I have noticed that the supermarket shelves are missing all their foil. There hasn’t been any there for a couple of weeks now and I was beginning to get suspicious until it all clicked. I checked the back of the box of foil in the kitchen (no, you can’t have any) and it turns out it is produced in France. You must remember France, it’s that place that used to be much easier to get to. It’s also apparently the key to our foil supply and, funnily enough, quite a substantial hike in the manufacture and distribution of red tape too. Naturally I’m a little miffed at this, and I would like to suggest that in future anyone who voted to leave the EU should have their tin foil supply strictly rationed, and in some cases the use of tin foil for recreational purposes (such as keeping a nice casserole warm or smoking crack) amongst ‘leavers’ be completely banned. Of course, tin foil is not the only product that seems in short supply due to our new trading and transport regulations, but I like to think that in some way this deceptively simple kitchen essential represents everything that’s happening with the fragmentation of our relationship with Europe, and the disintegration of society in general.
Not that I would invite you to be surprised: like shipping, Carry On films and racist comedians Britain was once a world leader in foil production, but the glory years are long gone. The hub was the now sleepy village of Burton Coggles in Lincolnshire, where at its height over three million people were employed in the satanic, belching tin foil factories, producing enough of the stuff in a week to cover Jupiter in a layer four feet thick; or to put it another way that’s enough foil to line six billion medium baking trays or wrap up seventeen trillion half eaten avocados (to be put in the fridge and thrown out four days later). Unfortunately World War II, decimalisation, The Krankies and clingfilm hit hard and as soon as the wily French worked out our mechanised trickery they promptly stopped using the traditional method of bashing out tin foil using hammers and iron rolling pins and were able to savagely undercut our wages and decimate our exports. It didn’t help that the French government passed a law in 1986 that gave their tin foil worker shares in the industry and also offered a subsidised allowance of either 50m (standard) or 25m (extra strong) a month of finest French tin foil for every employee and for every member of their household. They have never looked back and the tin foil industry in France is worth more than the cheese, wine, baguette, prostitute, onion, small moustache, accordion and shrugging industries combined; last year it was estimated that one in three French adults (and half of all underaged children) worked in the production of tin foil.
As you can see, all the headlines at the moment are focused on the big politicians trying to play down our tin foil stock emergency, but I’m simply not sure how long this can go on for. Frankly it’s not far off being as big a disaster as the current pandemic, the migrant crisis or Gemma Collins. I reckon we’ve got enough in the house to see us through into early March (no, you still can’t have any) but after that times are going to get pretty lean. After that we’ll have to finish off the whole tin of Ambrosia custard because we won’t have enough foil to wrap over the top. After that we’ll have to let our salmon fillets get dry on top because we won’t be able to spare enough foil to wrap them up, trap in the juices and let them steam cook. After that we’ll have to quit chasing the dragon and go back to intravenous drugs to grasp the toxic high that never seems to quite hit. Foil, you see, is far more than just a handy kitchen accessory; it’s an essential, it’s a way of life, it’s a great way of keeping your sandwiches fresh on a long journey. Yes, I know that you can’t re-use it more than three or four times because it goes all funny and starts to flake up into bits, but other than that I’m sure you’ll agree it’s pretty much perfect. So, let’s hope we can all hold our nerve and that the French can calm down and stop hoarding all the good foil and that we can all be friends. Friends with foil, enjoying the finer things in life. After all, you know what they say over there: du vin, du pain, du feuille d’étain (extra forte).
G B Hewitt. 21.02.2021