Well, it's been quite a year. Brad and Nicole going their separate ways, Heinz officially discontinuing tinned puddings and Jane McDonald's second Cruising With album only hitting number 25 in the charts. Friends, we're spunky, we totter on, and so on this grim of days, it seems only appropriate to start my annual Christmas Sandwich Review.
Co-Op Pigs Under Blankets, £3 [pictured]
Since when have pigs been under, rather than in, blankets? Is this a recent development? Anyway I was passing a Co-Op – ps I love a Co-Op, I feel all Greta Thunberg when shopping there as I give back about 3p to my local Save The Bees fund – and popped in to scrutinise its sarnie game.
The turkey feast looked miserable so I opted instead for the Pigs Under Blankets. Not only was this reasonable as part of its £3.50 meal deal, but I also paid on my seemingly endless points, so it was free.
If this sandwich were a colour it would be beige. It would be the nextdoor neighbour you avoid knocking at your door to introduce you to his new lawnmower.
This is the kind of food that just makes you sigh. I make the mistake of opening the sandwich up to inspect the innards – readers, never ever do this with a Christmas sarnie – and I sigh again.
I understand that making a pork and bacon sandwich look attractive is not an easy task, but, well, she ain't a looker.
I hit, in a titanic-to-iceberg fashion, a pleasant but underwhelming mouthful of sausage.
On first, second and third bite, I taste nothing. The bread ranges from dry to slightly damp, this odd mélange of textures is quite bizarre and this sandwich would be enormously improved with some better, ideally granary, bread, to give it some kind of interest.
I then hit, in a titanic-to-iceberg fashion, a pleasant but underwhelming mouthful of sausage.
It is incredibly important when including sausage in a sandwich to make sure the surface area is appropriately covered. Here the sausages are simply not of acceptable proportions.
A sad empty boundary of grimy white slice borders the filling like a void. Taste-wise they're OK; I can't be any more enthusiastic but I can't diss them either. The lazy smear of cranberry could zip this sarnie up a bit, a sour zhuzh to perk up the porky mass, but it doesn't at all, it's tasteless.
The onion stuffing is really tasty, but it's scant; I have to go full Miss Marple to find it. Twice as much and we could be in some kind of business. The bacon has a nice warmth of smokiness, but again, this sandwich needs more. More, more, more.
I should be thankful that this sandwich is at least edible. Small mercies eh? I sometimes think a good dose of mediocrity is healthy, it heightens and intensifies the more illustrious, exciting chapters of life, but in this annus horribilis we're all dealing with, this really is the runt of the 2020 litter, a sigh in sarnie shape.
Anything but the whole hog. Distinctly boaring.
M&S Three-bird Roast, £3.80
We continue this year's journey of intestinal annihilation with a triple. Good things always come in threes, right? Very wrong. Think Macbeth's witches, Blink 182, this sandwich, and you'll soon be on the road to full-blown triphobia.
The unholy trio kicks off with the roast turkey stuffing etc number. Quietly unobtrusive, it's just a bit bland. There's no heady hit of herbs from the stuffing, no richness from the mayo. In fact both seem to merge into a grey matter sludge which needs a hit of salt for it to taste of anything. Measly.
Next is 'roast chicken dinner.' I begin with asking if you've ever enjoyed a roast dinner, the most comforting of meals, with uncooked pickled flappy carrots? Me neither. Both the carrots, which get in the way and never seem to end as your tongue tries to force them in your gob, and the red cabbage are slightly pickled, but again, they both need more punch. The chicken has an odd, almost crunchy texture to it. I want to hug whoever invented this, reassure them that life will be ok.
I want to hug whoever invented this, reassure them that life will be ok.
Finally, the duck. The rich gaminess of the meat is nice, but then you're confronted head on, like a lorry to the face, by yet more pickled red cabbage which has the most odd taste, different to the chicken flappy carrot number. I read to find out it has been 'cherry marinaded' and suddenly I am taken back to slugging back two-day-old flat cherry Lambrini on a rather desperate day at the Edinburgh fringe about 10 days ago. It's uncanny.
Now given that this combo is supposed to somehow give you an idea of a three-bird roast, I clamp a bit of each sandwich together to make a supersized mouthful, and knock it back in one.
I fear if I would have lit some candles and fashioned a pentagram in salt, this sacrificial sandwich morsel may have enticed Lucifer himself to descend on Lewisham.
The taste and texture being – I imagine – akin to emptying the contents of your post-Christmas bin between two rather unappealing slices of brown bread on Boxing day, or maybe somewhere nearer New Year.
Three bird roast? Well, you got yourself a free bird's roast. A truly fowl trio.
Asda Boxing Day sandwich, £2.50
My local Asda has the most unholy selection of produce, including a regular supply of camel milk. Yes, camel milk.
Anyway, for my latest unholy pilgrimage into this year's festive foodstuffs I popped in and picked up its Boxing Day Sandwich.
If your Christmas table consists of reformed wafer thin ham, reformed wafer thin turkey, raw red onion, coleslaw, spicy chutney and slightly damp white bread then get your coat on and get yourself up the Asdas. You'll love this.
OK, maybe I'm being a bit harsh. This sarnie is alright. There's nothing enormously disgusting about it, and I'm glad there's no concealed carrots or shrouded secret sprouts to be found, or a whole truffled egg, for that matter. (Why is hiding foodstuffs so in vogue at the moment? I blame Heston. To be honest, hiding anything you're going to eventually shove in your mouth is a dangerous game to play.)
There is no place for raw red onions at Christmas, and certainly not on Boxing Day. The chilled chunks of acerbic allium don't immediately hit you, but the overpowering hum stays with you, and occasionally greets you later in the day. Deeply unpleasant.
Why is hiding foodstuffs so in vogue at the moment? I blame Heston
The second big hitter is the spiced chutney. It's not too bad, and certainly not too sweet, which makes a change, but it contains a few raisins. Raisins are gopping, especially cold and in a sandwich. As you chew, these pop a spiced goop in your mouth and all I can think of is those pimple popping videos on YouYube. It's too clove-heavy and if you take a solitary lick of the chutney it's all a bit Victorian dentist for my liking.
My main issue is this sandwich's concept. On Boxing Day, after a few festive shandies, party hat akimbo, relative asleep in corner, you approach the table of leftovers and you are free to joyously craft your own glorious, greedy creation. Thick slices of meat, slathers of chutney, mayonnaise, a slice of stuffing maybe. It's a very personal thing, and this is where this sandwich is let down. The process has been automated. It waits, fridge-chilled under sterile strip lights, behind a melancholy window of cellophane, next to cans of Monster. It ain't bad, just a bit sad.
Nothing to fight over here.
Tesco turkey curry with onion bahji, £2.75
I'm not necessarily sure that advertising this Tesco turkey tragedy as 'hand wrapped' during a global pandemic was the wisest marketing move, I certainly recoiled slightly on reading.
Each year I like to fit in a curry number; they can range from the surprisingly good – usually some kind of coronation poultry affair – to the utterly horrific such as EAT's (RIP) vegan cauliflower bhaji monstrosity of 2019.
Well it's 2020, and yellow breads seem to be de rigueur. Nothing says 'Merry Christmas!' like a tortilla wrap straight from a Welwyn Garden City factory in a retina-burning shade of nuclear-waste yellow.
Maybe I'm being a bit harsh about the colour. If it were fancy I-saw-you-coming paint it would probably be described as 'Chilled Chartreuse' or 'Next Door Forsythia'. It's more eye-catching than eye-watering, but the point stands. I'm not sure yellow and festive are natural bedfellows.
Some scant turkey – fine; some unassuming spinach – fine; and then we get to the huge quantity of sauce.
Readers, from here on in it shall be called a paste. This rancid concoction doesn't deserve even the generic description of 'sauce'. If it were to go through customs at any airport, it would most certainly be relegated to your liquids bag, but it's more grainy than you'd expect. Overall, it's a thoroughly unpleasant find in a sandwich.
It's odd, possibly down to over-spicing, but the graininess lingers on your tongue and swirls round your mouth as you eat. There's no creaminess from mayonnaise, no sharpness from a chutney – but, as I chew more, I long for something to quell the abrasive, sour paste that tastes like the sad left behind remnants of decade-old spice bottles chucked together with some polyfilla.
There's a distinct aftertaste and numbing sensation on my tongue alarmingly akin to Corsodyl mouthwash
The taste is of supermarket bargain basement xtra-strong tikka masala sauce, straight from the fridge, boiled down, with a lingering bitterness. It goes a worrying step further; there's a distinct aftertaste and numbing sensation on my tongue alarmingly akin to Corsodyl mouthwash.
I'd almost forgotten about the bhaji. That's because within this wrap it's just a non-existent smear. On approaching my final bite, I look inside to see a nice hefty amount of filling.
Lovely, finally some turkey amid the vast quantities of this astringent paste of hell.
No. I soon realise it's more of the aforementioned alium abomination and as I chew down, it's watery, spongey texture gives way, oozing more spicy cement, literally making me moan in horror.
This is nothing short of a disaster. The Jacqui Smith samba of the Christmas sarnie world. It is so rancid it could put you into a korma.
Starbucks The One With The Gravy Layer, £4.59
I was nervous choosing this one. First of all there's only one Starbucks food order which is acceptable and that's the toasted ham and cheese croissant, if you haven't tried one, get one immediately. The concept here is a pulled ham hock and turkey (why are we always pulling meats nowadays?) sandwich with a middle layer of bread which is steeped, soaked, moistened, with gravy. It sounded so horrific I had to try it.
First of all this sandwich looks odd. The bread doesn't really fit. It looks like it's been put together by a toddler. There is a sad perimeter of toasted bread and on the first few bites you taste nothing but toast. Not a good start.
I next come to red cabbage which is over cloved. Meat wise the combo of turkey and ham is really pleasant. Unfortunately a lot of the ham clumps flap out of the sandwich so, on toasting, creates a fringe of bone dry pink fronds. The melted cheddar is a stroke of genius, and it's plentiful, in fact the more I eat the more this feels like a fancy cheese toastie and it is a harmonious partner to the cabbage and meats.
There is apparently a 'smoky butternut crush' – I'm sure I've met her – and after some serious Sherlocking I seem to be able to see it, but I cant really taste it. There's a generic Christmas spicy taste that runs through this sandwich but I can't put my finger on it.
I want a sodden, dripping, gravy Vesuvius which makes me leap up to find the nearest cloth to mop up meaty hot juices from my chin
Imagine face planting into a plate of crimbo pot pourri, going to sleep and waking up the next morning with a bit of dried detritus from the night before lodged somewhere about your person perfuming your day.
Hang on. Where the chuff is this aforementioned gravy? I want a sodden, dripping, gravy Vesuvius which makes me leap up to find the nearest cloth to mop up meaty hot juices from my chin. Instead the middle layer is possibly slightly softer, but a distinctly tepid and disappointing affair. Maybe I was unlucky with my gravy dipper.
This sandwich needs to be renamed. It should be called the Glorified Cheese Sandwich with Festive Accoutrements One. It's pleasant but I'm now planning a Sunday evening roast to get my gravy fix. Starbucks, you let me down.
One foot in the gravy. A bit of a laughing stock.