Unsolved Mysteries Of The London Lunch

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Notes and queries on that magical hour of the day, when all of central London is on the hunt for food.

Why do we wait?

We could go buy our lunch at midday. All would be quiet. All soup cauldrons would be full and all chiller cabinets replete. Yet we wait until 1pm when there’s a metaphorical, and occasionally literal, bun fight to get served. Why? Don’t be a loon, buy at noon.

Why do we queue?

One of the Ten Commandments, received by Moses on Mount Sinai, was ‘Thou shalt not queue for street food when there are right limitless neighbouring alternatives of equal marvel that thou might more efficiently covet”. Sadly, it was gradually corrupted to ‘Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s Bento Box’ and thence to ‘…neighbour’s ox’, and the message was lost. To this day, Londoners will wait in line for up to half an hour for a modish hot dog or burrito, even though there are dozens of queue-free alternatives nearby. Time/benefit analysis: 30 minutes queueing for a trendy burger, versus instantaneous purchase of a not quite so trendy but equally lovely sandwich. We’ll settle for the latter and enjoy a full lunch hour.

Magic beans

Is it still possible to buy a takeaway salad that doesn’t contain edamame beans? We’re not complaining. We rather like them, and it’s hilarious watching edamame newbies trying to chew the fibrous pods. But where did all these edamame beans suddenly come from? Who is growing them? Do vast edamame farms now engirdling the capital? We need to know.

Supermarket Sandwiches

Who buys them? We did once. This is a Costcutter garlic sausage and pickle sandwich, £1.49. The pickle is ickle and the ham seems to have gone west: ironic, seeing as we genuinely purchased it in West Ham.

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The lunch/dinner thing

Northerners maintain that lunch should be called ‘dinner’…and dinner should be ‘tea’. Yet there is no consistency. Southerners talk of ‘school dinners’ and ‘dinner ladies’ for the earlier repast. Meanwhile, northerners tuck into a ‘packed lunch’ rather than the logical ‘packed dinner’. It’s insane. We propose a harmonising of the systems. From now on, the daytime meal shall be known as Noonsies (to reinforce the first principle in this list), and the evening meal shall be called Barry.

POD

Love the salads, but does anyone else look at the logo, and mentally do this?

pod

Subway

We’ve yet to meet anybody who’s mastered the ordering process. It’s no good simply requesting their new Cajun chicken sub. You won’t get away with that. Instead you have to superintend every aspect of your sandwich’s construction. The questions come thick and fast, from multiple sandwich-constructors.

Yes sir? >Hello. I’ll try your new Cajun chicken sub, to take away, please.
Size?
 >Um. Um. (points) That one. To take away, please.
Bread? >Well, yeah. Obviously.
No, which type? >Oh. (points)
Salad? >Yeah. Wait, no tomatoes.
Tomatoes? >No.
Meat? >I already said I wanted the Cajun chicken
So chicken? >Yes, chicken.
Beef? >No
Is that all? >Yes. To take away, please.
Sauce? >Um, I don’t know. Cajun? Wait, how did those olives get in there?
Salad. >We already did the salad?
No, I’m saying the olives were part of the salad. >What?
Heated? >I’m getting there.
Drink? >Can I go home now, please?
Eat in or take away? >!*#!
£3.60 please. >But it says up there on the menu that a Cajun chicken sub to take away is 3.30.
No sir, that’s the number of calories. >Gah! (that last bit actually happened)

A mathematician once calculated that there are nearly 2 million possible sandwich combinations at Subway. The same mathematician gave up trying to navigate the chain’s complex ordering process, instead opting for the simpler option of folding an omnitruncated tesseract into a granary bap. The maths left him constipated, but he worked it out with a pencil.

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  • Brendan A. MacWade

    Pret saved my life in London. We need more in Manhattan.

    • Will

      There are lots of them in Midtown

  • SFSusan

    I don’t understand why they have what appears to be a set sandwich and then not be capable of making it without you telling them what to put in it!! Makes me crazy every time — and results in long lines, too!

  • S Kv

    and why do Subway always presume that we all obviously all really want cheese in any possible sandwich combination? Sometimes they’re half way putting it on my bread when I have to be like “stop! put down the cheese”