content note: mention of alcohol
It was in a pub, in a back street of Southampton where I’d strayed aimlessly, that I tasted the original and only Blue Mean One. It was gloomy and empty inside and so was I. They had a blackboard with a chalked menu. Well, menu might be pushing it. They only did toasted sandwiches on a sandwich-maker at the back of the bar. At the end of the brief list were the words, written in blue chalk in a sort of psychedelic swirl, The Blue Mean One (a nod to the Blue Meanie villains in The Beatles’ Yellow Submarine film of 1968). There was a green V next to it to show it was veggie. ‘What’s that?’ I asked the barman, who had lank hair, smeared spectacles and red cheeks. ‘Try it,’ he said, ‘we made it up. It’s strong.’ I nodded and he disappeared for a bit to prepare it.
The pub didn’t seem to do plates; you got your dish wrapped in a red paper serviette. The contents were already oozing out before I bit in and then they slithered over my fingers and scorched them, but I didn’t mind as I was still absorbing the contents. Which were, so far as I could work out, horseradish, mustard, raw onion, ripe blue cheese, and an entire rockery of garlic. It was a meanie all right and very satisfying. I thought that when I went out again, I'd have to be careful about my breath in case it caused buildings to fall and passers-by to swoon.
It wasn’t only the rampant flavours that filled the mouth, but the feel of it, which was sticky and clinging, as if the beast didn’t want to let go of your teeth or your tongue. For a few moments, with my half pint of dark mild as a sort of brown sauce accompaniment, I felt very contented; it seemed as if my loneliness in this city and my uncertainty about myself were banished and I felt part of a secret order, the brothers and sisters of the Blue Meanie. That was how it got hold of me, the whole idea of it.
But I never could find that pub again. It was a part of the city I didn’t know; I hadn’t noticed the name of it, and I couldn’t remember how I got there. I went so far as to ask some people if they knew of a place where they served a toasted sandwich called The Blue Mean One and tried to describe it, but they mostly looked sceptical and some asked outright, ‘Who the hell would eat anything like that?’. And I have never found the recipe – or maybe formula would be the better word – to be known by anyone else either, and I expect the pub is long gone too.
I have tried making the Blue Mean One myself, and sometimes I think I’ve got quite close, but there’s always something missing; probably I falter at the quantity of garlic or horseradish required, and certainly the fiercely adhesive quality, which might have been a product of the particular sandwich toaster and its settings, I have never perfected.
I expect the memory of the original and only Blue Mean One, that alchemical compound of white fire, gold fire, deep earth, and decay, has grown with me over the years and will always flicker in its being, the lost talisman of a moment and a living, lingering, changing, elusive thing, still slithering its proud and pungent spoor across my memory.
writes essays on old books and obscure subjects for the Yorkshire independent Tartarus Press and edits Wormwood, a paperback literary journal. His poetry has been published recently in ink, sweat & tears, 3:AM Magazine, Finished Creatures, PN Review, M58, and elsewhere.
Copyright for all work remains with the author thereof and any requests to reprint should be made directly.
Issue 1 © SPOONFEED Magazine
SPOONFEED x New Writing © Caitlin Allen
Issue 2 © Louise Crosby