than I expected. But I am going to carry on next year, and during that time I hope to help get more cafes, more market stalls at food festivals, more butchers, more late night eateries, more independent businesses and more buying groups around the city to discover the benefits of strengthening Bristol's growing local economy. Bring on 2015!

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10 May 2014

Vegan Day 4 (last one)

I realise I have gone pretty wrong with breakfasts. I met Kerry McCarthy at the raising of the European Flag ceremony today, who suggested that oat milk is not the best to try and almond or another milk would have been better, so I'll get some next time to try next time I'm in Scoopaway. Grapefruit and toast has been pretty good anyway. Lunch in the Folk House, paid for with £B my favourite currency, it was a mixed bean salad. I felt a bit hungry after first finishing it, and also being reminded to leave the butter off my bread (I really like the taste of butter.......) A celebratory night out (I don't really eat out this much normally) on Friday with Persian food from Kookoo, recently moved up to Filton Avenue. Delicious dips and then an Aubergine dish with amazing herb rice. (pictured). Summary of Vegan days: I have really enjoyed it, and feel pretty good on a nearly wholly-non animal diet (oh those mini-eggs and the odd cup of tea with a drop of milk). Tomorrow I am being sent out for pain-au-chocolats for birthday treats so I am not even going to attempt to continue. I will increase the number days I eat vegannly. So, thanks to Bristol Food Connections for stimulating me to change the way I eat.....

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7 May 2014

Day 6: Complete lunch failure

This is not food that I have eaten. This is food that I could have eaten if I had not been trying to pay in Bristol Pounds. Tuesday was the low point of my Bristol Pound challenge in terms of trying to find a place around Whiteladies Road where I could buy lunch in Bristol Pounds. The first cafe we wanted to go to doesn't take them. That was OK, we weren't sure that they did, and we knew of another place a bit further that did take them, and served great food. So we were off...Unfortunately their kitchen was being redone, so no hot food to be had there. OK, to the burger joint that we believed took them from our hazy memory of looking at the directory. No luck there either as people looked at each other in confusion as to what we were talking about. OK, one more place that we know took them before that has good fresh food. Ooops! They had just changed hands and were renegotiating their txt2pay account! By now with stomachs rumbling we went back to the first cafe in defeat. Conclusion? We need more cafes in Clifton and Redland to take the Bristol Pound! Why not go out armed with the Directory you ask? Because even if we had we would have been disappointed by change of owners and closed kitchens! But we are still eating good meals at home powered by Better Food, Wild Oats, Sims Hill Shared Harvest and Stream Farm. Yes, this was my first real failure in terms of my challenge. Let's see what happens tomorrow...

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6 May 2014

The Bento Box Challenge

I must admit I prevaricated and procrastinated over what to make the topic of my good food diary... My lifestyle doesn't lend itself very well to planning things in advance, which includes getting to the shops to buy food and cooking proper meals, and my initial optimism about being able to fit in some 'proper' food shopping on Thursday soon evaporated in a pile of work that had me chained to my desk. I've been vegan for more than 20 years so I don't really have much left to give up, and I don't generate much at all in the way of food waste (mainly because I don't get time to buy the food in the first place...) When I do get round to doing a decent food shop I try to shop local; I put £50 a month into my Bristol Pound account, and most of that will go on food shopping. I toyed with doing a "seven a day" fruit and veg challenge, which you might think would be easy for a vegan. It is when you're based in one place for more than a few days at a time, and you actually get to spend enough time there to cook, but to take a constituency Friday as an example... I leave home without breakfast, heading out on visits or to the office. I try to keep a supply of oatcakes in my desk drawer, and if I'm lucky there might be still be some vegan cheese or veg pate in the office fridge. (Usually there isn't). On a good day I might even make it down to Southville deli (the St George branch) and buy one of their vegan rolls, or pop into Wild Oats if I've had to do something at the BBC in Whiteladies Road, but more often than not it's back-to-back visits and meetings, and just those oatcakes to keep me going. And then by the time I get in at night - 9 or 10pm is fairly usual - I might have something like tofu scrambled eggs or lentils on toast. So the veg count isn't good. From Monday to Thursday when Parliament is sitting I am trapped on the parliamentary estate for most of the day, and often till quite late at night. They are better than they used to be at providing vegetarian meal options, but it's still not great for vegans. They always end up drizzling cheese or cream on things that I'd otherwise be able to eat. The salad bars are very limited (they always put sausage in the pasta salad, presumably left over from the breakfast fry-ups. Tuna and feta cheese also make frequent appearances). They are good at soups - there's nearly always a vegan option - and they sell Nak'd bars and dark chocolate rice cakes, but it doesn't add up to a very balanced diet. So... for today and the next four days, I've decided to set myself the bento box challenge, bringing my own food into work each day, and trying to get towards the seven a day at the same time. Today's bento box was: organic spelt pasta with butter beans and some chunks of vegan polony for protein; avocado; and a small salad comprised of chopped plum tomatoes, salad onions, orange peppers and a sprinkling of seeds. It looks slightly anaemic in the photo, but I can assure you it tasted just fine. I almost never eat breakfast - I just can't bring myself to do it - but I had a couple of handful of nuts and raisins, and a few blueberries before coming into work, and a Nak'd bar to keep me going in the afternoon. I'm still in the office, so I don't think I'll be cooking anything when I get in tonight. I had the advantage today of not having to be in work till relatively late, so managed to put together quite a varied selection; let's see how I manage tomorrow with a much earlier start.

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4 May 2014

Day 3

Ok, it's getting down to the nitty-gritty now, and the word "challenge" is beginning to come into its own. What is really becoming clear to me with doing something like this is that advance planning is a MUST! (can I regretfully say that there was very little of that on my part?) Between forgetting to top up my Bristol Pound account before the Festival started and making assumptions about how many Food Connections stallholders that offer hot food actually take the things (answer, hardly any!) lunch was a bit of a creative scramble yesterday. Fortunately No. 1 Harbourside came to the rescue. After a short tour of all of the delights on offer at the Producer's and Street Food Markets on Saturday (and there were many, get down and check it out tomorrow if you haven't already), it was wonderful to sit down to a tasty sandwich at No. 1 Harbourside, who accepted my Bristol Pounds with an open and hearty smile. I then raced off to Hamilton House to participate in the University of Bristol's Soil, Seeds, and Social Change workshop: Local Food, Pollyanna or Panacea, also part of the amazing Food Connections Festival. Imagine my surprise when I suddenly remembered that lunch was on offer there courtesy of the Bristol Hospitality Network (check out their wonderful work with asylum seekers), featuring fresh seasonal veg supplied by Bristol's own urban Community-supported Agriculture project, Sims Hill Shared Harvest! (full disclosure, yes I am on the Board.) While feeling slightly guilty about partaking of this amazingly delicious meal of Indian-inspired cuisine after having just eaten, I felt I could not turn down a couple of modest portions, and it was certainly worth it. The presentations and discussion that followed were very interesting and thought-provoking as well. Thanks to Mark Jackson's team at the University of Bristol for organising. After all that, it was home to help cook up a tasty Stream Farm trout, served with mash and salad straight from our Sims Hill Shared Harvest veg share (pictured above). (I think that I might have mentioned previously that both of these worthy organisations take Bristol Pounds?) It was another delicious meal with ingredients sourced from the fertile Bristol city region foodshed. Thanks to the Bristol Pound Farmlink scheme, out-of-town producers such as Stream Farm can take payment for their products in Bristol Pounds and help enrich our local food economy. I am now hoping that more of the local butchers that Bristol is lucky to possess in such abundance, will soon be taking Bristol Pounds as well!

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3 May 2014

Day 1 of my Bristol Pound challenge!

OK here goes. I rather arbitrarily decided to begin my challenge at lunchtime on 1st May, the day that the Bristol Food Connections Festival launched. Due to a somewhat hectic week I wasn't able to sit down to a feast of locally sourced food at one of our lovely independent cafes or take home some lovely organic veg from our local independent Good Food shop, Better Food on Whiteladies Road, to make a great stir fry or salad. Instead I opted for some of the tasty treats that Better Food offers in its well-stocked deli. Problem solved! Today it was one of my favorites, their pea and potato samosa, along with half of one of their very tasty bhajis. Since we went to the launch of the Bristol Food Connections Festival at the Eat Drink Bristol Fashion tipis in the evening, dinner consisted of a few of their delicious canapes. If I had had a few more paper Bristol Pounds, more food could have been consumed! I am stocking up on some paper pounds from the Gallimaufrey on Gloucester Road to widen my food options for the weekend. I also need to announce that my challenge does not include dumping everything out of our fridge and store cupboard! We already buy most of our food at local independent shops Better Food and Wild Oats, get most of our local seasonal veg from the Sims Hill Shared Harvest Community-Supported Agriculture scheme and we get our local organic meat mainly from Stream Farm (all of whom take the Bristol Pound!). So none of that food will be wasted and will be incorporated into some of the meals this week. But the Bristol Pound will be used to buy all food that will be eaten out and that has yet to be purchased for meals during this time. At least that is the plan!
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30 April 2014

Shop locally and spend Bristol Pound Challenge

Having had good intentions for many years to shop locally, the reality has been sporadic at best, and recently I have found it a real struggle. My ability to do this has mostly been affected by where I live in Bristol and by time. I am determined to shop locally during the festival and I hope to ingrain these positive habits into my daily life. I also have an underused Bristol Pound account and I will arrange to make regular payments into this and use it where available.
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17 April 2014

My Bristol Good Food Diaries challenge!

I am planning on buying all of my food in Bristol Pounds during the entire period of the Bristol Food Connections Festival (from 1st to 11th May). This will include all of the food we prepare at home during that time as well as buying whatever lovely food is on offer while I am out and about during the Festival (and that is going to be a lot!) We will see how I fare...

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