Words: Pete Williams | Illustration: Pod Hughes
The other day I saw something. It made me question a lot: who am I? What am I doing with my life? What is existence? I went back to the beginning of the year and compared what’s changed since January. At the beginning of the year I quit smoking, in September I started again; I get my hair cut shorter than I used to; I’m 34 pounds lighter now; I hated my job (OK this one hasn’t changed); most importantly I had neither seen, nor heard of the beans on toast machine, and now I have. When I first learned about the beans on toast machine, (hereafter referred to as the BOTM™) I didn’t understand, it’s fucking mental. It is literally the most depressing contraption I’ve ever seen, I was simultaneously filled with sorrow and left so empty that no amount of alcohol could ever fill me up. Before my eyes were gut wrenching loneliness, all consuming existential dread, the fruits of Tory austerity, a housing crisis, a generation of people who make memes about being dead inside and sort of aren’t really joking, and a toaster with a cup thing on the side that also heats up beans, formed from metal and plastic… I just, what? Like, how often do you have to eat beans on toast to justify buying a machine which makes beans on toast? Who eats beans on toast that regularly? Unhappy people, the downtrodden, the damned, that’s who.
“Before my eyes were gut wrenching loneliness, all consuming existential dread, the fruits of Tory austerity, a housing crisis, a generation of people who make memes about being dead inside and sort of aren’t really joking, and a toaster with a cup thing on the side that also heats up beans, formed from metal and plastic”
I’m no paragon of health, I drink (probably too much) and smoke when I do, I never move faster than walking pace, I don’t go to bed early enough, I spend a pathological amount of time on my own, I don’t have a juicer, and you’ll never find me hunched over in front of the computer reading recipes for kale and quinoa salad and wanking into a flannel, so please don’t mistake me for a snob.
Imagine, if you will, the advertising campaign:
“Do you have no one in your life to cook for? Do you have no space for a kitchen? Maybe you suffer from crippling depression and just can’t be bothered, or have literally no money and your only sustenance comes from white bread and tinned beans? Well look no further weary traveler! New from Toasterco, the beans on toast machine. It makes a nutritious and 100% ‘Tory government not one of us™’ approved meal, all in one appliance. Now you can eat the same thing – a symbol of poverty, usually associated jokingly with students, over and over and over again. And there’s more, It also poaches eggs! Don’t worry though, when you’ve had enough of beans, toast, eggs and the agony of existence, simply plug it in and jump in the bath with it! BOTM™ only 29.99”
I mean, don’t get me wrong, if you like beans on toast, an appliance that simultaneously makes toast and heats baked beans, doesn’t seem that bad. Realistically though, unless you’re going to use it every day, or you’re a fuckwit with more money than sense and masses of cupboard space, it’s not really a valid purchase, and surely those people can’t be buying enough of them to warrant manufacturing and distribution of an individual product, which leads me to believe that the people buying this monstrosity are the ones mentioned in the previous paragraphs. Who invented this fucking thing? Being a cynic, my mind went straight to a group of executives in a boardroom brainstorming how they could squeeze more money out of people who already haven’t got much, drinking coconut water and eating not beans on toast. But then I thought, “No, that’s too simple”. Necessity is the mother of invention after all, so it must’ve been some poor soul with the need for a BOTM™. I’ve done a CSI style reconstruction of the invention of BOTM™ – load your revolver now.
Meet Arnold Pratt. He works in shipping for for a company that makes screws. He’s in his 40’s. He’s going bald. He used to have an excellent stamp collection until Carol sold it. He hasn’t been promoted in 10 years. He has athlete’s foot that he can’t shift. Carol’s thrown him out and now he lives in a ‘hotel’ at a motorway services near work (read: a slightly shitter Linton Travel Tavern). “Oh it’s really great, much more convenient for work, miss all the traffic coming out of town – cut my commute in half it has. What do I do for food? Well the restaurant’s great, eat out every night. I live like a king.” Except he doesn’t. They don’t have a restaurant in the hotel so he eats egg sandwiches from the petrol garage for dinner. One day Arnold bought a toaster and snuck it into his room, this was a game changer as now he could eat anything he wanted, as long as it was spreadable… and on toast. One night as he’s lying on his bed staring at the ceiling and listening to two people fucking rabidly behind the wall next to his head, he had a brainwave, “What if I had some sort of heating attachment for my toaster?”
The next day, convinced he was on to a winner he invited his colleague Fred to the pub after work and excitedly told him about his invention. “I see where you’re going, but it’ll never catch on, best to leave it” said Fred. And that was that, he left it.
“Who invented this fucking thing? Being a cynic, my mind went straight to a group of executives in a boardroom brainstorming how they could squeeze more money out of people who already haven’t got much, drinking coconut water and eating not beans on toast”
A year passed, and Arnold forgot all about his hot food toaster, until one day while wandering through his local shopping center he saw his machine, a device that cooked beans and toasted bread. Turns out Fred had taken his idea to Toasterco and sold it to them. He’d moved in with Carol, and Arnold’s kids call him Dad and he’d bought a bigger house with the BOTM™ fortune. You’d think that was the worst part of the story, but it isn’t. Arnold still lived at the motorway services, and wanted a way to heat up food in his room, so he went into the shop and bought one… for retail price.
I never thought an appliance could have pathos until I saw the BOTM™. Then again, maybe I’m overreacting, it’s actually not that mad a device, just a bit pointless… what a miserable twat I am. I don’t really know why I’ve written this, I actually feel worse than when I started. I’m off to make dinner…in the bath.