Tag Archives: disappointment




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 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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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



some lemons

My dad tells a story of when him and my mum were both young. (Sometime back in the 18th century. Ho ho.) They didn’t have much money, and my dad had never tried lobster. One balmy summer night they found themselves in a restaurant, and my dad had some spare cashish in this pocket. “Sod it”, he said. “I’ll have the lobster. Garcon! Bring me the lobster!” But he hadn’t understood the French menu, and what he’d ordered wasn’t in fact lobster but some kind of vaguely seafood-infused soup. My dad was still a lobster virgin, and his funds were such that he was likely to remain one for the foreseeable future. As far as I know, he still hasn’t popped his lobster cherry. Poor guy.

My dad tells this story as a kind of meditation on disappointment, although I’m not quite sure what its moral is. Study hard for your French GCSE? Make do with what you’re given? Don’t eat lobsters? Only eat lobsters? I just don’t know. And I guess it doesn’t really matter; the story has entered the cannon of apocrypha that inhabits the fabric of what it means to be a family. (Suck on that sentence, bitch.) Every Yuletide young relatives come from near and far to sit wide-eyed at his knee and beg, “oh do please tell us the lobster story!”

Now, as Philip Larkin once wrote, “man hands on misery to man”.  So it goes that I have not learned from the sins of my fathers, and have engaged in foodular disappointage arising from my own carelessness. For lo, it came to pass that yesterday I did enter the land of the Whole Foods, and it was overflowingeth with organic milk and ethically-sourced honey. And I saw that it was good. And yea, it came to pass that Joshua, who was begateth of John, who was begateth of David, who was begateth of some yokel in a shtetl somewhere, chanced upon a plastic bottle of freshly squeezed lemonade, and he did think to himself, “cor! That looks good! I wanna get me some of that.” And lo he did buy it.

So I went home, clinked some ice cubes into a tumbler (not a glass, note ye well: a tumbler) and decanted the lemonade in. It was hot (the weather, not the drink) and I was very thirsty. Damn, this was going to be good.

Dear reader: it wasn’t good. For it wasn’t freshly squeezed lemonade at all, but freshly squeezed lemon juice. That’s right, I hadn’t read the label properly. I had repeated the mistake that my dad made all those years ago. I was turning into my father, only without the wife, or kids, or general success in life.

I attemped to drink said beverage, before coming to the conclusion that consuming unadorned lemon juice by the cupfull is an undertaking meant for far better men than me. It was drinkable for a few sips, but it was like imbibing the Platonic Form of Sourness. It made me want to scrunch my face so much that my teeth ended up in my ears. It begs the question: who the fuck buys this stuff? Is it meant to be drunk on its own? As a mixer? Not for the first time in my life I felt adrift on a sea of lemons.

In the end I topped the lemon juice up with with ginger ale, and it was fairly pleasant. But kids: always read the label. You don’t want to end up like me and my dad. I’d say worse things could happen, but really that would be lying – they really, really couldn’t.




don't be fooled

don’t be fooled

Krispy Kreme doughnuts are often lauded as the very apotheosis of commercially-available circular sugary products, and for good reason: they are generally pretty good. At the very least, one might expect a Krispy Kreme doughnut purchased from one of those little cabinets at a motorway service station in a place called Fleet to be the best item purchased during the stopover.

Not so, ladies and gentlemen. Not so. My cold samosa was infinitely better.

It was a decent samosa, I’ll grant that, but this should not detract from the sheer inadequacy of the doughnut. I left it until after the samosa, savouring the anticipation like a child who has been told he can only eat dessert after finishing his vegetables. I expected the doughnut to be worth the wait.

It wasn’t.

The culprit in question was the ‘chocolate fudge’ doughnut. Chocolate fudge should by rights be the heady, luxuriant queen of the doughnut world, but this one was bland, and made of a kind of dense, crumbly cake, instead of the normal doughnut, well, dough. And it wasn’t even particularly good cake. It tasted a bit like that feeble, anaemic stuff you get during Passover, which, believe you me, is very far from a good thing.

I’m not proud of drawing this comparison, but I’m going to do it anyway, because it is 5:20pm on a Sunday afternoon, and it is a free country: eating this doughnut was a bit like having an underpowered, dribbly ejaculation. Which, sat in a car at Fleet service station, I would probably have preferred anyway.



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. 


Oven pizzas. They start off with so much promise but inevitably end up either soggy or burnt. Sometimes even both at the same time. A decent oven pizza is a rare thing, like an Andy Carroll goal.

The oven pizza that I ate last night had so much going for it. It was purchased in Waitrose, no less. It was no plebeian pizza. The young lady at the checkout was most accommodating – she even said ‘good evening’, although she went on to acknowledge with some embarrassment that it was actually only the afternoon. She seemed overly apologetic with regard to this error. With her winning smile, however, she needn’t have been. You wouldn’t get that kind of smile at the likes of Aldi.

Now I’ve heard it said that one can ensure a decent quality of oven pizza by purchasing some kind of circular tray, with all holes at the bottom and stuff. I don’t have one of those. My roasted vegetable pizza was thus a risky choice I’ll admit – the peppers and aubergines adding to those elements of the pizza at risk of sogginess – but even so the final product was startlingly underwhelming. The middle was doughy almost to the point of being a swamp, whilst the edges were burnt to a crisp. It was almost as though some deal of effort was expended by Waitrose in ensuring such a bizarre concomitance of scenarios. If it was indeed the result of such effort then surely some acknowledgement is in order, but even so – it tasted pretty rank.

A dismally below-par gustatory experience.