Everything with bread. It’s a law

HAVE you noticed how people have stopped using knives and forks?

There are a few among us still hanging on to the last vestiges of civilisation by using a fork. After that it’s the fingers God gave us.

I blame Australians.

They might not have invented the sandwich (you can blame the English Earl of Sandwich for that) but they definitely adopted it.

I am eating in the office today. I have just been handed the takeaway menu from our local café.

It’s a manual. A bread manual.

There is nothing you can’t buy in the food line from our local café. If you want goat’s testicles roasted a la Kalahari pygmies, or caviar and Vegemite with grilled reindeer, you can have it – but you have to have it on bread. To be precise, in bread. Because two slices are compulsory.

You can have it brown, white, cream, or beige; rye, wheat, maize or barley; with caraway seeds, walnuts, cheese or basil; thick, thin, crusty or toasted. But you must have bread. In certain secret societies it can be a bread roll.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re ordering steak, scrambled eggs, borsch, fruit salad, or even bread – it comes between two slices. I think it’s a law.

If I sound a little weary with this phenomenon it’s only because I am not a good sandwich eater. I was brought up with a knife and fork in the days when you sat at a table and cut food up.

You could – at a table. But when the plate’s on your lap (which seems to be how people eat in the 21st century) there’s a powerful risk of applying too much pressure and having — at best — a slime of spaghetti bolognese slide into your lap or — at worst — severing the main artery in your thigh and bleeding to death.

And you can fill a sandwich with spaghetti bolognese. I’ve seen it done!

It’s this creativity that makes the Australian sandwich a national icon. But somewhere in the competition for the biggest and most flamboyant sandwich they forgot you actually have to fit it in your mouth.

And what’s the point of biting through two layers of bread if the steak comes out whole and hangs off your chin while the bits left in your hand are empty as a dry pub!

I blame television. People no longer want to waste time looking at their plate. They want to eat stuff they can raise to their mouths while staring straight ahead. There was an intermediate stage when a whole generation gave up the knife and ate food that required only the fork, but I think they grew tired of stabbing themselves in the groin.

And a fork only works with foreign food that doesn’t require cutting up: pasta shells and rice, and small unidentifiable objects that have been chased round a wok. You can’t eat a pork chop and two veg with a just a fork.

And while we’re at it, let’s get it straight about the Earl of Sandwich, who was supposed to have been in a hurry to go hunting, and ordered his butler to bung the venison between two slices.

I don’t believe the sandwich was anything to do with him.

I think it was created on The Strand. This is proven by the fact that you can take your sandwich down to The Strand in a triple-wrapped, lead-lined box – but before you can get it to your mouth it will be full of sand!