Pantgirl's Blog

The ponderings and boring life of a Scottish Vet

Archive for July, 2010

Food Ethics

Posted by pantgirl on July 19, 2010

A rather ambiguous title I have to say but i’ve become rather more “food conscious” lately.  I don’t really know why I have, perhaps its my new-found love for rewatching/watching the whole River Cottage series from the very beginning.  I also love food, good food, I could never exist eating just pot noodles or cup a soups.  I’m sure this shows on my waistline but no ready meal beats a lovely home cooked meal from scratch.  My sister bought me the River Cottage Everyday cookbook for my Christmas and i’ve cooked so many things from it and got such good ideas, it really is my favourite cookbook ever.  Anyway, I digress, my greed is not the basis for this post!

Farmers’ Markets.  When I was young I honestly can’t even remember these being about, but now if you look on the Scottish Association of Farmers’ Markets you can see a list for all the markets that take place in just Scotland alone!  Along with this and the rise of organic veg box schemes and people going crazy for allotments and home growing veg, it feels like going back to prewar Britain!  I think this is a good thing as it means more people are aware of where their food is coming from and making food from scratch.  Some people think it’s just for the snobby and rich, but everyone can afford to eat better, whether it be meat from a Farmers’ Market or choosing free range chicken from a supermarket.  I get a large fruit and veg bag from The Whole Shebag which supplied me with oodles of fruit and veg every 2 weeks with a smile and a lovely wee information notelet in the bag with ideas what to do with the veg and what has been going on in the farm.

As a Veterinary Surgeon, I have been trained in Public Health and how meat animals are raised and killed in this country.  I think the UK is one of the best producers, compared to all the drugs and additives given to animals in the USA which are illegal here.  Whilst at University, I had to undertake many weeks of EMS (extra mural studies) in my preclinical years about the raising and slaughter of meat/milk producing animals.  This involved having to work for 2 weeks at an intensive dairy farm, 2 weeks lambing, 1 week at an abattoir and 2 weeks working at an “intensive rearing” centre (usually broiler chickens or pig farms).  People might think i’m odd but I really enjoyed all my EMS apart from the broiler chicken production.  I had to go through MANY loopholes to get access to the address for the broiler chicken farm that I saw EMS at.  They were very cagey as a few activists had recently been onto a few farms and tried to release the chickens from their sheds (not a good idea, if you have ever seen a broiler chicken you will know that they would die in hours).  Even when I got to the farm we went up and down the road a few times to double-check it was the right place as there were no signs showing it to be a broiler chicken production site!  I wont go into details of me experience there, it wasn’t the worst, it was very well run but the fact that the majority of the UK chickens come from this kind of establishment is worrying.  I can understand why these places exist, people demand cheap chicken, the end.  Free range chicken (from supermarkets) is not that expensive really but people are so used to chicken being cheap they reach for the value meat all the time.  I admit, I do try to buy free range chicken, I rarely buy chicken at all recently I have to say, but I do still buy the cheaper chicken as well.  I don’t feel like I’m two-faced, preaching the virtues of free range etc, I feel as I’ve worked in and understand how the broiler chicken production works, I can make an educated decision either way.  Also, most of the time, supermarkets have hardly any free range chicken in stock which makes it harder for people to make an educated choice.  I wish that one day all food would be free range but I know in this current climate it is not possible.

Sorry for that rant/tangent!  I hope that made sense, I’m not good at expressing my thoughts into words.  I try to buy all my meat from the farmers’ markets that I frequent (mainly the Edinburgh Farmers’ Market and the Falkirk one but that has changed its date so I can’t go to it now) and get all my veg from my aforementioned veg box delivery.  It’s not something everyone can do but I can hand on heart say that all the meat I have had from the farmers market has been amazing.  The taste is so fresh and superb, the meat is beautiful and really not that costly.  My favourite Pork supplier is Puddledub Pork, who also do Puddledub Beef, Buffalo and Lamb, from just up the road in Perthshire.  They have always been amazingly well stocked with a wide range of cuts of meat, sausages and other exotic dabblings such as their own chorizo, pancetta and prosciutto.  I have also bought a giant slab of pork belly from Piperfield Pork which was amazing and a really nice bit of Dexter Brisket from a Scottish supplier but I can’t find their name/website to link it.  I also support my favourite Farm Shop called Craigies in Kirkliston and they supply Puddledub Pork and Buffalo and also other local suppliers plus they make their own jams and chutnies and have an amazing Cafe and PYO fruit!  If there is a Farmers’ Market or Farm Shop near you then go along and be surprised, I know I have!

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Time passes fast…

Posted by pantgirl on July 14, 2010

Well! I know I have totally neglected this blog, I had loads of plans for what to write about as I’ve been so busy. Sadly the fact I’ve been so busy hasn’t given me much time to sit down and write out a nice blog! Work had been mental since I last posted, lots of out of hours work and quite a few major operations such as more cesarean sections! The reason I have time now to sit down and write on this blog is simple, I am off work sick. Now, I was very proud of my attendance record since I have started working as a Veterinarian as up until now I have had no days off sick at all. Niente. None. Today will be my 3rd day off sick and the Dr said I should be off til at least the end of next week! I feel so so guilty for leaving my work in the lurch but there’s not a lot I can do about it.

I suppose I wouldn’t regard myself as being “sick” perse as I can still walk and (just) talk and do normal things but to look at me, you would know I was sick. Why?  The whole left hand side of my face is incredibly swollen and bright red. Parts of the right hand side are affected to but not as bad. I’d post a picture but its horrific.  I have been in hospital since Sunday night getting blood tests and IV antibiotics to combat a horrific skin infection.  I haven’t got a definitive answer as to what caused it (my suspicion was midge bites) but the Drs seen to think an initial Streptococcus (erysipelas) skin infection that was superinfected with Staphylococcus on top (as my own Dr told me it was just eczema and to apply steroid cream…which made it a whole lot worse!).  This has been my frist stay in hospital for absolute years! The last time was when I was in getting my strabismus operations when I was really young (3/4, something like that) so I didn’t know what to expect!  I was pleasantly surprised! The food was pretty good actually, whilst I was there I had fish pie, mince and doughballs (mmm), lamb casserole and oodles of soup.  I was also offered plenty of tea and coffee and my room was cleaned thoroughly once a day and the sheets changed every day too! I also had my own private room + en suite with a wee telly as well!  I know not everyone gets that luxury but I think I got it due to the infectious nature of my condition and that the other communal rooms on the ward had elderly people on it (so more susceptible to infectious disease).  I was given flucloxacillin antibiotics through my venflon four times a day and also went  to see the consultant Dermatologist who prescribed me oodles of creams!

My mum and her friend Judy came down from Aberdeen to see me in the Stirling Royal Infirmary, got lost, arrived late and the nurses were very kind and let them stay on over teatime to the next visiting hour.  I asked mum to bring me some diluting juice, socks and trashy mags.  She arrived with 8 pairs of socks (!), 2 large bottles of diluting juice, 2 small soft toys, 7 trashy magazines, a pot of grapes and a small pot plant!  My mum does go all out when you ask her for something!  Then, on the way back up to Aberdeen, her car broke down outside Brechin and had to get towed home. She’s now looking for a new car. Poor mum. I got discharged yesterday (Tuesday evening) and went straight to work to talk to my boss and tell him the bad news. He was very understanding and I look awful so he knows how bad it really is.  I came home to the flat and finally got a good nights sleep in my own bed (you have no idea how hard it is to sleep with a venflon in your arm, everytime you move that arm you can feel it inside you and you can’t bend your arm or lie on it so I slept on my back!).  I really need a good shower too. I haven’t washed my hair since last Friday which is shocking, luckily my hair barely gets greasy so its not as bad as it looks!  Also I can now enjoy the flowers my boyfriend got me the day before I went to hospital as my skin was so bad.

I meant my first post back on here to be a nice happy one about a new recipe I had tried out or what I bought at the farmers market, or even our wee holiday to Copenhagen and the Roskilde festival (which just preceded my hospitalization)!  All fodder for future blogs, which I should be doing a few of over the next week or so as I have a lot of free time on my hands!

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