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Vegan 269 Perth, UK – Review

I’ve never written a restaurant review before so I thought I’d start on a smaller scale with a café. Since arriving in Scotland, la Famille Jones has found eating out a challenge. I recognise that different cultures have varied tastes but I find much of what is offered in the UK’s popular restaurants is heavy, stodgy and unhealthy. I also despair at the manner in which children are treated in restaurants and in particular, pubs. There is either a stark hostility to anyone under the age of 18 or places are set up to resemble a play factory ensuring that none of the skills children learn when taken to restaurants are acquired (conversation, appropriate behaviour, courtesy etc). We went to one ‘child-friendly’ pub recently and to my eternal horror and disbelief, TV screens had been set up at the end of each table – presumably to keep kids mute for the duration of the meal. If the ‘thinking’ is that children will be protected from the evils of alcohol, well, the strategy is clearly ineffective. Since arriving in Scotland, under-age youths have been responsible for countless acts of vandalism outside our flat, usually inspired by an illegal evening of drinking sweetened fortified wine (specially designed for those youthful tastes). ‘Menus’ for children remain pre-packaged mush, bland on the mouth and brain.

My curried courgette soup

But let us switch to a brighter note. Yesterday was Father’s Day and I really wanted to celebrate it with our children in a manner which would be good for our health, interesting on a culinary level, fairly-priced and respectful to the local economy. Vegan 269 in Perth ticks all of these boxes and much more. Let me clarify now, I am neither vegan nor vegetarian, although about 95% of my diet is non-meat as the ladyfolk Chez Jones are veggie. I love veggie food and Vegan 269’s menu shows that with a little love, creativity and passion, such food is exciting, tasty, generous and imaginative.

Kirsty had crushed avocado on sourdough toast. The avocado was seasoned beautifully and had a glorious, rich texture and a touch of heat with the flakes of chilli which ran through it. I had a bowl of curried courgette soup. The taste was deep, layered and full of warming curry notes. The texture was rich and creamy – this being achieved through skilful combinations of ingredients and cooking techniques rather than chucking in half a litre of heart-attack inducing coagulated cow juice. It was not hot – the cook recognised that ‘curry’ refers to layers of flavour rather than to what degree one’s head will be blown off. Extra bread (delicious home-baked) was offered with a smile – and gratefully accepted. Our children had traditional food – baked beans on toast and fruit breads – all locally sourced and organic.

Vegan chocolate brownie – amazing!

The drinks menu had a real rarity – grown up alcohol-free beverages that taste of something other than sugar or aspartame. I had blood orange soda, Kirsty a Kombucha (fermented tea which gives a strong, intense flavour) and Flo a sparkling rose water. For those who like the traditional cola, organic, responsibly-produced versions were available.

Avocado on home-made bread.

For dessert, I had a stunning rose and pistachio cake. All the ‘wet’ ingredients were non-dairy and nothing was lost in terms of deliciousness. Kirsty had a cheesecake where the base was created from dates. Stunning. The kids had peanut butter and chocolate brownies, again, with vegan-friendly, healthier base ingredients.

The prices were very good value – what price do we put on health and environmental responsibility? The staff, lovely – genuinely enthusiastic about their work and full of smiles. The place had plenty of kids present and books, as well as an art area was laid on for them.

Rose and pistachio cake (you can see someone had a nibble before I got my camera out!)

We need places like this to support local foodie businesses who care about quality. We need to move away from industrially-produced edible food items which slowly but surely suffocate the planet and induce many health problems. Let’s show our kids the alternatives.

The Digital Goats Have Arrived!

I’m delighted to say that for all you modern-day techie people, Extracting Goats from Jean-Claude’s Kitchen has arrived in digital form, ready for download on your device here.

As if this auspicious occasion weren’t enough, I hereby proudly present EXTRACTING GOATS – THE MOVIE TRAILER! I hope you enjoy it as much as we enjoyed writing, performing, drawing, narrating and filming it! If it does raise a smile, perhaps you’d be kind enough to share it far-and-wide. Thanks!

Oh là là Language

I am of an age to have been obliged to study Latin at school. I was quite open-minded about this proposition – neither I nor my colleagues were of the view that we shouldn’t study a ‘dead’ language. We were of a time where pupils unquestioningly acted upon the wishes of a teacher.

I was dreadful at Latin. Although this could well have been due to the limitations of my overall intelligence, the situation was exacerbated by the fact that one of our teachers took joy in humiliating weaker pupils, inviting the class to mock students (that was me) and the other was downright violent. I felt no resentment or fear of these characters – I just switched off completely in the class, took the hit (literally) and learned nothing, although I have a vague recollection of a volcano wiping out the main characters, including a dog.

Conversely, I was quite good at French. I had two lovely teachers, one of whom I remain in contact with now, and the other who moved on and I have been unable to locate. In 2010, we relocated to a sleepy village in rural South-West France and I was obliged to delve back into the distant reserves of my memory and rekindle my school French. I found that being immersed in a language – and having to use it as no other option was available – was a very effective way of becoming a fluent French speaker. I use the word ‘speaker’ as my written French is still rather poor, but that is unimportant. If I’m in the bar with my French pals, no-one is likely to ask me to write the verb ‘vouloir’ in the third person conditional tense. It is much more valuable to learn the expression for ‘Wales won the match – you owe me a beer.’

As time progressed I fell deeply in love with the French language. I learnt how to say ‘I’m going to throw up’ when a child demonstrated exactly how to say this before offering a practical demonstration of the phrase in his guitar lesson. The same child also taught me the unlikely phrase for ‘there is a dead bat under the fridge’. I adore the odd old-fashioned words which are departing from English but are still commonplace in French (cache, umbrage, grave, terminate and the like) and the daft new words for modern items (aspirateur – vacuum cleaner, ordinateur – computer).

The strangest, but possibly the most-valuable tip I’d offer the French language learner is that when speaking a language, the job of communication must take over the whole body, possibly to the extent where the speaker’s personality changes. When speaking English, I can be rather quiet – I tend to mumble and meander. When in conversation in French, I become far more European. I hurl my bodyweight forwards with open palms when arguing a point, I shrug, I say ‘Mais non!’ and wave exasperated arms around; quite frankly, I become a Frenchman. This sounds silly and has, quite rightly, left me exposed to mockery and ridicule from my social group, but surely effective communication is more than just words from the mouth. How often do we look at people’s eyes to see what they are really thinking? Can the body language of cultures be a whole new discipline in itself? Should we teach pupils gestures such as ‘the upwards flap of the right hand, with flexible wrist to express disagreement’? Language is a complex, cultural and expressive tool. To speak it, we must say it, feel it, express it, shape it and communicate it with our whole being.

Dan is the author of Extracting Goats From Jean-Claude’s Kitchen, available from Amazon or through the contact page.

Extracting Goats – The Movie!

I am so thrilled that the paperback version of Extracting Goats From Jean-Claude’s Kitchen is now available at Amazon here! To celebrate this occasion, Florence and I have made a movie! Extracting Goats – the Trailer! I do hope you enjoy it.

How about Farley’s Rusks for Adults?

A poem about Farley’s Rusks to brighten up your day!

A selfie with rusks in Tesco. I told the security guard I was checking I was buying the correct product with my wife at home. This is known as ‘brilliant improvisation’.

Farley’s Rusks, you’re an international icon,
Your round crumbly form, transports me to days bygone,
Ever present, on the high-chair tray,
Or down beside the washing machine, where they fell one day,

I once found a doughy lump, underneath the fridge,
It had clearly been in my son’s mouth – it had a little squidge
I took a glance to my left, to check no-one was looking,
And yes, I popped it down the hatch, before continuing with my cooking,

The little bits of green fluff on it, must have been bacteria,
But the need to gobble it up, drove me to near-hysteria,
But yes indeed that was an error, to tell the whole story,
As I spent that very evening, poised on the lavatory,

I found one on the booster seat, I thought to myself ‘oh shucks’,
Even though it retained some warmth, from my baby’s buttocks,
Yes, I ate it, that’s quite sad, just how far will we men go?
My mate Kevin once ate a piece, he found in a box of Lego,

But the point of this woeful tale, is to ask oh why indeed,
Were rusks so utterly delicious, when my baby needed to feed?
Once my son was eating one – doing quite alright,
When I ripped it from his very hands – he put up quite a fight,

And when my wife came to see, if her boy was still breathing,
I said “Don’t worry dear, he surely must be teething”,
Every day I watched my kids, struggle with their nourishment,
Praying they would have enough, I offered no encouragement, 

I could wait for hours on end, for just one puny nibble,
Pouncing on the squashy bits – (because of infant dribble),
Friday saw a quarter rusk, Saturday, a half,
Sunday I took a whole one, Monday I did barf,

Why are rusks in circular form? A square may be more practical,
Draw inspiration from Toblerone, make a triangle – equilateral?
If you make a grown-up rusk, please do keep me informed,
We may start a national craze, Oh Farley, you have been warned,

Chia-rusk, Flax seed, Kale-rusk and Spinach,
Real rusks for adult tastes, instead of bits unfinished,
Cash in on the health-food craze, corner that hippie market,
No longer will long-suffering Mums, scrape bits out from the carpet,

Alco-rusks, beefy-ones, or veggie-rusks, and meat,
Instead of stale and hardened lumps, I find stuck to my feet,
Roasted-rusk, risky-rusk, rested-rusk rice or regular,
You could offer me a marketing job, I’ll be a full-time Grown-Up Rusk pedlar.   

Dan Jones, on the Perth-Glasgow train, Scotland, March 2019.

 

Dan is the author of Extracting Goats from Jean-Claude’s Kitchen, available in paperback or digital form from Kellan Publishing.