Meatwatch: British Meats

It’s a complex world out there of animal products, and Goonhammer is here to help. Whether it’s ranking the staple animal-based proteins on the market, or when a new type of meat drops and shakes up the game, we’re here for you, our loyal readers.

Look, we know what you’re thinking: This is by far one of our worst pun-based ideas. But we started doing it a few years ago when GW started putting out their Metawatch articles and now we’re just kind of perpetually stuck doing the bit. And so we present: British meats, you wankers

We sent our best and brightest over to Tacoma this year, and seems like they cleaned up – just as you’d expect from noted excellent website goonhammer dot com – but the bit that stood out to me from the Tacoma metawatch was American enthusiasm hitting the brick wall of Britishness. We’ve all been there, right, on either side. A puppylike enthusiasm for a concept, thing, or ultimately meaningless political “reform” that’s simply baffling to us on the Knife Crime Island side of the pond. We have our own, crippling, existential problems, but ultimately we’re just that bit less excited by the world, and that’s a blessing. Perhaps its 400,000 years of living on the godforsaken Essex Coast as opposed to 14,500 years of living on the Paradisiacal Chilean Los Lagos. Like Tacoma’s Metawatch, Meatwatch has been in contact with the American love of things for too long.

Meatwatch is a fundamentally American thing because Steak is a fundamentally American concept – it’s a slab of meat, possibly parasite riddled, washed with chlorine, served in a variety of ways chosen by individuals according to their godforsaken will, then they nuke it and cover it in ketchup. It’s a phenomenal waste of resources and a huge driver of the rampant destruction of the natural world in order to feed the ever hungry maw of conspicuous consumption. It’s about interfering in the politics of Latin American nations so that their economies can be better harnessed to keep your average yank in the 7-800 ton range. The Steak is America.

So, it’s time to dig into British meats. We’re a nation of meat eaters, and our French comrades call us Roast Beefs, which works for me, because I’m also a depressed wannabe poet who loves the Great Outdoor Fight. Roast Beef as a foodstuff, however, no longer describes Britain. It is bourgeois, conceptually bankrupt, a descriptor of our political parties rather than of our lives – welcome instead to the world of truly British Meats.

British Meats come from cans. Now someone’s going to come swinging about fucking lamb, or beef, or some shit about venison, but they’re wrong. British meats come in cans. They’re stackable, compressed and dense, just like us. You can ship them in big steamers across the world, where they will arrive exactly as edible as when they left.  You can put them in a guy’s backpack and they’ll keep for decades. You produce them by stuffing a whole animal in a mincer. They come in their bowls, allowing you to go hands-free when you’re subjugating a civilisation. Other nations have them, of course, but that’s because they’re anglophiles – a troubling illness – these are quintessentially British, and I love them.

Take a cow, sprinkle it with carcinogenic curing salts and put the whole fucking thing in a tin. 10/10 absolute classic, no notes. It was a cow, and now it’s a brick of unsettlingly bright pink meat with a wreath of thick, white fat. It’s genuinely delicious, a combination of everything you’re supposed to do with a foodstuff – process it, cure it, compress it, open it, eat it. You can put the whole thing in a chunk of bread, or you can slice it up and fry it and in the doing, shorten your life expectancy by a good 20 years. I will, occasionally and without shame, sit down and eat a corned beef sandwich while watching Only Fools and Horses, because you can’t do that nowadays. Political correctness gone mad. That bit when Del falls through the bar? Classic.

Yeah mother fuckers, big leagues now. The meat so ubiquitous your email provider has named a folder after it. Spam is a metamorphic meat – you add thousands of pounds of pressure and hundreds of degrees of heat to the remains of the corpse of a pig when all the posh meat has been sucked off it with all the vigour of an ex-MP going to town on boris, and hey presto you’ve got spam. It’s hugely, perfectly, British because none of it is made here, the Americans like it more than we do and it’s always, always, much worse than you remember it being. There’s nothing more likely to bring back those sweet, traumatic, memories of growing up in the industrial north of the UK than that faint whisper of the escaping last mortal breath of a pig when you pull that ring and the can blissfully, orgasmically, opens.

When you want a curry, you don’t have money, time, or regard for the sanctity of your own colon, you can whip the top off, put it directly on the hob and then eat it like the animal you are. There’s no better symbol of Britain’s status of the bad guy of world history than taking a beautiful, aromatic, delicious meal from the Indian Subcontinent, and cramming it into a tin, sucking the flavour out and selling it in a corner shop despite the fact that it’s clearly labelled a tesco product with a DO NOT RESELL warning on the back. If you want a picture of the future of this benighted isle, imagine a goonhammer writer shovelling half-cooked tesco tinned chicken into his face, forever.

We’ve had some fun here together haven’t we mates? But we need to get serious for a second. A hush descends on the close, the cricket pavilion has closed, your partner no longer wants to fumble with your groin behind the bike sheds and even the met have packed up their truncheons and gone to their beds. Let us discuss Fray Bentos.

There was a point during my phd when I ran out of money. Pound coins stolen from the dresser of my long-suffering flatmate could no longer support my lifestyle, and the first thing to go was food. If I wanted to carry on my work smoking and hanging about in Games Workshop I needed a new, and radical, approach to sustenance. So I bought a case of Fray Bentos from a man I met in a pub (all the best british meats are bought off a guy in a pub), and spent the next several months eating one a day. As a foodstuff, it is one of mankind’s greatest achievements. As staple, daily food for a struggling student attempting to put weight back on after a near fatal case of amoebic dysentery, it was a liferaft, allowing me to continue pissing away the time I should have spent measuring stone tools on my Night Goblin army. Some days, I would cook up a fray bentos in the morning, tinfoil wrap the lid back on and walk down to the meadows, to swim in the cool clear waters of an English river, wondering at the differences between parts of my life. As the swans glided serenely and a punt full of cunts, everyone pissed on wine I could and would never be able to afford, poled their way towards dreams forever beyond the reach of my social class, I would sit in the river mud and sup from the thrice-blessed tin. Sometimes, when I close my eyes, I’m still there, and so is she.

Deep meadows yet, for to forget
The lies, and truths, and pain? . . . oh! yet
Stands the Church clock at ten to three?
And is there Fray Bentos still for tea?
Credit: Google maps

There are few pleasures left to us here, but god’s own pie remains. The austerity beating price making it one of the few foods cheap enough to eat without financial regret. The ecstacy of the process as the tin opener jerks carelessly around the rim. The taboo of dipping your finger in the almost-pastry-almost-amniotic fluid of the surface. The realisation that it’s way, way too late to stop, and certainly too late to crawl into bed, and you may as well pop on some Allo Allo and style it out until work begins. Crack a stella or a carlsberg, or other piss-beer of your choice, and watch that crust rise higher than your gas bill. It’s time to come home, my friend.

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