Charlie Brooker’s modest proposal »
Charlie Brooker has something to say about our attitude toward food and its presentation. As a satirical genius, he uses the porniest, most revolting writing possible to address it. Here he describes the experience of eating the titular item at Gourmet Burger Kitchen, which is a sort of “upmarket fast-food chain.”
You’ve got two options: tackle it with a knife and fork (the coward’s way out), or dislocate your jaw in the manner of a boa constrictor swallowing a foal, and heave it into your gullet, driving it home like a Victorian taskmaster pushing a buttered eight-year-old into a narrow chimney flue[.]
Order chips, incidentally, and your burger will be accompanied by a generous helping of deep-fried slabs the size and weight of piano keys. Eat there at lunchtime and you’ll spend the rest of the day feeling as if you’re incubating an immense, spherical beef-baby. And caesarean delivery sadly isn’t an option. Before bedtime, you’ll understand how it might feel to give birth to a banister.
What, he asks, makes eating this, with nearly twice the calories of a Big Mac, more socially acceptable than eating a Big Mac?
It seems the key to nurturing a successful chain of fast-food restaurants in modern Britain is to provide a less reprehensible version of something popular…while still enabling your customers to indulge in potentially ruinous gluttony.
I don’t think that that is exclusively a British solution. Isn’t In-N-Out the respectable person’s “drive-thru” burger? Or places like Fuddruckers, Five Guys, and Steak ‘n Shake? Fundamentally, they are McDonald’s: a place to get a quick, “American” meal. You’re still eating nightmare-food, it just comes in nicer packaging.
Charlie Brooker, however, because he is clever and disgusting, has a genius idea for environmentally friendly breakfast cafes: if you want bacon and sausage, cut the meat off your own body. It’s not nearly as offensive as the original Modest Proposal, as you’d only be eating yourself; it’d be vegan-friendly, for those of us who don’t feel as animal-rightsy as the rest of the group. You might even be able to use the lost blood to make black pudding, he says.
There’s something more to that idea—beyond the self-cannibalization joke: You can have as much meat as you can want, so long as you’re willing to give of your own life to get it. What would that mean if it were true? Right now, eating meat robs the future to reward the present; people in wealthy countries won’t feel the effects of their choices for some time—less the occasional terrifying food recall—but less developed nations have to make immediately felt compromises to support a meat industry; and some countries, like Tuvalu, could disappear under the ocean because of global warming.
That raises the question again: what price meat? If people continue eating it despite the horrific treatment of animals on massive factory farms; despite the human health risks posed by those farms; despite the destruction of land, including rainforest, not only to raise cows but to grow soybeans and corn to feed those cows—if they still want to indulge in tasty flesh, let them eat their own. Then maybe they’ll see it as valuable, instead of the commonplace junk they take for granted now.
Plus, you’ll be able to tell the vegans by how fat and happy we’ll be.