Burnt toast, considering all it really represents is a bit of an inconvenience at the start of the day, gets a pretty bad rap on the health pages. It was once believed the smell of it could indicate you’re about to have a stroke, and now they’ve decided it can give you cancer.
Now not only do you have to do that ridiculous dance of frantically waving a tea-towel at the smoke alarm to shut it up while the cremated remains sheepishly peer over the edge of the toaster when you’re already running late, but you can also start worrying about whether your breakfast could lead to your last gasping breaths in a decade or two. Scrape the burnt bits off at your peril. You’ll still probably inhale the carcinogens.
Everything at one time or another has been linked to causing cancer. Anyone who grew up in the 80s will remember microwaves coming into our homes and our mums being convinced we would all end up riddled with tumours. Grew up in the 90s or 00s? Mobile phones. They were definitely passing radioactive material direct to our brains through our ear canals. It’s a miracle we’re not all walking around with phone-shaped tumours hanging off our faces.
I was once told cheese wrapped in clingfilm could give you cancer. I mean fucking hell, cheese wrapped in clingfilm? Who funded that research? Worst of all I still believe it a tiny bit and will often find my hand hovering over the clingfilm, unsure whether to take the risk, until I eventually conclude the best course of action is just to eat the rest of the cheese. Potential health disaster risk eliminated.
If the 90s are to be believed, it’s only a matter of time before every single beef-eating Brit comes down with Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. By feeding our cows bits of other dead cows in the 80s, we sent them mad, which infected their meat, which we and the other cows were mindlessly ingesting. In their relentless pursuit of commercial gain, beef farmers turned a blind eye to the fact cows do not have cannibalistic tendencies. I’m pretty sure if someone made a similar assumption about me, I too would go mad. But how on earth did it come about?
Farmer A: “Seems a hell of a waste to just throw all these bones, spinal cords and innards away.”
Farmer B: “Doesn’t it just.”
Farmer A: “We could mash it all up and feed it to the next batch?”
Famer B: stunned silence
Farmer A: “Well if it’s good enough for schoolchildren…”
Farmer B: “When you put it like that…”
…and now we’re all going to go mad and die. I believe they estimated the incubation period to be something like 30 years, so we can expect the mad cow disease time-bomb to go off any time now, because surely the press coverage at the time couldn’t have been a wild exaggeration of the very small possibility that we were all eating infected beef.
I’m reasonably confident I’m not going to die from CJD. Sure, the idea of farmers creating a culinary disaster-piece from the otherwise worthless remains of cattle to sell on as feed doesn’t sit well with me. The poor fuckers just wanted some lush, green grass before going off to the great big burger in the sky, and you fed them a horror story, so shame on you. Shame on us for consuming the meat you produced, since eating red meat has also been linked to causing cancer.
Medical research is a wonderful thing. It gives us the gift of knowing how not to pollute our bodies and to give ourselves the best chance of living a long and healthy life, if we so choose. And then the press gets hold of it, distorts it, tells us we’re all going to die and creates a nation of paranoid germ-phobes. Bird flu didn’t kill us, swine flu didn’t kill us. I know they both killed a few people, and I’m genuinely sorry about that, but did either of them justify coverage at quite such a hysterical level?
The press is right; we are all going to die. We can do as much as we like to mitigate that, but it will happen, and there’ll always be a health-scare story to shit us up along the way. Like the majority of people, I would prefer not to go out at the hands of something lingering and painful, but I’m fucked if I’m going to spend the entire time I’m here, be it long or short, trying to adhere to every single piece of health advice that’s printed.
And if this is being read out at my funeral after I’ve been snuffed out by the long ago planted strains of CJD, then ha! I knew the smoking wouldn’t get me! If it’s happened the other way round then ha! I knew 80s school dinners wouldn’t get me!
If it was the burnt toast or the cheese, well fuck me, I can honestly say I didn’t see that coming.