• Philip Bryer

Meaty, Beaty, Big, and Brawny


A story came to mind of someone who, not appreciating the food served up at a friend’s dinner party, left the proceedings with a pork chop in each pocket. I don’t recall where I heard this, it might have been a friend, it might be apocryphal, I’m fairly sure it wasn’t me.

This was definitely me though. At school. “What’s in my sandwiches, mum?” Brawn, she replied. Brawn? OK, I thought. Because if your mum’s given you brawn for lunch then it’s plainly a lovely thing to have. And not something which is also known as head cheese and consists of the boiled up head of a pig disguised as something nice you can put in a sandwich.


Of course, when I found out what it was, I went right off it quick smart. But, having eaten it uncomplainingly for weeks when I didn’t know what it was, well I knew this wouldn’t bear the scrutiny of the parental court, particularly if the old man got wind of it and if that happened, my lunches were likely to consist of raw tripe wrapped in barbed wire for the foreseeable.

So, here’s how it went. “Mmm, brawn sandwiches, thanks mum.” Tralala, off to catch the school bus, pausing only to dump the sandwiches in the nearest convenient bin. Lunch henceforth consisting of cups of tea and Guards fags in the local caff.

The queasy diner, perhaps unable to secrete chops in his pockets or dump unappealing items in handy waste bins, might attempt to slide an unappetising morsel under a handy lettuce leaf. Have I experienced something similar? I hear nobody asking...

San Francisco, Pier 39, seafood place, a few years ago. The waiter looked gleeful as I ordered the Crab Louie Salad. I was soon to find out why. Said waiter approached from kitchen bearing a plate the size of a dustbin lid which was loaded high with salad which had seemingly been tipped out of a bulging black refuse sack, and then topped with the shelled contents of something which would have otherwise made the fishy section of The Guinness Book of Records, or perhaps embarked on a glitzy film career in Crabs – The Revenge.

I did my best, I really did, but I just don’t know how people have the capacity to get through such portions. The waiter thought it was hilarious, and just think, it probably only happens a dozen times a day. Still, I got my own back, when I’d finished it was the work of but a moment to hide my cutlery, the condiments, a bottle of ketchup, a pint pot, and two tablemats under the remaining salad.

Now, let me take you back to Holland Park Comprehensive School. The second floor science lab, to be exact. On a hot summer’s day.

“What’s that terrible smell?” asked the hippyish science teacher, which was a bit rich, given that he gave off a heady aroma of Vosene, patchouli and Lebanese Red.

All this too from a bloke who spends his days setting fire to sulphur.

He caroused the aisles and benches, nose a-twitch and at readiness to pounce, finally he homed in on the future Mrs Bryer’s schoolbag.

“What have you got in there?” he demanded.

“My lunch, sir” said Sandra

“Lunch!? What sort of lunch smells like that, eh?”

Well, I’d say that a teacher at Britain’s trendiest ever school should have known better.

“Camembert and cucumber sandwiches, sir.”

And with that he scooped up the stinking parcel of sandwiches and threw them out of the window.

I bet they don’t teach you that in teacher training college any more, do they? World’s gone mad, it’s a meddling bureaucracy you know… don’t know they’re born…now, when I was a lad..........

#crablouie #Pier39 #SanFrancisco #HollandParkComprehensive

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