read fast, how I thought it, wrote it
As I have noted elsewhere, Britain is leaving its post-war age of austerity, and entering an American age, an age of plenty. Where once the British housewife was content to buy orange squash, she now stocks the family fridge with Robinsons High Juice; where once father smoked tobacco, there are now a dazzling array of alternative substances which can be smoked, injected, or otherwise transubstantiated into the bloodstream, the better to while away the empty hours.
Nowhere is this transformation more evident than in the field of sandwich fillings. When I was a child, all those years ago, there was paste and little else. The congealed, gelatinised, mashed, pulped shadow of a chicken or a cow or both, even more abstract an expression of the animal kingdom than Spam. If you did not eat paste, you were a vegetarian, and therefore odd. Three memories from that period are etched in my mind; River Raid and Moon Patrol on the Atari 2600, and Princes Ham and Beef paste in my lunchbox, at a time when the word 'lunchbox' had not yet become synonymous with Linford Christie's crotch. For a long time paste was the word, it was the time, it was the motion. It was the thing we were eating.
And then came pâté, Matthesons, but its reign was short. Pâté was the Minidisc of sandwich fillings, the APS, the 3DO; advanced, but trapped on the cusp of a paradigm shift. For it was soon replaced by MP3 recording, by digital photography, by the Sony Playstation - in this case, the actual chicken, the real deal. Slices of chicken, first from Marks and Spencer, later from lesser supermarkets such as Tesco and Asda. Now, every supermarket in Britain sells actual pieces of chicken, pre-cooked for insertion between two slices of bread, insofar as people still eat sandwiches in this age of takeaway salads and rice dishes and so forth.
Where will the progression lead? I have no doubt that the sliced chicken pieces on sale in supermarkets are either reformed, or recreated in some nefarious way. Perhaps the next logical step will be whole, live chicken. In five or six years time we will be expected to kill, pluck and cook living birds, just as our grandfathers did before us. Alternatively, we could be approaching a paradigm shift - digital chicken, substitute chicken, potatoes which have been genetically engineered to taste like chicken.
Whereabouts is America, on the paste curve? What do the Americans eat, in their sandwiches? Do they even have sandwiches? The sandwich is a British invention, and the news tells me that America will soon be a Spanish nation, and thus party to the tortilla and the siesta and the British ex-pat, living on the Costa del Sol, as in the film 'Sexy Beast'. Spain looms large in British culture, for it has been a favourite holiday destination since the 1960s. Many British people go there to live out their final years because the country is poor and thus cheap, yet politically stable, with an enormous land area which is mostly warm. Britain is politically stable, in the sense that a year-old corpse is stable, but it is not cheap nor is it warm nor large.
Are there chickens, in America? They have turkeys over there, 'gobblers' they call them. No doubt they eat haddock instead of cod, or perhaps plaice, I know little of the waters surrounding that nation. We come from water, you and I, and we will go there still; the sun will one day evaporate the Earth's oceans, and there will be nothing left. Life and water are intertwined, only fish can know God, and what lurks in the dread depths, what sleeps in death?