Monday, May 30, 2011

Grandpa goes to Hollywood

This is my paternal grandfather, or at least this is how he used to look around the time he married my grandmother.

Enrique, that was his name, had many jobs but only one employer in his life, the meat packing factory Frigorífico Anglo of Fray Bentos. He was born in one of the ranches where the livestock was raised, son to the foreman - in that limbo of the ranks of power, not exactly a plain soldier but neither a gringo, but soon started working in the factory as just another worker.

The tales from the work at the plant are very interesting - for example, management wouldn't allow a trade union but tried really hard to keep their workers happy by giving them ample benefits. If a worker was found trying to create turmoil he (or she) would be fired immediately, but had the chance to be rehired at the lowest entry level. When the demand for the product was high, the cuts weren't particularly, ahem, what you'd call "selected". While accidents were unusual, probably one soldier or two may have found a finger in their rations. Oh well.

Everyday work memorabilia may be fading with the memories of their protagonists, now frail elderly citizens in a sleepy town. The memory of the star product of the company, the corned beef, however, will be harder to wipe off.

Bully beef and biscuits were the main field rations of the British Army from the Boer War to World War II, says Wikipedia, which means that the little oblong can with the red tag is a given in movies of British wartime, from that time or reconstructions. Canspotting, if there is such word, is almost a sport when I watch those films. 

In The English Patient, I believe it's a can of Anglo's corned beef that Ralph Fiennes' character gives to Kristin Scott Thomas' when he leaves her in the cave. There's also another little red one in Gallipoli, in the scene where Mel Gibson runs through the trenches. I'm certain that I've seen in many other times but unfortunately, IMDB doesn't allow searches for props like corned beef cans, and still pictures of those movies don't pay particular attention to them.

That doesn't really matter, because part of the fun, the rare fun still unspoiled by the Google almighty, is trying to collect such quick sights. And whenever I do, I say aloud to whomever might be hearing, "My grandpa could have been the one to pack that can". And it feels really good.

Corned beef picture from here.

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