Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Fanny around

Every Christmas I create a retro-style Fanny Cradock buffet for the seasonal show of Star Follies, at which Mr Donald Levange and Madame Bella Borgia lead the audience in an evening of music hall, variety and steam-age karaoke.

My buffet this year includes devilled eggs, salami on Ritz crackers, a cheese-and-pineapple porcupine, asparagus rolls, Tunnocks chocolate tea cakes, and two Christmas tree shaped cheeseballs. My Tupperware products were fantastic for transporting everything to the Covent Garden Theatre Museum for last minute assembly. And because Tupperware looks so good, and so timeless, I displayed it all on the buffet table itself. Given the setting, it felt like I was creating an installation at a food museum.

Merry Christmas, and enjoy these photos of my splendid buffet, including a little shrine to Fanny Cradock herself.

Friday, December 15, 2006

How very dare you!

Here is my sofa piled high with last week's orders, ready for sorting. I am glad to say I am back up there with the big girls: in November I was number 4 Tupperware seller in the UK.

Ok, sometimes things go slightly wrong. I burned the chocolate at my stepmother's party last month, and last week a guest caused some etiquette problems for the hostess when she arrived a bit tiddly. But this week I hit the jackpot with my three parties:

Party 1: No guests
Party 2: No sales, and I forgot the recipe
Party 3: I went to the wrong house

Julie admits that she has been a bit tentative with her invitations to her lunch party with added Tupperware. Her guests must have reflected back her casualness. Julie is a friend and a previous host, and mid-morning brings a phone call saying no-one is coming. Except one person who has already rung and said they have no money so won't be buying. Julie has prepared lunch, and she is a great cook, so I agree to go over there as planned, and prepare the Christmas muffins recipe I sourced online. But it will be friends having lunch, partly prepared in Tupperware. Not a Tupperware party. A real party, with more robust invitations, will follow in January.

Chie's party is the one with no sales. It starts off on the wrong foot. I arrive with everything to make fresh salsa, when I had in fact told Chie we were making quiche. I am slightly thrown, but we improvise and the quiche is a success, only it is made in Chie's own quiche dish while mine languishes smugly across town in my Tupperware storage cupboard. Which slightly defeats the object. Ah well. So why no sales? Well, all the guests say they want more time to think, which I cynically interpret as "Thanks, but no thanks." I agree in theory to take orders by phone and email a few days later, thinking "Yeah right", but I eat my words when the charming Chie rings a few days later with everyone's orders.

Party number 3 is jointly hosted by Katherine (who organised), and Paul and Roy (who provided the venue). And guess who got the addresses the wrong way round? Yes, 2pm on Sunday sees my pounding on Katherine's door in Tooting, even as guests are gathering at Paul and Roy's in Crystal Palace. A quick phone call and a speedy taxi ride later, I am at the right venue. Some guests were fashionably late anyway, so I was off the hook.

What had seemed like it might be my third blunder or botch of the week actually becomes one of my best parties ever. An enthusiastic and vocal crowd, charming hosts, lots of sales, and I have to say that I am on sparkling form. After making the microwave cake in the kitchen, we troop up to the first-floor living room for the rest of the show. Many of the guests are involved with Stonewall, the gay rights organisation, plus there are assorted friends, parents and other halves. Katherine and the boys split the rewards between them: £90-worth of free Tupperware and 3 half-price items.

Katherine's mum was a cheeky minx: she suggested that when no-one was looking I might be switching the cake in the microwave for one I made earlier.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

A hornet's nest, a difficult guest

Hosts sometimes become very anxious and apologetic if the turnout at their party isn't what they expect. There is really no need to apologise to me. My parties have ranged from 3 guests to 23 guests, and they have all been fun. Unfortunately, it's the host who loses out if people stay away, because I calculate their rewards (or the donation to their chosen cause) from a percentage of the party sales. I have two parties this week, and both had a turnout that was less than the host had hoped for, but both were fun and interesting for me all the same.

First to South Croydon for a party hosted by my friend James, where we bake the chocolate and almond cake in the microwave. It is his church crowd, although some of them can't make it because of another event. Still, there is a vicar, an organist and many pillars of the congregation. Andrew the organist loves most of the catalogue, and has lots of questions and comments. His partner regularly rolls her eyes to Heaven. I ask the Reverend to dust the cake with icing sugar using the Sift and Stor . He does it very grandly and cermonially and from a dramatic height, throwing in his sure and certain hope of the Resurrection into eternal life.

James earns £40-odd worth of Tupperware, and he will be experimenting with some Fridge Smarts.

Next day I am heading out west to Southfields. It's an Antipodean enclave close to the Wimbledon tennis club, the shops full of biltong and Milo. But I am required at a thoroughly English fundraiser at Lorraine's spotless house with some mums from her children's school. Lorraine's own children are beautiful, charming and polite. They tell me the products are very clever, they thank me for coming, and they remember my name when they say good night and troop off to bed. They are model guests for future parties.

We make fresh salsa in the kitchen. I have to compete with a gigantic hornet, which Lorraine eventually catches in an ingenious perspex trap-on-a-stick. I also am challenged by one rambunctious guest who has surely come straight from another party, and who offers plenty of high-volume questions and comments and feedback. I am perturbed at first, then amused, but it's clear some of the other guests are mortified. It's a scene out of Abigail's Party.

Even as I am speaking, I am thinking that some of my standard quips about the products are starting to sound aimed at this guest, and are sounding a bit unkind. But it is just my usual shtick, mostly stolen from Dixie Longate. And anyway Dixie is right: the Expressions No-Spill Tumbers with Dripless Straw Seal really are fantastic for people who are liable to spill their drinks. It's just that normally there isn't normally a guest spilling their drink as I am saying it.

This is the fundraiser for which I was asked for 50 invitations, so if anything I am relieved when there are only a dozen guests. Bigger parties can tend to break up into smaller groups and I have to shout a bit. The party raises about £50 from sales, plus another £18 from my raffle, plus a £5 entry fee donation from each guest (Lorraine's own initiative), plus 20% Gift Aid because the school is a registered charity. I am too weary to add that all up right now.

At least one of the vintage Tupperware ads that I have blogged has been removed from YouTube "due to copyright violations". I really hope the Tupperware company didn't instigate this removal. They are understandably strict about the use of their name and image, but the old ads are great fun, and it's a shame to lose them. The latest addition to YouTube is not an ad, but is the first few minutes of what appears to be a French-Canadian documentary about Tupperware ladies. My French is rubbish, so I am none the wiser.

Incidentally, the first things you see in this little clip are the No Spill Tumbers mentioned above.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Fish balls and bara brith

Three parties since I last blogged, hosted by three fine women. Andrea in Blackheath, Martha in Chiswick, and my Auntie Sue in Redcar.

Auntie Sue keeps an immaculate house. All her guests can't quite fit in the kitchen, so we mix a cake in her living room. My sister Lois knows I am sluttish cook, and I can see from her face that she fears for Auntie Sue's carpet with every turn of the Silicone Spatula. It is lovely to reconvene the three generations who came to Lois's own party in the summer: my cousin Emma and grandmother Benny are here too. Other guests are blasts from my own past: I used to work with Edna in Marks and Spencer 25 years ago, and I shared a tent with Pat's son at a cub scout camp 30 years ago. I wasn't a cub myself, I was a bit old for it, and have never been much of a joiner anyway. My late mother was Baloo, and I went along to lend a hand.

Most of Auntie Sue's guests moved to the street when it was first built in the 1960s and raised their families there. It was Redcar's Wisteria Lane. And unlike a lot of Redcar, the street is still pristine and in great shape forty years later. And the the ladies themselves don't look so bad either. Anyway, Auntie Sue does really well with her party, and is rewarded with: £50 worth of Tupperware for £10!

Meanwhile in West London's Chiswick, Martha uses her party as a good excuse to get together friends, relatives and neighbours for a natter, to meet baby Ezra and to get some Tupperware. Martha is donating her rewards to the neo-natal unit that took care of Ezra when he was born prematurely, and she raises around £65, not including Gift Aid. There is a very cosmpolitan buffet, reflecting the family's heritage: a luscious bara brith made by Martha's mum who had come up from the Vale of Glamorgan specially, and sensational Kosher fish balls from her mother-in-law.

I haven't been winning many prizes or accolades for my Tupperware sales recently. In fact I haven't even made the roll of honour for the last two months because my sales have not gone above £600. But everyday I stand on my Tupperware branded bathmat (above), and think postive thoughts.

Coming up next week: my friend James is hosting a party for his friends in Croydon. He has gay friends and church friends, and one or two who straddle the categories. I am not sure which crowd is coming along. And the long-awaited fundraiser for Our Lady Queen of Heaven School, for which I was asked for 50 invitations...

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

A word from our sponsor

Two more vintage television ads for Tupperware have recently appeared on YouTube. Although made ten years apart, both ads feature the classic stack of three Wonder Bowls, the original deep round Tupperware bowl. Sadly they are not currently available in the UK, although if you ever get to visit me at home, I will show you mine.

The first ad is from the US, early 1960s. I already blogged back in August another ad from the same campaign, with the same creamy-voiced narrator.

This second one is a French ad from the 70s. It is almost a mini-musical, shot in long takes and using that slightly discordant chanson-style singing which can grate on the non-French ear.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Quiet but busy

It is quiet in my Tupper-world. A couple of small parties and a ginormous email order for £300-worth of Space Savers (right) keep me ticking over. It's the calm before the storm: I have 2 or 3 parties a week for the next few weeks.

The organiser of the upcoming fundraising party at Our Lady Queen Of Heaven school rings me and asks for another 20 invitations. I have already given her 30. I think we are gonna need a bigger boat.

This week, in another part of my life, I also have a taste of what it can be like when you get a sudden burst of business. I am the UK distributor of Calendario Romano, an Italian photographic calendar that features portraits of handsome young priests. It is sold at news stands in Rome as a souvenir of the Vatican, but when I came across it, I thought it would probably appeal to a broader church. The photographer keeps me stocked, and I sell 500 or so most years, via my website. I donate £1 from every sale to my favourite charity The Food Chain.

I often get press enquiries, which result in publicity for the calendar in magazines aimed at women, gay men, Catholics, heathens, ironists, all sorts, and bloggers latch on to it every now and again. Anyway, this weekend I am flicking through The Observer newspaper, and am staggered to see a 2-page spread about the calendar. It's just a short article but they print all twelve portraits and my website address for anyone interested in buying it.

And Heavens above, are they interested. I have sold around 150 calendars in the last 24 hours. My shoulder is dislocated from several trips to the Post Office with huge stacks of calendars.

The relevance to my Tupperware life? None really, other than how easy and random it can be to get into the papers without even trying. A few journalists have contacted me over the last few months, all fired up to write about my life as an urban male Tupperware Lady. But their editors reject the story every time. Also, a certain celebrity may be wanting me to run a Tupperware party for her, I hear from a mutual friend. Watch this space. But don't hold your breath.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Nobody's perfect

Katie, noting that the Quick Chef funnel looks like Mr Potato Head's leg

The Chocolate Almond cake has long been my most popular party recipe. It is tasty, easy, good for communal cooking and for showcasing the Tupperware. And impressive: a chocolate cake in 15 minutes!

Until tonight. As always, I put the chocolate into a Microplus Pitcher and melt it in the microwave for one minute on Medium power. Trouble is, after 30 seconds, one guest murmurs "I can smell burning...". I yank open the microwave to see the clear pitcher opaque with smoke. Taking the lid off, theatrical thick smoke boils out like from a witch's cauldron. Some of the chocolate has burned, and I toss it in the bin, but we rescue most of it.

It seems my hostess's microwave doesn't work on Medium Power, only Full and Defrost. Which is a problem because the cake needs to be cooked on Medium. I compromise with short bursts of Full and a bit on Defrost, but it's no substitute and the cake is a bit of a failure in both taste (burnt chocolate) and texture (not properly cooked). Oh, and I forgot the baking powder and had to chuck it in at the end.

Now normally I would be freaking out, but the pressure is off because the hostess is my stepmother Gill, who has convened some friends for a fundraising party for the Noah's Ark Children's Hospice in nearby Barnet. Sales + my raffle + Gift Aid lead to a £60 donation.

On the train back to Liverpool Street station, a group of young women scream their heads off and blatantly graffiti the carriage with a black marker pen. I report them to the station police when we arrive.

It's about midnight and at my bus stop outside Liverpool Street, a well-dressed, well hammered woman peers into my open kitbag, swaying and breathing through her mouth. "Tupperware," I explain, "just been doing a party." She flicks at the silicone cake tin, from which my Dad (below) has washed all trace of the dodgy cake and I explain what it is.

"Got any salad boxshes?"

"Loads. Here, have a catalogue. That's my name on the back."

"Is that bus going to London Bridge?", she slurs. I tell her yes, and she lurches on to the bus, doors closing on her. Last thing I see is her plonking heavily down, flicking through the catalogue barely focussing.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

You can't get it no more, sweetheart

Check out this ugly-looking thing. A Capodimonte Tupperware Lady. She was only £2 on eBay. I have put her in the kitchen.

At the Notre Dame School autumn fayre, I offer an elderly woman one of my parmesan and rosemary muffins. She looks and sounds a lot like Catherine Tate's "Nan" character. Soon afterwards, I read in an interview with Catherine Tate in The Observer that she actually went to that school. Spooky.

Hello, would you like a muffin?

How much are they, sweetheart?

They are free, I made them this morning in my Tupperware silicone muffin form

I'm not hungry darlin', but if they're free I'll take one. Put it my handbag.

I am your local Tupperware consultant, would you like to see the latest products?

You can't it get it no more, sweetheart.

How do you mean?

They closed down, darlin'. Can't get it no more, Tupperware.

No, this *is* Tupperware. It's back.

Goodbye sweetheart.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Deliver us from evil / deliveries from Tupperware

The Pink Paper has a spread of photos from last week's Autumn Fayre at St John's Waterloo. In this one, I am ignoring Sir Ian McKellen in favour of my customers, including my friend Caspar (studying the catalogue).

The following Saturday, I set up a stall at a very different autumn fayre, a low-key affair at the Notre Dame Catholic girls high school opposite the Imperial War Museum. Teenage girls amble up in twos and threes, point at a random bit of Tupperware on my table and bark "How much is that?" I tell them the price, then they run off laughing. There is some sort of tiresome game of dares going on here.

An elegant elderly black woman approaches in a Sunday-best hat, leaning heavily on her stick as she inspects my wares. "Ah Tupperware," she sighs, "I was a Tupperware lady in New York in the 70s, and again when I first came to England." She jerks her head to her right, the side on which she uses the stick: "couldn't do it now, darlin'." Ah well, another potential recruit gone west.

Lots of people take a catalogue, but there are only four entries for my free prize draw. Una from Kennington wins the Mini-Max. The teachers are nice, if a bit fearsome. I think they could throw a good Tupperware party if they let their hair down.

Back home, the Tupperware order arrives for Emily, who ordered by post last week. I ring her to arrange delivery, and Emily calmly explains that while shopping in Peter Jones this morning, she went into labour two weeks early, and baby Gabriel arrived a couple of hours ago. I leave Emily to it, and her husband rings me next day to arrange things. I hop on a bus over to their house near Battersea Dogs Home. As Emily opens the door, I chime "It's your second special delivery of the week!" Gabriel is snoozing in a tiny hammock. He would fit into a FridgeSmart.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

We'll have a gay old time

The autumn fayre St John's Church in Waterloo has been dubbed "Homo Homemakers". It aims to celebrate the domestic skills of lesbian and gay Londoners, and it also implicitly questions the emphasis on the hedonistic and sexual areas of life, which dominate many people's perceptions of gay folk. The organiser, journalist and author Rupert Smith, explains more in an interview in this week's Time Out London, where I am also quoted burbling on about Tupperware.

In fact, I was up till the early hours, but I was not off my tits on E in a sweaty club in Vauxhall, I was baking muffins in my silicone muffin form. I stash about 60 muffins in the new BreadSmart, and pile most of my demo kit into the back of a taxi for the short journey to St Johns. The trestle tables are already set up, and I have a key spot at the front of the hall. To my left, two nice lesbian women display their hand-made cushions, but the stall to the right is empty for ages until virtuoso pastry chef Gerhard Jenne and his crew from Konditor and Cook arrive. It's a battle of the muffins, although pitting mine next to Gerhard's was like Carol Vorderman arriving at a party in the same dress as Penelope Cruz.

Guest of honour Sir Ian McKellen gives a sweet and funny opening speech, and I go into Tupperware Man autopilot from noon until 5, demonstrating up a storm. Sir Ian comes over to ice a gingerbread man on Gerhard's stall. He ignores my Tupperware, but he is X-Man Magneto after all, so his affinity is with metal not plastic.

Everybody smiles when they pass my stall. People say "Hang on, you really sell Tupperware? You really run Tupperware parties? You would really come to my house and run one for me". Yes, yes, and oh my dear yes. I run a prize draw for a Fresh and Pure ice tray, which is won by Luke from Notting Hill. On their entry tickets, 22 people have said "Yes" or "Maybe" to hosting a Tupperware party of their own, so I will be contacting them all this week.

Brian on the bric-a-brac stall has a stack of 1960s Tupperware beakers in milky pastel shades. You can just see them over my right shoulder in the main photo.

My friend Kazu has the stall behind me, with his beautiful Japanese floral arrangements. We agree to recommend each others' services to couples who are are having civil partnership ceremonies. He can do the flowers, I can do a Tupperware gift list. And Kazu gives me one of his cool-looking arrangements to take home.

This was a really fun event, I met some interesting new people and caught up with some old friends. Friends and customers Laura, Claire, Casper, Bo and Adam all dropped in to say hello and eat cakes. For a full set of photos of the event, visit Kate's Flickr page.

Next stop, the Notre Dame Catholic Girls High School autumn fayre this coming Saturday!

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Travelling with Tupperware

Tupperware is making me an explorer in my own city. Two parties this week, both in areas of London that are new to me. I had never even heard of Kent House station: it's not that far from me, but I have to take two commuter trains to get there. The trains are packed and my kitbag is in everyone's way. I just have to brazen it out. The roads and pavements around the station are all gravelled, very odd.

At Claire's house, I throw my cloth over her kitchen table and two-year-old Edward promptly spits up a wad of half-chewed peanuts on it. Bless wet wipes. But after this inauspicious start, it is a nice party with friendly people and excellent snacks, especially Tony's bean, spinach and mango wraps, slice on a diagonal. I miss my last train connection and have to take the 468 bus from Herne Hill. This is the bus on which someone was murdered last week. Sleepy and punchy, I start imagining it was me. People are rifling through my kitbag trying to establish my identity: "I don't know who he was, but this silicone spatula is fantastic."

Next day Viv convenes some friends and neighbours in a community centre behind Stockwell tube station. She has a lot of no-shows, but Viv and her 3 guests have fun as we use the centre's kitchen to knock up a quiche without pastry and some peach smoothies. One guest is really keen to book me for a fundraiser at her local Catholic old peoples' home, but she needs to check first that Mother Superior wants to be hostess. I hope so, because the new Accessories Organiser will be fabulous to stop her rosaries getting tangled.

Two parties in two days, plus it's the busiest time of year in my day job and I am doing it full-time at the moment. I am knackered, it's raining, and even though I run with the kitbag when the bus passes me, I just miss it. With 20 minutes to go before the next one, I slip into the little Portugese bar by the bus stop -- I am in the heart of London's Little Lisbon -- and order an ice-cold Sagres beer. It is my first pause for a rest all week, and the beer tastes sensational.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

A man alone

My customers think it is interesting and fun that their Tupperware Lady is a man. My fellow consultants also love it that I am on board, and everyone was very sweet and encouraging to me at the Tupperware Jubilee a few weeks ago. But I am starting to think that my gender is a disadvantage when it comes to recruiting new consultants.

Once a week or so, Head Office will forward to me an enquiry from someone in my area who is interested in working for Tupperware, always a woman, and I give them a ring. It nearly always goes to voice mail, so I leave a bright and breezy message introducing myself and leaving my number. Not one single person has ever rung me back in six months. I thought it was men who are supposed to never ring you back?

Now I know that people are busy, especially if you are running a home and family and maybe doing a "real" job too. I also know from other consultants that recruiting new people is tough for everyone. But these are not cold calls, they are people who have specifically contacted Tupperware and asked for information on becoming a consultant.

So here is my theory. They do not expect a man to ring them, so when one does, it puts them off. For the most part, Tupperware is proudly a community of women, and it is a very attractive and supportive environment for women to work in, especially if you have not been part of the male-oriented working world for a while, or ever. I think that when the prospective consultant hears my message, they think (or perhaps it's subconscious) "Hang on, yet another male manager, even at Tupperware. Forget it."

I sympathise, because part of the reason this is such an interesting venture for me is negotiating and fitting in to the congenial and overwhelming female world of Tupperware. I find there are some advantages to being a male consultant, but I think this may be the key disadvantage. If my fears are true, and potential recruits are put off the moment they hear my voice, I will not be getting very far in Tupperware.

Londoners are a tough crowd in general, never mind in recruiting. No parties this week again, and even the offer of coffee, muffins, new catalogues and free gifts has not tempted any of my previous customers and hosts to come to my Open House afternoon today. I sit here alone with, as my photo above shows, a pot of coffee, a tray of Parmesan muffins and the Coronation Street omnibus on ITV2.

So it's been a slightly downbeat week for your Tupperware man. But next week I have two big parties and the Homo Homemakers autumn fayre, which will be opened by Sir Ian McKellen. The following weekend, I have a stall at an Autumn Fayre at the Notre Dame Catholic Girls High School down the road. You can't say I am not creating a diverse customer base!

Friday, September 15, 2006

Time out... and Time Out

No parties this week. I can take a bit of time to gather my thoughts and familiarise myself with the new products for Autumn/Winter.

When I started as a Tupperware consultant back in May, I decided I would give it until September. If it wasn't working out by then, I would jack it in. Well, I have decided to continue. Right now I am the sixth best selling consultant in the UK and Ireland, and I already have some ideas for expanding my business during the autumn and winter. I still haven't managed to find anyone to work with me as a little London team, but I am hopeful.

Later this month Time Out London magazine will be running an article in their Gay section about the "Homo Homemakers" church fayre at St Johns, Waterloo, where I will have a stall. The organisers are very excited that Tupperware is on board. A journalist contacts me and asks for a few words about my involvement, and I pontificate about lesbians and gay men celebrating their inner hausrau.

I get a party request from Viv during the week. She is just back from Belgium where she fell for Tupperware's UltraPlus range and wants some for herself. This is the priciest range in the catalogue, unique plastic ovenware which can go in the freezer and microwave as well as the conventional oven. It comes in black, and looks very stylish. It is cheaper than Le Creuset, but lasts just as long and is more versatile. And because it is plastic, you don't sprain a wrist trying to get it out of the bottom cupboard. I thought Tupperware for the oven was a relatively new idea, but I have stumbled on an ultra-corny 1985 US television ad on YouTube for UltraPlus's predecessor Ultra 21, which came in a rather naff cream colour. But didn't everything in 1985?

Update 9 November 2006: Since I wrote this blog entry, YouTube has removed the Ultra 21 ad for violating its rules, so I have removed the link. Shame, because it was a fun piece of Tupper-history

Thursday, September 07, 2006

The Catford Wives

A very long day. Fellow consultant Collette arrives at my place at 8:00 a.m. After rooibos tea and scrambled eggs, we head off to Luton by train. The Holiday Inn near Luton Airport is the venue for the first Jubilee meeting of Tupperware UK and Ireland since the relaunch a year or so ago. The Jubilee recognises the top consultants, introduces new products and the new catalogue, and generally gets us all fired up with the love of Tupperware.

I am the only male consultant. Marc from Blackpool is on holiday this week, so he can't make it. I do think I approach the work a bit differently to other consultants, both procedurally and philosphically. Maybe that has something to do with being a man. But probably it has more to do with other factors: as a gay man living in the centre of a very diverse city, my parties have a much broader range of social, ethnic and income demographics than many other consultants'. My parties are often run for groups of colleagues in their work place, or for friends who live wildly scattered, so I have to be prepared for anything and anyone. At one party, one of the guests turned out to be someone I had met on a dating website. He said nothing, and neither did I.

Summer has felt a bit slow Tupper-wise, so I am surprised but thrilled to be named number 6 consultant for summer sales in the UK and Ireland. I am rewarded with a new and improved Quick Chef, Tupperware's hand-operated food processor, to add to my demonstration kit.

Another new item in the Autumn/Winter catalogue is the Multi-Server, a Tupperware classic which has been off-menu for a while. Customers have been begging for it, but as a new kid on the block, I didn't even know what it was. When the Managing Director whips out a Multi-Server onstage and announces its return, my fellow consultants start whooping and screaming. So what is this thing? Well, it is a rice cooker, a fish poacher, a defroster, a cool box, you name it. I am told it cooks pasta without continuously boiling water, but my jury is still out on that one, and I am going to try it for myself this weekend.

Consultants are showered with gifts, prizes and a chance to buy all the new items for our demo kit. On the train home I am absolutely laden (see photo above): a BreadSmart bread bin with separate bread boad, Tupperware branded umbella, carrier bag of smaller items, my own backpack and my prize Quick Chef which is all dragged up in florist's wrap and a bow.

Back home, I have barely half an hour before I am boarding the 171 bus to Catford to run a party for Maria. I had already packed my big black kit bag last night, thank goodness. Sadly, my handy trolley-bag on wheels is history already: it has taken a lot of punishment these last few months as I hauled it through puddles, across cobbles and on and off buses and trains. It now has a dodgy wheel, the zips are broken, and a bag of flour leaked on the way home a few weeks ago. As it happens, a new trolley bag is the latest incentive Tupperware is offering for recruiting a new consultant, so I will see what I can do.

Maria is an ex-Tupperware consultant, and she intends to stay that way (I tried). Six of her friends barrel in, and the next few hours are a blur of scandal aired, bowls burped, ciggies smoked, consultant teased, salsa prepared, teenage daughters compared and contrasted, and a lot of Chardonnay poured. And it's a good party for Maria, she comes out with £100 worth of Tupperware for less than £50.

I am home just before midnight and go straight to bed. As I drift off, I hatch a plan to host a weekend Open House at my home in the next few weeks for everyone on my mailing list. I can show off the new products, bake a few muffins in the Silicone Muffin Form which is a special offer for September, and give away some of the bits and bobs I have picked up at the Jubilee (an orange peeler, an thing for lifting boiled eggs out of the pan, etc.). If you are on my mailing list, stand by for an invitation. If you are not on the list, feel free to join.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

"Who's the happiest housewife in the kitchen?"

When I am not dithering in front of the wardrobe trying to choose an outfit for Wednesday's national Tupperware Jubilee, I am marching around my house to The Tupperware Brigade. This is the song that was recorded especially by the King Brothers for the 1967 UK Tupperware distributors' conference, and which I bought on eBay recently.

The photo above shows the Kings at the start of their career in the 1950s. From my research, the Tupperware promo record seems to be one of their last recordings. The cod military march style has a bit of a Colonel Bogey vibe, and the singing style has a touch of Herman's Hermits. Composer and youngest King brother Denis has gone on to have a long career writing TV theme tunes, including the classic "Galloping Home", the theme to the 1970s series The Adbventures of Black Beauty. The lyrics are by humourist John Junkin, who died earlier this year. I have had a very nice email from Denis King today, after I emailed him via his agent on Saturday (bless Google), and he gives me permission to include the song on my blog.

Listen to The Tupperware Brigade.

The Tupperware Brigade
Music by Denis King, Lyrics by John Junkin

Who's the happiest housewife in the kitchen?
The one with Tupperware on the shelf
I tell you any housewife finds that it's bewitchin'
It's light, it's bright, the price is right
And you can make some cash yourself
We're giving a party soon and you can come for free
So come along and see, we're sure that you'll agree

Tupperware, Tupperware
Is the finest kitchenware that ever was made
Tupperware, Tupperware
Fall in and join the Tupperware brigade

They've got a range of kitchen goods that are the best
Why don't you come along and put them to the test?
Once you've tried them you'll agree it's true
All the things that we are telling you.


Saturday, September 02, 2006

Collecting Tuppernalia

Tupperware consultants in the US offer online parties. I think the idea is that hosts invite their friends to shop at the consultant's own Tupperware website within a given time period, and the host earns their percentage reward from all the sales. There are no online parties in the UK yet, although I offer existing customers the chance to put in additional orders by email, and to pay by Paypal.

I don't sell or buy Tupperware on eBay (it isn't allowed) but I do keep an eye open for any interesting memorabilia. It could be something I can use at a party, like the German key chains with miniature Tupperware products that I wear on my apron, or just something that amuses me, like the 1980s Tupperware cookbook.

Most intriguingly, I found on eBay a 40-year old EP record by the King Brothers. It was recorded especially for the Fifth Tupperware Distributors Concert in London in 1967, and alongside some showtunes it features a rousing song called The Tupperware Brigade. Like most people these days, I don't have a record player, so on a visit to my friends Been and Mike this weekend, I asked Mike if he could help me transfer it into a format that I share with visitors to my website and blog. Mike is a record producer and musician, so I figured he would have the technology. There is no publisher listed on the record or sleeve, so I cannot ask anyone for permission to include it, but I have found composer Denis King's agent through Google, and have emailed him and asked if it is OK. I will upload the song as soon as I have figured out how to do it, and assuming Mr King agrees.

I spot a very old Space Saver in my friends' kitchen (see pic), not to mention a Mix and Stor without a seal, and the seal and blender of a long-lost Quick Shake. I will put a new Quick Shake in the post to Been and Mike to say thanks for The Tupperware Brigade.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Market forces

The new Autumn/Winter catalogue will be launched in a couple of weeks' time. I still have a big pile of the Spring/Summer edition, so today I start to distribute them in my neighbourhood with my contact details stamped on the back, and hopefully I will drum up some local parties.

First I leave a small pile of catalogues in a rack by the mailboxes at Metro Central Heights, a huge residential block down the road. Then I take half a dozen more to Borough Market, a real foodie hang-out which is only a 15 minute walk from my house. I was just going to just leave them on a random bench, but while shopping I spy a perfect spot on this vegetable stall and arrange the catalogues between the mushrooms and the asparagus.

I check at the Paul Smith shop at Borough Market. As I wrote a few posts ago, they are selling Tupperware Mini-Maxes for an eye-watering £12 each. I have now sent two friendly emails to the buyer at Paul Smith, offering to run a party if they want one, but they haven't replied. I don't quite have the brass neck to leave some catalogues in the shop, but it occurs to me that Tupperware Head Office would not be happy that they are selling Tupperware in their shop at all, let alone at such a mark-up. I might just have to tip them off.

I stumble across this US television ad for Tupperware, from sometime in the 1960s. Given the nature of the free gifts, there is absolutely no ambiguity that all guests and hosts were expected to be women:

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Home boy

Redcar, the town where I grew up, is used to invasions. Geordies descend for the races, pensioners pile off coaches for a picnic on the beach, and hordes of local youngsters fill the pubs every Friday night done up to the nines. This week, Hollywood is in town. A stretch of the sea front has been dressed as 1940s Dunkirk for the new film version of Ian McEwan's novel Atonement. Hundreds of locals have had 1940s haircuts for £50 a day as extras. Then as if it couldn't get any more exciting, I hop on the train from London Kings Cross and rock up at Redcar East station with my Tupperware kit bag for some hometown parties.

Sadly, my friend Nicky has to cancel, but my sister Lois has friends and family coming over to hang out in her new kitchen and see what I am up to with this Tupperware lark. My cousin Emma, Auntie Sue and grandma Benny form a 3-generations tableau in one corner, all looking fantastic and years younger than 30, 60 and 90. My brother Martyn brings his daughter Devan who falls asleep on the couch before I even start. My nephews Oliver and Charlie are too busy skateboarding to come along, but Oliver poses for a photo with his mum and four Mini Maxes (above).

Given that I travel by train, I decide to leave a lot of kit behind in London. But the guests keep me busy with questions and repeat demonstrations as we make fresh salsa in the Quick Chef. The Happy Chopper is today's big hit, I sell four of them. Lois is rewarded with £60 worth of Tupperware for just over £20, so she is very pleased with that.

Auntie Sue is keen for her own party some time soon, so I agree to talk dates and come back up to Redcar before long. Nicky wants to reschedule her postponed party too, so it will definitely be worth my while to bring back the Tupperware roadshow in the next month or so.

There are two weeks to go until the Jubilee meeting in Luton, when all the UK TUpperware consultants will be getting together. There are no monthly league tables for July and August, just one combined league table for the whole summer which will be announced at the Jubilee. I am doing OK I think, but have had a quiet few weeks. I might scrape into the Top 10, who knows?

I come back to London to a very alarming voice mail message from my manager Janet. She wants me to take the role of Prince MiniMax in some sort of Tupperware panto. We'll see...

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Tupperware takes the stage

I have often heard Baylen Leonard's Tennessee tones on BBC London 94.9, so it was a nice surprise when he emailed me asking for a Tupperware party. And even better that he only lives 5 minutes from me. With not so far to drag the kit, I decide to take absolutely everything: two big bags of Tupperware. And just as Baylen had promised, he did indeed have a stage in his living room. Centre stage and spot-lit, my Tupperware has never looked so glamorous (photo above).

Baylen's is an ideal Tupperware party household. His aunt was a Tupperware lady in Tennessee, so it's in the blood. He has a German flatmate (they love Tupperware, that lot), and his mostly American guests are very funny, loud, enthusastic and camp. The Happy Chopper and Fresh and Pure Ice Tray are especially well received. Baylen is rewarded with a free pair of Stuffables and a half-price Happy Chopper.

My gay and lesbian customers have always been really good to me, so I agree instantly when guest Tim invites me to run a Tupperware stall at an Autumn Fayre run by the House of Homosexual Culture on Saturday 30 September. This event will be "a celebration of the domestic arts, exploring our hidden identities as “homo home-makers” and asking just why we're so damn good at these things". Looking forward to this one.

During the week I had a message via my website www.TupperwareMan.co.uk from Nicole, a German Tupperware Lady who is passing through London this week. She wants to see a UK catalogue so I agreed to meet her and her husband Michael for coffee on Saturday morning and to exchange catalogues. Our waitress snags one of catalogues for herself ("My mother was a Tupperware Lady at home in Brazil") but we still manage an exchange. I am totally amazed to learn that there is a Tupperware consultant per 1000 people in Germany. For 5 million Londoners, there are probably about six of us at most, with only me covering central London. And still I can't manage to recruit anyone to work with me!

And Tupperware is about to hit the road. I am visting family and friends in the North East, and I have agreed to run a seaside Tupperware party for my sister next weekend in Redcar. See you there.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Paul Smith in £12 Mini-Max rip-off scandal

When they hear about my fancy summer holiday in Mauritius, people say "Wow, you must be doing really well with Tupperware". It's true that I am doing pretty well, but not that well: in fact I won the holiday in a competition at Harrods last summer.

It is sometimes a pain using public transport to get myself and my kit bag to parties. So I am pleased to discover a direct train from my local train station, Elephant and Castle, to Mill Hill Broadway where Stephanie has requested a Tupperware party with her friends. On the phone, Stephanie told me it will be a group of pensioners, and I fear the whiff and dead hand of the nursing home. On the contrary, I arrive to find a feisty, noisy and vivacious bunch who jostle each other to get into Stephanie's conservatory to admire my display table.

Two weeks after every party, I have to haul the orders back to the host's place. Every Thursday, the Tupperware orders from the week before last are delivered to me from France. I work on Thursdays at the university, and there is no-one back at home to sign for the delivery, so it all arrives at my office. I stay back after work to unpack the huge cardboard boxes, sort everything into separate parties and individual orders, and pack them into Tupperware carrier bags ready to deliver to the host. The products are light, and for most parties, I can get everything into several oversized heavy-duty carrier bags from Aldi and Lidl, which I can easily shlep onto the train, bus or tube. For bigger parties, or if several people have ordered large items like a Salad Spinner, Bread Box or Cutting Board, I have to take a taxi.

On Friday this week I deliver all the orders from Daniel's party (see Hot Hot Hot below). This is definitely a taxi job: three large cardboard boxes, all brim-full, and one of them just containing Daniel's free and half-price rewards. I use a local cab firm and my driver can neither drive, speak English nor even find London Bridge, never mind the small side-street off Borough Market where Daniel's studio is. At one point we are stopped by the police when he tries to do a U-turn in rush hour traffic.

Daniel has reconvened a follow-up party for guests to drop in for a drink and to collect their Tupperware. I hand out the bagged-up and labelled orders, and adult men and women clap and rip open their packages. I feel like a 21st century Tupperware Santa Claus.

Daniel tells me that he has noticed that the Borough Market branch of Paul Smith, round the corner from his office, is selling Mini-Maxes. This seems odd, surely he is mistaken. I pop round to check. As well as his own range of clothing and accessories, Paul Smith's shops also sell an eccentric selection of toys and other products that have caught the designer's eye, or "products that Paul has found on his travels" as the website says. Sure enough, there are two Mini-Maxes there, the smallest 700ml size but in orange and green, not the yellow that I sell:

I over-casually quiz the chap behind the counter about them, wondering out loud if people ever ask about other colours and sizes. He admits that no-one has ever bought one, and at a whopping £12 (twice the catalogue price) I am not surprised. I glean that all Paul Smith shops have the same non-Paul Smith products, so it is someone centrally, maybe Paul Smith himself, who chose to display the Mini-Maxes. I leave a couple of catalogues and my contact details, in case the Tupperware fan in question wants a party.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Hot hot hot

It's the hottest July day ever, and what am I doing? Dragging my trolley bag down a cobbled street by London Bridge to a warehouse above the Clink Prison Museum. Then I haul it up five stories (there's no lift) through a warren of studio spaces to Daniel's office for tonight's party. Daniel came to my stall at the Merrick Square fete a few weeks ago and got the Tupperware bug. Tonight, 15 or so of his friends, colleagues and neighbours come to prepare Salsa and Chocolate Almond Cake.

A pattern is emerging at my parties. Hosts and guests often start amused (and a bit bemused) by the fact that they find themselves at a Tupperware party. There is often some good-natured sending up of the products, the party format, even my good self. Tonight sure enough there is a jokey "oooh" when I collapse a Mini-Max, and some fits of giggles when I enthuse about a FridgeSmart. But if I do my job properly, bit by bit the enthusiasm slowly becomes genuine. Someone will start making notes on their order form. Someone else will say spontaneously "Now that is good" and everyone will laugh, but secretly agree. I do milk it a bit too of course: I separate the two parts of the scissors with a bit of drama, and I ask people to describe the pleasing feeling of the silicone spatula leaving no trace of cake mix in the bowl.

Daniel's guests do him proud. With his free and half-price products, he ends up with £125 worth of Tupperware for £30. Even he is shocked at how well he has done.
I manage to accommodate some off-menu Mini-Max requests: delivery takes two weeks, but Amanda needs two Mini-Maxes tomorrow (fine, I have a couple of extras at home), and Gary wants his sent to Costa Rica, where he will be living for a while. Anneliese tells me that a friend has already booked a party with me next week. This turns out to be the American radio presenter I spoke to the other day. He mentioned that he has a stage in his living room "if I need it".

It's only a short bus ride home, but the long day, the heat and my eagerness to be home kick in, and I jump off the bus without my kit bag of Tupperware! The 343 bus disappears round Elephant and Castle with my kit in it. I stay calm(ish) and ring London Transport travel info. They connect me with the relevant bus garage, who radio the driver. I am instructed to meet the bus at a specific stop in 45 minutes' time. I am happy to report that I am now reunited with my well travelled kit bag.

I am off to Mauritius with my sister for a week. See you in August for more Tupperware.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

From Old Kent Road to Mayfair

I live on the cheapest street on the Monopoly board. Today's party is on the most expensive one. Mayfair is far too posh for public transport, so I have to trundle my trolley bag along Piccadilly, dodging the crowds, and turn into Park Lane until I reach the bijou offices of Hanson Capital, a privately owned merchant banking firm. Annelise is PA to the Chairman, and a fellow volunteer for The Food Chain, and she has invited me to run an after-work party with her colleagues. It is another sweltering day in London, but the impeccably groomed young women look as cool as cucumbers in a FridgeSmart.

It might be my poshest location, but Heavens above, the communal kitchen microwave looks like something from Bruce Forsyth's conveyor belt in 1977. I have to adjust the power and the timing just to melt the chocolate for the Chocolate Almond Cake, let alone to cook the thing. But needless to say, the recipe and the flower silicone form are as reliable as ever.

The guests throw themselves into the Tupperware buying with gusto and good humour, and even the boss's delightful Filipina housekeeper has been chauffered in to equip her kitchen with whatever she wants. This turns out to be my highest spending party yet which, after an additional contribution from guest Jenny, and Gift Aid from the Chancellor, nets a donation of £220 to The Food Chain. What's more, three of the guests get to add a half-price item of their choice to their order, saving around £50 between them. If I add in Adam's and Laura's recent fundraising parties, my parties have generated around £320 for the charity, and as a volunteer I know this goes a very long way and is much appreciated.

During a quick visit to Blackpool at the weekend, I meet up with Marc, the only other Tupperware Man in the country. Younger than me, but an old pro when it comes to Tupperware (and pretty much everything else), Marc gives me the Tupper-gossip in his back garden over ice tea in Expressions tumblers. Sadly, it looks like holiday plans will prevent Marc from attending the Jubilee in September. This is the first gathering of Tupperware consultants from all over the country since the company relaunched. I will be the only man there, and will of course be reporting on it for my blog.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Greek chic

Yesterday was the first anniversary of the terrible suicide bombings in London. Some reports at the time mentioned that the explosives were in a Tupperware-style box: it was actually a large empty plastic rice container. Memories of that awful day were on my mind as I haul two holdalls of Tupperware home onto the 25 bus (orders are delivered to my office, not my home). A year earlier, on that very bus I had been caught up in the chaos around the explosion at Aldgate station on my way to work. I was turfed off the bus right by the station, just minutes after the explosion. We passengers all had to hurry of the cordoned-off area, not knowing the seriousness of what had happened under the street.

I work in an area of London with a high Muslim population, and it occurs to me that sadly if it was one of the many young Muslim men on my bus who were carting large, mysterious and curiously light holdalls, he would attract some suspicious looks. I am happy and proud to live in a this diverse city, to where people from all over the world come to be themselves and live good lives.

Back to my parties. Last Sunday I take a short bus ride to Rotherhithe to Lia's house by the Thames. There is a cool breeze off the river, and at one point in the middle of my demo, a pirate galleon sails by, advertising the film Pirates of the Caribbean. It is the hottest day of the year so far. London is subdued and sluggish, and so am I. Put it down to the heat and England crashing out of the World Cup on penalties.

Lia and her two guests are vivacious young Greek women. Lia is a big Tupperware fan, and wants to se what's new. She reckons she already has 75% of what's in the current catalogue. It means I can leave some things in my kit bag and ask Lia to demonstrate her personal items. There is lots of laughter and chat (in English and in Greek) and nice snacks. All the guests' mothers back in Greece swear by their "Tuppers", especially the Quick Shake and the Jel Ring.

It's a small but perfectly formed party, and I feel sure I will see the ladies again. Sophia is taking a catalogue home and will make a further order after payday. Lia is a Tupperware fanatic of old, and will be reqesting the new catalogue in September. Theodora is throwing a housewarming party soon, and is keen to earn some free and half-price Tupperware by hosting a party. And I seem to have passed some sort of test, because she adds "when one Greek likes you, they all like you".

We make the Quiche without Pastry. I stick with broccoli and stilton but feel pleased with myself when my suggestion of using roast peppers and feta meets with a Greek chorus of approval.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

(Fridge) Smarty pants

Another training session at Tupperware HQ this week. One of the challenges I set myself is to sell more FridgeSmarts, the vegetable storage boxes with air vents. I have rarely sold one, probably because I haven't really used it much myself. The valve system seems a bit elaborate to me, and I think my demo was therefore a bit half-hearted. Greg Natale's recommendation in The Guardian a couple of weeks ago fired me up, and I put some carrots in a FridgeSmart in my fridge to test it out.

Wednesday night I host my Book Club at my house. Julie arrives a bit early while I was making the snacks, spots the FridgeSmart in my fridge and asks about it. We test a carrot (nearly 3 weeks old) and it is fresh, not sweaty, and snaps rather than bends. Success!

As it happens Julie is hosting a party the next night at her home in west London. My hands-on experience of the FridgeSmart plus Julie's personal testimony and visual aids (some week-old flabby carrots from her own fridge) does the trick: never mind selling one, I sell eight!

A few weeks ago I met Collette, a charming young South African woman who is juggling Tupperware with a full-time job as a social worker. Collette is looking for some inspiration and asked if she could come to one of my parties. She lives very close to Julie, so comes along tonight. The deal is that Collette helps out by doing some of the demo, and she does her own recipe. I supervise the Quiche without Pastry, and Collete supervises Raspberry Dreams. By the way, I have now added these and all my party recipes to my website.

It's a long leisurely party, and Julie donates her £50 reward to St Christopher's Hospice, a charity which is close to her heart. She takes three half-price items for herself, so she still gets nearly £60 worth of Tupperware for £30.

I receive a sweet email from Dixie Longate, the drag queen Tupperware lady in California (see the video two posts ago), who tells me she is currently the No. 2 seller in the US, having shifted $30,000 worth of Tupperware last month! She is taking Dixie's Tupperware Party Off-Broadway this autumn, so I might try to arrange a trip to visit friends in New York at the same time.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

In your face

A few weeks ago, Tupperware HQ sent out some recipes for a Tupperware Spa party: face packs made in the Happy Chopper, and foot balm made in the Quick Shake. Seemed like a fun idea, and I added the info to my website. Tonight's hostess Laura plumped for a spa party, so I rocked up at the little flat above a shop in North London, and set out my stall.

Tonight is another fundraiser for The Food Chain. Laura is the Chief Executive of the charity, and in her other life she is a Lib Dem councillor. A dozen or so Lib Dems troop in, and we are off.

The face packs are easy and fun to make in the Happy Chopper, and everyone has a turn with it. But I am not sure that a rambunctious Tupperware party is a relaxing enough place to actually apply the masks. We have a go applying the apple, honey and sage mask to Laura's face with the Kings Sceptre, but I think in future I will leave the hostess her face packs to cool in the fridge and apply at her leisure after everyone has gone. For a treat, and to show off the MicroPlus Pitcher, I also melt some chocolate in the microwave and dip some English strawberries in it. We add these to Laura's buffet.

Guests ranged from Margot, a Tupperware fan who chipped in with some excellent selling points, to Pippa, who was was extremely sceptical about pretty much everything. But needless to say everyone including Pippa finds something they wanted in the catalogue. Laura donates her 15% reward to The Food Chain, which came to £60. To this I added another £18 which I raised by raffling to chance to buy items at half price, another reward donated by Laura.

Remember the bath mat I won last week for my sales? I have just noticed this morning that it has a Tupperware logo woven in!

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Temple of Tupperware

No parties for the last week or so. Lucy has to cancel her party, which is shame because she lives on a houseboat, and we were going to make cocktails on the deck. Maybe later in the summer.

I deliver a Tupperware order to Sandie, who used to be a Tupperware consultant herself. I catch a glimpse of her kitchen cupboard and ask if I can take a photo. I don't know whether I am impressed or terrified.

Later in the week I take a train out to Leamington Spa, home of Tupperware Central where Riitta has organised some training. As you walk in to the lobby of the very modest offices, there is an set of MiniMaxes in a glass case in front of a window. With the summer sunlight streaming through them like stained glass, I feel like I have entered the temple of Tupperware

Everyone is charming, although I hear my late mother's scolding voice in my head when a milk bottle is placed on the table at coffee time. It is quickly snatched away and replaced with a milk jug! I come home laden with gifts as well as ideas:

  • * a posh bath towel set for being a Top 10 seller during a promotion period last month
  • * some sandwich boxes (no longer in the catalogue) for having dated the most parties of all the consultants there. I decant some pork and leek sausages into one of them when I get home.
  • * a selection of FridgeSmart boxes from a raffle

On the subject of FridgeSmarts, Greg from Sydney is quoted in last week's Space supplement in The Guardian singing their praises. He says how trendy Tupperware is in Sydney these days. So I google and email him, telling him my mission is precisely that -- to make Tupperware cool and desirable to my urban customers. Turns out he is an interior designer who designed his own kitchen, so he knows his stuff, and he gives me some good tips and contacts.

Apparently Sydney has several drag queen Tupperware ladies, who juggle their stage work with selling the plastic, and sometimes combine the two. I am intrigued by Dixie Longate (say the name out loud...), a American drag performer who has an off-Broadway show this summer. Her show is a real Tupperware party, with Dixie telling her tragic white trash tale while she earns her margin. I found some videos of Dixie's parties on YouTube: here she is talking about how she got started:

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

At home with Miss Eleganzia Bowle

I volunteer for The Food Chain, a London charity that supports the HIV community through good nutrition. Through their weekly newsletter I have offered to run fund-raising parties. At a charity party, instead of the host earning rewards in free Tupperware, their chosen charity gets the money. The host still gets their half-price allowance.

I have three charity parties coming up in the next few weeks, including a Tupperware Spa experience where I will be preparing face packs and foot scrubs. But my first charity host is Adam. His complexion is flawless already, so we have gone for a chocolate almond cake in his kitchen a short walk from Clapham Common.

It's another baking day, in every sense, but certainly not one for turning the oven on. So our microwave cake is very welcome. Adam's buffet is fantastic, and looks especially good decanted into some of the products I have brought. My Expressions pitcher is filled with Pimms. His colleagues, who all work in the area of IT support for arts organisations, take to the demo with gusto, and by the end I think I had demonstrated everything on the table. I am Tuppered out.

Sales give The Food Chain £22, which Adam's employer has agreed to match. The resulting £44 donation will pay for almost 30 delicious home cooked Sunday lunches delivered direct to service users homes. And Adam got a half-price baking sheet for himself.

After this party, I will never think of one Tupperware product in the same way again. Someone pointed out that "Eleganzia Bowl" sounds like a drag queen!

Monday, June 12, 2006

It's fete

Something different today. My local residents association is hosting a summer fete as part of London's Garden Squares weekend, and I have been asked to run a Tupperware stall. Armed with a vinyl banner I bought online, a Tupperware branded polo shirt in a violent shade of turquoise, all the ingredients for salsa, and my body weight in tortilla chips, I set out my stall in Merrick Square between the bric a brac and the tombola. I have to say, my stall looks sensational. The vine tomatoes from my local Turkish shop sitting in a green Mini-Max bowl look amazingly good. Check out the photos, tasty or what?

My friend Susan joins me to help field enquiries and to fetch me Pimms and samosas when I get a craving. I run a free prize draw for a Fresh n Pure Ice Tray, and give out lots of catalogues. It's hard to tell, but at least 6 people seem really keen to host a demo, and I got most of their contact details on the prize draw tickets, so I will follow those up next week. Many people are intrigued to see me there, it's clear that they are pleased to see that Tupperware is back.

A beautiful afternoon in a London garden square, a funny and vicacious friend on hand to help me and gossip with, a soothing guitarist strumming away to my left, and friendly people who want Tupperware. It's not like work.

The World Tup

Another scorcher in London, and off I go to Highbury to Lorna's World Cup Tupperware Party. I haul my trolley bag up the four stories to Lorna's top floor kitchen, and set everything out. As I expected, most of the guests do indeed want to watch England's first World Cup match which is scheduled to start at 2pm, the same start time as the party. Lorna and I have a chat and we decide to delay the demo until after the final whistle. One guest, Gill, is not amused by the football focus, and sits in the kitchen with a face as long as a gas man's mac. She is also in "difficult lady customer mode" for most of the afternoon, but the next day she follows it up with a very sweet message via my website apologising for her grumpiness.

We make the quiche without pastry in the Princess flexible silicone form, then reconvene in the living room. Towards the end of the cooking, I hear a gentle shriek from the kitchen, where Lorna had gone to check on the quiche. I wander in to find the oven door open and the Princess silicone form face down on the floor, quiche-side first. She had tried to lift the pan out of the oven on its own, without a baking tray, panicked when it flexed, and dropped it!

With staccato whispers we discreetly scoop and flip the quiche back into the tin and back into the oven. Lorna was mortified. I just remember Julia Child's words when she dropped a Thansgiving turkey and put it back on to the platter and served it "Remember, you are the only one in the kitchen". I suggest to Lorna that we display the quiche, but don't actually eat it. She decides that what her guests don't know won't hurt them. Until they read this.

Lorna chooses a Mini-Max as her free item, and for her half-price item, a flower silicone form. I bet she will always use a baking tray with it.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Bend it like Tupperware

I am happy to report that I had the third highest retail sales of all consultants in the UK in May 2006.

I am less happy to report that I have accidentally scheduled a Tupperware party for the exact 90 minutes of the England vs. Paraguay game on Saturday. What was I thinking? I liaise with the hostess to check that she wants to go ahead, and she does, although she says that she and her guests would like to watch the football too, so we will have it on in the background. This will be interesting. Watch this space.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Working it

A party at someone's home usually lasts two hours or so, with plenty of time for browsing the catalogue and ordering. Today is an experiment: how can I run a lunch-hour party in an office setting without it being rushed or cutting any corners. I am doing a lunch-hour demo at the university where I work part-time, with my colleagues as the guests. Some of them have been to one of my home parties, so they will have helpful feedback on how today compares.

The first useful thing (although it didn't feel that way when she told me) is that Laura, my manager, friend and hostess, almost forgot about the event, and she didn't do the required shopping until the last moment. I do always remind hosts a few days before, but with an office-based party I think I will do it the day before. It makes sense: if you are in the commuting routine, it is easy to forget you have to take groceries to work one day.

I heave the microwave from the communal kitchen into the biggest shared office, and assign one desk for food preparation and another as my shop window. I drop most of my normal intro about the history and background of Tupperware. Instead, after the briefest of introductions, I cut straight to the cooking demo. As we go through the demo I just chuck in the occasional bit of info about Tupperware's significance in history, economics, gender, design, science and sociology! Hey, you really learn something at my demos, you know.

The microwaved chocolate almond cake is becoming a bit of a regular, but that's because it works, it is quick, it wows the crowds as it pops out of the silicone form, and it tastes good. And who doesn't love an unexpected slice of chocolate cake placed on their office desk when it's not even anyone's birthday.

As we cook, and I tell guests about the products we are using, I field questions about some of the other products on the display and pass them around. I also ask the crowd for their own Tupperware anecdotes. It seems to work, and because I know all the guests, I don't mind taking some chances in this trial run.

We started 10 minutes late while everyone fetched their lunch and found a seat, but we still finish with a few minutes to go before the end of the lunch hour. I work here, so I leave the display up until the end of the day. There is time for people to take a catalogue away with them, even take it home, and give me their order tomorrow. For other office parties, I won't have this luxury, so I now need to figure out how to include enough time for people to order, without pressurising them. I certainly need a good half-hour to pack my bag too, so perhaps I will have to assign a full two hours to an office party after all. We'll see.

A big weekend is coming up. Two home parties, one of which is my first charity party in aid of The Food Chain, and a stall at the residents' association summer fete in Merrick Square.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Out in the sun

It's a glorious day in South East London and I am glad I don't need to go very far for today's party. A few weeks ago I got chatting with Canadian ex-pat Jason on the gay community website OUTeverywhere, and I was delighted that he was keen to host a Tupperware party for half a dozen friends. He would have a new bathroom to christen, and his kitchen needed replenishing. I was even more delighted that he lives just 10 minutes down the road.

In the end, Jason's builders took slightly longer than planned (isn't that unusual...) and we had a last-minute change of venue to his friends' place round the corner. Ed and Blake hail from the southern US (of course they do, they are called Ed and Blake) and are stalwarts of their mothers' Tupperware parties back home. Their lovely open plan kitchen-diner with its sunny terrace is the perfect setting for a very gay summertime Tupperware party with built-in cigarette breaks. Their dining table becomes my shop window, and the central island food prep area gives our demonstration the look and feel of a TV cooking show. Although it was definitely more Fanny Cradock than Jamie Oliver.

Jason was having fun with his retro buffet, complete with a cheese-and-pineapple hedgehog and some curried tinned pears which are his mother's speciality. They are astonishingly good. He fills my green Expressions Tip Top pitcher with pina colada, and one guest David takes the theme to its limit by bringing bottles of Black Tower, Blue Nun and Mateus Rose. All the guests muck in to make a chocolate almond cake in the microwave. Grown men, and strapping ones at that, coo and purr at the precision of the silicone spatula. I had promised Jason I would complete the picture with an authentic 1970s Tupperware cake server that I had picked up on eBay, and it is a big hit.

But it isn't just a campy nostalgia fest. Jason, Ed, Blake and guests have fun with their memories of Tupperware, but they also really engage with the fantastic new products. Blake pounces on the Expressions Round Server with its carrying handle: he is a big pie-maker but complains that he can never take his pies anywhere. The Pina Colada must have hit the spot too because almost everyone bought an Expressions pitcher for their own home cocktails. Most peoples' orders stretched over two separate order forms and when I calculate their rewards, my joint hosts come out with over £100 worth of free Tupperware.

I leave with the sun still blazing and the Tuppered-out guests lazing shirts-off on the terrace. Giddy with the sun, I accidentally leave my tablecloth behind. I will collect it from Jason when I drop the orders next week. Although looking at the order forms in front of me now, I may need to hire a truck.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Great expectations

I take the bus to Cambridge, my Tupperware trolley-bag stashed in the luggage compartment, for my first out-of-town party hosted by my friends Munizha and Hank, who are expecting their first baby this summer. That's Munizha in the photo, helping me demonstrate a Mini Max. Last week I added a few new things to my demonstration kit, including the 26cm diameter Princess silicone cake pan, which we will use today to prepare a broccoli and stilton quiche without pastry. Munizha and I did the Atkins diet together a few years ago in preparation for a holiday in Mexico, so the crustless quiche is a bit of an in-joke.

I have to say, as excellent as all Tupperware products are, some of the names that the folks at Tupperware have chosen are very silly. I do send up some of the product names: the Princess and Queen cake dishes for one, and the King's Sceptre pastry brush. The "Bake 2 Basics" range always seems to include one pun too many, and as for the "That's a Bowl" bowl...

Anyway, there is an interesting and diverse crowd today including two pregnant women, their husbands, a visitor from Israel, and Munizha's mother-in-law Betty who went to her first Tupperware party in the 1950s. I manage to shoehorn into my demo some product advantages for the Muslim and Jewish guests: we are not cooking either Kosher or Halal, but the aforementioned King's Sceptre pastry brush does have bristles made of silicone rather than pig's hair! We all squeeze into the tiny galley kitchen and guests take turns sifting flour, grating cheese, Quick Shaking eggs and milk, and stirring the mixture. The stilton is vetoed at the last minute by the pregnant guests in favour of mature Cheddar, but the quiche is delicious all the same. Needless to say, the Princess delivers up her quiche as well as the Flower gives up her cakes. Not a crumb is left behind. Actually there was no crust, so that's not so surprising. But nothing stuck.

Usually I work with hosts to make sure they make the most of their hosting rewards, and sometimes help them juggle the free and half-price items in order to get the best deal. Munizha is a dear friend, and I have a lot of patience, but mercy me, she was indecisive about her order. We got there in the end, but I am glad that she and Hank have already settled on a name for their daughter! Baby Rubi arrives in August. Munizha's eventual reward for hosting was £56 worth of Tupperware for £22. Not bad.

I have agreed to run an all-day Tupperware Party at my local fete on Sunday 11 June. Do come along if you are in the London SE1 area. But before that, I have my first all-gay party for Jason and his friends next weekend.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Top Tupp

I was buying some tortilla chips at the Mexican shop down my street this afternoon when I had call from Jane Green, Managing Director of Tupperware UK. Apparently, and amazingly, I was the UK's number one Tupperware consultant last week, with the highest retail sales in the whole country! I am astonished and delighted, and I hope there isn't a recount. It is fantastic to achieve this after just a few weeks as a consultant, and I owe thanks to my hostesses Jacqui, Julie and Sandie, and all their friends who came to the parties.

I hope this won't make me the Orson Welles of Tupperware, never quite living up to his early promise...

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Arty party

Julie has invited me to be part of her birthday party at her home in North London. And talk about a contrast with my last arrival. This time I arrived a good 45 minutes early, so I have time to discuss with Julie how to incorporate the demo into the evening. We will be cooking the Lemon Drizzle Cake in a conventional oven. I piloted the cake earlier this week at Jacqui's party. Best of all, arriving early gives me the chance to collaborate with Julie on her buffet table, inserting some key pieces of Tupperware. This is really effective, and I think it is almost as important a showcase as the cooking demo itself. I have added to the buffet table my own CheeseSmart and Expressions pitcher, and from the kit four small Expressions bowls and an Eleganzia bowl.

The items I am not using tonight, I arrange like a shop window display: draped with a mauve tablecloth, you would never know that my display table has a dayjob as Julie's ironing board. I still have the very basic Tupperware kit, plus one or two extras from my own kitchen, so I still bring everything.

I am trying to make every party an event, so I have made some laminated enlargement of 1950s and 1960s Tupperware graphics, from a US consultant's display book. Julie tapes one of them to her front door to amuse guests as they arrive. It's quite a creative crowd, many of them work in the arts or in art and design education, so I talk a lot about the importance of Tupperware's aesthetics and design, from its appearance in New York's Museum of Modern Art in 1956 to the current Translations in Tupperware design contest.

Putting the CheeseSmart on the buffet table was definitely a Smart, not Cheesy, idea. It's my own CheeseSmart, which caught my eye at my own party before I became a consultant. Mostly I liked its look -- I rarely eat cheese! The guests seemed to share my enthusiasm: I sold three.

The cooking went well, but I am fairly sure that Julie's self-raising flour was actually plain. The baking powder helped, and the crunchy lemon topping was fantastic, but it was a bit flat. Like a lot of Londoners, Julie has a kitchen diner which is spacious for a single person, but a bit of a squeeze for ten guests and a Tupperware Man. I climbed up onto an Ikea stool in the corner, and supervised from there. With my floor-length camouflage apron and wielding a silicone spatula, I looked like a very domestic Ninja assassin.

With her rewards in free and half-price Tupperware, Julie came out with £65 worth of Tupperware for about £15. One guest, Helen, works as an administrator for the Product Design course at one of the big design colleges, so if I can't persuade those guys to have a Tupperware party, I will eat my apron.

Next stop Cambridge, where my friends Munizha and Hank have asked me to run a Saturday afternoon event next weekend. I wasn't planning on ever hauling my trolleybag long-distance. but on reflection I am happy to go where the Tupperware takes me.