Product Type: Drinkstuff Novelty Toy
Newest Review: ... well depicted, if not slightly reminiscent of the spitting image puppet of her, albeit this is a much friendly looking Thatcher! She does ... more
A Tough Nut to Crack!
Drinkstuff Margaret Thatcher Nutcracker
Member Name: GodfatherOfSoul
Drinkstuff Margaret Thatcher Nutcracker
Date: 18/10/12, updated on 17/04/13 (201 review reads)
Advantages: Humorous concept. Stronger than expected. Comfortable grip when squeezing. A definite talking point.
Disadvantages: Not as effective as conventional nutcrackers. Not designed for heavy use.
Margaret Thatcher comes in a purpose-built cardboard box [23 x 13 x 5.5cm (H/W/D)] which has a picture of the door to 10 Downing Street on the front. The first thing I saw when I unwrapped the present was her slightly malevolent glare peeking over the top of said door through a small cut-out window. It's fair to say I was more than a little perturbed by this and wondered what exactly I had been given. The letterbox to number 10 set my mind at ease (slightly) with the words 'Maggie Nutcracker'.
Okay, so it's a nutcracker in the shape of Margaret Thatcher. Just what I've always wanted!
I already had a pretty good idea of how the nut cracking would be done here before opening the cardboard door to the diminutive Iron Lady. When removed, little inspection of the product is needed to discover how exactly it works but for those not too quick on the uptake an explanation is printed on the reverse of the box:
"Simply place your nuts between her legs and squeeze!"
=== A dominant figure ===
From head to toe Maggie stands at 21cm tall and is therefore much bigger than your average nutcracker. There are very few people who can look imposing on such a small scale but Mrs Thatcher has pulled it off. Maybe it's the slightly demonic expression on her face or her wide commanding stance. Whatever the reason, this is one nutcracker that will strike fear into nuts everywhere.
The majority of the 'Iron Lady' is made from hard plastic apart from her head, which is a slightly softer plastic but still quite hard, and a pair of metal ridges running down the inside of her thighs (where else?). The whole piece feels very solid which is reassuring but squeezing her legs together does emit a slight creak - make of that what you will.
Dressed in a matching blue jacket, skirt and scarf (all of which are the same piece of plastic) her hands are clasped in front of her body waiting expectantly for the next nut to crack. The detail doesn't stop there. I've already mentioned the unsettling countenance and there are further little details in the form of earrings, her realistic hairstyle and even creases in the back of her jacket. All of this makes for a very well-made product and not just something that has been slung together like some novelty items often are.
Maggie will also have the good grace to stand up solidly on your kitchen side thanks to her angled shoes. I was sceptical at first about this but she is surprisingly stable on her feet, which makes it ideal to display proudly atop your workplace.
=== Put your nuts on the line ===
Using the nutcracker is fairly straightforward. Maggie's skirt is cut away at the back to provide access for your nuts (I'm sorry, but there really isn't a better way of putting this) and the front of her skirt is designed so that it overlaps when squeezed. First you wedge your nuts between her thighs and then you squeeze her legs together in the palm of your hand, catching the crushed remains when done.
Unfortunately, things do not always go according to plan though.
The metal tracks on her legs provide the grip to hold the nut in place and should in theory deliver the crushing force to break the hard outer shell of your nuts. In practice though, the tracks do not always grip properly and it's common that my nuts have shot out of her legs and made a dash for freedom across the kitchen side (who can blame them?) The problem exists because the gripping tracks are straight rather than curved like conventional nutcrackers. When squeezing the legs together the force is not directed down on the centre of the nut but instead comes from the side, which tends to push nuts away from the device rather than holding them in.
The bigger the nuts though, the easier it is to crush them. Walnuts are fairly easy to crack because they wedge in better and the uneven surface of their shells help to grip onto the metal ridges. The notoriously hard to open almond nut is not too difficult either - the edge of these nuts lock onto the ridges and crack without too much force or difficulty.
Smaller smoother nuts are at a bit more of a disadvantage though. Hazelnuts have a tendency to slip off the ridges altogether and into the vacant space either side. Their smooth shells also make it tricky to stop them firing out of her legs when squeezing them together. The smallest of nuts sometimes escape demise altogether because they are simply too small to get crushed in the mechanism. The legs do not completely close when fully squeezed and therefore not enough force can be generated on very small nuts to crack them.
Forgetting Maggie's inner thighs for a moment (if we can) the nutcracker is quite well designed for squeezing one handed. The size of the thing means that it is very easy to hold in the palm of my hand and I find it much more comfortable to squeeze than regular nutcrackers which often have thin handles that dig into my hands. The amount of force required to crack nuts depends on the size and strength of the nut in question. Some walnuts give in very easily whilst others require a firm clench and sometimes more than one attempt is needed - repositioning the nut to find its weakest point often helps.
I find that some nuts, no matter how hard you squeeze, just won't crack though. For fear of breaking the nutcracker I give up on these and put them to one side - perhaps to take them on later with the pliers. This is one of the downsides over a conventional metal nutcracker - Maggie is simply not designed for very tough nuts and you will have to accept defeat sometimes if you don't want to break the device. On the whole, Maggie does a decent enough job and doesn't require too much effort when squeezing but I find that other nutcrackers are more effective when it comes to all-round nut-cracking ability.
=== One tough old bird ===
I got the Maggie nutcracker two Christmases ago and used it frequently over that particular festive period for a variety of nuts (I received a rather thoughtful basket of nuts along with the nutcracker). It has been less utilised since then as I am not a big devourer of nuts but I still use it every so often whenever I buy a packet of walnuts.
Almost two years later and Maggie is still in good condition; applying her iron-will (plastic thighs) as effectively as she ever did. There are several scratches/gouges in the plastic of her legs where shell fragments have been forced together and the plastic on her lower legs is starting to come apart a little from the repeated force. This is purely cosmetic damage though and the whole thing has held together very well considering the rigours of use it has endured. It certainly isn't as strong as a metal nutcracker and can refuse to open some nuts no matter how determined Maggie may be but it has proved much stronger than I first imagined and I expect it will last a while longer yet as long as it isn't overused.
=== Price/Availability ===
I was told that the Maggie Nutcracker I received came from Firebox.co.uk but for whatever reason it is no longer possible to buy them from there. You can however buy the Maggie Nutcracker from clickshop.com for £9.50 with free standard delivery - this is the cheapest I have found them online.
=== Verdict ===
Would I recommend the Maggie Nutcracker? Yes and No. I would recommend it if you are buying it as a gift because it is bound to raise a smile (if bought for the right person) and it would make a humorous 'Secret Santa' gift for Christmas. The presentation box is a nice addition and can also double up as a handy storage place if desired.
If you are looking for a nutcracker for general use then I would hesitate to recommend it fully because although it is a good novelty, it is not designed to be used on a regular basis. For occasional use though it is quite proficient and will cause much jollity if deployed when company is round (this may depend on the guests though). As a nutcracker, there are stronger more effective choices out there but as a novelty that works effectively for occasional use then the Maggie Nutcracker is a fun addition to the home.
Who said politics had to be dull?
* Please note: This product is not suitable for children under 36 months (but then I don't think they are the target market anyway) *
Thanks for reading :-)
Summary: A cracking novelty item as long as she isn't overworked.