Over the last couple of months I have been getting into food preparation in a big way. For anyone who isn’t familiar with this trend, then you can look at social media or just imagine a person cooking heaps of food without plans for a party. To this end, I have been making big batches of curries, chillies, spaghetti Bologneses all ready to go when I am. I figure that having a fairly healthy and well balanced meal waiting in the fridge whenever I get home from work is a good way of indicating to my mother that I have my shit together, and also means that I’m less likely to go home from work via the Golden Arches after a challenging or stressful day at work. I also feel that having a week’s supply of food ready to go couldn’t be a bad thing should there be some kind of unexpected natural disaster in the centre of Glasgow or, more likely, I fail to budget effectively prior to pay day.
Those who know my most secret of eating habits (Emer) will be aware that my settlement in Glasgow has led to a beautiful union of the fat teenager inside of me and a local delicacy: The Hoggie. If you are unfamiliar with this, the most finest of culinary creations (hyperbole warranted), then you may thank me immediately. It is described by the restaurant as “Chips smothered in cheese with donner meat, salad & sauce all wrapped in chapati” but – believe me – it is so much more. Like a volcanic eruption of fast food, the Hoggie is to kebabs what Cher is microblogging: an inconceivable victory for mankind. It is a hidden treasure that I am beginning to discover is unfamiliar even to the hardest of Glaswegian pallets (well, L the pharmacist had never heard of it anyway.)
When visualising the Hoggie it is best to imagine the chapati as the canvas of this beautiful creation with perfectly cooked chips laying a firm bedrock for melted cheese with a mix of the finest rotisserie meats smothered generously in barbecue sauce and salad. The salad is not to be taken with any hint of irony here, might I add, as the crisp lettuce/tomato/onion combination provides the perfect crunch while keeping the whole affair light and fresh. Setting this beauty up as a good-to-go ‘repeat order’ with a can of Irn Bru from a well known food delivery service at £10 a pop and you’ll begin to realise why it is time I was due a food prep intervention; Despite what I may have told a Nurse confidente at work, the soda/hoggie combo was not a one-off ‘Never Event‘ that I allowed to slip through the net after a hard day at work- this affair had been going on behind my closed apartment door for months. I needed help.
I decided to go cold turkey (curry) on the problem and have since been making batches of korma and the like as a sensible yet delicious alternative to the temptations of fast food. Life as a House Officer is tough enough, and I’m determined not to come out of the side needing a whole new wardrobe from Simply Be, that’s for sure. All was going extremely well until I peered over the waist high freezers in Iceland (I know, #moetmedics) to see microwavable doner kebab meat staring back at me. I was being tested. I must admit that I wasn’t completely unfamiliar with this little tyke’s work – I had vague recollections of them serving this to us in university catered accommodation.
It felt as wrong back then as it did now, and I could hear the voices of a thousand personal trainers chastising me as I reached down into the frosty cavern of temptation to pull out a bag to take to the privacy of my own home. I would like to mention at this point, as if it counters my appalling behaviour in any way, that I did bond with a lady in the checkout queue of the very same Iceland visit over what we agreed was a shipping container sized jar of Ainsley Harriet’s couscous mix I had managed to find in the labyrinth of blockbuster bargains. I thought thereafter that we had a connection, however she proceeded to comment on my food choices disappointedly; not before I had the forethought to mask my beloved doner with a bag of fresh kale. Maintaining the upper hand, I made a dart for the business end of the checkout where the cashier began throwing my purchases at me for me to catch in my bag in that weird kind of way that they do in those supermarkets.
Back home – I have to say that I enjoyed the aforementioned microwave kebab meat a lot more than I know I should have, and it has subsequently gone onto my ‘forbidden’ list of gorge-worthy foods along with anchovies (gout) and white chocolate banana bread (loneliness) which is updated in real time as I navigate this chaotic thing we call life. The luxury of questionable-calibre meat on tap is not one that I will afford myself in the coming months as I work towards the coveted summer beach body, so if anyone sees a pair of legs sticking up in the air of Iceland’s aisles as I dangle myself inside looking for yet more artificial macros, please take it upon yourself to pull me out, for you have my permission to incarcerate me inside fort cous-cous with the lid screwed duly tight. Come summer time I will thank you. I promise.
Now that’s at least a little more to do with food, eh? also if anyone has any strong feelings about where the comma should go in the title of this post then please write to me.
When I was eleven I knew that I was born to be a star. I was about three feet tall with a BMI of 46, yet Michelle McManus was making it ‘massive’ with ‘All This Time’ and I didn’t need another role model to make me feel like I could be the next ‘big’ thing. Along the way I got wind that Cat Deeley was presenting another series of Stars in Their Eyes Kids, and I truly felt that this was the moment for me to shine bright.
My dad, ever supportive of my dreams and vision, arranged for his mate to record a sample track in his garage to send off to ITV in the certain belief that they would love what they heard. During recording I was nervous, yes, but I was reassured by the posh microphone avec spit-guard and multiple local radio station music awards for “best producer” that decorated the ‘studio’ – I was in safe hands.
“We’ll get you sounding a lot more Justin Timberlake and less Britney Spears in no time” the ‘producer’ assured me; I remember thinking I would much rather sound like the former, if I was honest with myself. Nevertheless I sent off the finished product and awaited big news from ITV studios HQ.
Behold the good news I was waiting for arrived! I received a golden envelope from the production company and I was booked in for an audition in Bristol in the coming weeks. In a sheer de-masking of the magic of showbusiness, they had decided that my audition tape (Daniel Bedingfield no less) did not fit with the demographic of their audience, and I would have to emulate someone a lot more Saturday-night friendly: Donny Osmond.
How on earth was I to lie convincingly to the nation that I had dreamt my whole life of becoming Donny Osmond for one special night? I couldn’t lie to the people; I couldn’t do it to the fans. I battled with the dilemma for a few sleepless nights, before deciding to go to the audition, and put it all down as experience.
Thankfully, Mother Nature – as she usually does – came to the rescue, and a couple of days before I was due to attend the audition I went through what I will describe as the teenage boy “adjustment period“. Yes, my larynx was growing faster than you could say “testosterone pulsation” but I decided to still give the audition despite the obvious problems I had on my hands (and in my pants).
The producers looked on in horror from behind the camera as I stood centre of a makeshift wooden stage in a hotel conference room and attempted an old Osmond classic, several octaves lower than what would be broadcast-worthy. It was horrendous. It was more “Puppy Fat” than “Puppy love”, and my audition was met with a slow clap and a swift ushering towards the exit with the obligatory “We’ll be in touch” from one of the junior runners. I felt humiliated; the Fame Monster had chewed me up and spat me out once again.
But I was determined to succeed.
It was around this time that I met a girl called Olivia who become the second half of our new rock duo- Emano (“M&O”…but if you have to explain it…) we enjoyed mild success on the Welsh Valleys gigging scene and were honoured to be asked to switch on the Tredegar Christmas lights. We knew it wouldn’t last… But we enjoyed it for what it was. Below is a newspaper clipping from the time, and you’ll notice they didn’t get a quote from me as I was obviously too busy lapping up the female attention and free hot dogs that comes along with being a rock star.
These stories I tell are of yesteryear, and I believed I had left my music career behind, however it seems my dream to change the world through music lives on. I’m under no illusions that the readership of this blog, if it exists at all, is confined to my close friends and family, and considering that fact, you will have all seen that Adele comedy video that I made to raise awareness of the reasons behind the Junior Doctors strike in January. What did you think of it?
Without getting too bogged down the in the political details (as the video does a fine job of covering these itself… heh) the video is a satirical reaction to what the vast, vast majority of junior doctors feel are unsafe and unfair contract changes being hammered through by the UK government which are set to undo all of the good work of the European Working Time Directive (EU legislation ensuring doctors and other workers are not forced to work unsafe hours and put patient’s lives at risk) and pay junior doctors less money despite working them even further to the point of exhaustion (at the same time claiming that junior medical staff will receive a pay rise). If the government feel we need routine surgery on the weekends in addition to the fantastic emergency cover that is already provided, then what we need is more doctors, not more exhausted ones.
The video itself was born out of a hangover-driven riff session between myself and a fellow friend as we contemplated the outcome of the upcoming strike. She is much cleverer than I, and just so happens to be a HEART SURGEON (something I imagine you require a well-rested and steady, non-tired hand for) – so we were able consider carefully the messages we wanted to convey with a hint of the ridiculous for good measure. Needless to say, a loyal Daily Mail reader felt it inappropriate that I as a junior doctor have any amount of spare time whatsoever:
Let me say now this right now: I am not ashamed to admit that I have the occasional Sunday off work.
I am also not ashamed to admit that I usually spend a fair proportion of these Sundays off – like most normal 24 year old people – hungover and vowing only to drink coconut water and sniff old works of literature from here onwards.
And I also also am not ashamed to admit that some of these Sundays I spend dressed as a voluptuous pop star in a calculated attempt to raise public awareness of potentially damaging government changes to the health care workforce terms of contract.
We spent a good couple of hours rewriting the words to the original song and then quickly had to re-record the spoof and dash out of the house to get a new wig and decide on location for the video. When all of that was sorted and filming was wrapped we then spent the next few hours cutting all the images together and deciding between the ‘night-fall’ ‘black and white’ or ‘sepia’ effects before uploading it to Youtube. If I could have my time again, after watching the original ‘Hello’ video more closely – I probably would have gone with ‘sepia’. No regrets, eh? And so it was out there for the whole world to see.
So we waited. And waited. And I got impatient:
Before we knew it, people were starting to see the video and share it with their friends and colleagues. It was published in a few of the popular newspapers and, in a weird weird turn of events, the video was top of the page of Google that day when entering the search term ‘Adele’:
Yet some people (read:MailOnline readers) were not impressed:
Well believe me, annie86, you’d be wrong if you thought you were the only one who thought I’d entered a debate to which I didn’t belong. Despite leaving school at 18 for university after striving to get immaculate A-Level grades and training for 5 years at medical school, culminating in a fabulous graduation and everyone being extremely proud of me for being a real life adult I…
Believe it or not, tomen, I am indeed a doctor… and a thumping good one, I’d wager. In six short months of being qualified, my colleagues and I have, amongst daunting amount of insane responsibility:
Arranged the relevant paperwork for urgent cancer referrals, MDT X-Ray sessions and rewritten countless drug prescriptions to ensure patients get the correct drugs for their condition
Helped stroke patients feed themselves during their rehabilitation period and watched them progress from acutely disabled to highly functioning individuals once again
Prescribed insulin, warfarin, vancomycin, gentamicin, digoxin, oral hypoglycaemics, anti epileptics, antibiotics and other potentially harmful drugs to patients who need them (24 hours per day, 7 days a week)
Phoned microbiology. Enough said.
Taken blood and got IV access from the tiniest and most delicate of veins to ensure patients get much needed fluids and IV antibiotics
Worked with grouchy staff nurses (that’s a joke.. let’s see who’s reading carefully).
Assessed acutely ill patients during the middle of the night to see what might be causing them to become rapidly unwell and see what can be done to reverse this
Given these patients oxygen and titrated this against their saturations and oxygen requirements..performing blood gases as required and running all over the hospital to the nearest blood gas machine (wasting critical energy might I add…but great for marathon training)
Stayed calm and acted quickly with precision and thoughtfulness as we have watched extremely poorly patients bleed to death in front of our eyes, despite all attempts to save them…with no debrief (“medics don’t get a debrief” a senior colleague flatly informed me once)
Sat and held the hand of a lady with terminal cancer, in awe of her optimism as she told me “you can’t be miserable at times like this… you’ll get no visitors”
Carried the arrest page during my first week as a working doctor
Supported bereaved families who have lost mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles..Certified deaths while showing nothing but the utmost respect and dignity in the process
These are just a few off the top of my post-late shift tired brain. I hope you can appreciate the range from important non-urgent here to urgent-important. I’m not illustrating these situations in search of praise or respect from anyone, I am simply trying to convey the magnitude of how junior doctors are present in people’s lives for the most traumatic and vulnerable and most needing moments they will probably ever experience. To say that our profession has ‘lost its sense of vocation’ and try to enforce a contract that makes junior doctors work HARDER AND LONGER AND CLOSER TO THE POINT OF EXHAUSTION is just a sickening punch to the face.
“I’m not saying that I think I’m Madonna, I’m just saying I want my patients to be safe at all times.”
I remember I once saw a clip of Madonna saying that part of her stage had broken and that if she couldn’t do her show with the full set then she didn’t want to do it at all. I never really understood what she meant by it… but this is exactly how I am beginning to feel about the situation that we are facing as junior doctors: If I can’t work in a hospital environment safely where I feel supported and safe and feel like I can look after my patients effectively, then I don’t feel like I can do this job at all. I’m not saying that I think I’m Madonna, I’m just saying I want my patients to be safe at all times.
Good one, hohmlt, I appreciate your input there. I’m not Gordon Fucking Ramsey – I’m a doctor. I want to ensure the working environment of me and my colleagues is safe so that if you and your family come into the hospital (God forbid) you are safe too… that you’re not being treated by Moaning Myrtle and other poltergeists of formerly fresh faced and keen-to-serve junior clinicians.
The overwhelming majority of support for junior doctors has been amazing. The video was picked up by some big newspapers including the Independent, MailOnline, Mirror and Liverpool Echo. These sites decided to monetise the video through playing adverts beforehand, and in turn I was able to donate my share of the funds to a cause extremely close to my heart: Pancreatic Cancer Research.
The last thing that junior doctors up and down the country want to do is strike, however the consensus is that this is a small battle in the huge war that the government seems to be waging on the NHS as we know it. What is most unsavoury from my perspective is how they are taking steps which the majority of doctors know will be damaging to health care provision, under the guise that they want to improve the quality of services. Unless we fund for more doctors, the ones we already have are just going to become more tired, more unsafe, and more disillusioned.
Oh and a lot of people asked me whether I think JH saw the video, and I think if the Youtube ratings are anything to go by, that is one thing of which we can be certain.
Hello. Welcome. Please see yourself in and make sure you’re sitting comfortably, for this may prove a difficult and lacklustre first blog post. This project could represent the start of something special, but will almost certainly turn out to be something that ceases to exist by March.
Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Mikey Warren and I am currently a Junior Doctor working in Glasgow, Scotland. Yes I am a medic by profession, but – by passion – I am a feeder. I love food, and I love cooking when time permits. Fear not, for you are in safe hands; despite some mild scandal about my eligibility concerning age category, it is a well known fact in certain circles that I was voted Powys Young Chef 2006. Sometimes people hear Paris Young Chef, and I carelessly neglect to correct them. Nevertheless, you’ll remember this time as the era in which bruschetta remained all fancy, and basic b*tches were still trying to make duck-eggs happen (I’ll let you decide whether I took my competition too seriously).
Outside of work, I strive to achieve my life goals by remaining active. We all know that this never works out as planned, and is a lot more effort than it is really worth. I find a good way to motivate myself to exercise is to have a big race event to work towards. This not only gives you a little weekend away to look forward to, but also forces you to get out and about in your trainers a couple of times before race day. My biggest running achievement to date was completing the New York Marathon in 2015. Not only was this a huge personal achievement and great holiday, but I was also able to raise a metric shit tonne of money towards pancreatic cancer research. Finding myself vomiting into a souvenir poncho on the NYC subway was not how I imagined this fairytale ending. The messy conclusion of this agonising accomplishment was no surprise: I didn’t exactly apply myself thoroughly to my preparation and training, and for this I can only blame my horrendous Medical House Officer rota. This considered, I didn’t believe “Five and a half hours? Were you out drinking the night before then?” an appropriate acknowledgment from a senior colleague of my immense achievement . As you will imagine, this soon put an end to my mincing about the Stroke Unit like I was the fastest female marathoner on the planet.
A big part of my life is The Circle. A string of naughty girls and boys who I have accumulated in my life, despite living at different corners of the country as they each show dedication to a particular medical (and the odd pseudo-medical) career path, we have managed to stay in touch daily using WhatsApp. A colourful collection of creatures, these individuals have proved an invaluable resource and peer-group as I have progressed through my twenties, and I honestly don’t know where I would be today without them. Maybe I will share an anecdote or two along the way, although probably not – our mothers are reading.
The problem about starting a blog post, a lot like rolling down a cliff face in a car without brakes, is that you don’t know where the horrible ordeal will end. For this reason, I have now taken the admirable step to put you out of your misery. This sizeable, yet busy head of mine has a number of ideas floating around in it, and I’m very excited to get going with my new project. Stick with me and the blog and who knows you may even see some kind of writing style emerge over the coming months. That, however, is a secondary outcome.
Right, listen – In all the fanfare of trying to display evidence of my literacy, I forgot to tell you what my blog is primarily about: My Fantasy Kitchen Blog is a platform to explore my interests around food technology and food blogging, something which I believe will become even bigger in 2016 than it already is. I’m planning to hatch a number or secret plans this year which combine food and tech, and I’m really excited to tell you about them (if I haven’t managed to corner you already). Stay tuned.