Old Habits Die Hard

In May 2005, after finishing a semester in London, I stayed a week at a hostel in Clapham, in a shabby old Edwardian building that has since been re-fitted as luxury flats.

One day, while out walking, I stopped at an off license store (basically a British convenience store) and bought two items: a tin of corned beef, and a packet of cream crackers.

I didn’t think much of it at the time, and this became a food I often ate in times of distress (at least, until the price of corned beef skyrocketed last year thanks to some shady Brazilian farmers using illegal antibiotics).

But the corned beef tins and the cellophane packets of crackers were, in fact, eerily close to the bully beef and biscuits included in the standard “iron ration” of the First World War.

It makes me wonder if this wasn’t some decades-old instinct, to reach for my “iron ration” when the going got tough.

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