Fray Bentos Pies

This story is about a friend, a real friend of mine. I’m man enough to ‘fess up to my food disasters, but this one.. well this one I will be telling my grandchildren.

The culprit here is my old flatmate, not myself. Let’s call him Andy

Back in the day he was also my lodger when I bought my first flat in North London. The neighbourhood wasn’t that great, and we weren’t too far from where the local riff-raff hung out, but it was a foot on the property ladder. Moving in was a little tricky, as we had been slightly harrassed by the local “yoot”, some faces to note and avoid in the future. I was broke as my life savings went into the deposit and Andy was broke after six months in Surinam. Celebrations were therefore rather humble. I had some fried chicken (yes those were the bad old days) and he had a Fray Bentos pie in the oven warming up. Those youngsters were clearly trying to get the measure of us. They were still loitering outside, but I wasn’t going to let that, or the clanging they were making ruin the momentous occasion. This was my first property, finally I owned my own home!

Back to the pies. There is nothing like a shared experience to make two young bucks reminisce like old codgers. I had lived on these whilst I was in university. For those of you who’ve not heard of Fray Bentos, they’re basically canned pies, ideal for students as they were cheap, and sometimes the only things I could afford towards the end of term. That clanging noise only got louder as we toasted the great moving-in with Coca-Cola and Sprite. Later, I’d have to report them for anti-social behaviour. I might be the only Chinese guy on the block but it’s no reason for harrassment.

Where was I? Ah the pies. I get all nostalgic when I think about them, the blue can hasn’t changed in years and in the old days I used to reverently, almost lovingly take the top off the can before I put it in the oven.

“You take the top off the can?”

Andy’s eyes were as big as saucers. If course you take the top off the can.. Otherwise it’s like putting a grenade in your oven and waiting for it to go off.

By the time I’d finished my sentence, Andy had turned the oven off and extracted his tin, which unsurprisingly had ballooned into the shape of some strangely coloured mushroom. We let it sit for a minute or two before we decided to puncture what remained of the lid with a can opener to relieve the pressure. Now that we were in no imminent danger of shrapnel wounds, we set about extricating what was supposed to be a pie from the distended can.

It took us half an hour of not-so-gentle persuasion to get the “pie” out. I use that word with some artistic license as it was no longer a pie, but… well, who knows what it was by then? Andy in true bachelor fashion shrugged his shoulders and ate it anyway.

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