“It is my mission to help people understand that vegetarians can be foodies too”
VEGETARIAN Jemma Ferguson is combining her passions for food, where she lives and writing in her new blog, The Yorkshire Veggie. She explains why she went back to education aged 30 and why she feels veggies often get a raw deal.
WHEN I turned 30, I decided to make some serious career changes. I had worked for four years as the Customer Services Manager for Saks Hair and Beauty at its headquarters in Darlington and although I absolutely loved my job I always felt that I had missed out not going to university and I wanted to put that right.
I have two young children Serena, six, and Elsa, one, so I never in a million years thought I would go back into full time education.
“It is my mission to help people understand that vegetarians can be foodies too and have high expectations of food. A menu with one choice of only a microwaved vegetable lasagne is no longer acceptable in my view. Often vegetarian food is an afterthought.”
I had applied for a part-time Journalism course which I could do alongside work, however, when the course didn’t run due to low numbers, I received a call from Teesside University offering me a place on their Multimedia Journalism degree.
After months of agonising over the finances and time commitments I made a leap of faith and left my job to start life as a 30-year-old student.
It has without a doubt been one of the best things I have done in my life.
Since I started at Teesside University I have been amazed by how many opportunities there are and how much University can expand your horizons. In first year I became the only first year student to have won an award at Teesside University’s prestigious Journalism Awards held at Mima gallery in Middlesbrough.
I was extremely proud to win this award and it gave me the exciting opportunity to go to London and work at The Sun’s Fabulous Magazine for the week. It was such an inspiring experience working in the iconic News Building and I have made some great contacts. I even had an article published on the online version, which gave me such an incredible buzz as they have a readership of over 2.2 million people
As part of my degree I have recently launched a blog The Yorkshire Veggie. The blog came in some ways from my frustrations and experiences of being a vegetarian in North Yorkshire, which can be challenging.
“We have the Wensleydale creamery on our doorstep and many other quality food producers. Some of my favourite places to eat near me are; The Coach House at Middleton Lodge, Yorebridge House, The Shoulder of Mutton at Middleton Tyas and I am discovering new places all the time.”
It is my mission to help people understand that vegetarians can be foodies too and have high expectations of food. A menu with one choice of only a microwaved vegetable lasagne is no longer acceptable in my view. Often vegetarian food is an afterthought. Arriving at a restaurant then looking at the menu only to see that there are no vegetarian options is so disappointing.
I have also come across many carnivores who would class themselves as ‘part-time vegetarians’, often choosing meat-free options for health/weight loss or to save money.
I’ve been vegetarian since I was about six years old, my mum was a vegetarian and I think I just copied her. I had grand ideas of becoming an animal rights activist and saving the world by being vegetarian. Unfortunately, I lost my mum to cancer in 1998, so my vegetarianism now remains as a bond between us and a happy reminder.
My grandad told me that my vegetarian ‘phase’ would only last a couple of weeks. Twenty-five years later and I’m still going strong!
There are some amazing places to eat vegetarian food in Yorkshire and I think it is important to share this. We have the Wensleydale creamery on our doorstep and many other quality food producers. Some of my favourite places to eat near me are; The Coach House at Middleton Lodge, Yorebridge House, The Shoulder of Mutton at Middleton Tyas and I am discovering new places all the time.
Through the blog I will share restaurant reviews, recipes, tips and advice and vegetarian news. It is also important to me as a busy mum that the recipes are straight forward and the ingredients are easy to get hold of.
It’s helping me to share two things that I am passionate about; vegetarian food and Yorkshire. It is only in the early stages but I am excited to keep developing it and to see where it goes.
As much as I love London, I think the North is a wonderful place for the kids to grow up and this is where I see myself carving out a career. I think the digital age is bringing more and more opportunities to the North and I hope to take advantage of them once I graduate next year.
My advice to anyone thinking of going to university as a mature student is to go for it. You will surprise yourself, with the things you can achieve.