Sunday, 24 June 2012

Healthy, Hand Made and Solidary

I bought this sandwich, at La Cervecería in Barcelona Airport’s Terminal C. This building is dedicated, if that’s the right word, exclusively to processing Easyjet’s customers. Spending an hour in an abattoir would probably be less pleasant still, but it would at least be salutary. There is nothing to be gained in an hour spent in Terminal C at Barcelona Airport, other than a more realistically despondent appraisal of the prognosis for Homo sapiens than the one you subscribed to prior to entering the temple.

Of course I did not buy the sandwich with the intention of eating it. Notionally, it’s a ham and cheese sandwich but its ingredients included no fewer than sixteen – yes sixteen – E-numbers. The first ingredient listed, ‘pan blanco molde’ was at least accurate, assuming the words were written in GSCE-A* English. I’d been under the naïve misapprehension that E-numbers had been banned under the Geneva Convention (or do I mean the Treaty of Rome?) but, if so, La Cervecería is either oblivious to the legal situation vis-à-vis slow-acting poisons or indifferent.

What caught my eye, as I shuffled silently forward in a queue of bovine conspecifics, was the intriguing headline claim on the sandwich box: ‘100% healthy, hand made & solidary’. Of these three claims, the first is obviously a lie. Nothing with so many flavour-enhancers, fungal-inhibitors and sogginess-suckers incorporated into its being could be anything other than seriously injurious to your health if consumed. The second claim is plausible, though hardly a virtue. Given that I paid only two Euros for the sandwich, the labour component cannot have amounted to more than a Euro cent or so, implying that the unfortunate assembler probably cannot afford soap. The third claim is fascinating. What could it mean? That the sandwich is all alone and in desperate need of a friend? That, when not for sale at Barcelona Airport, it is on the picket lines with the dock-workers of Vladivostok? That, on account of the anti-deliquescent (E-666), it has not yet decomposed into its natural liquid state?

‘Cuina Justa’, the brand name, means ‘Fair Cuisine’ in Catalan, according to Google Translate. I think that must be a sophisticated, multi-layered joke but I don’t get. Would you eat this thing? Would you feed it to your children? Or your dog? If so, can I recommend you slip a prophylactic dose of Ritalin between the slices of pan blanco molde?

Before I leave the subject of this extraordinary sandwich alone, here is a gratuitously offensive image of the results of a dissection I conducted.

As a result of my investigations into La Cervecería’s sandwiches, I boarded my flight simultaneously hungry and somehow lacking an appetite. I felt that a packet of nuts and a plastic cup of red wine would probably fill this paradox-shaped hole. First we had to get through the rigmarole of safety demonstration, take-off, ascent to cruising altitude and rush to the toilets of returning stag party members. Allowing for the announcement that the toilets are no longer in service, rush to toilets of returning stag party members, descent and landing, this left about 20 minutes during which the cabin crew could sell us stuff. My nuts didn’t so much fill the hole as disappear over its event horizon but there was no opportunity to buy more (at about ten cents per nut) because the cheeky chappy, who’d earlier told us he was on board primarily for our safety, was busy flogging scratch cards to the returning stag party members, whose ability to calculate odds was evidently impaired.

Out of curiosity, who believes that the cabin crew on an Easyjet flight are primarily there for your safety? Even the plumpest beneficiary of the company’s positive discrimination policy could hardly provide sufficient cushioning between you and certain death in the event of a genuine emergency. In a similar vein, I cannot help wondering whether seat belts on aircraft have ever saved lives. Has anyone ever gone on daytime TV and tearfully thanked the late cabin crew for instructing her in seat belt fastening techniques prior to the catastrophic explosion that killed everyone else on board? In fairness, not everyone knows how to fasten a seat belt. I was once on a flight between Quito and Buenos Aires when the woman sitting next to me picked up the two ends of her seat belt and contemplated them in the manner of the ape eyeing a thighbone in Arthur C. Clarke’s ‘2001. A Space Odyssey.’ She is hardly representative of the travelling public, however, and one wonders whether the time has not come to dispense with this pointless and embarrassing routine. Do the airlines’ lawyers really imagine that the inconsolable relatives of plane crash victims are going to sue (successfully) on the grounds that their incinerated loved-ones weren’t told how to fasten their seat belts?

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