WOBS SANGER ADVENT CALENDAR

15
Dec 17

TFTACOXS – December 13: Vegan Christmas Wrap

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Leon Christmas Wrap At some point when you’re opening the doors of this particular FT advent calendar, you inevitably have to ask, “is that really a sandwich”? Well, pending the intrusion of Wobs Dob Dee into this discussion, I’m not convinced this does count. Not because a wrap isn’t a sandwich (it is), but more because if you can’t pick it up from a refrigerated unit and have a glance through the plastic window into the dark heart of cranberry within, then it doesn’t really feel like a proper high street sanger. Still, I’m going to blog this one anyway.

Leon doesn’t have any food in chillers at all. It has a menu, in front of which you um and ah, but not too long because (aside from the “pigs in a blanket muffin”) there are two Christmas choices: one of them is vegan and one isn’t. And for that privilege, you do end up paying a little bit more.

However, the content isn’t necessarily greater for that money: the Leon wrap is if anything somewhat thin and lightly padded. However, it feels virtuous (sort of the selling point for the company), and more enticingly, there’s definite flavour there. The menu talks up its sweet potato falafel and toasted pine nuts (expect a bunch of them down the bottom of the wrapper), but the good work is done by the sage and onion mayo in this concoction (sure, there’s cranberry, but it feels a little less heavy-handed than with some other Xmas veggie options).

If you’re feeling flush, it could be worth the effort.

12
Dec 17

TFTACOXS* – December 12: M&S Chestnut Roast Wrap

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If buying sandwiches from a pharmacy seemed alien to me, I wonder what I would have thought about department stores selling them. I learned what Marks and Sparks was on the same tram journey back from Meadowhall that I learned what aubergine was (it was being used to describe a pair of unpurchased trousers, rejected for their colour). I had already learned that pants meant undies, and trousers indeed pants. Piece of cake, this English.

Nowadays, I solely consider M&S Simply Food, indeed. Thanks to their taunting adverts and fancy scran, I tend to think of their lunches as a tiny treat yo’self indulgence. Their first vegan wobs offering is a wrap – red pepper tortilla filled with carrots, spinach and chestnut/mixed grains, with grape & cranberry chutney to glue it all together.

Ewan wasn’t overly impressed with the textured tortilla, and found the contents unevenly distributed with many too-carroty bites, overall rating it disappointing. That wasn’t a problem with my wrap, but it was pretty small and not very filling. I did like the use of chestnuts – very xmassy – but I found it a bit too virtuous and not quite within the spirit of the xmas sanger.

TFTACOXS* – December 11: Pret Ham Hock, Stuffing And Apple

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ham hock *The Freaky Trigger Advent Calendar Of Xmas Sandwiches OF COURSE

Pret’s Christmas sandwich line may be the one to beat, but it is not without flaws. One particular recurrent problem gives anger to the Sandwich Gods: Pret continually use very crumbly ingredients. Crumbliness is a Bad Thing in sandwich terms particularly if – as is surely the case with Pret! – a sizeable chunk of your customers will be eating them at their desks. Keyboards and jumpers beware – there is no controlling the crispy onions in the Christmas Feast.

11
Dec 17

THE FREAKY TRIGGER ADVENT CALENDAR OF XMAS SANDWICHES – December 10: The Snow Globe

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snow globe The centrepiece of Sainsbury’s Christmas range this year is “The Snow Globe”. This boldly rejects all traditional packaging and is sold in a sealed plastic dome, which fanciness probably adds 50p to the cost of the not-all-that-large sandwich. Unless Sainsbury’s are taking a Blue Monday 12″ style profit hit, which I very much doubt.

What is it? “Christmas dinner in a brioche bun” or in plainer terms a turkey and bacon roll. The brioche bun has tiny stars on, nicely captured in this image I nicked off Twitter, and is very pleasant and fluffy, but (surely to nobody’s surprise) the whole thing suffers from over-ambition and ultimately disappoints.

The problem is the bold decision to have both a layer of cranberry and a layer of “sprout slaw”. High marks on paper for seeing the christmas dinner concept through and including sprouts, but in practice both layers are a bit too gloopy. Which combined with the softness of the bread gives the Snow Globe a slightly sloppy and pre-chewed feel. A bit less of the cranberry, and (sad to say) a more robust bread, and the bitterness of the slaw would have balanced the sweetness very nicely. As it is, the Snow Globe is… no great shakes.

9
Dec 17

THE FREAKY TRIGGER ADVENT CALENDAR OF XMAS SANDWICHES – December 9: Boots Parsnip Fritter and Butternut Squash

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My first ever taste of a Boots sanger was in Sheffield nearly twenty years ago. I was still learning which shops sold lunch goods convenient to my work, and seem to recall being mildly surprised you could get sandwiches from Boots, although I don’t know why. I suppose I was still noticing the differences between Wisconsin equivalents as I’d only recently been installed permanently in the UK, and I couldn’t think of any pharmacies in Wisconsin that also sold lunchtime meal deals.

38035199655_9283a98b2b_zI was particularly grateful for an option that wasn’t the usual cheese or egg based offer, the Mexican bean wrap. I think this may be the first time I’d ever seen Mexican-stuff-in-a-tortilla called a wrap rather than a burrito (or used as sandwich bread: whoa), but I was happy to sample something new. I was sadly disappointed – it was cold and bland. Nonetheless, I was grateful that it existed when I was lacking in lunchtime veg options. Upon reflection, the thought of a cold burrito makes me want to gag, so it’s really no wonder I didn’t dig the bean wrap and still don’t.

The fact that there are no less than eight vegan xmas sandwiches sampled for the calendar makes me very happy indeed, although I haven’t had the chance to try them all (yet). I haven’t had cause to settle for half frozen disappointment-flavoured lunch in a long time, so I’m very surprised to find that the Boots offering is my favourite so far.

It’s sweet but not overly so, the shredded parsnip matching well with the butternut squash. There’s chutney – just enough, not too gloopy, and a pretty decent granary bread to rival Pret’s. It also helps that it’s £2.75 or £3.39 in the meal deal. I had some of those baked crisps and juice which would have been £2.30 more – huzzah, the meal deal pays off!

Ewan also rates this highly, commenting on the competing textures and flavours. However the curse of the too cold Boots fridge struck Kat, who missed out on the full sanger potential, noting that it was ENCASED IN ICE.

7
Dec 17

THE FREAKY TRIGGER ADVENT CALENDAR OF XMAS SANDWICHES – December 7: M&S Ham Hock & Golden Beetroot Piccalilli

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Picked up at Paddington on my way to the South West for work, the Marks & Spencer Ham Hock and Golden Beetroot Piccalilli sandwich from their extensive range certainly wins the prize for the most over-packaged sandwich. A huge cardboard box and a massive wodge of plastic to separate the two halves. Whilst somewhat of a deviation from turkey, it’s hard to deny that a nice hunk of ham isn’t a Christmas staple, although possibly not quite in this form. I have to say my dear old gran would find it rather hilarious that “ham hock” is in any way posh, it being pretty much the cheapest cut of gammon, only really good for broth making (mind you, she made a cracking broth!), certainly not suitable for a Christmas table or any sort of sandwich making.
ham hock
Unlike the promotional pic, my sandwich was somewhat lacking in any greenery, with just a couple of stray fronds of spiky lettuce of some kind. There were decent sized chunks of ham hock though, although it was a bit flavourless. The Piccalilli is quite zingy, but again, why it’s made from golden beetroot somewhat mystifies me.

The bread was fine, decent bloomer, if a bit crispy at the cut edges, but then, if you pick up a sandwich at half five, you take what you get.

I have to say it went rather well with the Ilkley Oatmeal Stout I picked up at the same time.

The sandwich was put in the shade somewhat, by the classic turkey and stuffing combo served up to me in the college canteen today though. Really good soft white bread, good solid chunks of well-seasoned turkey, clearly left over from the in-house, student-staffed restaurant’s last service (and all good turkey sandwiches are made from leftovers), stuffing mixed nicely with enough mayo to lubricate it properly and at £4.20 with bag of crisps and bottle of pop, you can’t really complain.

6
Dec 17

THE FREAKY TRIGGER ADVENT CALENDAR OF XMAS SANDWICHES – December 6: the CO-OP and the Strange Problem of the Pigs and their Blankets (Relative Location of)

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co op pigs under blanketsI like the co op. I like the idea of the Co-operative movement, I like how much better as a bank the Co-op has been than my previous high street experience, I like how when everything went pear-shaped for it financially it was caused by a vicar with crisps on his nips aka the Crystal Methodist snorting ket & coke off of a hooker’s arse (subs/lawyers please check). Actually this last thing was probably bad and also very extremely unrelated. But I do like the co-op-that-is-a-chainstore’s xmas fare.

5
Dec 17

THE FREAKY TRIGGER ADVENT CALENDAR OF XMAS SANDWICHES – December 5: Tesco Finest Bubble and Squeak

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Tesco Bubble and Squeak It’s now that I find myself guiding FT towards the little-charted territory of the Wobs sanger vegetarian option, traditionally an unloved corner of the refrigerated unit filled with miserable cranberry and brie combinations (of which I suspect we’ll be seeing more in future weeks). It’s usually been even bleaker for the vegans, who might count themselves lucky with some dry falafel wrap, but this year have literally more than one option, thanks to many of the chains redoubling their efforts to capture this small but vocal market.

It’s in this context that we once again find ourselves surprised to be standing in a Tesco Express, confronted by this particular excessively-boxed nonsense. Open it up and out falls an extra (and very determinedly sealed, requiring some use of teeth in my case) sachet of paprika-spiced coconut flakes (“bacon-flavoured” the box says, but w/ev). Overall it breaks a number of the traditional wobs sanger rules. For a start, it takes the non-standard roll form, though more interestingly for the vegans it uses potato instead of falafel for a change. It should by rights be dry and stale-tasting, but it turns out it’s very tasty, with a soft bun (almost brioche-like in consistency) and spiced red cabbage for some texture and moisture.

Kerry has also tried it: “This was surprisingly compelling even for a not-usually-vegan. ‘That looks like a BANGER of a sandwich,’ one office mate marvelled, with particular admiration given to the amount of red on the nutrition boxes. The bread was also pleasingly fluffy and resilient, holding up well under the demands of the vegan mayo.”

Moreover, a certain trumpet/drum-playing correspondent of FT’s acquaintance has reported this as being the best vegan one in general circulation. I feel like I’ve tried pretty much all of them, and she’s not far wrong, though I’m still holding out for one made with cranberry sauce and Tofurky.

THE FREAKY TRIGGER ADVENT CALENDAR OF XMAS SANDWICHES – December 4: Tesco Finest Turkey Feast

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turkeyfeast For all that it’s still the most popular supermarket in Britain, Tesco seems a bit nonplussed at Christmas time. Its adverts have long been upstaged by the posh end of the market – and this year it got the unwelcome attention of racist idiots too – and nobody makes much fuss about its sandwiches compared to the PR juggernauts of Pret or even Greggs. The store does its bit over Christmas, sells everything you’d expect, and I suspect makes most of its money by being open later than anyone else on the 24th – by which time its sandwiches are the last thing on anyone’s mind.

4
Dec 17

THE FREAKY TRIGGER ADVENT CALENDAR OF XMAS SANDWICHES – December 3: The Cranberry Question

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Over in an unsatisfactory place, my esteemed FT colleague The Barnet Ape — who claims he does not eat xmas sandwiches and has therefore declined to contribute to this calendar — opines as follows:

cranberry-sauceAdvent Calendar Of Christmas Horror Day 3: Cranberry Sauce

“This might just be me, but I don’t need jam on my dinner. Yes, turkey is a dry meat, and yes sometimes a bit of sweetness can perk up a dish, but there isn’t any call for it with Turkey. Nothing is enhanced by this overwhelming sweetness. And that’s fine, this has never been a huge issue in the past because it is a sauce, it is not compulsory and so the Ocean Spray can stay away.

“Except it isn’t optional in “Festive Foods”. A Christmas Sandwich is basically Christmas dinner between bread, and the cranberry sauce is seen to be obligatory. Is there a turkey based Xmas sandwich that doesn’t have a smear (thick, cheap layer) of the red terror? Can I have a Christmas sandwich with gravy instead? And by the way, aren’t cranberries supposed to be a bit tart? This is basically diabetes in red clothes.”

signed yr pal Peter Baran

In the comments to this very wrong stance, various cranks, crackpots and cackling menks er other fine people offer support and agreement: arguing for example that breadsauce is the only acceptable turkey-moisturiser, that the admixture of sweet and savoury must always be policed, that mint sauce on lamb is also bad ect ect. It is pointed out that chutney is a counter-example to the main underlying thesis — a hostility to jam on your dinner — but then the wrong conclusion is once again drawn. If anything the problem with most current xmas sandwiches is BACON: there is often too much and it makes the whole affair nastily salty. (I’m looking at you M&S — tho I am not yet blogging you.)

“Is there a turkey based Xmas sandwich that doesn’t have a smear (thick, cheap layer) of the red terror? Can I have a Christmas sandwich with gravy instead?”

obviously this^^^ is a question worth asking — we shd pursue it in the upcoming days! Do any festive sangers have gravy? But cranberry is good not bad. it is not really a moisteriser and it is by no means new (it was probably inherited from the days when a fancy xmas was goosed-based — you need something nicely tart and acidic to cut through the goosefat). also sweet and savoury on the same plate is classic pre-modern pagan cuisine (and the wobs sanger is nothing if not a pagan strand of our cultural life). if we’re going to insist on unwonted xmas-feast changes, end Fanny Cradock’s satanic reign and bring back goose!! GOOSE!!

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