Monday, 23 January 2017

'Morality is not relative. It's a universal truth'

I came across this video by a Los Angeles-based spoken word poet which he self-shot to address 'an aspect of #notmypresident that he finds a little ironic'. It made me quite sad. It already has 6.7 million viewers, 46k likers and 134k sharers probably reveling in his mindset...

1. Chelsea Handler: "far more crude than Donald Trump could ever dream to be". She's talking about sex in an open, realistic way in the mainstream. Writing it off as 'crude' is society telling women they should be ladylike and not be openly sexual. We're starting to tiptoe away from this because of women like her who show you don't have to keep the fact that women like to have sex a secret! Although she's particularly provocative, it sets men and women in the right direction.

2. Examples of Beyonce's lyrics: Yuuge difference here is that she's *not* talking about sexually assaulting or touching people without their consent! She's being open about sex and showing that she has fun with it. Again, this guy puts a woman down for that. While the lyrics are typically 'crude' (the bible one is a bit bizarre but just a provocative metaphor, which presumably he cherry-picked as being offensive because of his personal religious views), and certainly not appropriate for teens, she also does a fair bit of good for the face of black pride and feminism (and hence women's rights) in mainstream culture. Isn't it good in the long run that it's becoming acceptable for women to openly talk about sex?

3. This guy strongly infers that people who have a silly/immature sense of humour are immoral people! My friends and I are moralistic, educated, respectful people - that isn't mutually exclusive to loving a good willy joke/fart joke! People like Sausage Party and SNL because it's entertainment/surreal/silly, not because it's real life/to do with the future of every person in the country/about a man who is genuinely going to be 'the leader of the free world'! It's just light-hearted escapism for us: Marx's idea of "the opiate of society". Drawing this comparison is reductive and, ironically, immature.

4. "Swearing, playing video games and making jokes about genitals" is NOT talking about sexually assaulting other people, therefore not equivalent to Trump's locker-room talk. Again: reductive and irrelevant comparison.

5. Not recycling IS so categorically more immoral than porn! He talks about porn like it's presumed to be a horrendous act of immorality. Is a healthy penchant for porn going to slowly ruin the earth?! No. It's such a positive thing that American teenagers understand the real issues facing them and future generations. Porn can be perfectly healthy, but a large and repressive chunk of society, and people such as this guy, make any men or women who choose to watch it feel like they should be ashamed. Friends unknowingly perhaps made it a little bit more acceptable to be openly sexual in the mainstream. (Disclaimer: I obviously don't mean porn that focuses on rape, abuse or sexualising children here.)

6. What he says in the longer description about religion infers that religious people = good people and atheists = evil. This is something I'm always surprised by in mainstream American culture compared to in the UK/Europe, but people who think this have seemingly never heard of humanism (nor the people who believe humanistic values but don't realise they're humanist).

I do agree with the bit in the description about Bill Clinton and moral relativism. People now see him as cute/funny (see: balloons) and seem to have forgotten he cheated and plainly lied about it.

'Morality is not relative. It's a universal truth.' - This guy perfectly illustrates multiple times in this video how hypocritical his statement is. He talks about HIS backwards-thinking and old-fashioned version of morality. It wouldn't surprise me coming from much older generations in the bible belt in America, for example. It's a real shame that young people, who for the sanity and good of the country should be heading towards being more socially progressive, are reprimanding those who are open about sex, when they should be prioritising sorting their cardboards from their plastics.

Friday, 24 June 2016

BBC Look North Referendum Special

I've spent the last couple of months working as a researcher on an EU referendum special. I've been speaking to some incredibly interesting people from both sides of the debate about their views. What resulted was a feisty debate with some interesting points and a very impassioned panel...

Monday, 11 January 2016

DFDS Seaways: Beers of Europe

Home > Inspire Me > Food & drink > Fancy a pint


Europeans certainly know their beers. With world-class breweries in Holland, Germany and Belgium, beer connoisseurs with a passion for exciting tipples or those just looking to try something new can enjoy tastings, tours and festivals with enough variety to keep you coming back for more.


It is said that beer is to Belgium what wine is to France​, and with their own patron saint of beer casting a watchful eye over the country's 150 breweries, it's safe to say that beer is as ingrained into Belgian culture as chocolate or chips. In fact, many of Belgium's 650 different beer varieties have their own specifically-designed glasses which enhance the flavour of their contents.​


If you want to know the difference between the making of a Kriek and Lambic, many breweries give an insight into the process with tastings and tours. Take a trip to Timmermanns brewery just outside of Brussels or the Brasserie d'Achouffe in the heart of the Ardennes. The Duvel Moortgat brewery, halfway between Antwerpand Brussels, offers degustation sessions with a beer sommelier as well as lessons on how to pour the perfect beer. The brewery has recently opened the unique Duvelorium Grand Beer Café in Bruges' historic Grote Markt, where visitors can sample the best beers Belgium has to offer including Vedett, Liefmans and De Koninck. ​

​Trappist monasteries

Belgium is well known for breweries steeped in rich tradition stemming from the Middle Ages. Practice one of Belgium's divine rites of passage by sampling beers brewed within the country's six authentic Trappist monasteries. Although the brewing monks work in peace so do not accept visitors, you can watch the Achel brewers at work from the on-site tavern whilst sipping the freshly-poured fruits of their labour, or visit Orval's brewery museum and walking trail. ​​


The country is renowned for its all-year-round beer festivals: from Antwerp's Modeste Bierfestival to the prestigious Belgian Beer Weekend held every September in the Grand Marché in Brussels. Just like Belgium itself, their beer is surprising, exciting and anything but bland.


You can say "auf wiedersehen" to boring beer when visiting Europe's biggest brewer. The Germans have one of the world's highest per-capita consumption rates in the world and are renowned for their friendly and sociable drinking culture.​

Brewing tradition

Germany's brewing tradition means that it is home to some of the oldest bars and breweries in the world. The Weihenstephan Brewery can lay claim to the title of the world's oldest brewery, and is still open to visitors to this day. Germany also has 2 of the oldest bars on the continent, Hofbrauhaus and Brauhaus Sion, which both produce eponymous beers.


Each year, Germany plays host to the world-renowned Oktoberfest in the Bavarian beer capital of Munich, attended by millions of stein-swigging punters from far and wide. The Hanover event is the second largest Oktoberfest in Germany, with official 'Oktoberfestbier' brewed traditionally with the notoriously strong alcohol content. If you fancied a slightly more off-the-beaten-track festival experience, why not head to one of the stops of the travelling Bierbörse festival, where you'll have your pick of over 500 tipples in city centre venues such as Cologne​, Bonn, and Düsseldorf.​​

Cologne and Dusseldorf

Beers from German breweries guarantee quality, thanks to brewers taking years to perfect their art: take the delicate and refreshing Kölsch beer - protected by law so that only beers brewed in and around the Cologne can bear the name. There is also plenty of brewing heritage to soak up in nearby Düsseldorf. Take a guided tour around the traditional Uerige brewery or opt for the Zum Schlüssel experience - both of which include, of course, a sample of their beer.​


While it may not enjoy the same reputation for quality beer as its immediate neighbours, Belgium and Germany, Holland is still home to a number of famous breweries and bars. The city also maintains a relaxed, easy-going drinking culture, with canal-side cafes and classically-Dutch pubs galore. 


Holland's most famous export is, of course, Heineken. The Heineken Experience in Amsterdam is one of the Dutch capital's biggest tourist attractions but is by no means the only brewery worth visiting in Holland. Visit Brouwerij 't IJ – also in Amsterdam – and enjoy sampling beer before sitting down to a drink and a meal at the outdoor restaurant. The Limburg region of Amsterdam was once home to 512 breweries, but today only a few remain. The most famous of these is the Alfa brewery, still family-owned and with a serious dedication to quality. Visit the brewery for a museum tour, tasting session and film.


The PINT Bokkbier Festival is the biggest and arguably the best beer festival in the Netherlands. Taking place in late October each year, the festival hosts over 50 types of beer to sample. 2015 also sees the first ever Craft Beer Festival taking place in Enschede, with a number of locally-brewed craft beers available to buy, sample and generally enjoy.​​​

DFDS Seaways: Cheeses of Europe

Home > Inspire Me > Food & drink > Cheese


Between Holland and France, western Europe can lay claim to two of the most famous cheese-producing countries in the world. Whether you’re partial to brie, edam, gouda or camembert.​


With over 40 cheeses with an 'Appellation d'origine contrôlée' label, or legal stamp of approval of geographical origin, France's pride when it comes to cheese is unbeaten. The country's varying 'terroirs' yield world-class Bries, Camemberts, and Epoisses amongst hundreds more. With such a rich heritage of regional production, there are plenty of cheese-based things to see and do (and taste) around the country.

Tucked away near Montmartre is one of Paris' best cheese experiences: L'Affineur' Affiné restaurant and cheese shop offers stunning cheeseboards which change daily depending on what is fresh or perfectly matured. Each cheese is explained along with a recommendation of the order in which to eat them, giving a personal touch to your tasting. Indulge yourself by sharing a fondue at Pain Vin Fromages in Le Marais, a restaurant dedicated to cheese-based recipes including some seasonal artisanal specials.

Tantalize your tastebuds at one of Paris' many bountiful cheese counters: a spectacle in themselves, brimming with pungent cave-aged Roqueforts and nutty Comtés. Possibly the most beautiful fromagerie in the city is Barthélémy, where you can ogle the country's stunningly varied produce. Give in to temptation at traditional cheesemaker Pascal Beillevaire's shops, of which there are over a dozen around the city centre, before soaking up the sights and smells of the cheese stalls at one of Paris' biggest outdoor markets: Marché Bastille.​


It's nice to learn a little about the history and traditions of the regional cheeses you're eating, which you can find at the quaint Camembert Museum in Vimoutiers, Normandy - focussing on, you guessed it, one of France's most loved exports.


The country's passion for cheese is evident through its many dedicated cheese festivals, ranging from the traditional festivities of the small town of Neufchâtel to the Fête du Fromage in Touffreville-sur-Eu, close to our port at Dieppe.


The Dutch passion for good "kaas" is contagious: their beloved Gouda and Edam won't ever be far away with eateries serving up delicious cheese-based dishes and snacks no matter what the time of day.


If you want to seek out a snapshot of the history of the products that the Netherlands is so well known for, then the free entry Amsterdam Cheese Museum offers just this. With an insight into the cheese-making process and free samples to your heart's delight, it's a must-see for cheese-lovers. For a true taste of local culture and an impressive selection of Dutch cheeses, take a stroll around Amsterdam's lively open-air food markets. Find the best stalls and eateries at the monthly Neighbourfood Market centrally located at the Westergasfabriek, or the Nieuwmarkt organic market on a Saturday.​

Henri Willig discount​

DFDS Seaways customers can make the most of a 10% discount at Henri Willig​ shops, so whether you're looking for a luxury hand-made souvenir or treating yourself to a wheel of delectable cheese, just show your booking confirmation at the check-out. Alternatively taste 4 cheeses and enjoy 2 glasses of wine or beer at Henri Willig in the centre of Amsterdam with our cheese-tasting offer. To book a cheese tasting, simply add it to your booking online.​


Find Holland's most famous eponymous cheese in Edam, a small town just a short drive to the east coast of Holland from our port in IJmuiden. Here you will find the weekly Edam Cheese Market over summer, where their heritage is strongly upheld with traders bringing their cheese by boat and aided by cheese carriers in traditional attire.


Gouda’s cheese market is legendary in Holland. Held during the spring and summer, the market is one of the few traditional cheese markets left in the country. These days it fulfils a touristic purpose as well as its traditional purpose of allowing local farmers to get their produce out to sell. ​

Monday, 23 November 2015

Buzzfeed: Parmos

We Tried To Track Down The Best Parmo In Teesside

Just as Naples has pizza, Teesside has the parmo.
Jenny Chang/ BuzzFeed
A Teessider is always met with the same question on revealing the origin of their distinctive North Eastern accent: “Isn’t that where those parmo things are from?” This mythical dish of the smoggy gods that they’re referring to is a delicacy the area has become synonymous with. Just as Naples has pizza and Paris has escargots, Teesside has this elusive slab of calorific comfort food.
This strange and scrumptious talisman was until recently thought of as merely a snack to soak up booze, but things are changing on the Tees. We embarked on a quest to the North East to find out what the fuss is all about…
Emily Davison /
Emily Davison /
With a history tainted by rumours, the parmo (“chicken parmesan” to its mum) was most likely born out of the area in the late 1950s as a variation on European dishes like veal parmigiana. It’s fairly simple – a breadcrumbed hunk of chicken in thick béchamel sauce, topped with a healthy smothering of gooey cheese – but every Teesside chef has their own spin. Almost anyone who’s graced the watering holes of Middlesbrough, Yarm, Redcar, or Stockton has ended their evening by completing the Teesside rite of passage at the nearest takeaway counter.
Stockton-on-Tees even hosts an annual world championships devoted to the parmo, which is judged by perhaps the most knowledgeable and experienced parmo experts in Teesside (so I’m going out on a limb and saying the whole world), Craig Dobson and Stephen Bliss: the Parmo Hunters.
Emily Davison /
Emily Davison /
The Parmo Hunters met as skateboarding teens 15 years ago, and on finding a mutual passion for the dish, started up what was initially a self-confessed“daft” Facebook page to review the offerings of local takeaways and restaurants. They gained 2,000 followers in the first day, and are now theguide to Teesside’s favourite dish. With 17,000 readers, a new app in the works, and an office painted like an actual parmo, there’s probably no one better equipped to take us on a tasting tour.
According to Dobson, rule one of a good parmo is fresh ingredients. “Nevertrust a round one,” he tells me with a wizened shake of the head. “You just wouldn’t get a perfectly round butterflied chicken that’s also fresh.” And its namesake cheesy topping? “Even though they’re called chicken parmesans, they very rarely contain any actual parmesan,” Bliss says. “But it does need to be good cheese, not cheap greasy stuff. We had one so greasy the box collapsed!” It’s also traditional to have a side of garlic sauce and a token sprig of salad – although that tends to remain untouched with these guys.
So, we’ve picked out parmo joints across Teesside, from hipster healthfood in Boro to good old takeaway scran in Redcar, and we’ll learn from the masters along the way. Grab your plastic knives and forks – we’re honorary Parmo Hunters for the day.

1. The Classic Parmo at Borge, Stockton

1. The Classic Parmo at Borge, Stockton
Emily Davison /
The Hunters are setting the bar high for the first parmo on our tasting tour – they assure me Borge in Stockton is the best. The restaurant’s head chef emerges from the kitchen proudly holding a considerably large plate in one hand and his winning trophy for the Parmo World Championships 2014 (restaurant category – yes, there’s more than one category) in the other.
Emily Davison /
Emily Davison /
“Parmos have a reputation as something people only eat when they’re drunk after a night out, but so many restaurants are selling them now,” Dobson says, tucking into layers of crunchy breadcrumbs, juicy oven-baked chicken, and secret-recipe béchamel. “The game is always being upped.”
Emily Davison /
Emily Davison /
Even though Borge is an Italian restaurant, its parmo is a bestseller – and it’s easy to see why. The Hunters polish off their hefty portions despite my reminders that they have a fair few more to fit in before the end of the day.
Parmo Hunters rating: “Five stars out of five, always.”

2. The Healthy Parmo at Nosh, Middlesbrough

Emily Davison /
Emily Davison /
After years of taste-testing countless indulgent recipes (including a chocolate-topped parmo – hmmm) a skinny option is something Dobson and Bliss didn’t expect to pop up in Teesside. Sure enough, amongst the kale and superfood salads on the menu at new health food establishment Nosh in Middlesbrough, a low-fat parmo actually exists.
Emily Davison /
Emily Davison /
The turkey-based recipe was concocted by head chef Shary, who has previously worked in Michelin-starred restaurants and cooked for Saudi Arabian royalty – albeit probably not making this particular dish. He says the skinny option clocks up just half the fat of a regular parmo, and what’s most exciting is that itactually contains parmesan!
Emily Davison /
OK, so the whole point of the parmo is that it’s indulgent, filling, and by nature is generally eaten by people who aren’t too calorie-conscious, but Nosh has opened up the eyes of the more quinoa-leaning folk who might never have otherwise ticked that parmo box.
Parmo Hunters rating: “For those on a health kick the Parmo Hunters would go as far as rating this as 4 stars, but in the grand scheme of lovely indulgent parmos it’s only a 2. So we’ll even it out to 3 stars.”

3. The Hotshot Parmo at G’s Golden Chippy, Acklam

3. The Hotshot Parmo at G's Golden Chippy, Acklam
Emily Davison /
Any true parmo lover worth their weight in béchamel would point you towardsG’s Golden Chippy in Acklam for one of the best takeaways that side of the Tees. G’s customers love his parmos so much that one of his regulars once froze one and took it to Ibiza in their suitcase.
Emily Davison /
Emily Davison /
G himself showed us around his kitchens, pointing out where the various stages of magic happen – some of which we strictly weren’t allowed to photograph in case competitors steal his parmo secrets. It’s a serious business.
Emily Davison /
Emily Davison /
With an overwhelming menu to choose from, we decide to go back to ye olde rumoured origins of the parmo and try a pork base, which Dobson tells me is making a comeback. We mix it up with the famous Hotshot toppings: basically jalapeño, onion, and pepperoni, meaning more pizza-esque flavours – which can never be a bad thing.
The tenderloin was fresh and locally sourced, and the chips were probably the best I’ve ever tasted. “Proper chip shops are really leading the way for parmos,” the Hunters tell me.
Parmo Hunters rating: “Five stars. This guy makes parmos into an art form.”

4. The Takeaway Parmo at Medo’s, Redcar

Emily Davison /
Emily Davison /
The seaside town of Redcar is huge on parmos, and tucked away near the seafront’s 2p slot machines and ’90s arcade games is the Hunters’ regular haunt: Medo’s takeaway.
This place does a particular favourite of theirs: the J Parmo – the spiciest parmo they’ve had (but no one seems to know what the “J” stands for). “It’s got chilli paste sneaked under the béchamel and loads of heat, but still has amazing flavours,” Dobson says. “Stephen will be crying like he’s just been to see Pitch Perfect 2 after eating this!”
Emily Davison /
But do takeaway parmos usually mean cheaper ingredients than you’d find in a restaurant or pub? “They’re really getting better,” Bliss tells me, “Just like this one – it’s fresh chicken, the cheese is good, it’s not greasy, and it tastes great.”
Parmo Hunters rating: “Five stars. As long as you can handle the heat, that is.”

5. The Ready-Meal Parmo, Teesside/My House

Olivia Swash/ BuzzFeed
Olivia Swash/BuzzFeed
Jeff the Chef gave the ultimate gift to the North East when he turned Teesside’s favourite dish into a ready meal. A surprising number of big supermarkets stock them for less than a fiver each, and not even just in Teesside. He dabbled in branching out to parmo canapés, but presumably upon realising it really isn’t something that should be bite-size, stuck to the classic. The particular lady who sold me one in Sainsbury’s told me it’s one of their bestselling ready meals.
Olivia Swash/ BuzzFeed
Olivia Swash/BuzzFeed
After seeing so many delectable freshly made parmos all day, the meagre portion of chicken which met my oven mitt didn’t quite compare to the dinner-plate-sized belly-busters from earlier. But it’s a parmo you can have in for whenever you feel like one, so that’s quite exciting.
Parmo Hunter rating: The Hunters give this one two stars as “it didn’t seem great”.


Emily Davison /
Emily Davison /
Emily Davison /
After taking our tasting tour around the nooks of Teesside to seek out just what makes the parmo such a big deal, we’ve learned the ways of modern and time-honoured parmo appreciation, from firm-favourite comfort food to the family venture bringing parmos to new audiences. The Parmo Hunters have us converted.
To any Teessider, the parmo is a huge source of pride, and thanks to the area’s entrepreneurs and loyal devotees, Teesside’s best export (sorry Captain Cook and Bob Mortimer) is flourishing into its own quirky cuisine. We’ve tried just a tiny selection of the goods on offer around Teesside, and if you’re not around to sample the real deal, try making your own at home.