0

Pizza for Days: All You Can Eat Pizza at Rub Smokehouse

This week has been one of unending rain courtsey of the British summer and pathetic-ness on my behalf because a cold smacked me round the head on Monday and showed no sign of lifting. But there was a bright spot admist the torrential downpour – along with Bite Your Brum, Caramel Latte Kiss and Miss Pond, on Wednesday I headed to Rub Smokehouse on Broad Street for All You Can Eat Pizza.

I was picturing an old school Pizza Hut style buffet where you go and help yourself, but that’s mostly because that’s what I long for every time I go get pizza. At the Rub Smokehouse event, by booking in advance for £12.95 per person, you could have as many slices of pizza as you wanted in an hour and a half. Served one slice at a time, the record eaten is 20 slices. Beat it and you could win £100 in vouchers for Rub Smokehouse.

DSC00623

The Mad Korean in all its glory

I’m sure you’re sad to hear I didn’t set the record, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t eat a lot of pizza. The Nacho Cheese Monster was my favourite. With salsa, mozzarella, smoked applewood cheddar, sour cream, fresh cheese, crushed cheese nachos and cheese sauce, it was weirdly delicious, despite of or possibly because of the sheeer amount of cheese and cheese related products on it. The Mad Korean was definitely a closer runner up though. Decked out with pulled BBQ pork, spring onions, sesame seeds, kimchi, chilli, mozzarella and prawn cracker dust, it tasted more like a traditional pizza than the Nacho Cheese Monster. Not sure I could have eaten more than two slices thought – some combination of the ingredients meant two was definitely enough.

DSC00629

Idaho State Fair looking great

The Idaho State Fair tasted exactly like a hot dog, which was confusing for my tastebuds, but not really surprising when you consider the toppings were frankfurter, dill pickles, french mustard and keetchup base and buffalo sauce popcorn. Yes, it had popcorn on it too. Was really reminiscent of eating something from every food van at the fun fair, but I’m not sure the popcorn added anything.

DSC00639

Katsu Curry on pizza. What will they think of next?

Katsu Chick Flick was my least favourite, though by the time it came to me, I was probably suffering from a case of over pizza-ing. With Japanese curry sauce, mini chicken nuggets, pickled ginger mozzarella and crushed spicy rice crackers, I felt like the curry sauce was over powering and too much for a pizza. I love katsu curry, but I don’t think it needs the addition of pizza dough.

DSC00621

Delicious, delicious cheetos

However, Mac n Cheetos was an unexpected win. Combining mac n cheese on a pizza with cheetos and mozzarella sounded like it wass going to be awful, but turned out to be surprisingly good. I really enjoyed the addition of Cheetos to pizza, and strrongly recommend you try adding wotsits to your margherita.

Despite walking down Broad Street on my way home, I’d never noticed Rub Smokehouse before but now I know it’s there I’m anxious to go back. The portion sizes are huge, the staff were all super lovely and the interior design is very Americana. It’s definitely one for when you’re in need of something  unhealthy – they serve their ice cream in a sink guys, there’s so much of it – but we all need delicious, ridiculous food combinations sometimes. And also they have yorkshire pudding burritos. Roll on Sunday Lunch.

I was a guest at Rub Smokehouse, eating all the pizza I could manage in exchange for a blog post (which you’ve just read). My opinions are entirely my own, and honest as always. 

0

Sworn Virgin by Elvira Dones

I picked up Sworn Virgin at least three years ago, at Daunt Books in London, because it looked interesting and I didn’t want to leave such a nice bookshop without a book. Fast forward a while, and I finally got round to reading it. Turns out that once I actually started it, I couldn’t put it down.

DSC00587

I’m milking my sweet peas for pretty pictures until they are no more

Sworn Virgin by Elvira Dones is the story of Hana Dodes, an Albanian woman, who, for traditional, cultural and personal reasons chooses, as a young woman, to live as a man. But years later, she moves to America and chooses to start living as a woman again. The novel follows two time lines – the present day, beginning with Hana on a flight to the States, and the past, following her life as a university student leading up to her deciding to live as a man.

Originally written in Italian, my copy of Sworn Virgin was translated by Clarissa Botsford. It’s a measured translation, care taken over the words used, and it feels as if the translator and author have thought as much about how to tell Hana’s story as Hana thinks about how to live her live throughout the book.

The present day story line follows Hana trying to shed her male life, while clinging to the familiarity of it, while also contending with the culture of America which is new to her and so different from what she has so far experienced in her life. Immigration stories are always interesting, and I find they encourage me to look at the culture I live in a little differently, to questions things that have always seemed to be how life is and explore whether they should be that way.

The novel is an interesting look at gender and gender inequality, focusing on Albanian traditions and culture. When I initially picked it up, I thought it was about trans issues. However, as Hana chooses to live as a man for cultural reasons rather than as an expression of her gender identity, I didn’t read her as trans or gender fluid, but rather as a cis woman, who was unhapppy living as a man but had no other choice. That said, I feel that sentiments and issues expressed throughout the book about gender identity could be similar thoughts and experiences of those in the trans and/or gender fluid communities. And, on reading Sworn Virgin, you could disagree with me and read Hana as trans or gender fluid. As no definitive label is put on Hana’s gender identity, you can read this novel in whatever light you choose.

Normally I rush through books, but how considered every aspect of this novel was slowed me down, and while I wanted to know how Hana’s story played out, I was also wanted to savour every page. I’d definitely recommend Sworn Virgin if you’re looking for a measured look at how society shapes and defines our gender, as well as an expertly navigated immigration story.

I bought Sworn Virgin out of my own pocket back when I was a poor student. All opinions are mine, so if you agree, disagree or just want to talk more about what I’ve said, drop me a comment. 

0

Time for Tea: Melbourne Breakfast

Tea is a big deal in my house. If you can remember my post about my new house, I talked about how much tea we had. That hasn’t changed. Well…actually, the numbers gone up.

20170709_172503

So. Much. Tea

So, I was going to do a whole blog post about my favourite teas. And while it would have meant being able to make, like, 8 cups of tea in one go for some very pretty photos, it’s way too warm for that. And so this is the start of a series that probably doesn’t have a end about my favourite teas.

20170709_170721

I introduce you to: Melbourne Breakfast

Melbourne Breakfast entered my life, courtsey of a friend who served it at her house. It was a++, exactly what was needed after casual drinks in the nearby pub. Then it came into my house via Beth, who bought me some for my birthday.

It’s sold by Tea2 as bags and as loose leaf tea. You can get in in bright yellow cubes of 25 bags or 100g or in large foil packs or tins of 60 bags or 250g. Beth bought me a gift cube of it, and we drank all of it in a week and a half.

20170502_111203 (2)

It’s so bright. I love it.

The description says ‘A deep and warming tea with a hint of sweetness, reminiscient of Melbourne. Full bodied with vanilla notes. An essential tea.’ I think that’s pretty bang on, though I’ve never been to Melbourne so can’t speak to that. I love this tea because its comforting. And because it’s part vanilla, it’s perfect morning, noon and night.

I think how fast me and Beth drank it when we first had it in our house speaks for itself. Oh, and one of our friends came over that week, tried it too, loved it so much that she went and bought some for herself. Legit good tea.

Was not sponsored in any way to make this post. The cup of it I drank while writing this post was made from teabags I bought – I just really love Melbourne Breakfast tea.

2

Pieminister Gets My Vote

I’d heard about Pieminister. My friends had sung its praises, my girlfriend has often sighed at pie we’ve bought, saying it’s just not Pieminister, and then we also own their cookbook ‘A Pie for All Seasons’, from which delicious pies have been made. But I’d never actually been to a Pieminister.

Hipster looking shop with views of the Town Hall

This all changed today, when Beth took me out to celebrate my new job. (I work in tech now guys – any women or LGBTQ+ people in tech advice, hit me up.) And so, with a Pieminister recently opened in Brum, we went. And man, it was not oversold. At all.

20170702_133117

View of the Town Hall was A++

With all kinds of pie, from beef to chicken to vegetarian and even gluten free, you’re not short of options. Unless you’re vegan. With only one main option that isn’t even a pie, it might not be everything you want from a pie joint if you’re vegan. All names are puns and everything sounds delicious – which is my kind of restaurant. And all pies come with gravy. Our waitress was very clear on that, which I fully appreciate.

When you’ve picked your pie, then you can pick your meal type. Classic, Mothership, Feast or Stick ‘Em Up – all of which come with varying amounts of sides or sticks (kebabs skewers with either pigs in blankets, onion rings or halloumi).

20170702_133649.jpg

Gotta love a flat lay esque photo

I went for the Free Ranger (chicken, ham, leek and thyme), with mash, garden peas with chilli and a stick of pigs in blankets. Beth had the Chicken of Aragon, with mash, minted mushy peas and a stick of pigs in bankets.

20170702_133645

Food for the eyes as well as the stomach

It was gorgeous. Not only was the presentation lovely, but it tasted delicious. The pie was everything pie should be. If I had to describe the epitome of a pie, it would be the pie I had at Pieminister. Both kinds of pea were great, and the pigs in blankets were exactly right.

20170702_133822

I was trying to be arty with gravy

All of the staff were super lovely, and the service was good. Oh, and on Sundays, cocktails are two for one. I thoroughly enjoyed Pieminister, totally see what all the hype was about. I’ll be going back as soon as I can. Next time you’re dreaming of pie, this is the place to go.

0

Queer and Now

On Saturday, Tate Britain held an event called Queer and Now, launching Pride in London for 2017. They’ve also currently got an exhibition called Queer British Art 1861-1967, which is on until 1st October. All in all, it promised to be a fantastic day, and me and Beth headed down to London.

DSC00572

Right queer, right now

A note on the use of Queer: Tate Britain outlined in the Queer and Now programme that ‘the word queer has been used both as a term of abuse and by LGBTQ+ people to refer to themselves from the end of the 19th century onwards. Queer and Now is inspired by its usage as an inclusive, fluid term for people of different sexualites and gender identities, and as a way of expressing ways of being in the world that don’t conform to the established norms’. Please be aware that I use queer throughout this post to refer to the LGBTQ+ community, as I both use it to refer to my identity as a bisexual woman in a relationship with a woman and it was part of an event called Queer and Now. However, I feel it’s important to acknowledge that while queer has been reclaimed by some members of the community but not every member of the LGBTQ+ community is happy to use queer, so it’s always worth talking to members of the community about how they would like to be referred to.

DSC00577

The size of a giant wall this was

First thing we did was go round Queer British Art 1861-1967. Starting, as you might expect, in 1861 it chronicles art created by people confirmed or believed to be queer, which was often of people confirmed or believed to be queer. My favourite rooms were Blooomsbury And Beyond, which focused on the Bloomsbury group – a set of artists and writers whose gender identities and sexualities spanned the full LGBTQ+ spectrum, and the Defying Convention room, which focused on how gender norms were challenged in the late 19th and early 20th century, particularly by women* and non binary people.

These rooms in particular, but also the rooms before them, tried to be representative past white gay cisgender men, including several women, trans men and nonbinary individuals. Most notably, the self portrait used in the promtional material for the exhibit is of Gluck, whose name, as stated by the artist, is to be used with “no prefix, suffix, or quotes” and resigned from an art society when this wasn’t followed. However, there was little racial diversity throughout the exhibit, and the final three rooms, as far as I saw, focused on cis men, as if the rest of the queer community stopped produing art in the early 20th century. The exhibition also had a real problem with deadnaming trans and nonbinary people. (Deadnaming is when when a trans person’s birth name is referred to either in addition to or instead of their chosen name.)

As exhibits go, it was so great to see myself represented in art, and to have this representation explicitly referred to in the signs next to the art. Some of the pieces in the exhibit were on loan from Birmingham Art Gallery, and I have seen them several times, never knowing they were part of queer art history. However, while I could see myself represented, there was still huge swathes of the community who were not. As I said earlier, the racial diversity in the displayed art was poor, women disappeared from the exhibit past the early 20th century and I imagine it must be upsetting for trans and non binary people to see themselves in the art, only for the artists identities to be disrepected in the contextual writing. I’d still recommend the exhibit, as the sheer joy of being in a space where queer artists were allowed to be queer was exhilirating, but as a white woman, I do speak from a position of relative privilege in being able to see myself in the art shown.

DSC00578

Solid sign this is. To the point, I like it

While we were in Queer British Art,  Queer and Now got off to a swinging start, and when we came out of the exhibit the gallery was busy. All the activites were free, some were explicitly family friendly, and the variety on offer was incredible. From LGBTQ+ vendors at the pop up esty store, to performance art to make up workshops to talks about queer history, there really was something for everyone.

We learnt about queer convicts in Australia before we headed to The O Show on female masculinity. Hosted by Oriana Fox, this was a chat show style talk about the expression of female masculinity. Guests included Lucy Hutson, a performance artist, Temi Wilkey, actor and drag king who co-runs Pecs, a Drag King collective, and Del LaGrace Volcano, an international photographer who has referred to themselves as a ‘part-time gender terrorist’.

Drag King Cole (Temi Wilkey) and Thrustin Limbersnake (Lauren Steele), two Drag Kings of the Pecs collective, performed a lip sync, which was incredible. The discussion on female masculinity was really interesting, and two days later I’m still thinking about issues discussed. But, in all honesty, the thing that has most stuck with me was Temi’s solo performance as Drag King Cole, which was about police brutality against the black community in Britain and the USA. I’d never realised how political drag could be and how it could be used to make such a powerful statement. The room was silent when she’d finished, as well it should have been.

As the day turned into evening, there were several DJ sets beginning, but after so much to think about (how much do I subscribe to traditional gendered dressing, if I have kids how do I raise them in this society while being aware that the gender binary is a harmful contruct, where is my closest drag king night), we headed home for Birmingham.

It was glorious to be in such a queer coded space. It felt more queer coded than Pride, and that’s saying something. Coming back into the real world was a bit of a shock, especially when a stag do took over our train carriage on the way home, but I feel buoyed up by my queer Saturday in London. We have always existed. We produce art, we form academic theory, we hold hands and kiss in art galleries. We exist.

DSC00580

Love happens here

*To confirm, whenever I say women, I include trans women.

2

Bats, Bees and Chutney

This weekend I was at the Good Food Show and Gardeners’ World Live at the NEC in Birmingham. Last November I was at the Autumn Good Food Show, so I had some idea of what to expect. Or so I thought.

It was so much bigger than I expected. Not only had it taken over several halls, but outside was teeming with people and stalls and flowers too, and it all looked a lot like the Malvern Show. In short, it was going to be a great day.

DSC00337

Do love a good floral marquee

And it was pretty incredible. Food samples, interesting plants and lots of lovely people happy to talk to us about the best way to keep our herbs alive. There was a lot of great stuff at the show, so I’m going to list my favourite bits, otherwise I’ll ramble on about everything. And I do love a list.

  1. Tracklements

The packagaing for Tracklements is what drew me over – there’s something about it that caught my eye. I think it’s the modern take on a traditional looking label. When I realised it was mostly chutneys, my heart sank a little, because I’d bounded over quite excited but I don’t really like chutney.

DSC00498

Proper eye-catching packaging

Reader, I bought some. I tried their beetroot and horseradish relish and it was incredible. I walked away still thinking about it and had to come back later because I was still thinking about it. Would highly reccommend.

2. The MS Society ‘A Journey to Hope’ Garden

Gardener’s World Live even had show gardens. The MS Society’s Garden was gorgeous and accessible, something that a lot of beautiful gardens don’t seem to consider.

DSC00516

Being such a popular garden, it was difficult to get a photo without people in it

Aiming to raise awareness for the 100,000 people who live with MS in the UK and the work of their support groups, the garden was a big hit. And in the leaflets telling you about the garden, there were gardening tips for people with MS, to help those with MS work out a way they can still enjoy their garden.

3. Ecotalk

Powered by green energy, Ecotalk is a mobile phone company, who use their profits to buy up land in order to give it back to nature. I got talking to them because they had houses for solitary bees on their stall, and bees are their main focus right now. And saving the bees is a big deal.

4. The APL Avenue Artemis Landscapes ‘Living in Sync’ garden

This was my favourite part of Gardeners’ World Live. Designed to be wildlife friendly in conjunction with Wonderful Wildlife, this garden was a front garden with as many wildlife friendly elements as possible. Bug towers, bird and bat boxes and plenty of bee friendly flowers.

It was gorgeous and is my new garden goal.

5. Bat Conservation Trust

Our garden’s pretty bee and butterfly friendly now, which is a big mission accomplished. Pretty much at all time there’s at least 2 bees buzzing around. So next step is to encourage more wildlife. And who better than bats?

The most common bats in the UK are the pipistrelle and aren’t very big, which means you can easily make a bat box for them to roost in. The Bat Conservation trust had some very lovely people on their stand, who were more than happy to talk to us and ply us with information about how to help bats. I think our next job is finding somewhere to put a bat box.

I went to the Good Food Show and Gardener’s World Live as a member of the press with a press pass (which, ngl, was very exciting). All opinions are my own. 

0

A Gardener’s Paradise

Last weekend, me and Beth spent the day in glorious sunshine in Malvern. And this was no ordinary day out – this was the RHS Malvern Spring Festival. A paradise for all those with plant growning inclinations.

We bought quite a lot of plants. If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll have seen work in progress on our garden. There’s a post planned eventually when it’s all finished, but in the mean time, let me show you things other people grew.

1. Community Farms

The first place we checked out were the community farms. Growing huge amounts of crops flowers in small raised beds to show off what you can do with a bit of faith and work, this was really interesting.

We’re trying our hand at gorwing all kinds of veg and bee friendly plants this year, so it was really hopeful to see so many different kinds of vegetables and wildflowers thriving together.

2. The National Sweet Pea Society

I love sweet peas. They’re my grandma’s favourite flower and they remind me of summer. So I was thrilled to discover that a) there’s a national society of sweet pea and b) that they had a fantastic stand in the Floral Marquee.

20170514_162808.jpg

I’m hoping mine end up looking like this

I ended up buying one of the displays and they’ve looked glorious in the house. Here’s hoping the one’s in our front garden grow to be half as lovely as these.

3. School Show Gardens

Malvern has show gardens that attract various famous names to try their hand at creating. But they also run a school show garden competition, and as the theme was space, I was so more intriuged by these.

All of the entries were great, each of them with a different take on the space theme. I was kind of hoping one of them would just be rows and rows of potatoes a la The Martian, but thankfully, kids are more inventive than I am

4. My Visible Object

I discovered My Visible Object at the Malvern Autumn Show last year, where I bought a leaf that read ‘Tis now the very witching hour of night’. I’ve been planning to hang it up outside ever since. I’ve finally picked a place for it (in the honeysuckle) and am just waiting for the rain to stop so I can go hang it up.

20170518_220235.jpg

I’m a big be-leaf-er in garden art

This year, I was determined. I was going to buy some art for the garden. It didn’t have to be from My Visible Object, but I was going to get something. I ended up walking away with another leaf as well as a blossoming cow parsley.

20170518_082353

Cow parsley in the rain

I love My Visible Object. While Beth loves putting plants in the garden, I’m more into the design aspect, putting art in the garden that complements and enhances. And My Visible Object creates art that helps me do just that – and at very reasonable prices too

 

The Malvern Show was a fantastic day out. Plants, sun and ice cream. What could be better?