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Munching on too Many Mince Pies

№168 ~8 minutes

In which I, and five co-workers try mince pies to determine which is the best.

17 days until Christmas. The countdown continues.

As the expression “When in Rome…” goes, I thought I should try something new this week. But as we all know I’m not in Rome, I’m in Britain. And whilst I honestly couldn’t tell you what people in Rome eat, thanks to many co-workers I’ve discovered a “thing” the British like to eat during this most festive of season.

“What might that be?”, you might be asking yourself. Maybe.

Why, it’s mince pies of course.

A mince pie, also known as minced pie, is a small British fruit-based mincemeat sweet pie traditionally served during the Christmas season. Its ingredients are traceable to the 13th century, when returning European crusaders brought with them Middle Eastern recipes containing meats, fruits and spices.

Expect there’s no meat in them any more. Cue, the first of many on my disappointments.

And of course, I wouldn’t be me, if I didn’t take it too far.

So naturally, I did just that by devising a—“super scientific”—taste test where I would go out and buy the cheapest mince pies I could find, eat and judge them, passing out points where I saw fit. Yes, it’s—

The Pie-tastic Weekly Update!

So far so good, right?

Wrong.

Judging by the description above, there was an enormous risk that I wouldn’t like mince pies. At all. And well, worst case scenario: I give up midway through to vomit a little before “trying” to continue to eat them, all the while wishing for a quick and merciful death. And whilst I’m sure that could be entertaining in itself, it wouldn’t make for a very good test, now would it?

So, what to do?

Cue five co-workers, 2 Web Designers, 2 Astrophysicists and a Website Consultant—Brits and self-proclaimed Mince lovers—who were glad to eat free Mince Pies help me with my test. On a serious note, a huge thank you to Andy, Steve, Nick, Devrim and Tom. Your participation made this test significantly better than it would have been, had I done it on my own.

To make things as confusing as possible I devised an intricate ranking systems using levers and bells. No, I’m of course kidding. About the levers and bells that is, the ranking system is still pretty convoluted considering it could have probably been distilled into a simple 1-5 system, which would have been better.

But no, instead I made a 3-category system with 5, 3 and 1 points given to the three highest ranking pies in each category. With the following categories: Appearance, Texture and finally Taste & Smell.

See, I told you it was convoluted.

On with the com-pie-tition.

Sainsbury’s Basics Mince Pies receives 1 point.
Sainsbury’s Basics Mince Pies.

Sainsbury’s Basics Mince Pies

In an ironic twist of fate the pies that received the lowest score were not the pies to be remembered as the “worst pies ever” and with a price tag of £2.50 for a box of 18, at 14 pence á pie these aren’t even the cheapest ones you can find. With a pastry crust of boredom and dead hopes, filled with almost nothing—quite literally nothing—these pies aren’t worth your time.

Aldi Everyday Essentials Mince Pies receives 2 points.
Aldi Everyday Essentials Mince Pies.

Aldi Everyday Essentials Mince Pies

Deemed hands down the “worst mince pies ever” this atrocity barely qualified as mince pie according to… well… everyone. With its thin dry layer of whatever the hell their excuse for the filling is, wrapped in a flat and uninspiring pastry this mince pie was truly awful. So bad, that—like the ravings of a madman—a couple of the participants had just scribbled “No, no, no” on their notes.

But with a price tag of £0.65 for a pack of 6 this makes them the cheapest ones, at 11 pence á pie. So, if you have no sense of taste—and never want to have children—these are the pies for you.

Mr. Kipling Deep Filled Mince Pies receives 39 points.
Mr. Kipling Deep Filled Mince Pies.

Mr. Kipling Deep Filled Mince Pies

Whilst the plan was to buy the cheapest pies I could find, many people kept recommending the Mr. Kipling as the best pies so I thought I had to include them in this test to see if they measured up the competition.

Turns out they did as much as they didn’t. By the recommendations these received you would have thought that they would win, hands down. But at a measly third place—in a competition with only five contestants—one can clearly see that they didn’t measure up. Looking at the score breakdown, we can see that it actually beats the M&S Pies for Textures but loses in the other areas.

With a price tag of £1.79 for a pack of 6, at 30 pence á pie I’m sad—though sad might be the wrong word here, since I don’t like mince pies at all—to say that there’s really no reason to buy these. Our runner up is price-matched and by the vote of the people, better.

Marks & Spencer Classic Mince Pies receives 54 points and the offical Carlos Eriksson seal of approval.
Marks & Spencer Classic Mince Pies.

Marks & Spencer Classic Mince Pies

And so, we’re finally—almost—here, at the end. The runner was by all accounts a good mince pie, according to people who like pies, expect of course not quite as good the winner. Obviously. I thought the design left a lot to be desired and only gave it a 1 on Appearance but others seemed to disagree because it got three 5s. Despite its shitty design it made up for it by being good in the other areas and this one is actually my personal favourite. Should I ever find myself at gunpoint, forced to eat mince pies to survive, that is.

The price tag is £1.79 for a pack of 6 meaning it’s tied with Mr. Kipling at 30 pence á pie but if you should ever find yourself in doubt, just trust the judgement of 3 Web Designers, 2 Astrophysicists and a Website Consultant and buy these over the Mr. Kipling ones.

Tesco Christmas Mince Pies receives 66 points and is crowned the winner.
Tesco Christmas Mince Pies.

Tesco Christmas Mince Pies

A budget mince pie if there ever was one, the Tesco offering was a bit of a surprise winner as most people had their bets on Mr. Kipling. One person had actually recommended Tesco’s Christmas Mince Pies so maybe I should just save everyone the trouble next year by having him eat them all, and do the judging on his own.

A solid performer as the score breakdown clearly shows this was actually my least favourite of the top three. I thought the filling was too fluid and intense in flavours. Flavours I didn’t like anyway.

With a price tag of £1 for a pack of 6, coming in at 17 pence á pie this means that you could buy almost two Tesco’s mince pies for every Marks & Spencer you don’t buy.

The Thrilling Conclusion

So there you have it. Wondering what mince pies to eat this year? Wonder no more, Tesco’s Christmas Mince Pies is apparently the way to go. Or if you’re like me, don’t, because mince pies are gross.

Of course, as predicted, I really—really, really—don’t like mince pies. And now I know that. Not only that though, but when someone offers me a pie I can simply go, “No thanks, I’ve tried them before and I didn’t like them”.

At which point they will of course say, “But these are Mr. Kipling, they’re much better”

To which I can go “Yeah, they’re not. Studies show that Tesco’s are better but I don’t like them either.”

Disclaimer: I’m in no way affiliated with Tesco and/or their products, nor am I affiliated with any other brand’s products.

Embracing the Everyday English

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