George Cheyne: Glasgow March 2021
When I first started work I was like a kid in a sweetie shop..a chip shop..a sandwich shop..or a baker’s shop.
Joining the big, bad world of full-time employment in 1975 gave me the chance to break away from school dinners to give my taste buds a real treat.
Well, when I say a treat…I mean a full-on assault from a shed-load of unhealthy carbs and calories. Or lunch, as we call it in the west of Scotland.
Our office was right across from the gates of John Brown Engineering in Clydebank so the area was well served by food takeaways.
In fact, we were spoiled for choice. Two doors down from us was a sandwich shop, next to that was a chippie and round the corner was Greggs and City Bakeries. Decisions, decisions…
This new taste of freedom lark came at a price – not so much a financial one as a health one. But at 16 you don’t care about that because you’re invincible, right?
The sandwich shop did a roaring trade at lunchtime despite having a menu that leaned heavily towards the minimalistic.
There was homemade soup (always lentil), made-to-order rolls – cheese and tomato, cheese and ham or ham and cheese – and, as an afterthought, some salad.
The only other things for sale in the shop were chocolate bars – Mars, Twix or Bar Six – and cans of Coke or Irn-Bru.
That was your lot. It was a stack-’em-high, sell-’em-cheap strategy that worked particularly well for the shipyard workers.
If you timed your run badly, there would be a massive queue or – worse still – only ham and salad left.
Faced with both these unpalatable options, you always had the chippie next door with its “lunchtime specials” menu.
It was a cunning marketing ploy to lure you in. Once inside, you soon found out the “lunchtime specials” were exactly the same as the “teatime specials” and the never-advertised late-night specials.
It was a chip shop, plain and simple. Now I’m pretty sure no-one was expecting to walk in and find quinoa on the menu, but you’d be within your rights to think there might be something “special”.
Turns out that was covered off by the fish suppers having only one bit of fish instead of two. Some concession, huh?
No matter, they did a particularly-mean roll and chips which always tasted pretty special.
Round the corner at Greggs, the house speciality was a roll and mince. It might not sound that appealing, but somehow it worked.
The only drawback was trying to eat it on the move. If you did that, you ran the risk of mince oozing out on to your clothes.
The nearby City Bakeries sold those pies with mashed potatoes and beans on top, a real delicacy in this part of the world.
I could never really commit to them after watching a guy in work place two of the pies in a buttered roll, pour tomato sauce on top, squash it all down…and take a giant bite.
It’s an image I can never unsee. Bon appetit!