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!