(Editor’s note: the views expressed in this post are the author’s own, and are quite often shit and wrong.)
Another Rock and Roll Christmas!*
*Rock is what you do when your try to get off your inflated arse and rolls are what you’re made of.
It’s time for the annual festive gorge!
Salt Crackers Party Mix
Sounds an awful lot like the playlist of someone who is equally acerbic and insane.
These would appear every year. I’m still at a loss as to know why, their varying shapes belying the identical nature of their flavour. These things tasted dry, slightly burned, and yes very very salty. I may or may not have once referred to them as ‘crystallised spunk waffles’… which was indeed quite a mouthful.
Some of these were pretzel shaped, others were sticks and there were flat round ones as well. I’m inclined to think they all had original and or weird sounding names, they were however all just salty twigs. The kind of snack that they might offer in a pub to make you thirsty and therefore buy more drinks. Those landlords eh? If they don’t sodomise your liver they’ll give you high blood pressure.
Thankfully these went from being a yearly oddity to unpleasant memory reasonably rapidly.
Waves of ice-cream, folded again and again into exquisite and delicate form, creating a look that is, all at once, a beautiful dessert and a 17th century frilly shirt. A shirt layered with wafer thin chocolate. The Vienetta is an edible fop, a gentlemen of the trolley, a pudding of lordly bearing that can only be consumed with a silver spoon and dabbed daintily from the corners of one’s mouth with a lace handkerchief.
This is, of course, a perfect example of style over content: a Vienetta is ‘plain’ icecream and ‘plain chocolate’. if we close our eyes and forget its, admittedly immaculate, presentation this is absolutely no different to a choc-ice. A smashed up choc-ice. And here we see an allegory for the class divide, we’re all made of ice-cream and chocolate, but some of us cuboids and others are smashed up cuboids with money.
Cadbury Fingers (obscene amount of)
Cadbury Fingers are indeed a wonderment and a blessing, a joyous simplicity of chocolate and shortbread in perfect balance. They come in boxes with trays that are segmented into two and the things are just heaped in there. Good! Drop all pretence, serve the fuckers in a trough. You don’t know how many you’ve had now, do you? They’re not really even in layers, they’re just a wall of biscuits a multitude deep. Small enough to make you think you’ve not had a lot, so another one won’t hurt. But oh look! Your half trough is bare plastic now, fucking whoops! And now you’re crying, well cheer up, turn that box around and blast some more dopamine.
Why am I mentioning these specifically in a Christmas piece? Well, we once got a ‘Biggest Multipack Ever’. I seem to recall it was somewhere in the region of 4’ in length and had a never ending supply of standard packs within it. A more disturbing display with fingers has not been seen since Durant and his cigar cutter in Darkman.
My history with this beverage stretches back as far as I can remember. I don’t really recall a time before I had sampled the carbonated eggy delights contained within its rough surfaced diminutive green bottle. This was a drink unlike any other to my childhood self, a precious and rare commodity; not even kept in the kitchen, this was only to be found in my grandmother’s special sideboard. I felt no less special myself when, towards the Christmas period, she would open it, reach within and pop the metal cap off with a bottle opener. I would then be treated to the foaming yellow goodness that poured forth and that nasty curdled bit at the bottom, but hey, nothing’s perfect.
Presented to me in a special ‘Goldwells’ glass perfectly proportioned for said beverage, I would sit in gustatory gratification, sipping the intoxicating sweetness, viscosity akin to school custard. Latterly we began to buy four packs of these for consumption at home, such was my persistence in requesting them.
And I could at last pour my own, into the very same glasses, as they’d been gifted to us during a clear out. I learned rapidly that the curdled bit at the bottom could not be adequately mixed into the rest of the drink through vigorous shaking. I likewise learned the valuable lesson that a fizzy drink, thus agitated, will spaff like a man with two broken wrists.
In the interim, however, was my dear father’s attempt to make said beverage at home, returning from a trip to Holland with all manner of highfalutin ideas of home brewing his own lager and likewise bringing back a bottle of Advocaat. It was huge in comparison to the dainty bottles that were commercially available and professionally prepared.
This at first looked like all my dreams were realised, a vast bottle of my favourite drink. Imagine my disappointment to find that this was only one ingredient in a seemingly impenetrably complex recipe. Attempting to pour this advocaat was a challenge in itself: “one lump or two” might very well be an appropriate joke to have made but really I’d have preferred none at all.
It was mixed with some lemonade from the 3 litre bottle of Fine Fare’s finest Yellow Label, which, naturally, was flat. My reaction to the offered beverage was likewise and my ingratitude may have provoked more of an injured reaction had my father not been thoroughly involved in making the kitchen stink to high heaven of foaming hops. The resulting concoction was tasted, grinned through while my mother was watching and then rapidly poured down the sink, never to be discussed again.
Chocolate is great, we can all agree on that, . Going to the fridge for a bar and returning with it to eat in front of the TV, there are a few pleasures more fundamental or basic. But return with multiple bars and you will be glowered at and derided for wanton gluttony and indulgence. Return clutching an armful of puddings and you’ll be frogmarched back into the kitchen and lucky to be given access to the fruit bowl. No child appreciates the importance of fibre and a healthy bowel movement so this is simply a punishment.
And yet at Christmas this rule is entirely dismissed – here’s a jolly decorated box, emblazoned with colourful seasonal characters and a veritable feast of sweets all of which are contained within. It could be said the term “selection” in the name means that we’re intended to make a choice, a singular choice from the plastic trayed banquet of decadence. “Hmm I believe I’ll sample the Mars Bar and then slide the rest back into the box and look at the illustration of a grinning Santa Claus. I’ll peruse the rudimentary cut-out board game on the back. That’ll be fun…”
While you were reading that I’ve already eaten all of mine and started on yours.
(Editor’s note: I chose Peppa Pig because I like Peppa Pig. I am 36 years old.)
1 large picture, 24 doors, 24 pieces of greasy, nasty, cheap chocolate. The kind of chocolate you wouldn’t touch the rest of the year, the kind you cock a snook at if offered. Yeah, this is me we’re talking about, I still have standards. I don’t eat food I find in the street… any more. And I’ve never been a fan of pound shop chocolate. Into which category advent calendars squarely fall.
However, the magic that is Christmas permeates even this insult to the palette. There are bright colours! Pictures! Chocolate! It’s difficult to get out! You have to work for that tiny bite of subpar cocoa. Pull it out and there’s perfect jelly mould style impression within that’s fun to touch.
One year I had a calendar that alternated days between milk chocolate and white, the latter had but one saving grace insomuch as it made the former actually appear to be of reasonable quality.
Another year I got a Mars Bar one, I ate the whole thing in late November. That year I was reduced to randomly opening cupboard doors around the house and scoffing Twixes.
When all’s said and done, anything that lets you start the day with chocolate can’t be that bad.
Few foods are of such quality that there are songs written about them which get progressively more threatening and demanding. ‘We Wish You A Merry Christmas’ is first and foremost amongst them, others include ‘I’m Taking All This Trifle, Try and Stop Me’, ‘My Spoon Your Ice cream’ and ‘Give Us Some Chips You Funnel Cunt’.
Christmas puddings these days are artisanal affairs, lovingly created by Janice (pictured on the tin) and ‘brandy fed’ for 12 months. That may refer to Janice herself, I’m not entirely sure. You see I never tended toward this mysteriously dark, raisin filled malarkey. Never a fan of alcohol (other than Snowballs), the very flavour was never overly appealing. Then, worst of all, candied peel was to be found lurking within. A more unpleasant ingredient I’ve yet to be find that isn’t actually banned. You know that bit of the orange that you can’t eat? The bit you take off and throw away? Well that, chopped up, boiled and rolled in sugar. Hmm, sweet leathery trash!
But then there’s the tradition of money, the chance to have a dessert and walk away richer. Meaning that this opportunity could never be refused, my father advising “even if you don’t eat it, take it so you have a chance of getting something”. And so dutifully I would take a portion each year, scanning the tray frantically for signs of a foil wrapped 20p and being forward enough to specify which piece I wanted. Upon finding said prize it was the done thing to hold it above your head and shout, the assembled dining hall would then be obliged to cheer. Pretty sure I claimed this one year just for the adulation.
And in those days at least 20p would buy you an actual decent pudding in the tuck shop.
Now, if my opinion of Christmas Pudding didn’t break your view of me as some manner of sapient dustbin, then my opinion of trifle should solidify that as fact. There are things that I will simply refuse to eat. My memories of trifle are largely two-fold: a series of never ending packets that fell out of a pleasantly illustrated box and the sheer length of preparation time involved.
Jelly would be created with water from the kettle, custard would later be wrought from pale yellow powder and milk before, finally, dream-topping would be created from fairy dust, farts and magic. It was a long process and I had lost interest by then. Also at some point “lady fingers” would be inserted into it. And that’s just filthy. Unless you imagine her as an aristocratic cat-burglar who has to steal to maintain her lifestyle.
This brightly coloured, multi-layered nonsense would then be refrigerated before being decorated with “Hundreds and Thousands”, a strange term when you think about it, when all we’re actually referring to is “sprinkles”. Yet more brightly coloured tiny pellets of sugar, like hand painted pixie turds.
Actually I’ve got nothing against sprinkles or indeed dream topping; I would quite happily ask for just that bit when trifle was the only option. Custard needs to be served piping hot over a cake or pudding, no one likes ‘skin’ and you’ve basically made an entire bowlful of custard-dermis. And as for jelly it can absolutely get to fuck, I think my hatred stems from quickly realising it’s just fruit flavoured water. You’ve accepted a bowlful of supposed pudding and been given semi-solidified squash.
Oh and then sometimes they put sherry in it. I once tried sherry at my grandparents’ golden wedding. It tasted the way a UTI feels.
Now Cadbury, on the other hand, did what I call a trifle:
Chocolate cake, chocolate dessert and chocolate mousse topped off with cream, and it came in a container that was basically the size of a small bucket.
The quintessential Christmas confection; nothing, and I mean absolutely nothing, defines the taste of Christmas like this most uniquely shaped wonder. In the 80s this was so very special, you got it once a year, wrapped, right alongside Castle Greyskull or that car from Mask that turned in a plane by such a mechanical wonder as opening its doors!
It would sit there, a joyous brightly wrapped little cuboid. There was no surprise, it was obvious by its shape and indeed its smell (if you didn’t sniff your presents to try to work out what was in them then I don’t care to know you). But that would only be the first layer you’d have to tackle, beneath its carefully papered exterior would be its presentation green cardboard and thick plastic display window. Looking every inch a collector’s piece, but one you’d tear into like the braying gannet that you are. Cardboard and plastic duly desecrated, you’d hold in your hand that most gloriously hefty globe of delight, that unique plastic/foil wrapping and the printed legend that invited you to ‘Tap and Unwrap’.
Why? Because the designers saw fit to fashion their chocolate masterpiece into a nigh impenetrable sphere; the entire final act of Star Wars: A New Hope might well have been an allegory for this very task. Except there was no thermal exhaust port on a Chocolate Orange… and you haven’t got any proton torpedoes… but you do use the FORCE! The force of smashing the bloody thing against the sideboard till you get told off for ruining the teak-effect covered chipboard. Then you’d be reduced to flinging your festive food to the floor.
Finally, after several arm powered trips to Mother Earth, you’d pick it up and find the contents loosened, its spherical perfection no more. Now you could break the seal, pealing the sticker and pulling back the foil petals to reveal, at last, the sweetness within, inviting you to plumb the final depths with your eager fingers and devour your prize. This has stopped being a Star Wars allegory have you noticed? Look I’m not saying you should fuck a Chocolate Orange on Christmas morning, those segments are sharp for a start.
Merry Christmas and all that.