How long does it take you to open the fridge, scrape up some ‘I can’t believe it’s not butter’ and apply it to two pieces of bread? A minute? Less than a minute? You’ve still got time to spare! Throw a ready-cut slice of cheese between the two pieces of bread – and head out the door to catch your train. You can dispense with putting the result in a polythene bag if you like – think of the environment. Just chuck it in your briefcase; it will still fill your stomach at lunchtime – even squashed flat it will transform into stomach-shaped once it has travelled down your gullet – doesn’t need to start life perfectly triangular. The wonders of the human body!
The cost? 40p would be generous.
What’s that you say? You’re rushed in the morning? Busy people; pressure of modern life?
Then how come, four hours later, you can find that same two entire minutes to lean over a chill counter as you dither between ‘Camembert and ripe Forest berries’ or ‘Cheddar with organic red onion’ in Marks and Spencer – and that’s not counting the time spent queuing up to pay yourÂ Â£4.
*Sigh*. Ms Raccoon has been reading ‘sandwich statistics‘. More interesting than it might seem at first sight.
Did you know that 300,000 people get up every morning, catch that train, and then spend all day, their entire day, applying ‘I can’t believe it’s not butter’ to two slices of bread on your behalf, and don’t even throw the slice of cheese in between? Nope, that’s someone else’s full time employment; professional cheese slice chucker…
300,000 people! That’s ten times theÂ number employed in the entire wind farm industry; and we spend enough time complaining about what a useless waste of space that is. 300,000 people – that’s ten times the numberÂ of people who come into Britain ever year from non-EU countriesÂ that we are having a major political row over at the moment. That’s ten times theÂ Â number of people as were required to run the entire 2012 Olympics.
300,000 people who manage to pay their mortgage, their child care bills, feed their family, claim their top up benefits, buy new knickers, feed the cat – doing nothing more than spread pretendy butter on two slices of bread all because you can find two minutes at lunch-time to dither over their handiwork, but you can’t find those two minutes before you leave the house in the morning!
I’m not counting the number of people who spend at least an hour a day saying “White or brown” to you, or “That’ll beÂ Â£7.20” should you have stupidly stepped into Starbucks sandwich emporium. Nor the expensively trained journalists who uncomplainingly spend their working week writing about sandwich fillings for ‘International Snack and Sandwich News‘; nor the experts involved in judging ‘British Sandwich Designer of the Year ‘ – Oh well done Catherine!
It was, of course, the news from the Greencore factory in Northampton that they were to search for an additional 300 eastern Europeans to butter those slices of bread for us that sent me nose-diving into the sandwich sub-culture. Despite over 500 bread butterers in Corby, a mere 50 miles away, having lost their jobs, only 50 of them applied for the new jobs in Northampton. Greencore decided that the British were simply not ‘hungry enough’ for work – and so went to Hungary, where they are. So to speak. Or summit like that.
Up in sunny Bradford, you will find ‘Love Bites’, a major sandwich making empire. Richard Smith started making sandwiches in his kitchen and flogging them out of the back of a van in 1991. Now he has a fleet of refrigerated lorries that can each carry 56,000 sandwiches charging round the country.
In the Midlands, you will findÂ Iwona Zilinskas – she came here in 2004 as an illegal immigrant, buttering slices of bread for us – but now has legal status and runs an employment agency making sure that the mainly Albanians, Latvians and Poles 300,000 people who know which side our bread should be buttered are paid minimum wage and not exploited.
It is a Â£7bn industry. 7,000,000,000 quid a year – and 300,000 people. 3.5bn sandwiches every day.
We could solve overcrowding on this beleaguered isles at a stroke here – and if my maths is right, I’ve just put an extraÂ Â£5.5bn in your pocket for cat food. I must take a week off writing more often – I could solve the entire problems of the world if I took a month off….
Shift that two minutes you find at lunchtime to 7am – and discover which side your bread is buttered!