Bless me Father, for I have sinned, it’s been a lifetime since my last confession. How can I even begin to tell you of the horrors I have endured? You wouldn’t believe the things I have seen. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Ori …
_”Just start at the beginning will you, I haven’t got long”_
I never thought of that. Alright I will, no need to get snippy …
“We’d been trekking for days, maybe weeks, through deep jungle groves, waist-high swamps of muddy faeces-infested water, leeches clinging to parts of our bodies we didn’t even know existed. It was a top-secret mission, known only to a select few back in Phnom Phnem. Us grunts didn’t even know who or what we were looking for but the Cap’ did, he kept driving us on, slicing through that hostile terrain, hooking us into his determined enthusiasm, skirting enemy encampments, swimming across raging torrents of pluming water, eating off the land, stuff that would make a billy-goat puke.
Against all the odds, we’d managed to evade capture and on more than one occasion, narrowly avoided being coated in burning hot napalm from our own bomber pilots. Those Navy pukes never could read a map. The Cap’ had led us to a jungle clearing, just another one like the hundreds we’d seen and passed through before. This was different. As we stood, panting in the searing heat, gaining our bearings and our breath, the ground erupted around our mud-encased feet. Men, camouflaged, gun-toting, angry, burst out of sandy bunkers, their weapons trained on our every move. We were surrounded.
Time passed, I wish I could say how long. My beard had grown matted but that was nothing knew. The Cap’ had gone. Old Cap’, Old Faithful, had bought it. They pushed his body from the hatch above into this dirty stinking river cage we found ourselves in, and there he lay, face down, body dipping and bobbing in the swirling eddies and flows of the fast-flowing water.
There were only three of us left, Scotty, Jimmy and me. Scotty’s mind had gone kablooie, too many rats had nibbled away at his skin, too many leeches had drawn his blood, he’d bunkered too many times. Partially submerged in a corner of the cage, face barely above water-level, his cracked lips drew a shallow breath. The trapdoor opened and a gun poked through. I gulped. Jimmy and I were the last.
They pulled us up into the relative dryness of the hut above and made us sit at a dirty, weathered table. A mean-looking, hard-faced man placed an object on the table in front. Jimmy’s eyes widened in fear and he pushed back, the chair scraping loudly. I could hear Scotty whimper below. Two guards pushed Jimmy forwards and he slumped over the table.
He who had placed the object onto the table I christened The Leader and he handed me a plastic knife and fork which I reluctantly placed into my mud-soaked hands. Whatever it was these sadistic pigs were going to make us do, I just wanted it over with. I’d had enough of this place, this god-forsaken jungle, this wasn’t my war any more, I’d had enough of this stupid game.
I looked at the object on the table. It was a bowl roughly hewn from a large bamboo trestle and was covered in dirty handprints. I peered inside and reeled backwards immediately but a stinging slap across my hollowed cheek from the leader came my way. “Diddy Mao!” he retorted, “You eat. Diddy Mao!”. I looked up to Jimmy and his haunted eyes will stay with me forever. He was shaking his head slowly, telling me not to do it, telling me not to take the final step towards eternal damnation.
I lifted up the fork and Jimmy lunged, straining against the arms of the guards who held him in place. “Noooo, don’t do it Mikey, don’t do it”
Another slap. “Diddy Mao! You Eat! Diddy Mao!”
I plunged the fork into the toxic brew, scooping up whatever foul fulmination I could find. I scrutinized the lumps, liquid and languid expression on my captors. “Diddy Mao!” screamed Leader, louder now, his face red with apoplexy, nose only inches from mine. “Eat Now! Diddy Mao!”
I looked him right between the eyes, grim determination on my face and without a second thought, pushed the fork into my mouth, taking a big mouthful of this unearthly, death-giving stew. I pushed my head back fully expecting to be racked in pain, my existence on this mortal coil to be extinguished but … I couldn’t believe it … it was quite nice.
It was an All Day Breakfast in a can from Hunger Breaks, containing bacon and egg mini-bites, small hot-dog style sausages, pork slices and mushrooms all covered in a rich tomato and baked bean sauce. The bacon and egg mini-bites are basically Scotch Eggs, as foul as that sounds and the egg-part had all but gone but were nicely savoury anyway. The hot-dog sausages were just … that, small hot-dog sausages. I like hot-dog sausages. They are a big weakness of mine (along with any food that has ingredients and those that haven’t) so those went down well. The pork slice was a little tasteless it has to be said, but here in this sweltering jungle hut, I didn’t care. Since being captured, we’d eaten only the remains of whatever food our tormentors could be bothered to throw down so this was luxury compared to that. The mushrooms were a little watery though as were the beans. Nice flavours, just too much sauce and not enough solids. Texture-wise, it was all a little mushy except for the mushrooms that weren’t mushy, strangely.
Jimmy looked at my joyous face with bewilderment and incredulousnessness. I was tucking in with free abandon. This was lovely and the side of buttered brown bread was a perfect accompaniment. “Have you gone mad?” he asked, his wild eyes rolling and lolling.
“No, it’s lovely, could do with a little salt though,” I replied, pushing across my bowl. “Here, have some.” I looked up at the Leader who had a satisfied, smug grin on his face. I smiled and nodded back, pointing at my all-day breakfast as if to say, “This is alright this.”
The Leader looked at his watch and in a perfect, clipped English accent said, “Are you lot ever going to check out? We’ve got new guests coming in at three and we have to get the rooms ready.”
I shrugged. “Let me finish this and we’ll get out of your hair,” I said, scooping another delicious forkful into my mouth. “Have you got a mug of tea? How about a bit of brown sauce?” I asked with a dribble of tomato sauce on my chin.”
_”Hang on, are you talking about your weekend golfing trip to Phnom Phnem Guest House and Golf Course just outside of Tunbridge Wells in Kent?”_
Yes Father, I am. That’s the last time we pay for the ‘Tropical War’ add-on package.
_”Exactly what are you telling me? What are you confessing?”_
I’m telling you that I ate a can of Hunger Breaks All Day Breakfast and enjoyed it.
_”What happened to Jimmy and Scotty?”_
Dunno. Went home I suppose. It was only a golfing weekend. Sheesh, lighten up will you?
===Ingredients and Cooking===
I thought Tesco Cheesecakes had got a lot in but this takes the biscuit and the whole darned tin. I’m not even going to start listing the ingredients, there’s too many and it will only serve to put you off. No really, it will. Suffice to say, it’s got 29% beans, 23% tomatoes, 13% sausages, 6% mushrooms, 5% bacon and egg ‘bites’ and 3% bacon slice. That’s 79% taken up with foodage. The rest is filled up with sugar, salt, oils, fats, rusk, spices, water and a glutinous concoction of other materials I’m too frightened to find out what. Cover the back panel up on the tin with your hand if you decide to cook one and you won’t see the label saying 450 calories with 12.2g of sugar, 15g of fat and 3.65g of salt.
Apparently, Ping Ding, the Vietnamese chef who served us breakfast, said he cooked it in the microwave for 3 minutes but it can also be cooked on the hob.
I shouldn’t like this, I *really* shouldn’t but strangely, I do. Is that wrong? I feel it is. I wouldn’t have it every day, but as a once a month ‘treat’ (if it can be described as such), I wouldn’t say no. With a bit of brown sauce on the side and some buttered bread to dip in, it starts to make a whole lot more sense.
As an antidote to the sheer terror of prison food in a tropical river gaol cage while in the midst of a vicious and unjust civil war, I whole-heartedly recommend a Hunger Breaks All Day Breakfast. Be warned though, it’s not for everyone which is why we had to trek so far to get one. Tunbridge Wells is a long way from Doncaster.
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