Monday, 22 December 2008

Shit Sandwich

You may or may not know this, but one of the worst possible cusses amongst our group of friends is to call someone a ‘shit sandwich’. This probably sounds a bit odd, but think about it for a second: how shit is a shit sandwich? I don’t know about you, mate, but my world comes crumbling down to a salty pile of soggy bread and recovered meat when I haplessly tuck in to a ‘Chicken Tikka’ sandwich that I bought from a corner shop because I was all pissed up and forgot to eat dinner at the right time.

Shit sandwiches are depressing, and it’s not just your ‘Chicken & Sweetcorn’ or your ‘Crabstick & Salad’ sold in corner shops: it can even happen in ‘Pret’…

You are never safe.

On the way to Chichester the other week, Natalia got out of the car to buy us all sandwiches whilst we were stuck in traffic in Putney. She asked me what I wanted, but I was too busy looking cool behind the steering wheel of my Peugeot 106 to choose. Just as she left the car, I suddenly realised that what I wanted more than anything else was a ‘Turkey Christmas Special’. Natalia came back with a ham and mustard baguette, and I felt like crying. I knew it was my fault, and I couldn’t get angry with anyone apart from myself or my Peugeot 106 and how cool it made me look. To make things worse, Natalia said that it had been a close call between the ham & 'turd baguette and the turkey, cranberry, stuffing, mayonnaisey dream that was so nearly mine. The only thing that stopped me from doing a Brian Harvey and running myself over* was the delightful fact that Jon got a Chicken & Avocado sandwich, possibly one of the blandest sandwiches offered by the haut-de-gamme sandwich providers (Pret, M&S etc.)

Given all of this, it may surprise you that I had an intestine sandwich yesterday, and I really fucking enjoyed it.

I’m in Turkey at the moment, spending Christmas with my extended family. In the village nearest to our house there is a little stall with some tarpaulin covering a few plastic chairs and tables. This modest little shack has but one thing on the menu: Intestine Sandwich, otherwise known here as ‘kokoreç’ (pronounced, funnily enough, ‘kohkoh-wretch’). Gag I did not, however, and I wolfed down a half portion in around 5 minutes flat. By the by, when I say half portion, that does not mean that I’m a pussy; a half portion means half a loaf of bread… filled with a lamb’s intestine. 

Basically, what happens is that lamb intestine is wrapped around a spit that spins around in front of an open flame. When you order your sandwich, Mr. Intestine slices off however much you want, chops it up into little pieces, puts it in a pan with a fair few spices – no doubt to mask the taste – and fries those puppies up until they’re nice and crisp. Then he just slaps the mix into some fresh bread. I usually ask him to take out a bit of the bread so as to tip the offal vs. bread ratio in favour of the intestine. This isn’t some age-old Turkish trick so don’t worry. Heck, try different things out: double the intestine filling, ask for extra cumin or chilli. Go crazy and have a whole loaf! That’s the great thing about kokoreç: you can really go to town and let your hair down.

After eating the sandwich we went to see my cousins, aunts, uncles, grandma etc. I told my Uncle Ustun (pronounced Oostoon, not Euston) what I had for lunch and I could see a mad twinkle of jealousy in his eye.

Natalia, do you remember when we were desperately hunting for jobs at the beginning of the summer and you got asked to go to Edinburgh for a media/production training course with heads of industry and such types? Do you recall that when you told me about it, I tried my hardest to look happy for you when actually it was quite clear that I was about to puke on your toe from jealousy? Well, that was the situation yesterday except this time it was my toe in the line of fire.

Anyway, Uncle Euston then told me that the best intestines come from lambs who have never eaten any grass i.e. who have only ever drank their mother’s milk. This would make them very young indeed. He then said that the trick is never to see the lamb being killed. Then it's OK!

Oh how we laughed.

Later on he had a really nice cake, some beer and drifted off to sleep, so his jealousy abated somewhat.

What’s my point? Not sure. What I’m trying to say perhaps is that I know that a few months ago I would have laughed if someone offered me an intestine sandwich. Laughed right in their eye, I tell you. I would have had a Chinese Style Chicken Wrap instead, even though wraps always have too much bread at the end, and not enough filling.

But back then I was a different man: I was ‘pre-intestinal’ Murat. I’ve changed, and now I’m saying: let’s not be too quick to judge. Think before you call someone a shit sandwich, or even a sandwich shit. Make sure you really know what you’re talking about – give everything a chance.

If we all ate a few intestine sandwiches once in a while, the world would be a better place.

* On 31 May 2005, Brain Harvey was admitted to hospital in a critical condition after falling under the wheels of his Mercedes-Benz motor car, whilst driving. According to Harvey, the accident happened after he felt sick from eating too many baked potatoes. He pulled over to be sick, and whilst his head was outside his car, he tipped over and accidentally ran himself over.

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