Sometimes TV shows come along and they’re more than one blogger can handle. Welcome to this original collaborative effort between yours truly at Dead Pixel Test and Birmingham food blogger extraordinaire Laura who writes over at Full to the Brum. Your usual Dead Pixel Test fare is above, seasoned with Laura’s unique take on this singular show, and her thoughts in full on each episode is your delicious dessert buffet below.
In the week where TV fans are lamenting the silencing of an animatronic cat, I might have just the thing to cheer you up. The Curious Creations of Christine McConnell is a strange box of delights, released on Netflix in the build-up to Halloween, which is of course goth Christmas.
This out-there show is based around wholesome pastimes of baking, crafting and sewing but Christine specialises in some shocking creations. And she sets out her stall early. The first thing we see is Christine painting what seems to be an actual human skull and then absentmindedly biting off a spiders leg. Our host is a totally glamorous 1950s housewife with a sort of romantic Snow White look about her. Her set is a gorgeous pastel coloured kitchen with gothic hints in the spiderweb patterned kitchen cabinets. It’s as if the Stepford Wives weren’t obliging robots at all but had their own secret coven.
Odd enough right? Well, lets meet her team. Christine’s rag-tag adopted family are all incredible puppets made by the Jim Henson Company. The stand-out star here is resurrected roadkill Rose who leaks partially digested food out of her seams. Not letting a little thing like that hold her back she’s a insatiably horny murderous scene-stealer, with hobbies including eating herself into a diabetic coma, torturing neighbours and humping gnomes. Rankle is the sarcastic talking mummified cat from ancient Egypt (a descendant or ancient ancestor of Salem, depending on how you see it) who still expects to be worshiped. Big cuddly Edgar looks to be part Bigfoot, part werewolf, there’s a giant one-eyed fuzz ball in the basement and huge but useful tentacles that live in the fridge. The creatures, especially Rose and Rankle, definitely get the best lines. These Henson creations are certainly not kid-friendly and the show would be hideously saccharine without them.
For a program ostensibly about baking, it’s astounding that zero cakes actually get made. It’s like joining an episode of the Great Transylvanian Bake Off mid-way through a showstopper challenge when the dull and messy jobs are done. Christine’s specialities are sculpting, painting, and decorating with enviable precision. Everything she produces is extremely obsessively beautiful, everything is a masterpiece. Piped royal icing teeth and claws seem to be her trademark, which looks like the fiddliest job ever. If Marilyn Mason ever gets married again he knows who to get in to do the buffet.
So it’s light on baking but heavy on message. “I don’t think we need to worry ourselves over labels” says Christine with a doe-eyed look to camera when Edgar arrives, likely to be pursued by an angry mob wielding torches and pitchforks. She’s an unconventional Mother Teresa, welcoming all her freaky children to her home, “a place where the strange and unusual are welcome”. And woe betide anyone who tries to cross them. The neighbours are not on board with these unconventional residents. Gleefully Rose offers to kill them in their sleep and burn down their houses. Christine prefers to send them gift baskets. “You know you can buy stuff like that” says Rose. That’s the only time Christine looks like she might really lose her shit. Turns out evil can be easily contained – “The cruel universe is indifferent to your suffering!” threatens the ominous Rankle, but never fear – he’s easily distracted “Oooh cake!”
Curious Creation is fun, but you won’t learn much. It reminds me a lot and in all the right ways of Good Eats with Alton Brown back in its heyday, with similar fantasy and comic elements and lovable but unlikely recurring characters. Pleasingly its dark humour doesn’t actually jar all that much with the homely setting. It’s perfect easy-watching and delightfully horrific all at once.
For an expert view on this kooky television experience we now turn to Laura from Full To The Brum who on a recent sugar high overdosed on the whole series. Enjoy her blow by blow account below, and why not get interactive with the Curious Creations Drinking Game. Alcohol might be the only thing to help make sense of it all…
Peanut butter pretzel cookie bone seems a bit sickly…all that peanut butter, and sugar and now milk chocolate. Wait, airbrushing tools? Oh sure, I can pick up the ingredients at my local supermarket, you’re right Christine, but airbrushing tools…come on. Who has airbrushing tools at home?!
Is she showing us how to make this epic house cake like we should have a go at doing it ourselves? If so, where are the ingredients…why isn’t she showing us how to construct the cake. At least the Cake Boss shows us the construction stage. That bloody airbrushing machine is back.
WHO MAKES A BACK UP HOUSE CAKE?!
I’m erring towards liking the bonkers kitschy horror stuff, but the cooking things are a bit weird – are we supposed to be getting inspired or just perving on the baking? I’m definitely not making any of these, so I’m assuming it’s just the voyeurism.
Oh now we’re seeing the construction of a cake. Why wouldn’t you build up the sheets of cake with the icing in between and then carve it? Oh look, there she is doing things off camera again. Such a tease.
Yeah sure, what this thing needs is more sugar.
Okay, now we’re making candles. I’m genuinely confused as to whether we’re supposed to be making these things at home. Because I don’t know what sort of house you live in, but in mine sculpting tools are not regularly used. The candles do look cool, but also a lot of effort just to burn.
Candy cane horns, well at least this looks relatively simple. So far this is the only thing I could see normal people actually making. Okay, and these eyeball chocolate chip cookies don’t look completely crazy to recreate either. Although I’m not sure I’d know where to get clear piping gel. Also, what does clear piping gel taste like?
“You know you can buy stuff like that…I mean, you can buy all of this.” Yes Rose, yes you can. And it’s a damn sight easier. I’d just buy something from Conjurer’s Kitchen.
What is brioche donut dough? Is it brioche or is it a donut, just pick one. Wait – now there’s a sculpting tool that’s like a mini sander?! Sure, I’ll just get mine out of the kitchen draw. I’m still lost on whether we’re supposed to be learning to make these or just marvelling at them.
Ooh savoury – chicken pot pie sounds good. I’m kinda getting used to the idea we’re only getting half recipes but a pie is not a pie if it only has a pastry top. I don’t care if you make a pastry looking chicken to top it, put the pastry in the pot and make a proper pie.
Okay sure, now we’re making a dress.
Ooh, this tip on how to get a smooth shortbread is kinda handy. I’m not sure I’d use it to make my own Ouija board, but maybe for Christmas cookies. Ah, the airbrushing machine is back, starting to think I might be the only person who doesn’t consider this a kitchen essential. Kinda amused that for a woman who is so extra in her baking, she uses isomalt because it has less steps than alternatives. To be fair, it does look really cool.
She’s talking about basic ingredients again. The airbrush machine is going to make another appearance isn’t it? Wait, is she making a chocolate teacups…is there going to be a chocolate teapot too?
What random non-food related item are we going to make this episode? Hats? Hats! Of course! Oh no, we’re not going to make hats, we’re going to have a tea party with a side of family drama instead.
The strange instructions are back – we’re being shown how to put icing on a cake and layer them together, but not how to add doweling rods into the cake.
Christine is on about royal icing again. If you wanted to have a drinking game to this show royal icing would definitely have to be on the list. And the airbrushing machine, we can’t forget the airbrushing.
Now we’re going to learn to make bat wings with supplies you’ve “probably got around your house”. As opposed to going to Poundland and buying them cheap and with a lot less hassle. Wait, bendable wire and latex…WHO KEEPS LIQUID LATEX IN THEIR HOUSE?!
Norman is being weird, of course he is. He’s in a weird kitschy horror baking craft show and he’s called Norman, and he’s handy with a knife.
I’m loving the Halloween being like Christmas for the household. But the amount of tools required to make these sunken head baubles make me think it might just be easier to get those hanging Christmas chocolates for the tree, or some popcorn garlands if you’re feeling retro.
Christine has said ‘royal icing’ approximately a billion times already this episode. Drink up.
Ginger Dead House, nice. This isn’t going to be complicated at all, is it Christine? What’s that, you’re just getting out the brûlée tool. I sort of feel a bit cheated that we didn’t get to see more of it being made, but the ginger dead house is stunning.
Christine is suggesting that these edible spiders only use three simple ingredients. Sure, but I bet she’s going to pull out some random piece of machinery to decorate them. Just the air brush? How dull.
I’m not entirely sure what I’ve just watched. It was like Cake Boss meets The Muppets meets Blue Peter all run through a bad batch of LSD. It’s easy watching, but the treats are just that bit too technical to make at home, but I expect anyone that has some experience with artistic baking would find them a bit too amateurish. The show is utterly bonkers, which makes it kind of compelling, and the episodes are short which makes them easy to consume.
We have our own local macabre baker extraordinaire in Birmingham, Annabel de Vetten of Conjurer’s Kitchen. For a real life version of this, minus the puppets, I’d certainly recommend checking out her stuff and the taste-a-longs at the Electric Cinema to cult films are a lot of fun.