Wednesday, 26 January 2022

Future 50 Foods Report by Adam Drewnowski + Free Book

Download free from the Future 50 Foods website

The Future 50 Foods concept has been around for a few years now - this report was first published in 2019 - but its existence had passed me by until I saw it mentioned in a Vegan Food And Living recipe post yesterday. A combination of efforts by various organisations led by WWF and Knorr, the idea is to increase the biodiversity of staple human foods and to move towards greater plantbased ingredients instead of wasting such a large proportion of the nutrients we farm by feeding them to livestock and then to people. The Future 50 Foods Report itself includes an overview of the project's aims and explanations of the criteria the determined selection, as well as descriptions of the history, cultivation and nutrition of each of the 50 chosen foods.

I recognised the majority of the Future 50 Foods which range from sea algae to spelt grains, beet greens to cacti. I've also already eaten quite a few but, interestingly, pretty much only since having become vegan myself. I have noticed my being drawn to eat a more adventurous diet as a vegan than I did as an omnivore which very much goes against anti-vegan perceptions of us perpetually missing out! Having just  been reading in a different book, After Meat by Karthik Sekar which I will be reviewing here next week, about the incredibly recent adoption of many of our staple foods such as potatoes and tomatoes, each of which only became common across the globe within the last few hundred years, I appreciated how the Future 50 Foods actually look back across thousands of years for several of the chosen foodstuffs. Where industrial farming has reduced, say, thousands of former rice varieties down to a few dozen now, this project seeks to reverse that decline in order to increase our potential food security and the basic nutritional content of our meals.

All in all, I found this an interesting booklet to read and it has given me lots of inspiration for foods to look out for, some new to me and others - like spelt - being foods I previously tried, but had thought of as occasional purchases whereas they would be to my benefit to buy regularly in place of their blander counterparts. I admit I was uncomfortable at seeing the Knorr brand so prominently linked with the Future 50 Foods concept because I don't think particularly well of their parent corporation, Unilever. More research is required on my part on that score, but in the meantime this report does contain good information and it is free to download!

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Tuesday, 25 January 2022

Vegan Biscuits Print by The Punky Bunny

Two of my all time favourite biscuits - party rings and bourbon creams - feature in this colourful print and I'm not adverse to an oreo cookie either! They're all accidentally vegan and, together, make for a wonderfully colourful print which is available in four different sizes from A6 right up to A3. A great decor idea for any vegan office canteen or coffee room.

Vegan Biscuits is designed by Emma and printed at The Punky Bunny's home studio. It is printed on and packaged with 100% recycled and biodegradable card. The card is slightly off-white and contains small flecks due to its recycled nature.

Buy @ The Punky Bunny's Etsy Shop

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Sunday, 23 January 2022

Lindisfarne by Terry Tyler

'You're judging this by the standards of the old world. But that's gone. We don't live there any more.'

Six months after the viral outbreak, civilised society in the UK has broken down. Vicky and her group travel to the Northumbrian island of Lindisfarne, where they are welcomed by an existing community. 

New relationships are formed, old ones renewed. The lucky survivors adapt, finding strength they didn't know they possessed, but the honeymoon period does not last long. Some cannot accept that the rules have changed, and, for just a few, the opportunity to seize power is too great to pass up. Egos clash, and the islanders soon discover that there are greater dangers than not having enough to eat.

Meanwhile, in the south, Brian Doyle discovers that rebuilding is taking place in the middle of the devastated countryside. He comes face to face with Alex Verlander from Renova Workforce Liaison, who makes him an offer he can't refuse. But is UK 2.0 a world in which he will want to live?

Buy @ Amazon UK /

After being gripped by Tipping Point earlier this year (this review originally written in December 2018), I have been keen to return to Terry Tyler's dystopian Project Renova series. This second volume, Lindisfarne, is just as scarily plausible as the first and I soon immersed myself back in the story. (I did appreciate the brief Tipping Point recap!) We get to see to what extent Vicky and her daughter Lottie are adapting to their new reality. Lindisfarne focuses on the changing dynamics and relationships within the group as they encounter new people and also rekindle past friendships - and animosities. At one point we have an intricate love hexagon (I think. Geometry isn't my strong point!) which adds great tension to the situation. I loved how Tyler illustrates different approaches towards the leading of this new community of very disparate people. Would a committee or a dictator be the most effective? Which tasks should take priority when there aren't enough people to do everything?

I would have liked more details of the practicality of life as I feel this would have helped me envisage the island day to day. The way British society seems to be imploding right now, it might soon be useful information too! However this is only a minor point. For me what really makes Lindisfarne interesting is its authentic-feeling contrasts. Lottie's youth and inexperience actually allows her to be far more flexible about her lifestyle than Vicky. The well-meaning Marcus envisages a peaceful cooperative commune, but this would always be at risk without the entrenched violence of the biker gang's 'protection'. Plus, as we watch these people, like mice in a lab experiment, struggling to survive, I was always wondering at the back of my mind, how long it could be before the organisation that unleashed the whole mess in the first place returned to enforce their ideas on everyone. Thank goodness I've already purchased the third in this series, UK2, and I won't wait too long to find out!

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Friday, 21 January 2022

Seeing Her Being Her by Scarlet Rescue

I love this feminist punk anthem by vegan band Scarlet Rescue. The lyrics invite us to think about how we treat not only different human women but also female animals of other species. This is an important concept for me in my own veganism so the song particularly resonates.

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Wednesday, 19 January 2022

The Broke Vegan Bible by Lauren McCuen

Lauren McCuen teaches you the basics of being vegan on a budget. No matter if you're short on cash or just looking to save some cash her tips will help you get more food for less. The book is full of recipe ideas, money saving tips, and creative ways to rein in your spending. You don't need to clip endless coupons or starve to be on a budget. Just follow The Broke Vegan Bible and you'll be on your way!

I first read The Broke Vegan Bible when I took part on the global Veganuary Challenge in January 2019 and wrote this review during that month too. I asked for recommendations for books featuring vegan characters to read during the month, and also checked out a selection of vegan cookery books to inspire myself with potential recipe ideas. I've actually found in my three vegan years since that first Veganuary that my cooking and diet has become more closely aligned with Lauren's - not particularly by design, but we just seem to have a similar style.

I admit that I didn't have hugely high hopes of The Broke Vegan Bible mainly because it is short and it was free at the time I spotted and downloaded it. As it turns out however, this little book contains plenty of good advice regarding frugal shopping habits and potential sources of nutritious vegan food at bargain prices. I know from my increasingly vegetarian diet over the past year that, as vegetarian and vegan diets become more mainstream, there is an ever increasing choice of pre-packaged food options available at a price - often an eye-wateringly high price! Here though Lauren sets out her tried and tested methods to eat a healthy vegan diet and actually save money. I have picked up several good ideas that I am looking forward to putting into practice very soon and will also be trying out some of her suggested recipes too.  Most look simple enough to prepare in our motorhome mini kitchen. I am particularly tempted by the vegan Banana Coconut Ice Cream and the Peanut Butter Cups!

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Tuesday, 18 January 2022

Animal Rights Witches by Hells Belles Art

I love the humorous way Helen Zwerdling, aka Hells Belles Art, puts across a serious message in this wonderfully detailed witchy print. Not just for Halloween, I think it would make fab kitchen decor all year round.

This high quality, framed, signed print of Helen's original ink drawing combines her two passions ~ animal rights/welfare and art. Each print is signed on the front and is also individually enhanced by hand with red and white diamante crystal 'bubbles' by the cauldron. Ideal as a quirky and fun gift for any animal lover.

Buy @ Hells Belles Art's Etsy Shop

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Sunday, 16 January 2022

Cruel Summer by Bernard Jan

All he wants to do is skate. But they have other plans for him.

Michael Daniels is seventeen and dreams to enter professional skateboarding contests. But beneath New Manhattan, a city under the oppressive shadow of climate change, exists another world altogether—secret laboratories which threaten society as he knows it.

Those with power will get what they want. No price is too high, even if it means making someone special or robbing them of their dignity, freedom . . . or life.

The price is too high for Michael, though. He has endured his stepfather’s abuse and mind games for almost as long as he remembers. Until one day he takes matters into his own hands, ruining the lives of those he loves most. And his skateboarding friends, Alien and Victor, are his only hope for freedom.

When there is no hope left, friendship is what remains.

Buy @ Amazon UK /

You might think it's strange for me to be reviewing a summery novel in the middle of January, however I happen to know that Bernard Jan is just about to publish a poetry collection linked to Cruel Summer so, while I read an advance copy of Postcards From Beyond Reality: The Selected Poems of Michael Daniels, I revisited the novel which inspired it. (I'll be sharing my PFBR review probably in February.)

Cruel Summer is a very different novel to the books I have previously read by Bernard Jan so it was interesting for me to see how well he can adapt his poetic writing style to different genres. I would primarily identify Cruel Summer as a young adult novel because it centres on a teenage skateboarding community, but the narrative also encompasses shades of dystopian science fiction and crime fiction, going to some dark psychological places at times. This fluidity did mean I found it difficult initially to really get into the story and I was several chapters in before I felt I had a proper grip on the storyline. The juxtaposition between the novel's futuristic apects and its retro setting confused me at first although I did love Jan's nods to the trends and fashions of the late 1990s - X-Files and The Celestine Prophecy being ones that particularly brought back memories for me.

The relationships and loyalties between Michael and his friends are an important part of Cruel Summer. Their conversations allow readers to gain insights into how these skateboarding fanatics view their environment. Michael is the traumatised boy at the centre and Cruel Summer is very much his coming of age story, but I felt the eponymous summer was equally as decisive for his absent sister, Rebecca, and his closest friends, Victor and Alien, each dealing with their own crises. The New York setting is vital too and I loved that Cruel Summer is one of those novels where its location almost becomes a character in its own right. That kind of authentic grounding is important to me as a reader and I certainly appreciated it here. 

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Friday, 14 January 2022

I Just Wanna Know by Jade Novah

I'm having fun discovering new-to-music created by vegans from around the world. I hadn't realised just how many vegan musicians there are out there! Today I've picked the song I Just Wanna Know by American singer Jade Novah. I love the idea of the 'inner Jade's' each coping in their own way in the video. I think we can all identify with that to some degree?

I've added I Just Wanna Know by Jade Novah to HirlGrend's vegan YouTube playlist. Scroll down to after this post to have a listen ...

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Wednesday, 12 January 2022

Esther The Wonder Pig by Steve Jenkins and Derek Walter

Unlikely pig owners Steve and Derek got a whole lot more than they bargained for when the designer micro piglet they adopted turned out to be a full-sized 600-pound sow! This funny, inspirational story shows how families really do come in all shapes and sizes.

In the summer of 2012, Steve Jenkins was contacted by an old friend about adopting a micro piglet. Though he knew his partner Derek wouldn't be enthusiastic, he agreed to take the adorable little pig anyway, thinking he could care for her himself. Little did he know, that decision would change his and Derek's lives forever.

It turned out there was nothing "micro" about Esther, and Steve and Derek had actually signed on to raise a full-sized commercial pig. Within three years, Tiny Esther grew to a whopping 600 pounds. After some real growing pains and a lot of pig-sized messes, it became clear that Esther needed much more space, so Steve and Derek made another life-changing decision: they bought a farm and opened the Happily Ever Esther Farm Sanctuary, where they could care for Esther and other animals in need.

Funny, heartwarming, and utterly charming, Esther the Wonder Pig follows Steve and Derek's adventure--from reluctant pig parents to farm-owning advocates for animals.

I'm probably the only person to have recently discovered Esther through finding out about this book, rather than having already heard of her through her wildly successful social media presence. Esther The Wonder Pig was February 2020's Vegan Book Club (on Goodreads) choice and we read the book together as a group all through the month.

I was very entertained by Steve's story of being suckered into adopting Esther, and the changes she wrought on his and Derek's lives. The book is written in an engaging style and I appreciated that, while Steve and Derek were obviously thrown into a situation where they had to learn fast as they went along, they don't overplay their early ineptitude. I was reminded of Tony Hawks pig-carrying shenanigans in his memoir, Once Upon a Time in the West ... Country, in the way Esther's personality and mischievous antics swiftly take centre stage. Pigs are easily as intelligent as dogs and it's essentially just a quirk of human history that determined which species Europeans would choose to eat and which to take walkies. As Steve relates, Esther also enjoys her walks and shares many instinctive behaviours with their pet dogs.

If I wasn't already vegan, Esther The Wonder Pig could well have started to change my mind about dismissing pigs as simply dumb farmed food animals. They're obviously not and the authors soon make this connection themselves, eventually becoming full vegans and animal advocates. I liked their positive attitude towards promoting veganism. It's a perspective I share and I hope Esther's life opens many more people's eyes. The recipes at the end were an unexpected bonus too! 

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Tuesday, 11 January 2022

Apple Blossom eco card by May Tree Design Store

May Tree Design Store is one of my favourite Etsy shops and I have purchased several cards here since I first discovered it. I love Alice's design style and her being a vegan creative makes me all the more keen to support her work. I like to display greetings cards as mini artworks in their own right. Great for any occasion, this Apple Blossom print card in green and blue tones looks fabulous on a wall or would make a great addition to a gift first! 🌸

May Tree cards are printed on 350gsm uncoated, recycled card and are sent in a compostable bag and board backed envelope making the purchase plastic free. The cards are blank inside for your own message, but I like to take advantage of Alice's offer to write a message then send the  card directly to its recipient. This saves double-posting (and her handwriting is nicer than mine!).

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Sunday, 9 January 2022

Chasing Ghosts by Dean Cole

Haunted pasts. Terrifying apparitions. Dark secrets.Quentin Strange is … well, strange. But it isn’t just his anachronistic sayings and dress sense, the fact that he’s a socially awkward, book-loving loner who’s possibly still a virgin at nearly thirty. He’s seeing and hearing things. Odd things. Ghostly things.

Getting the gig as photographer for the Cricklewood Gazette, he travels with his new partner, journalist Katrina (make sure you call her Kat) Brannigan, to Hilderley Manor, an enormous manor house nestled in the remote countryside of Northern England that is believed to be one of Britain’s most haunted buildings. The pair join a ghost hunting team and a group of fellow guests for a long weekend of ghostly activities.

But something dark haunts the draughty corridors of the house. And it links to a decades-old mystery that is about to be uncovered.

A mystery like no other. A story of the supernatural. Of death, and what it does to the living. The first book in a series, Chasing Ghosts is a quirky British haunted house mystery exploring the paranormal elements of our world with touches of LGBT romance, humour and horror.

Buy @ Amazon UK /

Chasing Ghosts is the first novel in Dean Cole's Quentin Strange Mysteries series, a not-too-horrific horror story with an intense gothic vibe throughout. The story begins as guests arrive for a ghost hunting weekend at an allegedly haunted English country house. Among them are Quentin Strange and his new boss, Kat Brannigan, there to investigate the veracity of the house's ghostly credentials.

I loved Quentin pretty much straight away. He is older than his naivete would suggest and hopelessly out of his depth within his own life. I could identify with his bookish escapism as I also frequently avoid people by hiding in fictional worlds too. His complexities gave this character an authentic depth which convincingly rooted the story, allowing the fantastic and otherworldly events which soon surrounded him to also feel completely plausible. Quentin's central role is complemented by a fun supporting cast ranging from from the fabulous Esther to the adorable Cottontail. Kat's abrasiveness did rile me initially, but my fears that she would become too irritating were unfounded as it was interesting to watch both characters, Kat and Quentin, grow emotionally as their story progressed. 

I was impressed with how successfully Dean Cole managed the pace and atmosphere of Chasing Ghosts. Traditional ghost story elements such as the appearance of crows and timely lightning flashes are mixed up with inspired original ideas (that I won't describe so as not to 'spoiler' them), all of which combines with a well-plotted mystery to make for a satisfying read. I think this novel would appeal just as strongly to mystery fans as ghost story readers. There are breathtakingly tense scenes, but also breaks for humour and even an endearing spot of romance so, all in all, Chasing Ghosts is quite the rollercoaster of a read. I'm actually now annoyed with myself for having kept this novel on my ereader for just over a year between buying it and reading it. I believe its sequel is due out imminently and I certainly won't be letting that one languish unread for so long!

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Friday, 7 January 2022

Only One Life by Vegan Queen V

I've chosen Vegan Queen V's debut single, Only One Life, for this Friday's vegan music selection. It's strong lyrically, encouraging us to think about the impact our choices make, and I love the street art video.

Before we get to the song though, I also spotted Vegan Queen V has crowdfunding campaign throughout January, hopefully enabling her to record a brand new album. Have a watch of this quick video too and, if you've anything left post-Christmas, then please visit the Campaign page.

Wednesday, 5 January 2022

How To Create A Vegan World by Tobias Leenaert

In this thought-provoking book, Tobias Leenaert leaves well-trodden animal advocacy paths and takes a fresh look at the strategies, objectives, and communication of the vegan and animal rights movement. He argues that, given our present situation, with entire societies dependent on using animals, we need a very pragmatic approach. How to Create a Vegan World contains many valuable ideas and insights for both budding advocates for animals and seasoned activists, organizational leaders, and even entrepreneurs.

I spotted How To Create A Vegan World on Goodreads when author Bernard Jan shared an update about the book. Being in the middle of my very first Veganuary challenge at the time (January 2019) I felt that this was wonderfully serendipitous and I was interested to read a European viewpoint on veganism as many of the other nonfiction books I have considered are American-authored. The root ideas are usually similar, but things like product availability and political interpretation can be very different. This review is from February 2019.

Leenaert's ideas are certainly controversial and I liked reading the full range of Goodreads reviews before I got to the book itself. Vegans generally can have a reputation for single-mindedness and intransigence regarding animal welfare. In interviews and blogs their simple message can often be stridently put across with no negotiation on offer. I can understand why this is the case, but I always felt somewhat intimidated by this approach. I personally didn't feel I could live up to such absolutism. Leenaert instead advocates leniency. In his opinion, many people making strides towards veganism is actually better at the present time than a only few hardcore vegans. He actively supports initiatives such as Meatfree Mondays and Veganuary arguing that, so long as people don't then overcompensate for their reduced meat consumption, these challenges may well save many more animals.

Having come to veganism through adopting both Meatfree Mondays and Veganuary, I was delighted to see Leenaert validating such a journey. I now feel reassured whereas previously I had wondered whether, by not embracing the traditional vegan stance, I was maybe letting the side down or not making a proper contribution. His metaphor of placing the utopian Veganville at the top of a mountain is perfect. A plant-based diet isn't an easy lifestyle change to make immediately and I agree that many people making smaller changes have a far greater effect on commercial demand for products. Indeed just last month Piers Morgan inadvertently helped to send sales of the Greggs vegan sausage roll rocketing with his sneering tweet about the product. But Greggs wouldn't have even thought about launching a vegan sausage roll had they not anticipated the volume of Veganuary signups and therefore already been confident of customer demand.

I can understand why some are upset by Leenaert's putting pragmatism over absolutes, but like him at this stage of the global journey I feel getting plant-based diets to be seen as normal (instead of an extreme act) will create the most impact.

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