Last summer's Vintage at Southbank festival was great fun. A blogger called Kathryn took these great photos of my vintage 1960s kitchen set and posted them to her blog Yes I Like That. Thanks Kathryn for letting me re-post them here.
I was very pleased with myself. I had scored a big bag of beautiful Hass avocadoes from my local market, and all of them perfectly ripe and ready, not the solid bullets you sometimes find. Bargain price too.
I have played with many guacamole recipes over the years, and my signature version is what I call "Japamole". It includes some wasabi, the brain-tingling Japanese mustard, and a few other little Japanese touches. With my bargain bag of avocadoes, I would make a big bowl of it, and take it with crudites and tortilla chips round to my neighbour Erika's that evening. She has visitors from a Finland and a few of us were having an impromptu Saturday night get together, all bringing a dish.
Back home with my haul from the market, I started to halve, peel and stone the avocadoes. To remove the stone, I do the cheffy trick of a karate-chop with the sharp edge of a large knife, so it is slightly embedded in the stone, then twist and lift the stone out. The avocadoes looked amazing, just perfectly ripe and luscious.
Text message. It's Erika, checking what everyone is bringing tonight. "My special guacamole!", I text back. Reply: "Hannah's already bringing her husband's guacamole, can u do something else?" Something else?! "Okay, no problem!", I lie. So I have eight large avocadoes already halved in a bowl, and a potato masher in my hand. Hannah's husband Mauricio is Mexican. I can't compete. But I certainly need to do something with all these avocadoes. And quick.
This is definitely a time to turn to my favourite cookbook -- the internet. I wipe the avocado from my hands, and start scrolling through page after page of avocado recipes:
* Guacamole. Out of the question.
* Salads. Too many other ingredients I don't have.
* Soups. No good for a buffet.
* Cleansing face masks. Oh for Heavens sake.
Then I see it. Avocado lime ice cream. As well as my mashed avocadoes, I just need lime juice, honey and whipping cream. Check. I have all three. Genius.
For every two avocadoes, I add 120 ml of lime juice and the same quantity of runny honey, and blitz in my blender. I then fold in 240ml of cream and pour the elegant pale green mix into my trusty Tupperware Jel-Ring mould, then slide it into the freezer and hope for the best.
Needless to say, Hannah's husband's guacamole was delicious, with a lovely spiky touch of chilli with the creamy avocado. People knew I had brought dessert, but until I unmoulded the ring of pale green ice cream, no-one had a clue what it was. I quickly toasted some desiccated coconut in a dry pan, and sprinkled it on top as I scooped the ice cream into bowls.
Some people were a little reluctant, not wanting to be impolite, but also not very keen to try this unusual ice cream. But not for long. It was a real triumph. They really really loved it.
Next day, I had to send the recipe around on Facebook, and every couple of months since then, someone lets me know they have made it themselves. The Finnish guests couldn't get enough of it, and the recipe has now gone global!
I just heard today from the distributors in Dublin that I was the top-selling UK Tupperware consultant for the second quarter of 2011. Given that six months ago I had quit selling Tupperware after the UK distributor went out of business, I am very pleased with myself for doing so well. Thanks very much indeed to customers past, present and future, for your orders and your enthusiasm.
And it's full steam ahead for what is my most exciting Tupperware adventure yet -- my 3-day 1960 Tupperware party at the Vintage at Southbank festival next week. I was frankly daunted to be shown a 4 metre square blank space in the Royal Festival Hall last month, in which I have to create a kitchen set from scratch. I work alone, and I have pretty much zero budget, but I decided to face the challenge. The basic premise is that I am re-staging the first UK Tupperware party, which was in Weybridge in 1960, but I reckon I will be taking a lot of liberties with the period detail. But not only does my set need to showcase the Tupperware, and look more or less authentically 1960, but it needs to hold its own next to the professionally-designed and dressed living room set right next to me, hosted by Foyles bookshop. Sorry, I think I just threw up in my mouth a little bit out of sheer terror. The festival organisers have trusted me to do a good job of it, despite my limited experience and resources, and I am determined to pull it off.
I have sourced some great period kitchen furniture from eBay -- although some of it will be going straight back onto eBay the day after the festival! I bought this lovely 1959 kitchen dresser, restored to its original glory, and I think I will be keeping it. I have ordered a roll of checkerboard lino for an authentic vintage kitchen feel, and I am trying to work out how to lay it without ruining the Festival Hall's wooden floor. Afterwards, I may well lay it in my own bathroom and kitchen. As well as all the Tupperware to dress the set and demonstrate for the punters, riffing on the classics I have been blogging here the last month or so, the lovely people at my local vintage shop, Radio Days in Waterloo, have been kind enough to lend me some original 1950s and 1960s items. These include a fantastic baby blue rotary telephone, a politically incorrect minstrel tea-cosy, some late 50s/early 60s magazines, and other gems. My sister Lois will be the party hostess, and she has bought a perfect 1950s frock for the occasion.
It is very exciting, and something new for me, to see my presence at the festival mentioned in the media:
I will be in the ticketed performance area inside the Royal Festival Hall, not in the public market area outside, but I do hope to have a chance to work the crowds outside in the market too, and hand out a few catalogues.
I am thrilled that Wayne and Gerardine Hemingway have asked me to organise a Tupperware party as part of their Vintage at Southbank festival. For the weekend of 29 to 31 July, London's Royal Festival Hall will be transformed into a warren of venues and performance spaces, to celebrate and showcase British style and design of the the last seven decades. There is an amazing programme of music, films, performances, events, workshops, food and drink, and more; and there will be a vintage marketplace outside the RFH, which is open to all.
I will not, as you might expect, be in the marketplace. The Hemingways have instead asked me to create a retro kitchen set inside the ticketed area of the Royal Festival Hall, into which I will invite festival punters to join me and my hostess at a Tupperware party that celebrates fifty years of Tupperware as a classic piece of domestic product design. Very exciting, and quite daunting, but I am delighted and excited to be involved.
One performance for which I was actually paid as an artiste was Gay Shame Goes Girly, an event organised by the Duckie collective in 2009 as a tongue-in-cheek alternative to London's Gay Pride. A celebration of all things female, or matters perceived to be culturally female or feminine, I was brought in to do Tupperware Lady training. I prowled the event in my Tupperware pinny, with a tottering tower of Tupperware all Velcro-ed together, looking for likely recruits, of any gender. I used the official Tupperware training manual to ensure that each potential Lady had clean nails, had their hair off their face, and that they could do a decent product demonstration to their friends. Successful candidates became part of my sales force for the evening, for which I gave them a business card and a complimentary piece of Tupperware to demonstrate and keep.
Most recently, Goldsmiths fine art students Miguel Pacheco and Isaac Muñoz asked me to be part of their gallery show at the College. It was a performance assignment, but they had decided to get someone else to do the performance for them: my good self. I did a 20-minute potted party in the white gallery space, with a totally straight face, and without any concessions to the venue. I think an art critic would call it a transgressive interactive performance piece: as well as demonstrating some student-friendly Tupperware products, I drew a raffle, put a tutor in a gingham pinny as my hostess, and encouraged the international student audience to give Tupper-monials about their favourite products from their mothers' kitchens back home in Lisbon, Frankfurt, Budapest and Rio. At the end of the party, art met commerce and I took orders. Miguel and Isaac took a chance by allowing someone else to do their performance for them, but I think I did them proud.
My Tupperware parties at the Vintage Festival will take place across the whole weekend of 29 to 31 July, on the ground floor of the Royal Festival Hall. Festival ticket holders only, I'm afraid, but I will also be taking a turn around the market place now and again.
A kitchen cupboard well-stocked with Space Savers is the sign of a hard-core Tupperware connoisseur, like those lovely customers I just mentioned. A snazzy lunchbox, water bottle or sandwich keeper is something you can show off, or showcase in the office fridge, but only you see the inside of your kitchen cupboards. Just imagine opening that door to bliss, not chaos.
The Space Saver range is another product that Tupperware could not stop, even though they tried. They had an ostentatious farewell party a couple of years back, and replaced them with the boxier and frankly superior Space Maker range. But, momentum and demand brought them back, and the Space Savers are still a mainstay of the catalogue. I find they are especially popular with my antipodean customers, who I suppose are used to being particularly scrupulous with the air-tight storage of dry food, protecting it from humidity and bugs.
The Space Saver is as well-designed a piece of Tupperware as any. Maybe more. It comes in four sizes -- five if you include the round spaghetti jar -- which correspond with food packaging sizes. Designed on the skyscraper principle, the Space Saver has a small "footprint" on your shelf or countertop, storing vertically to maximise space in my hostesses' bijou London kitchens.
Interestingly (to me, anyway), the Space Saver name is only used in the UK. In markets where kitchens and living spaces tend to be bigger, like Australia and the US, the name is Modular Mates, emphasising their stacking and tesselating qualities. Because with a selection of the different sizes, you can create stacks all the same height, which is very pleasing. The lip on the seal means they stack securely without toppling. Here's Leanne's stack for a perfect example. Opening your larder to see that, you don't have to be Bree Vanderkamp to feel a frisson of pleasure.
Once you look at it in detail, you realise what a feat of kitchengineering the Space Saver is. The container is lightly frosted to add to the uniform appearance when many are used, but there is a cutaway polished window, so you can see what's inside. The seal has two separate openings, a small one for pouring and a large one for scooping. The seal opens flush against the side of the product, so there is no clogging or backwash when you pour something like flour. The Space Saver is slim, and fits comfortably and ergonomically in the hand. At a party, I sometimes make a saucy remark about that, depending on the mood of the crowd.
You can get a sheet of reusable labels for your Space Savers. No need to arrange them in alphabetical order though.
As a treat, here's my favourite relative Aunt Barbara, the top-selling Tupperware lady in the US, demonstrating them for you:
Tupperware is keen on coining new names for its products. I have a soft spot for the Eleganzia range, which I always say in RuPaul's voice, but the Bake 2 Basics range is one pun too many for me. And there is a lot of 'n': Grab'n'Cut (scissors), Heat'n'Serve (microwave dish), and Sip'n'Care (baby's cup).
I also like the idea of naming the product in a way that suggests it is not just passively storing your food, but actively taking care of it. Doing the job so you don't have to. So your cake is not in a tin, but in the Cake Taker; and your sandwich is not in a box but in the Sandwich Keeper.
The Sandwich Keeper is a very humble product, almost the cheapest thing in the catalogue. It is the product I recommend to party guests who don't really want to buy anything, but who don't want to be impolite to the hostess. It feels like a classic, hence its inclusion here, but that's maybe because there is something a bit old school and retro about a sandwich made with sliced bread. You certainly wouldn't get a baguette, roll, or doorstep butty in there.
Don't underestimate the Sandwich Keeper. It is beautifully designed. There is no seal to store (or lose), because it is attached, which is a blessing. The Sandwich Keeper's compactness, slim with the rounded edges, is very pleasing on the eye and in the hand. It is a minor feat of engineering too, with what Tupperware grandly calls a "living hinge", all moulded from one piece of plastic. There are no separate pieces to fall apart, get lost, or harbour crumbs or germs. The clasp is also integral, and will not pop open when carried.
A nice feature is that it is designed with a proper top and bottom. The bottom has four little feet that keep it slightly raised above the counter top to avoid scratches. According to my product guide from Tupperware HQ, the sandwich icon etched on the top of the Keeper adds "a touch of humour", which even I admit might be pushing it a bit.
The Sandwich Keeper currently comes in the same colours as the Sports Bottle, and customers do indeed tend to buy them together for children's school lunches, no doubt packed in smart West London kitchens. On my consultant order form, intriguingly the colours are marked "Boy" and "Girl". At first glance in the catalogue, you would say "Green" and "Pink" -- but hold your horses, and look closer. In a camp flourish worthy of Eleganzia herself, the choice of colours is actually a manly "Tang" or a womanly "Fuchsia".