The Quest for the Alrightish Burger

Many years ago my late/first wife and I had a pet called George. We loved George, he was yellow and perky, ever ready to join us in our adventures. With his tail behind him he’d open up his jaws and hiss with delight every time we’d decide to eat with him. He wasn’t a snake though, he was a lean mean fat reducing machine aka a two sided grill. I’m not sure what happened to that George, his fate is lost in the mists of time that for me remains hazy – and not just because of the fat-coated steam that filled the kitchen.

Many years later I’ve returned to a similar adventure. Yes I bought a new George Foreman grill. Once again I can enjoy the delights of arguing who gets to clean the bloody thing and wondering how something can be so charred on the inside and yet so “never mind that’ll do” in the middle. I’m not sure how much fat he keeps from us, but George has proved handy for a variety of our regular meals. I think his contribution will likely be measured more in a slightly lower electricity bill than reducing waistbands.

Our favourite George related dish – for we are conservative in our approach to disappointing charred food – is the beefburger. On George’s birthday I also bought some Morrison’s Signature Scottish Beef Quarter Pounders – a title that drips off the tongue does it not? To be fair these were pretty nice and had surprisingly little fat in them anyway.

But I felt it my duty as this family’s housewife type person to provide for my family an even better burger. My wife is not a fan of processed food, which she equates to anything not given a once over by a bearded lady, who then doubles the price and wraps it in a gingham doily. So feeling I was doing my best for my family the next time we had burgers I went down the made by a butcher route. These were proper burgers – all slightly stuck together, not all the same size and in danger of falling apart. All the things that make middle class artisan produce what it is.

“I prefer the Morrisons burgers we had last week,” said Mrs Grumpyrocker upon sampling the butcher’s burger. She was right. These burgers were okay. Not bad, not particularly good. They didn’t really taste of anything which when compared to lots of supermarket food isn’t always a negative. I was clearly going to have to up my game, I’d already spent a small fortune on these burgers, a whole 75 pence each, yet I was going to have to spend more to get a better burger.

In Tesco this week I found what I was looking for. Tesco Finest Aberdeen Angus Frozen Quarter Pounders. These were surely the Holy Grail of supermarket burgers. They must be at 150 pence each. Six quid for four. Crikey, what a culinary delight these are bound to be. Alas my poor wife would be away when these paragons of miniature cow reconstruction would be thrown to George for him to perform his magic. The children and I would be the lucky recipients of this beefy bounty.

Imagine then what it would be like to sink your teeth into a charred bathroom sponge that sprayed a gallon of molten watery grease in all directions, including your face. Now you too can understand the dubious delight that I paid six quid for this lunchtime. 99 percent beef? Beef what exactly? If I’d wanted a hot beefy drink I’d have bought some Bovril, not tried to eat one of these nasty lard rusks with a cow Tardis full of beef piss inside. Six sodding quid? Well played Mr Tesco, well played.

So the quest continues for the most alrightish cook at home burger. I suspect though we’d be better off just going to Burger King.

Lazy Town Fit Fruits & Super Squash Review

Don’t worry, I’ve not become a mummy blagger – I’ve not sold my soul for some Duplo or a free holiday. But I have been given a ton of free drinks to experiment on my children with and tell you if they survived, went mental for a bit, or were merely hydrated in a fruity manner.

The Gerber juice company has launched a range of fruit drinks and squashes with Lazy Town branding. Lazy Town, but that’s not on CBeebies these days? Well perhaps it’s on one of those channels that the lower orders use to babysit their children while having a fag, I suppose it breaks up the monotony of Ben10 episodes and adverts for cheap plastic tat.

Some of you may be wondering what Lazy Town is? It’s an Icelandic blend of puppets, preaching, homo eroticism, jail bait and thinly veiled propaganda for the fruit production industry.

But are the drinks any good?

We were sent two different products. Fit fruits are sold in packs of three 200ml cartons. They are available in three flavours; apple and blackcurrant, lemon and lime and orange and peach. These are 75 percent juice drinks rather than pure juice, but we’re told this means they are in lower in sugar than just juice. Is that a good thing, are we scared of fruit sugars? I’m undecided on that. But at least the products seem based on natural ingredients with no added sugars, sweeteners or preservatives.

Our five year old twins thought Christmas had come early as we let them take a carton to school each day for a week rather than their usual bottle of water. Our daughter – who normally wouldn’t touch anything with lemon in – even enjoyed the lemon and lime flavour. Our three year old liked the apple and blackcurrant one best, and told us that “me liked dems” and “dems is yummy in my tummy”. So you can’t argue with that can you?

So far it’s pretty standard stuff. More interest though was the Super Squash we were also sent. These apple and raspberry, pink lemonade and orange and peach squashes do not contain any stabilisers or preservatives. The squashes will be sold in a 1.5 litre carton which should be refrigerated after opening and kept for just 21 days.

Once diluted with some water these squashes also contain 75 percent fruit juice giving a “portion of fruit” per 250ml glass. The children were less keen on these but I think that was purely down to the lack of carton/straw based excitement. If you want to excite a three year old with a drink you’d better give it to them in a bottle with a top like Fort Knox.

So what did we think of the products? The drinks themselves did seem to be of high quality and were tasty, relying on their flavour from real fruits. We were less keen on the packaging and marketing. We think the Lazy Town branding and art design makes the Fit Fruits and Super Squashes look cheap and nasty.

As my wife said, if she’d seen them on the store shelf and not known what was in them she’d never picked them up at all. TV/movie tie-in branding is generally rather naff and often the preserve of shit shovellers like McDonalds. Sticking Sportacus’ grinning boat-race on a box of squash doesn’t exactly make one want to give it a good suck really. Contrast this artwork to the more tasteful approach of Innocent1 for example.

I’m also not very impressed with the reliance on the “part of your five a day” malarky on the packaging. Obviously eating fruit and vegetables is important in a healthy balanced diet, but the whole “five a day” campaign has been debunked as unscientific marketing nonsense.

Any road up, if you are looking for genuinely fruit-based drinks for your children it’s worth giving the Lazy Town gloop a look. The Fit Fruits are already available at Asda, Sainsbury’s and oddly at Amazon. The Super Squashes will be coming soon. You may find though that there are equally fruity cheaper alternatives available thanks to not needing to pay Magnús “Sportacus” Scheving for his mustachioed mug.

So in conclusion, nice drinks, the children really liked them – but the marketing/artwork is very much geared to the Asda crowd2.

I am a member of the Mumsnet Bloggers Network, a group of parent bloggers picked by Mumsnet to review products, services, events and brands. I have not paid for the product or to attend an event. I have editorial control and retain full editorial integrity3.

1Who could be selling us industrial bleach, crack and dog turds for all I know, but the marketing is so wonderfully middle class.
2Don’t act like you don’t know what I mean, snooty posh MILFs.
3Neither was I felated, nor given a ride in a Lamborghini, more’s the pity. Companies, at least try to break my journalistic integrity, such as it is.

Our days of chopping cucumber are over

The Channel Four programme Bringing Up Baby (open in a new window/tab) has been a real hit in our household, bringing much merriment for four weeks here to our family.

The show featured several families all trying to look after their newborn babies following one of three childcare philosophies. These were the 1960s “mummy knows best” approach of Doctor Benjamin Spock, a 1950s strict routine method and a strange 1970s hippy approach based on some tribe in the arse-end of nowhere.

I should first explain our own philosophy on childcare before I share with you our views on the TV show. Looking after twins is hard work and Patrick and Kitty do keep us rushed off our feet, the only way we really manage to cope is by sticking as much as possible to a routine. This means meals at eight am, midday, four pm and seven pm – and now the babes sleep through every single night.

This process took time though – time for us to learn what was best and time for the twins to show us what was comfortable for them. Neither Jo or I are fans of Gina Ford’s Das Kinder Reich view of childcare – we like to choose when we’ll have a cup of tea and a biscuit thanks very much, but that’s not stopped us admiring the 1950s approach in the TV show – which differs from Ford’s in that it doesn’t seem to control the parents.

Our admiration for the strict regime came as a surprise to us both I think. We quite like upsetting the wishy washy hippies who think there’s something evil in actually being in charge of your kids instead of letting them be boss. But to be serious for a moment we also think that when faced with twins you need to get some real routine in place or everything will fall apart. And we’re not the only ones but it seems that smug moral superiority of some mothers means folks tend not to stick up1 for the 1950s method.

Various mother and baby websites are completely up in arms about 1950s method guru Claire Verity’s approach, but to be honest it didn’t seem that much different to what the ante-natal nurses taught me before the twins first came home from hospital. But after a run in with Obertsturmfurher Gina Ford it’s no wonder the mumsnet moral majority is narked2.

No matter, we’re happy to say we thought that the couple3 (with twins I may add) who followed the method did the right thing and did really well.

Our own approach is somewhere between the Spock method tried by some of the families in the show and the 1950s method promoted by Claire Verity in the show. So we try to keep within a routine, but we’re willing to be flexible and approach things in the best way for everyone. This seems to be paying off with the twins really getting to grips with solid food and sleeping through every night.

The approach in Bringing Up Baby that really had us in stitches is the Continuum Method. Here babies spend their first months in a sling attached to mother or the increasingly stern looking father4. The parents do everything with the poor baby slung around them giving no privacy and no break from parenthood.

This apparently results in very mature and well-adjusted babies. This was demonstrated by the TV couple coming to meet other families who are trying the Continuum Method. And what a bunch of Fairtrade Peruvian llama wool snood wearing middle class hippy filth they turned out to be.

We were shown how well adjusted the babies were because they were all using very sharp knives to chop of fruit and veg. This is one of the goals of the method based on the tribe of hunters. We were not entirely convinced that the use of offensive weapons is really needed by toddlers in the angsty middle class boroughs where the method is bound to be most popular.

Particularly entertaining and annoying was the woman promoting this method in the show – Claire Scott5. Typical moral majority hippy nonsense for the most part, delivered with the most irritating patronising voice imaginable.

In the end all the couples seemed to do well with their chosen method but we really liked the couple with twins who clearly worked really hard and succeeded despite initial doubts. We also really liked the lass who clearly was cock-a-hoop to be bonking her bloke again – though I can’t remember which method she was using.

Some of the other couples that appeared earlier in the show’s short run didn’t appear last night, so we were wondering how the single mum was coping. Shame it didn’t update us on everyone. But great entertainment it was – more please.

1You can tell the mothers who like the approach, they are the quiet ones while the rest of your toddler group is likening the method to Year Zero in Cambodia.
2Mumsnet is likely to declare war on the 1950s method nanny Claire Verity at some point, militant bare breasted harridans the lot of them.
3The bloke actually seemed to be actor James Nesbitt, or his identical twin.
4Poor fella looked distraught at his prolonged enforced celibacy, meanwhile all the other couples were at it like jack rabbits.
5Funnily enough hippy sling-promoting Claire owns a business that designs and sells slings. Well who would have thunk it!

The Food of Kings

The Goblin Meat Pudding sounds like something Gollum would buy down at Crazy Saruman’s Convenience & Liquor Store. But behind the silly name lurks a meal fit for a king.

For the last two weeks every weekday lunchtime I’ve sat down to a couple of Goblin Meat Puddings, made by Simpsons Foods of Manchester. I’ve been eating these things since I was a kid and the gorgeous L recently ordered 20 (yes 20) of them in an online grocery order because she knows I like them.

This lunchtime I have eaten the last of them. So it’s goodbye to the tasty soft pastry for a while and I’ll have to eat something more healthy instead. But I just wanted to pay tribute to one of the finest foods available, and easy to cook too, taking just 90 seconds in the microwave.

I’ve not eaten one of these things for ages until L bought me some and the can has certainly changed and is more attractive. The problem with the old one was that it was a bit of a lottery whether you opened it at the right end. So you’d end up having to open up both and pushing the pudding out. Now with it’s handy grenade style packaging, pudding opening confusion is a thing of the past.

But all waffling and silliness aside, the Goblin Meat Pudding really is the lunch of champions, albeit slightly porkie champions.