Imagine; you’re in the dead zone, somewhere between Monday and Friday.
You’re probably at work and to set the scene, I’ll start with something believable: there’s nothing decent to scroll on BBC News.
But look up. The clock on the wall opposite screams salvation.
Finally, it’s lunch!
But something’s wrong.
This giddy hour used to inspire joy, but as you lean forward, arms outstretched, you feel nothing.
And somehow, it stings.
And you, just as I, play out a scenario in your head.
Maybe today’s the day we can say it in unison.
“London, I’m sorry, but you just don’t excite me anymore.”
[grab the city’s hand – it’s insecure]
“You and these never-ending sandwiches, they’re just so predictable. You need someone less, how do I put it, challenging?”
And now the city’s looking back at you, it’s heart shattered and it tries to mouth, “But you could get sushi from Itsu!” but you press your index finger against its lips and you can see a new found understanding in its eyes.
Cutting it short, London mouths, “I understand.”
Wow. I’m surprised at how that scenario played out too. I mean, I didn’t think this city had dignity.
The whole experience is a revelation and naturally, you want to share it.
Peak over your soundboard.
Meet the blank stare of your colleague and relish the realisation they also haven’t done any work since arrival.
Yes, finally I know what’s wrong! It’s the sandwich that’s the problem.
Momentum builds and you try and speak it out, but suddenly, your boss returns from their noon-time excursion.
They cast aside a paper bag from Eat and clutching a plastic wrapped baguette they announce with fervour to the desk bank, “I got chicken salad!”
And deep down, you know, it’s not safe to share this epiphany. Maybe it won’t ever be.
So, as my single protest of the day, here’s a list of everyone else’s failings as defined by their choice of sandwich.
1. Homemade Monstrosity
If you managed to make your own lunch, commendable effort. I applaud you.
It won’t be very good (compare it to mine and weep).
As I understand it, only the following truly count as homemade sandwiches:
- Peanut Butter. A rough staple. Apparently a layer of margarine will prevent you from gagging on it. But hell, no one likes peanut butter and margarine, so please muffle the choking.
- Spaghetti. It only counts as a sandwich filling if it comes from a can. A single, lonesome can. The bread will be sodden. I’ve tried it and yes, cannot wait for the apocalypse.
- Crisps. The lunch of the pauper king. Combine the two most important staples of the English diet to become the turbo-carbohydrate-based-killer you’ve always wanted to be. (NB: To think this was a good idea, you’d probably have to be high. Supporting the widely robust theory that eating sandwiches at work normalises drug abuse)
After consuming nothing but a smattering of these sandwiches for lunch, I know definitively that only person who would eat any of these is one of the following:
- Idiot savant
- Wants to be in a nu-metal band (probably Korn)
- Hasn’t dry-cleaned their suit trousers, despite their mother’s protests, since purchase
Advice: Avoid eye contact.
Pro-tip: Colleagues who make their own sandwiches sometimes express their personalities through the pictures on their lunchboxes. Dora the Explorer means that they’re crudely progressive. A picture of a cat is generally a reminder that they regret eating their cat. Don’t ever talk to them about it.
2. The Tesco Triangle
People buy sandwiches at Tesco because they’re misinformed.
I can help with that.
The first pitfall encountered when buying a sandwich from Tesco, is that in London, you could have always gone to Sainsbury’s instead. It’s the same entrance fee and normally better. But I understand, sometimes an extra fifty meters is too far to waddle.
Ingeniously, Tesco dropped the shock white & blue that helped the common man and woman recognise their value range. But, really, has anyone ever been misled by their new sandwich packaging? There’s only so much that a cellophane window can hide. And, true to value, when you gaze in, you’re probably looking at a sandwich built out of ingredients that were chemically treated to meet the standards necessary for human consumption.
Advice: Never, ever, ever talk to someone who willingly buys Tesco triangle sandwiches for lunch. They’ll copy your work and take the credit, then they’ll suggest that everyone gets together tomorrow to eat triangle sandwiches on the park bench outside the office, while they look for diverted buses that don’t belong on the routes they are travelling.
Fucking horror show.
3. Supermarket Sandwich in a Paper Bag
It’s in a bag. It’s in a really fancy bag and that bag is on the top shelf of the freezer section. The bag’s a different colour to the flat-packed triangle sandwiches! And the bag carries the subtitle; ‘Wild Boar Pulled Pork from the Everglades: Taste the Difference’.
IT’S IN A BAG! It is so, so sophisticated. Only the most sophisticated people eat sandwiches from bags.
Keep lying to yourself.
All manufactured sandwiches were made equal.
That sandwich in a bag was made on a conveyor belt. The same conveyor belt that someone was paid to watch. The same conveyor that mayonnaise dropped down onto from tubes above. Mayonnaise that fell at exactly the right time to catch the flight path of bluebottle, dousing it and forcing it onto the ‘mature’ cheese below.
Damn, they have so much extra packaging too. Do the people who buy these sandwiches think that their extra £1.40 gives them the right to more packaging? Probably.
These sandwiches are like that colleague, who has always earned the same as you, but rather than going to parties, they lived at their parents’ until thirty, then bought a house. Is owning things an achievement? Totally. So’s eating a sandwich bought in a bag.
Advice: People who eat these types of sandwich buy the bag, not the sandwich. Under their breath they whisper to you: “Yes, I eat well. My waistline says it all. But no, I wasn’t fattened on value corn chips. I’m privileged. I eat only the finest snacks. At least that’s what the guy in the off-licence tells me.” Talk to them, but only in a condescending manner. Don’t worry, they don’t yet comprehend that bags should be reusable, so they won’t be offended by your tone.
4. Pret Baguette
Pret-a-Manger openly admit that its ingredients have aspirations.
Their posters show the collective efforts of:
- A bagel, a slice of avocado, and some olives trying to making a friendly face
- Some wraps building a tepee
- The unlikely trio of a baguette, a block of edam, and skewered olive sinking like a groovy submarine
And yeah, I’m onto them.
It’s all a cruel joke.
It all starts when the ingredients are sourced.
The Pret wholesale buyers head out to the fields in the morning.
On arrival, they don their leather gloves and start scouring the fields for a certain type of ingredient.
Tomatoes with that particular twinkle in their eyes, beetroots destined to sing and chickens who want to explore their sexuality in the city, away from the judgements of the countryside.
The buyers then play on their victims hopes and dreams. “Yes Tamara Tomato, hop into my van, I’ll show you the city. We’ve got plenty of veg like you that wants to be something more than you could ever be here on this bleak farm.”
And as those naive vegetables, chickens, and assorted tubers tumble around in the back of a van, they don’t for one second think that they’re about to be asked to strip naked and told to stand on the head of another young thing to form strange shapes, as a seedy photographer snaps away. Nor do they anticipate that after such humiliation, they’ll be dragged into the kitchen and ground into a ‘Super Club’.
Shattered dreams – is that the cost of having no best before labels?
Advice: Knowing this, I hope you, just as I, are shocked. Too shocked to speak to anyone who has ever been into Pret-a-Manger ever again.
Anyway, now you know this, I hope you enjoy your lunch.