I’m not generally a picky person when it comes to food, but buying pre-made sandwiches has always been a tricky thing for me. I don’t like butter or margarine, so it used to be that I could never buy ready-made sandwiches because they always had butter or spread on them. A few years ago, this seemed to start falling out of fashion, especially with the popularity of wraps, and it made my life a lot easier when rushing through a train station trying to find something to eat. But recently, butter and spread has been replaced by something which turns my stomach and makes my blood run cold – mayonnaise.
My reasons for disliking butter and mayonnaise are very simple – to me they just taste of fat. There’s no flavour, it just tastes of pure fat – greasy, clammy, slimy, tasteless fat. It makes absolutely no sense to me to get a lovely piece of tasty fresh bread and then hide the taste and texture of it entirely by slathering fat all over it. I wouldn’t coat a piece of bread in lard before I ate it, so I’m not going to cover it in butter or mayonnaise. I dislike mayonnaise so much that I once started an anti-mayonnaise campaign group at a family funeral – the founding members being myself, my uncle John and my grandad. We drew a logo on a napkin, but that’s as far as our campaigning actually got. The sentiment was strongly felt though.
Now, I understand perfectly that most people like butter and mayonnaise, and that I am well and truly in the minority here, but finding a pre-packed sandwich that doesn’t have mayonnaise on it is like trying to find the Holy Grail. What happened to choice? Can we at least have the option of other sauces? Or no sauce at all?
Dashing through Euston Station on my way to get a train last summer, I decided I needed something to eat on the journey. I already know that Upper Crust ladle mayonnaise on to all their sandwiches like it’s going out of style, and the same goes for Delice de France, so I opted for Marks & Spencer. Surely this bastion of Englishness would have at least one sandwich without mayonnaise on it? The sandwich fridge contained a dizzy array of sandwiches, wraps and rolls, filled with all manner of meat, fish, salad and cheese. Surely there’s something here for me? I thought. I spent endless fruitless minutes picking up sandwiches one by one, getting increasingly frustrated as I went along. It turns out Euston M&S does stock a sandwich which doesn’t have mayonnaise. ONE SANDWICH. Out of the entire fridge full of sandwiches, there is one lonely variety that doesn’t involve mayonnaise. It’s naturally one of their most expensive range, a sort of beef and tomato concoction which contains a distinctly mayonnaisey “mustard dressing” which is just about mustardy enough for me to be able to swallow it without invoking my gag reflex, helped by the fact that there are caramelised onions to disguise the taste.
What I want to know is why? Why does every sandwich have mayonnaise on it? Mayonnaise is not an essential ingredient of the sandwich, and I would like very much to point out to M&S and other shops (for M&S are not the only culprits) that THERE ARE OTHER SAUCES AND CONDIMENTS. Sweet chilli sauce. Chutney. Mustard. Cranberry sauce. Apple sauce. Relish. Pickle. It has taken me ten seconds to rattle all those off, imagine how many I could come up with if, say, I invented sandwich fillings for a living.
At Christmas, on another train journey, I bounded into M&S in Euston, optimistic that the season of goodwill would mean more sandwich choices. For December is the time of the turkey sandwich, and turkey is accompanied by cranberry sauce. Perhaps for two months I would be free from the scourge of mayonnaise! I picked up a turkey and cranberry sandwich and stood in sheer open-mouthed horror as I read the ingredients. It had mayonnaise on it. This is not only unnecessary, but it is also one of the most coldly terrifying signs that the human race has lost its way. What kind of depraved animal puts cranberry sauce and mayonnaise TOGETHER on ONE sandwich? Cranberry sauce and mayonnaise on the same piece of bread. I cannot even begin to explain how much the thought of this makes me want to vomit on to my own shoes.
But this greasy plague is not limited to the world of the ready-made sandwich, because the blight has made it to the tables of Britain’s restaurants and pubs. It’s fine if the menu clearly states that an item contains mayonnaise, because I simply ask for the food to be prepared without it. But this is where there is a problem, because of the unmitigated evil that is Stealth Mayonnaise. The menu may say, for example, “succulent chicken burger, topped with homemade relish, lettuce and tomato, on a brioche bun.” Great! I think. I like relish. Relish actually tastes of food. So I order it, and it arrives looking like a seagull has pooed on it, just like the one that pooed in my hair in Brighton that time. Mayonnaise that was neither advertised or requested, all over my lovely chicken burger, drowning out the delicious relish I was looking forward to actually tasting. It’s as if it’s just assumed that everyone likes mayonnaise so much that you don’t need to list it as an ingredient. But you listed the bread, and I would say bread is a pretty integral part of a burger, so if you have to specify that a burger contains a form of bread, then why don’t you list the cursed mayonnaise?
It really has come to the point where I am expecting to open a chocolate bar and find it covered in mayonnaise, because everyone likes mayonnaise, right? RIGHT?
I found myself in Euston M&S again on Sunday, resigned to the fact that I would once again be eating that one beef sandwich that isn’t covered in liquid evil. Imagine the panic when I saw the space where that sandwich should be completely empty. I must have looked like a crazy woman, scrabbling through all the sandwiches hoping that someone might have put one back in the wrong place. Bingo! Thankfully someone had, presumably one of those dirty mayonnaise enthusiasts. I carried that sandwich to the till like it was the Koh-i-Noor diamond, such is its rarity in the world of sandwiches. The day M&S stop producing that sandwich will be the day I miss my train because I am on my knees in front of the sandwich fridge, silently weeping and cursing the human race.
I work in an office which is an absolute nightmare for anyone trying to watch their figure. We work in publishing, so we sometimes have to do recipes to feature in our magazines, so the kitchen is always full of what we make, plus all the leftover ingredients. On top of that, we have several keen bakers in our midst, so the kitchen is always a danger zone. We really flipping love food, especially cake.
So when we rediscovered this hilarious website where a lady documents her attempts to re-use her penis cake pan in a variety of ingenious ways, we decided to have our own office challenge.
I bought a penis pan and set about creating the first cake. Incidentally, I had to field concerned texts from my mum for several days because she thought I was going to get sacked for taking a penis-shaped cake into work. I think she thinks it’s 1955.
Behold the first penis cake, it’s Abraham Lincoln.
I spent hours making this beast. I also discovered that getting your cake out of the balls area of the pan was tricky, so my advice is to always grease your balls. Please appreciate the lustrous black icing on Abe’s hat, which took me hours to mix. Abraham Lincoln was a moist chocolate cake. I’m willing to bet the word ‘moist’ has never been used in a sentence about Abraham Lincoln before.
Deb’s cake came complete with different flavoured cake batters – a vanilla cone, plus strawberry and chocolate balls. I’m going to use the word balls as often as possible, incidentally. I think Deb did rather a good job of disguising the penis shape.
Next to take up the challenge was Neddy who made this proper bo cake of Craig David. This sentence will make no sense to people unfamiliar with the TV show Bo Selecta and/or cheesy bearded crooner Craig David.
You can see my legs in that photo. But you can’t see Our Kes, as Neddy didn’t have enough icing or time to fashion him from icing. Neddy’s cake was chocolate orange, and she decided on Craig David because of his ample chin.
The fourth cake was a team effort between Emma and Jazz, who used the penis tin to immortalise Sesame Street’s Big Bird.
It was as easy as a-b-c for Emma and Jazz to turn the big penis into a big bird, and they opted for a wholesome all-American cookies and cream flavour.
Ellie’s cake was next, and she expertly crafted Marge Simpson.
Ellie chose to make lemon cake, because of Marge’s yellow hue. The big balls of icing were particularly good. And the big balls of the cake were very cunningly disguised as Marge’s face. Oh look, you can see my legs again.
The last baker to make a penis cake was Beth, who produced this fiery monster.
Beth’s cake was almond, complete with almond nostrils. Our office took no time at all to slay the penis dragon.
That is where our penis pan challenge ended, and I have to say that Monday mornings have been a little duller since. I still have the pan though, so maybe there’ll be a second round at some point if everyone’s got the balls to give it a go…