It’s a fatal choice to make.
Your lunch, or your life.
Because down in the dark of a Cornish tin mine, those hunger pangs could be the end of you. No chance of getting back topside to eat, your shift is all day. Time is money. Stay down till you drop.
Dirty and deadly
Hard work this, deadly too. Tin ore produces arsenic dust. Which of course gets everywhere – on your clothes, on your skin, in your hair. There’s no such thing as an OLD Cornish tin miner.
Pickaxe, shovel, crowbar – the blokes are all starving.
“Oggy, oggy, oggy!”
(Pasty, pasty, pasty – the real D-shaped Cornish jobs – potatoes, swedes, onions, chopped beef, salt and pepper – with thick pastry and a heavily crimped, curved edge.)
It’s the wives and sweethearts up top, ready with hot Cornish pasties. They lower them down and the smell drives you mad. The lads’ mouths pucker in the flickering lamplight.
“Oy, oy, oy!”
The answering yell rings off the rock face.
But your hands are filthy as hell, already going yellow. Arsenic trioxide – deadly if you swallow it. Stomach troubles, prostate, all kinds of cancer.
Nowhere to wash though, down here underground. Except seepage down the one wall, deep yellow in the light of the candle. More arsenic in the groundwater, the deadliest wash ever.
Like your mates around you, you grab for the basket.
Heb grev. No problem, as they say in Cornwall.
The deeply crimped pastry edge down the side of the pasty allows you to snatch it up with poisoned fingers without touching the meaty middle.
High-tech Cornish cooking – Thirteenth Century style.
You eat your fill of the middle and throw the pastry crust away. It’s your gift to the Knockers – the little folk who live in the mine and make mischief if they’re forgotten – like a rock-fall on a man’s leg.
You get the message.
Eight hundred years ago we already knew that eating with dirty hands could be fatal. And our thanks to the Cornish pasty experts at Ginsters for bringing this to our attention.
Doesn’t look like we’ve learned though. Just about everything we count as a favourite is finger-food today – burgers, pizzas, pies, rolls, wraps, sandwiches, fish and chips.
Scoff any of that lot and you’re a shoo-in for norovirus – the Don’t Wash Hands Disease.
Four days of cramps, runs and upchucks – all self-inflicted because soap and water is not on the radar.
Well it’s not, is it?
The price of dirty hands
How many times a day do you wash your hands? C’mon now, don’t be shy. We’re all just as bad – thinking we’re safe, when we’re setting ourselves up for misery.
- Only 12% of us ever wash our hands before eating.
- Most of us – 62% of men and 40% of women – NEVER wash our hands after going to the toilet.
- And believe it or not, 95% of us don’t even wash our hands properly.
Try that in old Cornwall and you’d be dead.
Because how many other fast foods are smart enough to have grab handles, so you can eat them with polluted paws and not come unstuck? Or are you going to tell us you sit at your iPad and actually eat with a knife and fork?
Yeah, pull the other one. We’re quick enough to point the finger and say “food poisoning” – when all the time we’re probably the victims of our own carelessness.
OK, norovirus is not arsenic – but it CAN kill. And there’s plenty of other nasties out there that can do the same.
Campylobacter for instance, next stop irritable bowel syndrome – and a life-time of embarrassing discomfort. Or salmonella, with high expectations of diabetes, arthritis, kidney failure and high blood pressure.
Yeah, enjoy your meal!
But if you’re not going to poison yourself, you might want scrub up first.
Picture Copyright: siberia / 123RF Stock Photo