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.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Baptism of Fire

So I had my first party where I didn't know any of the guests. Twenty (20!) regulars from the excellent London SE1 community website were gathering in hostess Jacqui’s basement kitchen diner in Bermondsey for my first proper party. So far, so nerve-wracking. Then a couple of hours before the party, I had a call from the Managing Director of Tupperware UK to tell me that one of the world’s top Tupperware distributors was in London, and could she come to my party? I gulped. Then I thought about dragging that big black Tupperware trolley bag on and off the 21 bus. I agreed the distributor could come -- if she could pick me up and drive me to the party.

My guest Riita is a charming and charismatic woman from Finland, very senior in Tupperware. She gave me a pep-talk on the drive over to Jacqui’s. Unfortunately, the 7pm traffic was terrible, and Riita had never driven in Central London, and her sat nav thought we were going to a street with the same name in some far-flung part of London. I was wild-eyed and a bit shrill with stage fright, and before I even noticed we were flying across London Bridge in the wrong direction. We got there, but we were half an hour late. And Riita got busted for the Congestion Charge. And, as if my stress levels were not high enough, hostess Jacqui turned out to be a food writer and food stylist. But at least she didn’t tell me that until the end, which was sweet of her.

It was a rambunctious and fun party. Jacqui had prepared some ravishing food, but I got through the evening on adrenalin, water and one chocolate- coated cherry. At this rate I will definitely lose this pesky extra stone before my trip to Mauritius in July.

Jacqui had asked for a conventional cooking demo, so I adapted a lemon drizzle cake recipe for the Silicone Flower Form. The splash-guard on the big Bake 2 Basics bowl was handy, with Jacqui’s two young sons cracking eggs and taking turns with the electric mixer. The Citrus Wonder also slots into the splash guard for stabilized zesting straight into the mixture, so less washing up for me to do.

I knew from my last party that the silicone cake “tin” worked like a dream in the microwave, and I am glad to report there were also oohs of wonder when after 45 minutes in the conventional oven, the cake flopped out perfectly again. We drizzled it with a lemon juice and sugar mix which we allowed to ooze through the cake and form a crunchy topping.

Sales were buoyant, the guests were fun and interesting, and for hosting, Jacqui came out with rewards of £65 to spend on Tupperware, and three items of her choice at half-price.

I walked home, trolley bag in tow. 15 minutes.

Next is Julie’s birthday party on Thursday. Three of the guests were at my first try-out party, so for variety I will be putting aside my normal plain black bistro apron, and piloting my new camouflage patterned one (left).

Monday, May 08, 2006

Tupperware Party Animal

It's done. I have just emailed my first party order to Tupperware HQ in Leighton Buzzard. I am officially a Tupperware Man.

My dear friend Laura agreed to host my debut Tupperware party on Friday night at her home in Walthamstow. Three other guests came along, and two more sent their apologies and orders. This first party was longer and more leisurely than they will normally be -- all the guests were good friends of mine, so there was a lot of chat. They also gave me some feedback which will be really helpful for future parties: I have six lined up over the next month or so, with some very different groups of people.

I talked them through the latest products and the Tupperware story, and for the cooking demo I supervised the guests preparing a microwave Chocolate Almond Cake. Laura's normal oven has broken down, so she was keen to experiment with the microwave. We used the flexible Silicone Flower Form, which seems like it is made of rubber and which you don't grease at all. Everyone (including me) was intrigued by how it would work. I suppose I took a bit of a chance by not having a trial run with the recipe, but I used a Tupperware recommended recipe, and I also decided that if the products are as good as they appear, nothing could go wrong anyway. And of course, it all went right. You can see from these photo that despite Laura's initial concern, the cake popped out a treat, leaving barely a mark on the silicone.

Of the three guests, Julie was by her own admission the least interested in buying Tupperware. She is a ceramics and natural materials kind of a girl. But her enthusiasm for the large Silicone Spatula during the cooking demo was infectious, and after taking their turn mixing the cake batter, and seeing Julie's deft cracking of the eggs with its long, hard handle, all three guests bought one!

Laura's hostess reward was £34.50 to spend on Tupperware, and two half-price items.

And of all people, it was Julie who rang me on Saturday morning to book her own party in two weeks' time. She has been looking for a way to celebrate her birthday at home, and having had fun at my demo on Friday, she has decided to host her own Tupperware party. This calls for another cake recipe I think.