Tag Archives: Christmas

TESCO 7 CHEESE SELECTION PACK

7-cheese

 

Guest blog by Dan Simpson

 

A cheeseboard at Christmas is de rigueur these days, and the supermarkets want to make it easy for you by offering a convenient cheese selection pack. Why spend two minutes choosing your own cheeses from the same shelves for a lovingly custom-made cheeseboard when you can just buy this and be done with it? I’ve eaten three of these atrocities over the holidays, and I’ll tell you why.

I have attempted to write individual reviews of the seven cheeses on offer in this selection: a difficult task, given that were you to spear a bit of any of these cheeses at random, you would not be able to distinguish one from another. The box says to “Remove from refrigerator 1 hour before serving to allow flavours to develop” – though you needn’t bother, since the flavours develop like a poorly-taken low-light night-time photograph: you wonder why you even bothered in the first place.

Brie

Brie is a bad karaoke version of cheese: the coward’s Camembert. And Camembert is itself a spineless cop out in the face of Vacherin. To choose Brie is to say: I don’t know what I’m doing, and I despise taste. But we have not chosen Brie: it has been chosen for us in this box of cheese-approximations. Which is appropriate, given your decision to buy this selection in the first place.

Cheddar

Some will say that cheddar – the most popular and, yes, often blandest of British cheeses – deserves no place on a civilised cheeseboard. Those people are snobs, and wrong: an aged cheddar, full of flavoursome bite and crunchy tyrosine crystals, is a strong part of the line-up, holding its own against the blues and soft Frenches. This cheddar is not that. This is a disgrace: not just to cheddar, but to all cheese.

Red Leicester

Indistinguishable from the cheddar, aside from the highlighter-pen-neon orange.

Edam

When chewing on this theoretically hard cheese, all rubber texture and polybutadiene taste, you may be forgiven for thinking that you forgot to remove the plastic that each of these cheeses comes vacuum-sealed in. Looking down to check and realising that no, this is it, this is the experience of this cheese, it may cross your mind to fish the packaging out of the bin and eat that instead.

Stilton

This is acceptable, in the way that Stilton often is. It tastes like a blue cheese: no more, no less. Your cheese selection is in trouble if this is the best thing on offer.

Austrian smoke flavoured processed cheese

This cheese doesn’t even have a proper name, merely a description of what it is. It’s an obvious joke told by an observational comic – with a bad Austrian accent designed to cover the deficiency of thought behind it. Adding ‘Austrian’ to the name to give it some continental gravitas is a superficial marketing trick no one is fooled by. And, given what Tesco have already done to Edam and Brie here, I can’t blame the EU for wanting nothing more to do with us.

Wensleydale with Cranberries

Grow up and buy some chutneys, and allow people to decide what fruit-flavours they want with their cheese – instead of foisting dried-up bits of cranberries into our mouths, which have the consistency and appeal of dead flies.

Summary

The word ‘selection’ in this product is a lie – it implies that thought and care has gone into the choosing of these cheeses. This is a magnificent smorgasbord of sub-mediocrity, adding up to much less than the sum of their parts. A cheeseboard can be a glorious showstopper: a bountiful overflowing of colours and shapes, textures and taste. Thoughtlessly bunging out this greyed-out selection box wastes that potential, and makes a mockery of indulgence at Christmas. Am I saying that this cheese selection has the power to singlehandedly ruin Christmas? Bitter experience says: yes.

TESCO 7 CHEESE SELECTION PACK: 7/10*

*It’s still cheese, and cheese is always welcome

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FERRERO ROCHER

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Reader, I know full well what you want me to write in this blog.

You want me to go straight in on The Ambassador, don’t you.

You want me to put down on this niche blog what you’ve always wanted to express, namely this: fuck you, The Ambassador. Fuck your impeccable taste in mediocre sweetmeats, your mediocre moneyed guests with shit accents and over-enthusiasm for your mediocre sweetmeats.

Fuck everything you stand for, The Ambassador, you utter besuited prick. Fuck the diplomatic codes of politeness, clandestine soft intelligence gathering, sweetmeats arranged like ancient tombs.

But I can’t express any of that with honesty, no matter how much you might want it. Average Food Blog cannot be the crowd-pleaser you so eagerly crave.

Because Ferrero Rocher, if you look beyond all the abject wankery of Ferrero’s marketing department, are pretty decent.

Sure, it’s hardly the world’s best chocolate or premium nuts involved in the mix, but the combination of flavours and textures is somewhat compelling, especially within the context of finding yourself lolling in the sort of advanced state of passivity that only major Christian festivals can bring.

They are not the best of their food genre but nonetheless are indelibly linked to serial eating, much in the same way that Pringles are not a leading crisp but have the same effect.

Of course, there is some possibility that mind-altering chemicals have been injected into each and every bobbly, spherical melting pot of doom to make me feel this way. That ultimately I’m being duped, that the powers that be have got their claws into AFB in a way that strongly suggests the direct or at very least implied involvement of yes, you’ve guessed it, The Ambassador.

OK OK, fuck The Ambassador. You happy now?

Season’s Greetings to all on the internet.

FERRERO ROCHER: 7/10

USTARD

Ustard

Yellowy, gloopy and multi-functional, ustard is one of the strongest word-endings in food.

Custard is unequivocally great. It can be enjoyed hot and cold, differences in quality between packet and self-made varieties are not exactly huge (a major plus in the realm of average food). Confectioner’s custard is the average made transcendent.

Mustard is largely great; with a certain quantity of nuance. Of course, one of the wider-agreed pieces of casual xenophobia is that French mustard is an inferior variety to English. American is a given sub-standard. But nonetheless, these lesser varieties don’t detract to such a great degree from the strength of the overall mustard, and indeed ustard, package.

Speaking of packaging, the containers of ustard generally avoid overly-ostentatious shows; rightly confident, presumably, in their simple ability to impress without marketing gimmicks.

Across the ustard range, all meal courses can be covered for possible intervention, and inevitable improvement. It should be noted that this is an important time of year for ustard. Anecdotally, it has been suggested that 90% or more of Christmas joy is derived from its work.

There are doubters of ustard, this cannot be denied. The full glory of ustard could perhaps only be known with a joined-up trade association to rebut all pejorative words, which are in the main influenced by snobbishness and various kinds of parasitic infection.

Bustard is an endangered bird, so I won’t consider it within this food group for now. Though give the conservationists a few years to get its numbers up…

USTARD: 8/10

MINCE PIES, INSTALLMENT II

File:Making Mmnce pies - tarts in baking tray.jpg

Josh, let’s not take this outside, Josh. It’s icy in the north and I’m on crutches, Josh.

Firstly, let’s pet the elephant in the room: Josh is a Jew, in the broadest, most secular terms. This, in the broadest possible, most secular terms, precludes Josh from critical comment on Christmas traditions. But if we must joust, joust I will…

Firstly, pies, in any form, are never bad. Meat pies, cheese pies, apple pies, pies in tins, mince pies. This point alone renders all of Joshie-Woshie’s ‘points’ null. But I shall continue, as it’s Boxing Day, and I’m bored.

Secondly, the mince pie is a mystery to the mince pie virgin – a mystery with a glorious unveiling. Beef mince? Lamb mince? OH MY GOD – WHAT IS THIS FLAVOUR SENSATION?

Egalitarianism. The mince pie is full of this (and mince). Pastry and mince is a combination so conceptually average that it enables access for even the most inept culinaire to take part and increase their sense of self-worth. If you still can’t be arsed, the bought mince pie is another wonder; the ingredients so limited that the lines demarking the haves and have-nots cannot be easily drawn. The Gourmet mince pie is never discernibly better than the Value version.

Finally, the mince pie is inclusive on the terms of the ingredients themselves. The mince pie filling gets absolutely no run-outs during the year except Christmas. I personally like to see all average foods having their day; it’s a borderline life-affirming experience. What a cold-hearted man is our Joshie-Woshie Do-Da to not acknowledge this.

To sum up: I’m not about to petulantly claim that mince pies are a 10/10+ average food, but they are a solid competitor in a world crying out for solidity. Joshie-Monster on the other hand is not a wise man, his sack is empty, and is currently eating coal in a beige suburban restaurant, by himself.

Mince pies: 7.5/10

MINCE PIES, INSTALLMENT I

Image

a mince pie, whoring its wares.

The utter lack of editorial cohesion at AFB has previously resulted in Gary and I posting, on a Friday night, dispatches within about ten minutes of each other. I’ve no idea the effect this had upon our readership. Suffice to say that it didn’t trend on Twitter.

And I’m afraid to say that the two head honchos at AFB do not see eye to eye on the subject of the mince pie. Sure, we both agree that to blog about them on Christmas Eve is a shamelessly hackish thing to do, but we disagree as to the stance AFB should take with respect to them: Gary is in favour of them, and I am very, very anti.

They are just crap, aren’t they? They’re like a mouthful of pot pourri (or possibly frankincense. But not myrrh – that would be a simile too far.) And every year, every year, I say to myself “go on, have one, you might like it now, your tastes may have changed”, and they never, ever have. Mince pies are invariably little pastry bundles of abject disappointment.

Gary of course has his right of reply. I anticipate an academic debate the likes of which we haven’t seen since the structuralists and the intentionalists first declared their differences with respect to the origins and machinations of the Third Reich. And let nobody kid themselves: this matter is every bit as serious. Thus, I shall anticipate and deal with a few potential objections.

(1)    “But, Josh, you don’t like raisins. And thus you are of course predisposed not to like mince pies. You are thus not equipped to judge them from a neutral, dispassionate standpoint.”

I reply as follows. Firstly, don’t call me Josh. My name clearly says ‘Joshua’. True, my friends call me Josh, but this is a liberty I do not expect from an imagined, hypothetical interlocutor. Secondly, (1) relies on two assumptions: (a) that the debate about mince pies cannot easily be shifted back a step to tackle raisins, and (b) that my dislike of mince pies is not easily based on factors other than the fact they contain said raisins. I see no good reason to think that (a) is true, although a discussion of raisins lies well outside the scope of a paper such as this; and (b) is false – it’s not just the raisins I don’t like, it’s the dry, shitty pastry, the amorphous gloop in the middle, the fact that they look much better than they taste, and the fact that the vicissitudes of the festive occasion essentially press-gang us into eating them. Thus, it is incumbent upon my interlocutor to deal with each of these points.

(2)    “But, Joshua, you have only ever had crappy mince pies made by people like Tesco and Sainsbury’s. Never hast thou tasted a gourmet, proper mince pie.”

I reply as follows. Firstly, Tesco and Sainsbury’s are not people, they are faceless corporations. Secondly, why have you adopted that stupid cod-archaic manner of speech? I am minded not to even engage with you. Thirdly, this is AVERAGE Food Blog, and thus I am permitted to appraise food in its average guise. A crappy piece of average food is, for the purposes of this journal, a crappy piece of food per se.

(3)    “Joshua. My dear fellow. This is a matter of personal taste, and as such is not susceptible to the kind of ridiculous, overblown and frankly odd pseudo-academic rigour you are bringing to bare upon it.”

I fear that adopting (3) would render the entirety of AFB obsolete, so any attempt to refute my case by using (3) would be self-defeating if undertaken via the medium of AFB. There is of course another solution: Gary, let’s take it outside.

Over to you, boy.