By Resident Food Critic Lexington Canary
A list of new laws to be put into place by the UK government have largely been met with either bored resignment or slight irritation from some hard hitting newspaper columnists. But one law in particular has created quite a stir in certain parts of social media, and has sparked debate around the land since its announcement. The legalisation of stealing condiments – like sachets of tomato ketchup, horseradish and entire bottles of pepper – from eating establishments. However, there are certain criteria that must be abided by so that anyone doing the taking doesn’t get punished. I interviewed Lance Datedhair in his fish restaurant The Airborne Mackerel, in Monkston, Milton Keynes, as he’s been the most vocal on Twitter regarding this law.
TDJJ: “Mr Datedhair, why do you think the government has implemented this law?”
LD: “I think it’s a cynical ploy by them, a popularity vote designed to make their detractors think that they’ve got the common touch. Look, theft is theft, plain and simple. I know it’s not exactly like the 4K TVs I’ve got stashed in a shed, but it’s still taking what isn’t yours.”
TDJJ: “You’re aware of the number of provisos regarding this, but what do you see as the main issue that you and other owners of restaurants face?”
LD: “Well, for me it’s how they word the one about ‘as long as there’s loads of them.’ Who’s going to be counting the amount of sachets picked up by customers? What’s ‘loads’ for me might not necessarily the same as someone else. We need clarification so we all know where we stand. Right now, as I see it, customers can argue their side when challenged by our staff. It’d be ridiculous if, say, beer makers come out and say you can be ‘about 18’ to drink our products.”
TDJJ: “In relation to this, the government have said that the police have always been inundated with confessions of guilt from people, wondering if they’d get in trouble for stealing vinegar. They just want to ease the workload of the authorities, so they can catch the real criminals out there. Can you see any logic in their thinking?”
LD: “Listen. I buy all this stuff in bulk from cash and carries, usually in the thousands, but it shouldn’t give anyone the right to be so cavalier with our stock. I saw one plate last week with a half eaten trout, with SEVEN opened sachets of tartare sauce discarded at the side, but one of my staff said they saw them take at least 15 sachets before the meal was brought to them, including mustard! They must have pocketed the others because there was no trace of mustard on the plate. I would have said something if I’d have seen the culprits, but now I feel powerless. I’m now supposed to just watch behind the bar as some large child uses up untold amounts of packeted ketchup on their pizza. It’s already tomato-based, what are they thinking?”
TDJJ: “And is this the main reason you’ve set up a Facebook group with your fellow restaurateurs?”
LD: “Someone has to take a stand. The government didn’t ask us if this law would be a good idea or not. And judging by the tens of responses I’ve had in the three weeks since I set the group up, I know I’m not the only one feeling the pinch. I’ve even got a message from some woman in Singapore. It’s unrelated to the issue, but it just goes to show that this has truly gone global.”
TDJJ: “If the government do become aware of your social media efforts, and come up with a standardised number of condiments that would be legal to take, would this go some way into satisfying you?”
LD: “As I said, this is my main issue. If they sort that one out, what about some of the others, like saying it’s perfectly fine to create a pool of vinegar in a bowl and daring people to drink it all. It’s not them who has to carefully take it back into the kitchen to wash it out afterwards. It stinks the fucking place out when it goes on the upholstery and carpet.
TDJJ: “Finally, how do you see the future panning out if the government stick to this vague law, regardless of your efforts?”
LD: “We already have to do nightly counts on the condiments to see if the numbers match up with the amount of meals we sold that day. I can only see the problem worsening, and we’d probably get to point when we have to do these counts once an hour. I suppose it’ll be me who has to pay for security to stand by the area where we have the condiments. And don’t get me started on the amount of napkins that some people take.”