Many moons ago, while visiting San Francisco and feeling a little peckish, I made the fatal mistake of ordering a club sandwich from a downtown takeaway place, just to tide me over until tea time. The chap behind the counter, smiled knowingly at the dude with the British accent, took a couple of humungous slices of bread from the shelf above him and began to fill them with a vast selection of ingredients until, eventually, the monster snack was so big that he had to stick little plastic tooth pick things in it to keep it all in one piece.
“Er, thank you,” I muttered, proffering a handful of dollar bills and wondering how I was ever going to finish the thing before my flight home a week on Tuesday.
He didn't look up, though, just kind of snorted derisively before launching into what turned out to be the second phase of the operation, piling more and more stuff on top of the second slice of bread with the tooth picks in it. It turns out what I'd thought was a Guinness world record in club sandwich making had, in fact, only been the half way point. On and on he went, tongs and spoons flailing and flashing beneath the bold neon lights, slapping layer upon layer of cholesterol onto the pile.
An eon or so later, club sandwich man wound slowly to a halt, sweating and grinning in equal measure and handed me my, er, snack. He may or may not have used a winch, it's quite difficult to recall. I stepped out into the cool Californian evening, cradling the beast in both arms - and, to tell the truth, that's the last thing I remember about the incident. I suppose I must have erased the experience of actually eating the sandwich from my memory banks, employing some kind of post traumatic stress-related coping mechanism.
These days, whenever an American comes into the pub and asks for a hot dog or something, I feel obliged to outline the measly proportions of our victuals with my hands and smile apologetically before they order, in case they might want to get twenty-eight or twenty-nine in, just to bridge the gap until supper time.
I haven't been back to the US since that fateful visit but occasionally I'll get a decent bout of indigestion and stare wistfully into the middle distance, wondering - in a fug of profound nostalgia - if I'm still suffering the gastric repercussions of my 1988 San Francisco club sandwich experience.