Monday, 7 December 2015

Classic book review: The Munch Bunch Series

I loved the Munch Bunch as a kid. Before the age of seven or so, my two go to series that never failed me were the Mr Men, and the group of anthromorphic fruit, vegetables, and later a few select nuts who had escaped from certain doom at the green grocers, and lived at the bottom of the garden around the shed. Part of the allure was the almost unattainable aim of collecting the whole series, but
just as you thought you'd  completed the set on the back of the book, the publishers would release

Anyway, Luke discovered all my old books at my parents' house today, so we've been having loads of read alongs. I'd forgotten so much, but generally the rules seem to be:

1. All the berries are naughty, but don't pay much in the way of consequences.
Billy Blackberry and his friend Scruff Gooseberry decided to build a tunnel for the purposes of stealing the stock of the local confectionaire in order to fully stock their own shop. Despite the seemingly incriminating evidence of the entire inventory of one shop turning up in the only other similar outlet in the neighbourhood overnight, it actually takes several days for local constable Merv Marrow to overhear a confession. But instead of arresting him on the stop, Merv puts together an elaborate plan involving secret tunnels and diversions to land Billy and Scruff directly in jail for a lengthy sentence of... 'Not long.'

Rozzy Raspberry got it a little bit harsher, though her punishment could have been labelled slightly more inappropriate and dangerous when she was locked out of her house overnight for playing a few pranks on her friends.

2. Racial stereotypes are OK 
The Munch Bunch have no difficulties making sweeping stereotypical generalisations of whole populations. To start off with, there's Ollie the cowardly French onion, who's always crying.

Pedro the Orange, who wears a sombrero and strums an oversized mariachi style guitar.

Lizzie the Leek, meek, subservient and wearing a Welsh hat.

Supercool the cool cucumber, who seems to be a caricature of a Rasta, with his oversized hat and glasses, though appearances can be deceptive I suppose.

I guess it probably took all the restraint the author and illustrator had when they created the New Zealand spin off character Charlie Kumara (pals with the other Kiwi special releases, Kiri Kiwifruit, Ted Tamarillo and Patty Passionfruit)

3. So are inappropriate fancy dress costumes
Olly hosts a fancy dress party, presumably one of those frat-house-style ones with a bad taste theme. Tom Tomato decides to try on some cultural misappropriation with a Native American headdress. But, holy crap, is that Professor Peabody behind him, one upping the inappropriateness in a Ku Klux Klan hood?

4. Quackerry is all the rage, medically
Nurse Plum is the resident medical staff, keeping a small hospital to treat any injuries or illnesses which may strike the Bunch. There's no doctor in sight, but that's OK, some nurses are plenty competent enough to manage on their own. Nurse Plum, however, does have an approach to medicine which could be  described  as unconventional, at least.

Rozzy Raspberry, who as you may remember is a bit of a trickster, presents with an arrow through the head, having been 'shot by Indians' (there's that cultural sensitivity being laid on thick again). It's a trick, of course, but never mind that for now. Rather than preparing for neurosurgery, or, you know, examining her patient adequately, Nurse Plum is quick to lay Rozzy Raspberry up in bed and prescribe a course of  milk and sweets. You may think this is just the good nurse being kind, but no, she does actually say 'this will make you better in no  time'. Of course, th injury being a cruel jape, the worst thing that happened was Rozzy got locked outside for the night, but were an actual traumatic brain injury to present, the moral of this story would be a lot darker than 'be nice to your friends'.

5. The Munch Bunch diet is awful
You may have noticed this already. Obviously, any attempt to eat a healthy diet with five plus fruit and vegetable servings daily was going to end in grim canibalism.  So the Munch Bunch turn to sweets. A new sweet shop opens, with 'every type of sweet imaginable', and the whole town has turned out. Not only that, but when sweets start going missing frim said shop, it's a tragedy  that resonates throughout the township, enough to bring several townsfolk together to thwart the thieves to end the biggest local crisis since  the last spring harvest.

And we've already addressed the sweets as medicine fiasco.

This sort of book may have been OK back in the loose eighties, but you're probably safer sticking to reading your toddler Game of Thrones these days. That said, at least the skateboarding Rasta cucumber isn't too cool to use appropriate safety gear.

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

MEAT! Wattie's Pumpkin, potato and beef

I'm scared.

I'm scared on a few levels in fact. Firstly, this isn't really a review I'm allowed to do, so let's get it out the way quickly. My wife is a vegetarian, and I love her for the conviction she has in trying to avoid all meat. I remember her anguish on finding she'd eaten a slice of bread 'fortified' with 0.05% fish oil. I didn't hear the end of that one for weeks, and as such, decided it best not to mention a few years later, on a trip to Australia, that I thought the chips we were eating were flavoured with chicken salt. This deep hatred of the ingestion of slabs of dead animal has spread to our kids. Luke has on several occasions come close to nicking s delicious chicken nugget off a friend, only to be reminded he doesn't like chicken. Never mind the fact a chicken has seldom been near any chicken nugget.  So, in short, we're not meant to have meat-laced baby food within the house. But this was on special, I was at the supermarket, I needed something to draw readers back in to my blog... So here we are.

and that brings me to the second reason I'm scared.... Now I have to eat the bloody stuff. Still, babies eat it, apparently, so how hard can it be?

Contains: Vegetables (61%) (Pumpkin (50%), Potatoes (6%), Carrots), Water for cooking, Beef (10%), Corn semolina, Cornflour, Herb

Here we go again... Lots of pumpkin, not much of anything else. In fact, I'm going out on a limb here and I'll say that this is going to taste more of pumpkin than anything else. hey Watties, why not just make it entirely pumpkin, aye?

Of note, however, is the mystery 'herb' listed in the ingredients. Singular, note. Is it basil? Thyme? Rosemary? Sage? Do babies even like herbs? I don't know. I'll tell you who does like herbs, though, and that's Sean Connery, though only partially.

First impressions: looking at the label of this, I'm expecting a nice roast dinner. Like one of Willie Wonka's three course gums, but instead of a gum, it's a puréed mush. Beautifully sliced roast beef, and a whole crown pumpkin appear enticingly on the tin. Opening the can, the appearance of said mush isn't as inspiring a sight as the package art work. Very watery looking, bright orange ochre, not the most appetising thing I've seen today. Surprisingly, savoury beef lingers long on the nose, along with water. Very little pumpkin or potato, though I don't really know that potato really does smell like anything, truth be told.

Taste test: guess what? Tastes of pumpkin! There are a few nuggety soft chunks which put me in the mind of small flecks of budget mince in a university flat bolognese, but the beef flavour doesn't really shine through that well. Maybe they don't want to save the finest cuts of sirloin for the under 8 monthers, but Watties could still try and give the meat content a bit more believability. Strangely, the water and potatoes make more of an impression, though the carrot is about as anonymous as it is on the label, however. Guess what, though! Right at the back of the palate, there is indeed the slightest hint of parsley!

And you know what, just for once it is nice to eat a baby food not trying to indulge itself in superfood wankery by trying to include a miniscule portion of quinoa, so ka pai for that, Watties.

Overall: still, despite the lack of pretentiousness, tasting only of pumpkin, yet promising so much more does let this food down ultimately. 4.5/10

Enjoy: you could try with a nice central Otago Pinot noir, but that would be a waste of good wine. My advice would be ditch the food, just buy some proper steak.