Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Vegetarian haggis

In the lead up to moving, I was frequently asked about being vegetarian in Scotland.

"Won't you have to start eating fish?"

"It's such a meat-and-potatoes place, how will you be vegetarian?"

"Isn't the food there awful?"

"What about haggis?"

I often respond with the simple reality: a) though of course fish & chips and haggis are a thing, food in the UK has dramatically improved in the past 15 or so years, having moved toward a sustainable/local foodie-type culture; b) Edinburgh is one of Europe's most veggie-friendly cities. I can name about five vegetarian or vegan restaurants off the top of my head (that would be 4 more than all of McHenry County, IL), and the vast majority of restaurants in general list their vegetarian things on their own menu section, or they label everything so you can tell what's safe. And there are a lot of options, not just a side salad! Even the local chip shop has falafel! **

I went to one of these vegetarian restaurants just today, in fact.

There's a more foundational point here though, which is:
I've moved here, I'm not vacationing (though there's plenty to make it feel like holidays, including the sunny weather!)...which means that nearly all of my meals will be ones I cook myself. I live in a flat, with a kitchen. I have been stocking it with pots and pans, pantry staples (oil, legumes, rice and pasta, etc), and tons of fresh local veggies. There's a bakery just two blocks away, and a lovely little greengrocer in the high street that gets a variety of veggies and cheeses delivered each day, and a ton of supermarket options ranging from Aldi to Tesco to the (slightly strange but weirdly awesome) frozen food store.

So...yes, it'll be just as easy to be vegetarian here as it was in Crystal Lake. Perhaps easier, even, since when I *do* eat out, there are more choices.

What I have noticed in a week of grocery shopping is this: everything is clearly labeled as to where it comes from, so I also have a much easier time choosing food that doesn't have to travel thousands of miles to my plate. Which is not to say I'll never eat anything that wasn't grown on this island (because hello, avocado is delicious!) but it does make many of my everyday shopping choices more clear, and I'm all about informed decisions, especially where food is concerned!

And now it's time for some pasta with kale and marinara, some wine, and then some Belgian chocolates. Because, well...compared to going all the way to the USA, Belgium - Scotland is basically local, right? ;-)

**Full disclosure: c) there is such a thing as vegetarian haggis, and it's still not good.
And also d) potatoes are my favorite food, so no problem there. ;-)

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

It's Been One Week...

...since I moved to Scotland!
Ok, it's not catchy for singing purposes like the BareNakedLadies, but still, it's pretty darn exciting.

A friend asked a few days ago if it felt real or like I was on holiday, and I have to admit that there are aspects of the past week that are pretty vacation-esque, and I have to keep reminding myself that I live here.
Like, for instance, I live about three doors down from the beach.
And I also ate out in restaurants a lot for several days in a row.

But then there are other things, like picking up my residency card, making appointments at the bank, hanging my laundry on the line, learning how to use the four--FOUR--garbage/recycling/composting bins, getting a local phone number, and perusing all my local grocery options that feel pretty distinctly like moving in.

In the run up to moving, everything was so busy and stressful (except for all the fun I had on my "farewell tour" seeing friends and getting to 90% of my favorite things) that I barely had time to think. This past week has been full of breathing space I haven't had in I don't know how long. I have walked on the beach, wandered shops, sat in cafes, read books, snuggled kitties, googled absurd things, and Facetimed with friends and family who are now 8-11 time zones away, and who I haven't had time to talk to in months.

I am already experiencing the spirit of hospitality and generosity that I've known and loved about Scotland for a long time--from kind neighbors to smiling people out on the sidewalk to helpful workers at the mobile phone store to new colleagues I met over evening meals during General Assembly. And the more relaxed pace of life is already evident as well. Not to say no one is busy or that everyone is friendly--just that it feels different somehow.

Of course, my first day at my placement is Thursday, and I could end up very busy very soon, so I won't be making any big generalizations while I'm still in much-needed-days-off mode!

The sun comes up early, and stays up late...there's an Indian restaurant, a Thai restaurant, a bakery, and an ice cream shop within a five minute walk from my flat...the cats seem happy...I've made risotto in my pressure cooker...I'm meeting a friend for lunch's been sunny and warm since i got here...basically, at the moment anyway, life is good.

part of the stress of the days before the move: I had WAY more stuff than I intended/anticipated. Thanks to the great desk agent for Iceland Air, and to the free luggage trollies at Glasgow Airport, I managed, and everything got here in one piece.

this is my street, as seen from the beach. I live in that building that sits closer to the road, in the centre.

so many shells--from perfectly whole to nearly-sand, and everything in between
doesn't this log beg to be sat on for deep thoughts? It's about five minutes down the beach from my house.

the mouth of the River Esk...a river which has more swans than I've ever seen in one place

the panoramic of my street and the beach, from the promenade

Andrew's favourite new hiding spot is between the bed and the wall

this is the lounge (living room) in my adorable tiny seaside flat. Thanks Nikki! It's gorgeous, and exactly one-person sized...with a beautiful new paint job, a new kitchen, and lots of great ambience. 

from today's walk on the prom as the tide was coming in...