Monday, 1 November 2010

Gok Wan, Snack A Jacks

It's a little too tempting in reviewing Gok Wan to make fun of his name, but don't worry, Conspirators of Pleasure isn't about to descend into cod racism (I expect to write more about cod racism in my review for Nick Griffin's inevitable Birds (glass) Eye promotion). For the purposes of this review, I watched the entire last series of How To Look Good Naked as "research". I wouldn't otherwise watch it. Honest. For those who haven't seen the show, each week Gok Wan (Hey! That's an anagram of Go, it's too easy) gives fashion tips to a Joanna Public with body image problems, while also giving them the confidence to "bare all" in public. To be honest, all they ever do is show their arse to a baying shopping centre crowd, and I'm pretty sure I could do that already. I don't mean that I would just wander into Lakeside and drop my pants, because if I did that I'd probably be, at best, arrested and, at worst, stabbed. No, I mean that if I were on a catwalk with some Gokettes and had Gok as the master of ceremonies, I'd probably do it. It's all about context.

I'm not really sure why it's called "How To Look Good Naked" anyway. Half the show is about finding the right fit of clothes to suit the subject's body shape or how to wear clothes that give the impression of a more desirable body shape. And as for the naked part, Gok doesn't actually change the way they look naked - they look exactly the same at the end as they do at the beginning. Rather, he justs teaches them to be more confident in their birthday suit. And a bit overly confident at that, almost to the point of naturism. However I suppose that "How To Look Good Clothed And Feel Good Enough Naked To Show Your Backside And Maybe A Bit Of Sideboob In Public And On National Television" really would be a bit of a mouthful.

Though his shows can be a tad leering at times, I find Gok Wan to be by-and-large an honourable person. It's good to show women that curves and having some meat to your figure are desirable. We're living in a post-Christina Hendricks world for Christ's sake! We have even seeing a slight emergence of plus-size models, but since these models are still below average-size, I really they should be referred to as "minus-size".

The Gok Wan/Snack A Jacks promotion, Bag Some She-Time enabled consumers to get some beauty rewards or, better still, win a styling session with "Auntie" Gok himself. Given how Snack A Jacks are already marketed, putting Gok Wan's image and the phrase "she-time" on the packaging makes it even more embarassing for a raving heterosexual man to buy the product (thank the Lord (Sainsbury) for self-service checkouts). Now that How To Look Good Naked not only features fashion/beauty tips for men, but has also had a male as a subject, I feel Gok could do something to correct this problem. Maybe next series a "Wan for the boys" feature could teach us How To Look Good Buying And Eating Snack A Jacks.

In being sweet, Caramel-flavour Snack A Jacks stick out like a sore thumb. And not a very tasty sore thumb at that - like toffee popcorn, it's a sweetness that I'm not overly enamoured of. For the savoury Snack A Jacks, I find the distribution of seasoning to be pretty variable within the packet, which comes as a shock to the system, with my supermarket-ingrained uniformity expectations. I have to say that the only flavour that really has me coming back for more is Sour Cream & Chive.

Gok Wan: 7/10
Snack A Jacks - Sour Cream & Chive: 7/10, Caramel: 3/10, Other Flavours: 5/10, Average: 5/10
Total: 12/20

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Before They Were Famous @ CuiZine

To compliment my reviews here, I've started doing some posts looking at adverts featuring celebrities before they were famous at new food blog CuiZine. The first post is on Matt LeBlanc and Heinz Ketchup. Go check it out!

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Wayne Rooney, Orange Powerade

I first intended to blog about Wayne Rooney's Powerade endorsement in the lead-up to the World Cup. In reviewing a sportsman before or during a major event maximises topicality, but the main drawback is that opinion of the individual is in such flux that the blog can be dated pretty quickly. Conspirators of Pleasure is therefore grateful that Wayne was thoughtful enough to have some £1200-a-night dalliances so that the resulting tabloid revelations would provide topicality without such an immediate issue of shifting opinion.

Jokemakers have got to also be pleased about these transgressions. Historically most Rooney jokes have hinged on him being (a) stupid and/or (b) ugly. They can now add a third form of Rooney joke to the three, though they may also play on the previous two forms: Wayne is so stupid and so ugly, that he has to pay for sex.

In Nike's World Cup Mega-advert (directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu, which rather explains the presence of Gael García Bernal), Rooney imagined that Ribery's interception of his ball would result in him living in a caravan park sporting a beard. Of course, neither player was ostracised in their respective countries for their actions at the World Cup, but rather their inactions, but that doesn't compare to the press treatment followng the hooker scandals the two have been embroiled in. I think it's this treatment which is more likely to lead Rooney to a beardy caravan existence (being pro-beard myself, the advert just serves as a reminder that Wayne doesn't have a beard, so I hope you can understand the resulting automatic points deduction).

Wayne's advert for Powerade sees a water-fuelled Rooney play against a Powerade-fuelled Rooney. For some reason the two Rooneys find it necessary to play shirts versus skins, even though there is only one player on each team (of course, this is Powerade's variation of the "Wayne Rooney's so stupid..." joke - I look forward to the sex-joke in the sequel). It doesn't make for a well-controlled experiment anyway, as it may be that it is wearing a top in those conditions that has a negative effect, rather than drinking water instead of Powerade. This is under the assumption that it is water, but for all we know it could be vodka, in which case it's fairly bleeding obvious that Powerade gives a better performance.

I like small print captions in adverts - it's basically a way of them saying, "Don't come crying to us when it doesn't work because we kind of admitted it might not work, even though we largely implied it would." The first caption reads, "Time lapse used to illustrate benefit during sustained exercise", which means (a) the time lapse has failed to illustrate this because they need a caption to point it out, and/or (b) they are worried that some people might expect Powerade to have a bullet-time side effect. "Prehydrating with Powerade before sports is scientifically proven to delay muscle fatigue and improve stamina in top athletes," we are told. From which we can infer that it may well do bugger all for mediocre athletes like me though? I suppose we can be thankful it can assist our top sports stars. Like Wayne Rooney. Who presumably does drink the official energy drink of the England team. Which is Lucozade.

I picked up the Orange Powerade because that was the one that had Rooney on the bottle. Drinking it I just felt like I had bought an overpriced bottle of diluted orange squash. I much prefer the blue and red flavours, even though their colour is a significant cause for concern. But, you ask, did it delay muscle fatigue and improve stamina for me as it would for Wayne? I wouldn't know, I can't really afford to splash out £1200 on a call girl.

'Beardless' Wayne Rooney: 4/10
Orange Powerade: 5/10
Total: 9/20

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Lionel Richie & Gary Lineker, Walkers Extra Crunchy

And lo, Conspirators of Pleasure opens its proverbial doors for the first time to a product being endorsed by not one, but two celebrities with the advertising campaign for Walkers Extra Crunchy as Gary Lineker is joined by Lionel Richie.

Lionel is singing an altered version of Say You, Say Me, his Oscar-winning song from the film White Nights. White Nights is about an American tap dancer and a Soviet ballet dancer who have defected to one other's countries. I've not seen the film, I'll just wait for the modern update, Street Tap 3D, which will almost surely feature a scene in which our tap-happy protagonist recreates Fred Astaire's tap dance up the walls and on the ceiling. He won't tap dance up any old wall though, he'll do it up the FOURTH WALL! TAPPING ALL UP IN OUR FACES! Anyway, White Nights has got Helen Mirren in it, so we can be fairly certain she takes her clothes off in it, as that's what she does in everything: Caligula, The Cook, The Thief..., Calendar Girls, The Queen. I'm fairly certain that her DBE was for services to boys' wet dreams. I'd say I guess her habit of disrobing is a result of education at a Catholic girls school, if my (non-Catholic) mother weren't educated at the same school, and she is thankfully not so prone to the same syndrome.

I'm not too sure about Lionel's appearance in the advert. While I can applaud that he is happy to send himself up, I feel that it seems to put him in the same ironic bracket as Mr. T (Snickers) and Ray Parker Jr (118 118). But this is the Lionel Richie whose Hello was number one in the UK at the time of my birth, so I don't see how I can score him anything over than a 10. If you doubt this judgement, one only needs be reminded of the classic video, about an arts teacher and his blind pupil, neither of whom have clearly heard The Police's Don't Stand So Close To Me.

Back to the advert: the first time I saw it, I thought that it signalled the end of the partnership of famous Leicester exports, until the face of Lineker appeared. It's a face whose complexion these days has me reaching for the remote to adjust the colour settings. The main problem with the Lineker Walkers adverts is that they've gone on so long that everyone's forgotten that the original intention of his villainous role was to sendup his 'nice guy' image. He has become so insufferably smug these days that I expect the adverts are now largely autobiographical. Further, his nice guy image was in part predicated on his never having got a yellow card in his football career. As Brian Clough once said, "show me a man who never got booked, and I'll show the guy the door for not trying hard enough"(or maybe I just made that up).

Lineker's pun in this behind the scenes video is less Walkers Extra Crunchy, more Walkers Extra Clunky, and as a result I can't possibly bring myself to score him even a single point. Way to bring the average down, Gary.

The marketing of Walkers Extra Crunchy focuses on how they are "made to share". How does their Extra Crunchiness (as a result of being sliced thicker and cooked longer) make them better for sharing? If these crisps are made for sharing particularly while watching television or a film, then I fail to see how Extra Crunchiness (and therefore extra loudness) can be desirable. I think that it's all rather a marketing ploy to corner the booming sharing sector of the crisp market while suggesting we shouldn't binge on their product to appease Saint Joliver. I ate a whole bag by myself in a single sitting just to spite them.

Flavour-wise I found even the more enticing Cheddar & Sour Cream and Flame Grilled Steak to be pretty bland and insipid, while the Extra Crunchiness doesn't deserve Lionel singing about it. I'll stick to Kettle Chips in future, thanks.

Lionel Richie: 10/10, Gary Lineker: 0/10, Average: 5/10
Walkers Extra Crunchy: 3/10
Total: 8/20

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Martine McCutcheon, Danone Activia

I must begin with a disclaimer. My mum tutors Maisie Smith, whose EastEnders character Tiffany is named in memory of the character played by Martine McCutcheon, so I apologise in advance if this review smacks of nepotism as a result. Let's not forget though that on EastEnders, Martine's Tiff was involved in many groundbreaking storylines, most notably the one where her boyfriend cheated on her with her brother that invented male homosexuality (lesbianism dates back to Sappho, naturally). She is an Olivier award-winning actress after all, but her My Fair Lady co-star Jonathan Pryce was reportedly none too pleased about her receipt of this accolade, and I think we can all trust JP because he was Sam Lowry in Brazil, and I'm sure we can all agree to agree with me that that's one of the best films ever.

Martine's most significant role besides Tiff was as Hugh Grant's Prime Minister's love interest in Richard Curtis' Love Actually, a film which, inspite of myself, I seem to enjoy a little more each time I see it. I'm always troubled by how misogynistic it is though. Don't believe me? Well, to quote my good friend Loyd Grossman, let's look at the evidence. Laura Linney is in love with her company's 'enigmatic' (i.e. boring) chief designer, but nothing comes of it as she responsible for her mentally unstable, abusive brother. Kim Bauer, Betty Draper and an actress who hasn't had a major TV role are easy enough to sleep with the guy from the BT ads, not in spite, but rather because of him coming from Bas Vegas (this being Curtisland, American girls are hotties and British girls are notties, hence why they are always desperate for a 'shag'). Emma Thompson is made to feel guilty for not being a sexy secretary who wanders around in her underwear, Keira Knightley is made to feel guilty for not being in love with two men and the girl who doesn't speak English is made to feel guilty for not speaking English. And what about our Martine? Well comments are consistently made about the size of her arse and thighs, and she is referred to as fat, chubby and plumpy, despite the fact that she is clearly none of the above. Curtis' thesis is that the arrivals gate at Heathrow is a place of concentrated love, and yet what are the words Hugh says to Martine at said gate at the end of the film? "God, you weigh a lot." Richard, I think you'll find that's not love, actually.


Martine is fronting Danone Activia's campaign for 2010 being the year of TLC. Turns out they mean the concept of Tender Loving Care and not T-Boz, Left Eye and Chilli, they of incredibly dated album covers.

While Martine is fronting this campaign, she appears nowhere on the packaging. I think this is because they don't want to deter people like me from buying it. By that I don't mean people who write a blog reviewing celebrity-endorsed food, because based on a sample of me I can tell you that that sizeable demographic will buy anything with a celeb's face on it. No, by 'people like me' I mean men, as I assume Danone felt it might make it appear too girly. That or Richard Curtis phoned them up and told them that if they had a morbidly obese girl on the pot they couldn't really sell it as low-fat.

I can't help feeling they've missed a trick here. Rather than use Gimme Some Lovin' by the Spencer Davis Group, they should have used Martine's UK number one, Perfect Moment, to suggest that a moment with Activia Intensely Creamy is indeed perfect. Turns out though that Perfect Moment is actually a cover! Who knew?

I'd have to say though that a moment with an Intensely Creamy yogurt isn't perfect actually - if anything they are too creamy, and the creaminess overpowers the headlining flavour. Plus, unlike the normal Danone Activia, which comes in standard yogurt pots, they come in round pots made of sturdier plastic which, while admittedly easing your worries about potential splits and spillage inside a tightly packed bag, do tend to remind me of those balls that you put laundry detergent in. And detergent is not the kind of taste sensation I want to be thinking about while eating a yogurt. So unless you've got a full-blown cream and detergent fetish, I'd recommend just getting a fruit multipack, but not the one with old people's flavours like fig and prune.

Martine McCutcheon: 5.5/10
Danone Activia Fruit: 7/10, Intensely Creamy: 6/10, Average: 6.5/10
Total: 12/20

Sunday, 8 August 2010

A broadcast on behalf of Conspirators of Pleasure

With this blog at risk of becoming sports star overkill, I've decided to expand my remit to include food products that, while not featuring a celebrity on the packaging, are quite clearly endorsed by one in adverts. The bonus being that I may be able to ponder why the celebrity is not deemed worthy of appearing on the product itself. I hope that this change will not result in regular readers leaving in droves.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Lawrence Dallaglio, Dallaglio by Sacla' Bolognese Sauce

The jars in the Dallaglio by Sacla' range feature the ugly mug of Lawrence (I'm not too worried about Lawrence knocking down my door, given that rugby's seemingly designed to leave participants with cauliflower ears, gap-strewn smiles and, in the case, of our erstwhile leader, partial blindness), alongside his father Vincenzo, who shall henceforth be referred to as Papa Dallaglio, because I'm in a lazy, stereotyping mode.

I went to a rugby-playing school and I had to de-spectacle when we did rugby in games lessons, and, to cut a long story short(-sighted), I couldn't see too well. Having said that, I'm not sure there's actually anything more to that story. Anyway, I think we can say for certain that it was only my myopia that prevented me from having a professional rugby career.

I've always found it jarring when the brutish play of the game is followed by post-match interviews with well-spoken, intelligent players, contrasting with the cliche-riddled inanities of football players. It's also interesting that football has a burgeoning metrosexualism, while rugby has long had an aura of homoeroticism. And yet rugby only has one openly-gay professional in the warmly received Gareth Thomas. Football had Justin Fashanu. Who was ostracised. And hanged himself. Way to go, football!

In my extensive research into big LD (read: I read his Wikipedia page) I discovered that the greatest thing he ever did (worth a two point mark-up) was to sing in the choir on Tina Turner's panpipe-laden power ballad classic We Don't Need Another Hero from Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome. I'm surprised no-one razzed him with this by playing it instead of Land of Hope & Glory before the kick-off, perhaps on the entirely hypothetical Matt Dawson's World Cup Wind-Ups.

I'd like to think I'm fairly well acquainted with the range of pesto from Sacla', but I never realised before reviewing this that they have a crazy apostrophe at the end of their name. I've no idea what it's there for (the name's an acronym for the Societa Anonima Commercio Lavorazione Alimentari, roughly, the Anonymous Society of the Food Processing Trade, hmmmm) so I like to think it's there just because they bloody well felt like it. I wholeheartedly support this practice, as I view a name as an abstraction and, as such, Sacla' and the B-52's should be allowed to punctuate their names as they please, if only to get the goats of Trussites everywhere.

In their bolognese sauce, Lawrence and Papa Dallaglio have put a glug of Barbera wine (glug being an SI unit, with the standard held in Geneva, Switzerland). Now I'm teetotal, but I'm not bothered by a bit of alcohol in my food. It's not like it's a purity issue for me, as it is with straight-edge types who have "poison-free" tattooed on their chests, apparently unaware of the irony. I did call myself straight-edge for about a week before I realised it was too much effort explaining what the ruddy term meant to people.

I don't know what the person who wrote the label was on, as they recommend using as measly 100g of mince, I found I had to double that. Other than that though, I've not got much to complain about it. It's got a nice, rich flavour, and the chunks of tomato add a rustic quality that puts it in a different league from glorified tomato purees from the likes of Dolmio.

Lawrence Dallaglio: 8/10
Bolognese sauce: 8/10
Total: 16/20

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Loyd Grossman Carrot & Coriander Soup/Sicilian Style Tomato & Chilli with Pine Nuts & Raisins

Last time I reviewed a Loyd Grossman product I spoke about his tenure as Through The Keyhole presenter. He was also famous for presenting Masterchef from 1990 to 2000. Hands up though, I don't feel I remember it sufficiently. However, I am familiar with the current 'Goes Large'-era, so much so that I applied to go on the new series of Celebrity MasterChef*. I have to say I was flabbergasted when they turned me down. I'm a much loved blogger, hits on five continents, I said, waving Google Analytics data in their faces. New Zealand! Egypt! Vietnam! VIETNAM! They were having none of it. It's a shame, as here's what they missed out on. BLOGGING DOESN'T GET TOUGHER THAN THIS!

India Fisher: Ed has been sat on his backside for six hours.

John Torode: What are your three dishes, Ed?

Me: I'm doing Loyd Grossman Carrot and Coriander soup with a bread roll for starters followed by pasta with Loyd Grossman Sicilian Style Tomato & Chilli with Pine Nuts & Raisin pasta sauce.

Gregg Wallace: And for dessert?

Me: Based on my survey of Sainsbury's, that's an area of the market seemingly untapped by Loyd, so I'm making nothing.

Gregg: We know Ed's a celebrated blogger. He's got a lot of taste sensations to work with. Can he make them conspire to pleasure us?

John: I like a good Carrot & Coriander soup, I like a good bread roll. But together? I'm not sure it's a combination that can work.

Gregg: What about the pasta main course? Last time Ed let Loyd down with his presentation. Will he do it again?

John: I like paaaahhsta, I like paaaahhsta stauce. But together? I'm not sure it's a combination that can work.

Gregg: No dessert? It's a risk, a big, big risk.

John: How many times have we seen no dessert on this show? And how many times is it done badly? Can Ed do it right?

Me: I really want to cook them some food, and then for them to eat it, and tell me about it. If I can do that all while offering some bland soundbites, then I can go home happy.

John: Times up, guys.

India Fisher: For a starter, Ed has prepared Loyd Grossman Carrot and Coriander soup with a bread roll.


John: The spice of the coriander contrasts with the sweetness of the carrot, and then you've got the bread roll which helps soak up some of the soup. I'm really surprised it works.

India Fisher: His main course is pasta with Loyd Grossman Sicilian Style Tomato & Chilli with Pine Nuts & Raisin pasta sauce.


John: You get the solidness of the paaaahhsta contrasting with the wetness of the paaaahhsta sauce. I'm really surprised it works.

Nadia Sawalha: You've cooked the pasta really really really well.

Me: Don't patronise me, this isn't Junior MasterChef.

Loyd Grossman: I like how juicy sun ripe tomatoes and fiery chillies are complemented by the pine nuts and raisins in this sauce.

Me: Too bloody right you do, Loyd. It says so on the jar.

Gregg: It does look like it's just been slopped on the plate though. Once again you've been let down by your presentation.

India Fisher: His dessert is nothing.


John: The paucity of anything contrasts badly with the dearth of something. I could have done with at least a sorbet to cleanse the palate.

Gregg: We've made our decision....

John: The winner is.....

Gregg: Former soap star.

John: Ed, ageing popstar, British athlete who once placed 6th in an Olympic final, I'm afraid you're going home.


To be honest, the chillis made the pasta sauce a little too fiery for my liking.

Loyd Grossman: 8/10
Carrot & Coriander Soup: 7.5/10, Sicilian Style Tomato & Chilli: 5.5/10, Average: 6.5/10
Total: 14.5/20

*I may or may not be making this up.

Monday, 5 July 2010

Victoria Pendleton, Hovis Wholemeal Bread

Just like previous COP reviewee Chris Hoy, Victoria Pendleton is a cyclist, but unlike Hoy, she is more than a cyclist, she is a hot cyclist. This is news to the world, which had long thought that women only take part in athletics and tennis. In fact, if Vicky were a tennis player, she'd be featured on I know, that sounds like a blog I've made up for the purposes of a joke, but click the link and, lo and behold, you'll see it isn't. You'll also see that their criteria for hot female tennis players seems to be 'female' and 'plays tennis', but I suppose if, like Douglas Quaid in Total Recall, your preference is for athletic women, then all female tennis players are hot. Due to Britain's lack of elite female tennis players, us shallow male sports fans have to be thankful for the likes of Pendleton and heptathlete Kelly Sotherton, who is attractive in spite of because of her navel deficit.

Anyway I better derail this post's journey into my latent sexism. I felt sorry for Pendleton when she only got one gold medal in Beijing. Just the one. Poor her. Had she won that gold in Atlanta, she'd have received an instant damehood, but in Beijing her gold got lost among our glut of them while three golds meant Hoy emerged as a great British Olympian (Goodbye Chris, Hello Sir Chris!). Given that they ride in the same disciplines, Pendleton should have won three as well, but only one of those was an Olympic event for women. Thankfully parity will be achieved in 2012, though unfortunately at the expense of some men's disciplines. Why this needs to be done eludes me when there are seemingly countless distances for each discipline in swimming (Hey! The guy who's best at swimming the individual medley over 200m is the best at swimming the individual medlery over 400m! What a coincidence!) Furthermore, the relative paucity of cycling events makes no sense at all given that bikes are rad, as any German-speaker will tell you.

Victoria's success perplexes me to some extent. I mean, look at the thighs on the Dutch girl! She'll never beat her.....she'll never beat her.....oh she has done.

As part of this promotion, Hovis dressed Victoria up as Holly Golightly from Breakfast At Tiffany's, I guess because they're playing on the 'Breakfast' bit even though Audrey Hepburn always looked like she'd skipped a fair few (unless I'm much mistaken and it's actually a reference to Deep Blue Something).

Over at the Hovis website Victoria (read: someone else) gives us a bunch of breakfast recipes running the gamut from stuff on toast to this 'n' that on toast to thingamajig surprise (spoiler alert: the surprise is toast). Her favourite recipe is peanut butter and banana on toast, a combination which has proven dangerously divisive amongst some of my friends. It's not one that I'm particularly in favour of either, given that I'm probably allergic to bananas. I say 'probably' as it's not like I'm in the habit of eating bananas by the bunchload just to confirm this.

Anyway, bread, bread, what is there to be said about bread? When I was younger and we had picnics as a family, I would have peanut butter sandwiches on wholemeal bread, and I'm pretty sure I wasn't allowed a drink until after I'd finished them, which is enough to instil Arachibutyrophobia in anyone. In hindsight I figure this was partly down to the bread being the bog standard Safeway brand (scrimping on bread is a small price to pay if it goes a little way towards meaning you can go to Disney World). Fortunately, now I don't have this problem, partly because Safeway got gobbled up by Morrison's (I guess their way of business was not sufficiently safe), but mainly because I can have as much water as I want, and as a result my peanut butter sandwiches with Hovis bread go down pretty well.

Victoria Pendleton: 7/10
Hovis Wholemeal Bread: 7.5/10
Total: 14.5/20

Saturday, 26 June 2010

David Beckham, Young's Admiral's Pie/Mariner's Pie

When I first saw these fish pies in my local supermarket, I was expecting this post to be in part about how Brand Beckham is so powerful that it can sell products even though he isn't at the World Cup, but he is, in his role as 'player liaison'. But what is he for, David Beckham: Player Liaison (not to be confused with Van Wilder: Party Liaison)? I haven't seen him liaising much during matches, so I can only assume he carries out this role in the England 'camp', though I wouldn't know as I switch my concentration off when we get reports on what's being going on there, be it from Gabby Logan on BBC or Gabriel Clarke on ITV (I do quite like how these correspondents have corresponding boy/girl names, and actively encourage this policy be used extensively by the two broadcasters - I look forward to a Chris/Adriana combo being employed on The One Show).

The main role we actually see Becks playing at the World Cup is that of iconic player-as-visual representation of how all England fans are feeling, as employed regularly throughout England's matches by the broadcasters. For the non-football fan looking to assimilate into the national hysteria, it's the equivalent of 'LAUGH' and 'APPLAUD' signs used for studio audiences - just copy the facial expression and body language of Becks and you too can look as emotionally invested in this circus as the deluded loons surrounding you! England aren't the only team to be employing someone in this role - Argentina made theirs manager.

As a teenage England fan, like many others I came to hate Becks for his childish act at France '98. By the time he completed his redemption (against Greece, 2001), I had largely stopped caring about the England football team, and now objected to him as one half of Posh and Becks. I found their level of celebrity too much to stomach. Alistair McGowan and Ronni Ancona kept their careers going off the back of David and Victoria, despite the fact they were both positively crap at impersonating them. The nadir came when Brand Beckham tried to break America in 2003, and failed, not realising that actually having something to promote might have helped. It was America's loss, as I'm sure Dane Bowers would've used it as a springboard to launch his assault on Yank senses. However, just as his absence from the England XI has made the country's hearts grow fonder, I've mellowed towards Becks over recent years.

I was mildly perplexed to see him endorsing these fish pies, and to be honest, I'd much rather have had scampi, but it turns out there's good reason Becks is a Fish Pie Liaison too. Young's have teamed up with GO3 (endorsed by Becks) to boost the Omega-3 content of some of their range. On the boxes, Becks says:

"Dinner is a family time for me and my favourite meal of the day. Fish pies are great to share, and with GO3 there is an easy and tasty way to get Omega-3 into the family too.

Now, whenever I see the quote the celebrity, I always like to play a little game: Celebrity or Copywriter. My scientific method in playing this game is to imagine the celebrity actually saying those words - if it sounds natural in their voice, then I conclude celebrity (even though I suspect the answer may almost universally be copywriter). So, with Loyd Grossman, even across such an extensive range of products, the words always convey an erudition that befits the Grossman persona. Even with Chris Hoy, the quote gels with the 'marginal gains' mentality of Team GB. However, when I read this 'quote' from Becks, I can only imagine him reading it in a stilted manner that is characteristic of his endorsements. So I can conclude without a shadow of a doubt: Copywriter. I can only hope you have as much fun playing this game in future as I do.

I'm pretty sure Omega-3 was only discovered like 5 or 6 years ago, because when I was younger and my mum served us fish-in-a-bag, the packaging made no mention of it. Now it's bloody everywhere. And if you were thinking that Omega-3 sounds like something from science fiction, it's probably because if you change the number, it is:

Reminding me of Galaxy Quest is no bad thing because Galaxy Quest is actually a better Star Trek film than the official ones, and anything that gets Tim 'The Tool Man' Taylor, Ellen Ripley, Severus Snape, Adrian Monk, Warren Cheswick, Keith Mars, Susan Ross, Dwight Schrute and Squeak Scolari all in one place deserves your love.

When I was younger I was turophobic. Maybe that's a bit strong, I wasn't afraid of cheese, I just didn't like it really. Don't worry, I (along with almost all cheese-haters as I found out) am and have always been pro-pizza. These days I'd class myself as more of a mild cheeseskeptic (that is mildly skeptical towards cheese, not skeptic of just mild cheese), so I'd have to say I'm more enamoured of the Mariner's Pie (creamy parsley sauce with sweetcorn) than the Admiral's Pie (creamy butter sauce with cheddar cheese). Given that the fish is Pollock, I'd quite like to fast bowl one pie while flicking forkfuls of the other at a canvas (or perhaps combine the two in a manner akin to Michael Vaughan). If it were Haddock I'd be referencing a beardy Tintin character, but if it were cod I'd have to resort to making a James Pond 2: Codename Robocod reference. That or some awful puns of my own. Just thank cod you didn't have to put up with that.

David Beckham: 6/10
Mariner's Pie: 6.5/10, Admiral's Pie: 4.5/10 (Average: 5.5/10)
Total: 11.5/20

Saturday, 12 June 2010

Lionel Messi/Didier Drogba/Fernando Torres, Pepsi Max

What is it with football? Unlike cyclists, who endorse foodstuffs like Bran Flakes (Chris Hoy) or Hovis Wholemeal (Victoria Pendleton - COP review forthcoming), football likes to associate itself with junk. You'd think that the effect of footballers endorsing healthier foods would be much greater than that of endorsing products that everybody likes already. Thus, I can't quite fathom why the footballing authorities and footballers themselves are so much in thrall to these mega-rich multinationals.

Even when I was a young lad, footballers would do more honourable things, like sometime-Phantom of the Opera lookalike Gary Mabbutt appearing in mid-nineties CBBC magical realist masterpiece The Queen's Nose...

...which tangentially leads me to my...

Close Encounters of the Queen's Nose Kind:
1. When I worked at a well-known fast food restaurant, the dad from the Queen's Nose once came in to eat. He is also lovingly remembered for voicing Marvin, the Paranoid Android, in the TV and radio series of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

2. When I went on a skiing trip to France with my school, Harmony from the Queen's Nose was on the ferry there and back, going on a skiing trip with her school. She is also lovingly remembered for appearing in Jonathan Creek that one time and those adverts for Wrigley's sponsoring Hollyoaks.

Anyway, the accompanying Mega-advert for this promotion features a number of stars playing a game on a pitch outlined by Africans. Now, these Africans might look willing to do this, but I'm pretty certain that letting a load of black people form the bounds of the pitch for a bunch of multi-millionaires amounts to slavery.

There's not much to say about our trio of endorsers beyond their footballing talents, but it's perplexing that Frank Lampard hasn't been selected for the UK market, what with his blossoming romance with Christine Bleakley, the doyenne of early evening magazine shows (just look at Live From Studio Five - they need two women to fill her role). By the way, Frank, I understand and share your pain at losing a parent at a premature age, but I don't think you need to dedicate every goal to your mum - give her some rest, will you?

Now, when it comes to Pepsi or Coca-Cola, I don't really have any strong feelings either way. I'm pretty sure you'd agree though that the pecking order for either is

1. glass bottle
2. can
3. 500ml plastic bottle/top of 2l plastic bottle
4. bottom of 2l plastic bottle

And what about Coke on tap, you ask? Given its variable in-house mixture of concentrated syrup and carbonated water, often with some residue of Fanta/Tango/Sprite/7-Up/Sprunt thrown in, I think it's a bit of a stretch to call the stuff Pepsi or Coca-Cola.

So, I'd have to say that the Pepsi Max was not nearly as nice as the glass bottles of Pepsi Raw (made from all-natural ingredients) that I bought with it in a multi-buy offer. I'm not entirely sure whether this superiority is resultant from the natural kola nut flavour, or whether it is this glass bottle effect. On this point, currently featuring in the Uneven Geographies exhibition at Nottingham Contemporary is Cildo Meireles' Coca-Cola Project, glass bottles of Coke which he had printed slogans and then reintroduced into circulation. My overriding response was to want a nice cold bottle myself. I'm pretty sure that's not the correct reaction.

Lionel Messi: 8/10, Didier Drogba: 6/10, Fernando Torres: 7/10 (average 7/10)
Pepsi Max: 6.5/10
Total: 13.5/10

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Peter Crouch, Pringoooals

Peter Crouch, professional gangly robot dancer and sometime footballer, once said that if he weren't a footballer, he'd be a virgin. He's probably right - I don't believe that guys who do the robot get laid all too often. I expect though that the day that a robot is created that can successfully dance the 'human' is the day that we, as a species, have to accept our new subservient future. In fact, it may have already happened, and these androids have flooded our dancefloors. Be afraid, be very afraid!

Anyway, I apologise, this blog is meant to be about celebrities and the food they endorse, and, as such, this kind of conspiracy theorising would only be apt if someone like Jim Corr were to endorse some food (Jim Corr's New World Hors D'Oeuvres?)

So, back to Crouchy. At the 2006 World Cup, Crouch was dating quintessential WAG Abigail Clancy, before he dumped her by fax, which puts him in the exalted company of Phil Collins (however much Phil tries to deny it). Clancy went on to date Jason Statham for a bit, which does not work in Crouchy's favour here, as no-one compares to the Stath (Jase, if you plan to endorse any food - Oxo Lock, Stock cubes perhaps - you can be sure to get full marks from me). However, not only are Crouch and Clancy back together, they are engaged, ensuring that Clancy will finally be able to progress from the G-faction to the W-faction.

Abbey was once in a pop group called The Genie Queen, managed by Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark singer/bassist Andy McCluskey (Andy, you could also expect to get full marks from me - Granola Gay bars?) We are only left to assume that it was due to having such a shit name for a pop group that they never had an ounce of the success of McCluskey's previous pet project, Atomic Kitten (actually, scratch what I said before, Andy, I'd find it hard to stomach giving the man who gave the world Kerry Katona much more than half marks).

While it's hard to argue against Crouch's superb games-per-goal ratio of 1.85 for England, it's undoubtedly his goal-celebrating antics that led him to front the Pringles attempt to get a piece of the World Cup pie, as evidenced in this advert (with Anelka, Kuyt and Fabregas presumably thrown in to appeal to the international market)....

Furthermore, the Original and Salt & Vinegar flavour tubes both reference Crouch's robot. The Texas BBQ Sauce tube features Crouch holding a corner flag kebab skewer of red onion, tomato, pepper and Pringles (I hope this is not a serving suggestion - I'm not sure actually barbecuing Pringles is the best idea), while the Sour Cream & Onion tube has Crouch kicking into a Sour Cream dip while a groundskeeper pushes a Sour Cream lawnmower in the background. I have no idea what this is meant to signify, but I'm sure Jim Corr knows a thing or two about the Sour Cream Illuminati.

Cite the Gary Lineker/Walker's precedent all you want, I'm not convinced crisps are the best thing for a footballer to be endorsing. Not that Pringles are crisps, mind, but, as the packaging tells us, a 'savoury snack'. The distinction is clear - lawyers once successfully argued that the 42% potato content of Pringles was not sufficient for them to be called crisps, and the snack was exempted from VAT for a period. It makes you feel a little shortchanged though when potato is fleshed out with so much flour.

When I eat Pringles, I tend to eat a load in one sitting, but afterwards I'm left with a general feeling of dissatisfaction. I guess they're like heroin. Or masturbation. My favourite flavour though: Sour Cream & Onion. Least favourite? Salt & Vinegar. A little too sharp for my liking.

Peter Crouch: 6/10
Pringles: 5/10
Total 11/20

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Paul Newman, Newman's Own One Two Thousand Island Dressing

And so it comes to pass that, for the first time, COP turns its eyes to a celebrity who has shuffled off this mortal coil, so apologies if I speak ill of the dead.

For a self-confessed cinephile, I haven't seen many Paul Newman films. As a Hitchock fan, I have seen Torn Curtain, the Cold War thriller in which Newman stars alongside Julie Andrews. I'm sure someone decided Butch Cassidy and Mary Poppins were a combination for surefire romantic chemistry, but they're certainly not Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn in Charade, Cary Grant and Grace Kelly in To Catch A Thief or Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint in North By Northwest. Cary Grant and anyone, really.

Actually, I rather like The Towering Inferno, which to some extent is remembered as the McQueen/Newman film, in the same way that Heat is the De Niro/Pacino film and What Happens In Vegas is the Kutcher/Diaz film. But is it McQueen/Newman or Newman/McQueen? The poster clearly tells us that it's actually more of a diagonal relationship, with, in both name and picture, Newman above McQueen, but McQueen to the left of Newman.

Not only this, but they also have the exact same number of lines in the film. These lengths taken to ensure shared top billing were rather apt as the film was a co-production between two major studios. It's this kind of behaviour though that would have had everyone involved blacklisted during the McCarthy era.

Newman was on Nixon's official Enemies list and generally a Democrat supporter, and therefore not a 'baddie'. There's nothing worse than finding out that the likes of Kelsey Grammer, Tom Selleck or Vicent Gallo are Republicans and, as a result, never being able to watch Frasier, Magnum P.I. or that scene in Brown Bunny where Chloe Sevigny actually gives Vincent Gallo a blowjob in the same way again.

In the early '80s, Newman co-founded the Champ Car racing team Newman/Haas, and a range of salad dressings, Newman's Own. Since the beginning, Newman gave all after-tax profits to charity, a business model that I cannot fault. Bottles proudly state that over $250 million has been donated since 1982, and it's nice to know that some of the COP overheads can help the less privileged.

You might wonder why this dressing is called Two Thousand Island (with One crossed out on the label). At first I thought this might be one of those references to the turn of the millennium that now seem amusingly quaint, but I guess it's because, as the label boasts, it "has twice as many islands as any other brand!" By 'islands' they mean the little bits of gherkin and tomatoes in the sauce, an archipelago of fruits masquerading as vegetables. I can't really vouch for their claim though, it's pretty tricky to gauge a islands-to-sauce ratio without the relevant equipment. It's a bit far to expect that this dressing is thus twice as good as your common-or-garden Thousand Island, but it is solidly good, and the chilli lends it a nice tang.

Paul Newman: 8/10
Two Thousand Island Dressing: 8/10
Total: 16/20

Monday, 3 May 2010

Chris Hoy, Kellogg's Bran Flakes

Chris Hoy won BBC Sports Personality of the Year in 2008, by winning three Olympic gold medals in a sport that Brits generally don't care about unless it's the Olympics. The award should really be called 'Sportsperson who the public deems to have been most successful in that year by popular vote', but that's probably a bit of a mouthful. I'm not going to be the first to point out that Hoy, like many of his predecessors, doesn't really have much of a personality, but I'm going to feel bad about it because the guy's just got married, and his wife is probably going to read this.

Furthermore, Hoy's sport is a bit boring. Track cycling, that is. There's got to be a reason why track cyclists tend to move to road racing once they've picked up a medal or few, it can't be entirely because there's more money in it. Track races are either over too quickly or they go on so long that it's impossible to tell which lap different riders are on. Contrast: if someone's further up the road, they're ahead. Simple.

Brilliantly, Wikipedia tells us that Hoy was inspired to take up cycling by E.T. (which has a citation, and therefore must be fact). We must be glad that he was not also inspired by Drew Barrymore's descent into pre-teen drug addiction.

Anyway, I guess it's because of Hoy's achievements, rather than personality, that he was chosen as the new face of Kellogg's Bran Flakes.....

Did you see how he nailed that punchline? We can be pretty sure that he improvised that, which would serve him well on Whose Line Is It Anyway, but seeing as that's not on anymore, he'll probably have to settle for Mock The Week.

Hoy plugging Bran Flakes has turned the world upside down for me. I always assumed that Kellogg's Start was the cereal of sports champions, turns out I'm wrong. Actually, it's a shame he isn't endorsing Start, as it's between Corn Pops and Golden Grahams on the list of cereals I haven't had for a long time and would like an excuse to try again.

When I first saw the above advert, it made me wish I was French. Pastries or Bran Flakes is a bit of a no-brainer. While it is honourable for Hoy to endorse a healthier cereal, I was expecting this review to follow a 'boring person, boring food' template. I had Bran Flakes pegged as being like Fruit 'n Fibre without the good bits - they could just call it Fibre. However, having eaten through a packet of Bran Flakes, while I would still prefer a pastry or a bowl of Fruit 'n Fibre, I can't put it better than as Chris 'says' on the back of the box:

"The substantial flakes stay crunchy in the milk and have a lovely malty, wholemeal taste."

Chris Hoy: 5/10
Bran Flakes: 7/10
Total: 12/20

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Loyd Grossman Spicy Italian Salami with Smoked Chilli Al Forno Potato Bake

Loyd 'Where's my other L gone?' Grossman is affectionately remembered as the co-host of Through the Keyhole, alongside David Frost, in which Loyd would show us around a celebrity's house, before the home and studio audience would be shown it belonged to someone like Geoff Capes, and then a panel of nobody celebrities, humourists and Kriss Akabusi would try to determine whose house it was, with the studio audience applauding any correct nugget of information. Oftentimes we'd get this......

Panel member: "Clearly we're talking about a man."
Audience: no response.
Panel member: "Or woman?"
Audience: rapturous applause.

That's some positively Holmesian deduction right there. When they had realised it was Geoff Capes, Geoff Capes would then come out for an intense grilling by David. Incidentally, I'm pretty sure Frost/Capes is in the pipeline, with Michael Clarke Duncan set to play the otherwise inimitable Geoff.

I once watched a whole week's episodes of Through the Keyhole, where every day one of the houses belonged to a former Baywatch cast member. Having ascertained that the owner was not only an 'actor' but also 'athletic', the panel would soon namecheck Baywatch before inevitably asking "It's not Pamela Anderson/David Hasselhoff, is it?" And of course it bloody wasn't. Pamela's house would be too familiar because we've all seen inside it before, while as for the Hoff, I think the guy who single-handedly brought down the Berlin Wall is going to be a little too busy, don't you?

After Loyd left Through The Keyhole in 2003, he was replaced by a succession of women of decreasing suitability, but this was missing the point. Loyd was Through The Keyhole. The show began as a regular feature on TV-am in which he would describe a celebrity by looking round their house, without knowing who's house it was. It's clear then that he brought intelligence and knowledge to his role. That and a Boston-transplanted-to-England accent that we all loved to have a stab at.

It's in that midatlantic accent that we inevitably read the description on the label for this potato bake...

"Inspired by traditional Italian wood-fired oven cooking, this deliciously smoky Al Forno sauce adds a great kick to a roast potato bake."

It's nice to see this in quotation marks, it makes it feel like Loyd really said it. Beside it, Loyd looks pensively at some garlic. This perplexed me at first. Surely he should be looking at some salami or chillies, these being the key ingredients inside the jar. But then I thought, it's good that he's thinking hard about the garlic, it implies he's thought hard about every little detail when it comes to this product.

When I made the bake, it didn't look overly exciting on the plate, but this may be down to my poor presentation skills, and the fact that I didn't top it with either the grated cheese or optional breadcrumbs as per the recipe. What can I say, I'm a maverick. That or cheap. I liked the prevailing smoky flavour, though that was no major surprise as Loyd mentions this in the description, and it went down really well with a bit of garlic bread.

Let's look at the evidence. The roast potatoes. The spicy Italian salami. The smoked chilli sauce. Who'd eat a meal like this? David, it's over to you.

Loyd Grossman: 8/10
Potato Bake: 7.5/10
Total: 15.5/20

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Barry Norman Pickled Gherkins

Barry Norman is most famous for being the host of BBC's Film programme for over 25 years before Jonathan Ross took over in 1998. Here's a good Jonathan Ross joke:

Jonathan Ross was arrested for stealing a kitchen utensil from Tesco. When questioned by police, he said that he'd felt it was a whisk worth taking.

When Wossy decided to leave the BBC recently, many wondered who would take over presenting the Film programme. Some people suggested Charlie Brooker should host (which was wrong). He said he wasn't the right person for it (which was right), and joined many others in saying that Mark Kermode should do it (which was wrong). Kermode then said that he wasn't the right person for it (which was right). Brooker is primarily a TV and video games critic, and if he hosted Film 2010, he'd have less time to do the stuff that the people who suggested him loved him for, the idiots. As for Kermode, it was not, as he cited, his having a less mainstream taste that made him unsuitable, but rather the fact that he'd hate interviewing anyone who isn't Jason Isaacs or Billy Friedkin.

So instead they went for Claudia Winkleman, and hundreds of people were left crying into their copies of Empire, Total Film and that magazine you get for free in Cineworld that tells you that every film is amazing. Those people were massively mistaken since Winkleman is not exactly filling the vacant seat - her appointment signals a format change: Winkleman will host with 'cinema experts' (read: film critics) in to discuss the latest releases. Thus Kermode will probably be on the show from time-to-time anyway. I object to Winkleman only on the grounds that her orange visage will constantly have me reaching for the remote to adjust the colour settings. Just thank the lords that they didn't go for Alex Zane.

Anyway, I digress. To be honest I was too young/not alive to offer reasonable judgement on Barry Norman's reign with the Film reins, so I shall have to look at his top 10 films from the last Sight & Sound Top Ten poll (2002):

Battleship Potemkin (Sergei Eisenstein, 1925)
Bringing Up Baby (Howard Hawks, 1938)
Citizen Kane (Orson Welles, 1941)
Paths of Glory (Stanley Kubrick, 1957)
Rashomon (Akira Kurosawa, 1950)
La Règle du jeu (Jean Renoir, 1939)
The Searchers (John Ford, 1956)
The Seventh Seal (Ingmar Bergman, 1957)
Singin' in the Rain (Gene Kelly & Stanley Donen, 1952)
Some Like It Hot (Billy Wilder, 1959)

It's all a bit obviously, well, film critic-y isn't it, Barry? Four of those films were in the Critics' Top Ten. A bit more outside the box please! You may note that the poll is from 8 years ago, but given that he seems to have decided at the beginning of the '60s that no new film is going to break into his sacred top ten, I expect that if he is asked for a list for the next poll in 2012, he'll submit a note saying only "See 2002".

Anyway, Barry's company is called PickleODEON foods. Brilliant. I'll give a whole point just for that. On the lid of the jar of Barry Norman Pickled Gherkins it says...

Barry Norman never buys pickles. By a mixture of trial and error, 19th century recipes handed down from his grandmother and expert advice, he concocts for himself the ones he really likes. He's pretty sure you'll enjoy them too.

Firstly, I'm a bit disappointed that Barry is referred to in the third person. A direct quote from him would add a nice personal touch. Secondly, I infer from this that if Barry Norman doesn't buy pickles, then perhaps none of use should. If this is intended, it's not good for business, but it's nice of him to share his recipe with those of us who are too lazy to concoct their own.

Now, I'm not a big expert on pickles or gherkins, but when I get a burger from McDonald's, I'm a leave it in kind of guy. Barry's pickles are a reasonable snack, the spice gives it a nice little kick, but they're a little too vinegary to have more than one at a time.

Here's my main problem with them though. On the front Barry is holding a clapper board, which says at the bottom "Scene: Spicy!" and "Sound: Crunchy." I've no problem with the spicy part (though I'm not sure why this earns an exclamation mark), but crunchy is not the sort of sound I'd like to hear when watching a film, particularly the films Barry lists in his top 10. It's unfortunate in this regard then that Barry is a film critic, because another celebrity would not be marked down for this.

Barry Norman: 6/10
Pickled Gherkins: 6/10
Total: 12/20

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Willkommen, Bienvenue, Welcome

For my birthday recently, I received a gift from my friends Joel and Liv. Opening it from the bottom, it appeared to be a jar of pickled gherkins. My emotions quickly moved from bemusement to worriment - I was going to have to feign enthusiasm for this in front of a group of people. It turned out that they were indeed pickled gherkins, but not just any pickled gherkins. They were Barry Norman Pickled Gherkins. Knowing that I am a fan of cinema, they thought I would appreciate this. And appreciate it I did.

Over time I pondered whether I would actually eat the gherkins - when it comes to pickles/gherkins, I can't say I'm a huge fanatic, nor am I a naysayer. I came to the idea that I would eat the gherkins. Furthermore I would eat other products endorsed by celebrities, and review them. That is, review both the celebrity and the product, rating each out of 10 (for a grand total out of 20).

I'm not sure if this idea has much legs, so this is an open invitation for suggestions/recommendations. A few rules though. I'll try to steer clear of celebrity chefs, so it won't be a procession of Jamie Olivers, Gordon Ramsays and (cyclist-bothering) James Martins. The same goes for people who are famous because of their product, e.g. Levi Roots. I will end up reviewing some celebrities more than once - most endorse a range of products, and I don't think I can condense all I have to say about Loyd Grossman into one post. Finally, the degree of endorsement may vary - some, like Barry Norman, may have had a role in developing the product itself, while some may have just lent their image to the packaging. At the very least they or their name must appear on the packaging.

So join me on this journey, from the world of celebrity into my kitchen, and I dedicate these endeavours to Joel and Liv, for setting me on this path in the first place.