Over the past eighteen months or so, some colleagues and I have been working on a very important project. To give you some background, mental health issues and even suicide are at high levels within the veterinary profession, a profession of which I am proud to be a part. Far too often it seems we lose a colleague to suicide. It may be someone I went to university with, someone whose name I’ve heard through other colleagues or maybe a vet who I’ve never known of but who has walked a similar professional path to me.
Is it that the profession naturally draws those who have an extremely sensitive aspect to their personality, which then predisposes them to depression and other mental health illnesses? Or is it that aspects of the profession, such as social isolation, poor financial return combined with a hefty university debt and the physical, emotional and intellectual drain of the job that drives the problem? In my opinion, it is likely a combination of all these factors. Whatever it is, it seems that those who look after our furry family members may need a little help looking after themselves.
With the lovely Anne from Small Animal Talk and a couple of our colleagues, and with the help of the Centre for Veterinary Education, we have put together the Vet Cookbook. It contains over 100 uncomplicated, tried and tested recipes from members and friends of the veterinary community in Australia and worldwide. But the Vet Cookbook is not just a Cookbook. It also contains personal stories from those who have been through hard times and kept going, to tell their tales. It contains essays on mental health, gentle snippets of advice on how not to sweat the small stuff and how to manage stress, and some downright funny ramblings. It is a symbol of collaboration, collegiality and a profession coming together. Apart from making a great Christmas present, any profits will be used to fund a resource to promote better mental health among the veterinary profession.
One more thing before we get to the recipe, one of mine from the Vet Cookbook and perfect for last minute Christmas gifting if you haven’t managed to get it all together yet this yet (Note: If you haven’t this is ok). People like to refer to depression as the Black Dog. In our line of work, black dogs are patients…..to be nurtured, cuddled and made comfortable. So let’s call it what it is. It is depression, a mental illness, which can be as crippling as any physical illness.
Let’s call it what it is, let’s look it straight in the eye and let’s say “We see you, we know you have lessons to teach. But you can’t have any more of us. Not now, not ever.”
These granola bars come with a mood-boosting guarantee. They won’t solve all your problems, but in one study, 97.5% of subjects experienced increased serotonin levels and wider smiles after eating one of these*. They are packed with mood-boosting omega 3 fatty acids, zinc and magnesium in the form of flaxseeds, sunflower seeds and oats. Also, all the good fats in the pistachios, seeds and tahini will help sustain you and hopefully keep you away from sugar-laden treats.
Oh, and chocolate. There is no explanation needed for chocolate.
*This study never happened. But these bars are still pretty darn good.
The Vet Cookbook can be ordered within Australia through http://www.cve.edu.au/vet-cookbook while stocks last.
Pistachio, Fig and Happiness Granola Bars (or Granola)
¾ cup pistachio kernels, roughly chopped
1/3 cup sunflower seeds
1/3 cup flaxseeds
1 ½ cup rolled oats (or spelt oats)
8-9 dried figs, diced as small as possible
80-90 good quality dark chocolate, roughly chopped
1-2 tsp cinnamon powder
1 tsp vanilla powder or paste
½ cup tahini
¼ cup honey
Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Spread oats, sunflower seeds, flaxseeds and chopped pistachios out on 2-3 oven trays and toast in the oven for 8-10min or until all the ingredients start to gain some colour. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
Once cooled, place all the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl and toss well. Add the wet ingredients and stir to coat.
You now have a choice- granola or granola bars. To make granola, crumble the mixture in a single layer on a couple of oven trays and bake for around 10-12 minutes, until the ingredients have dried out and gained some colour.
To make granola bars, spread the mixture out in a shallow oven dish and pack down to a 2cm thick layer. Bake for about 20min, until the mixture has dried out a bit, is holding together and is gaining some colour. Remove from oven and leave to cool. Using a sharp knife, slice into small bars of whatever dimensions you would like.
Distribute liberally among friends and colleagues. Keep a couple in your locker as snacks on those days when you are too inundated with work to have lunch.