Jackfruit: three and a half stars for what is usually a two and a half star fruit in its unripe, savoury form. Culinary fads of the vegan community seem to lag a few years behind those of the omnivore community. I fondly remember the pulled pork days of my youth, which coincided with my living in a sort of trendy shared house in a trendy inner-city suburb. Strict rules were in place to ensure that only pre-masticated porkulated food items were permitted in the house. We have since relaxed the rules to allow almost any foodstuff, but sometimes one wonders what one loses. Such is the tyranny of choice. We should be thankful, then, that the vegan community has taken it upon itself to allow us to re-live our pulled pork-flavoured salad days.

This particular specimen is a pulled pork burger from Soul Burger. It uses unripe jackfruit in place of pork. I am generally a fan of ersatz meat replacements, which in many cases are strictly superior to the original products – prime examples being hot dogs, sausages, chicken nuggets, hamburgers, meat pies, and sandwich meat. In the case of jackfruit pulled pork, however, I worry that the visual appeal of the jackfruit has been prioritised over the texture and the flavour of the meal. The burger itself was quite good, but I suspect that’s despite the jackfruit rather than because of the jackfruit.

Our new friend slipped into the plum barrel, and introduced himself. He was Henry Erstwhile, the former toothbrush tycoon. As a former tycoon myself, I felt an immediate connexion to this humble, shivering naked man who was currently soiling my pickled plums. I implored him to continue his story.

Some years earlier, the Erstwhile toothbrush company had specialised in the manufacture of masculinity-enhancing toothbrushes. The trick, he said, was to make the toothbrushes strong enough to withstand a week or two of vigorous, manly brushing. Over that period of time, the enzymes in the saliva would slowly break down a starch binder, placed somewhere along the shaft. Each starch binder was placed randomly, making each Erstwhile Man-brush completely unique. During the next exciting bout of brushing after the starch had broken down, the toothbrush would shatter irreparably, leaving the brusher in awe of his own raw power. Henry opened a can of jackfruit aspic, which he passed around to my eldest nephew and I.

Rather than being deterred by this strategic fragility, it was a universal hit. The Erstwhile Man-brush was adored by hoi polloi and oligoi alike. Henry himself wrote the advertising jingle and company anthem, called “Oral Hygiene Maketh the Man”. At this point in Henry’s telling of the story, my eldest nephew interjected and asked for a rendition of the song.

“It’s not much of a song, really,” explained Henry, “because most of the good parts are encoded directly as alpha waves in the subliminal frequencies. But I’ll see what I can do.”

Henry upended his can of jackfruit and started banging out a moderate tempo reggaeton rhythm.

“Do you see that pretty lady
in a gingham dress?
Well – brush your teeth!

Do you worry what that lady
will smell on your breath?
Well – brush your teeth!

Do you think that people gag
when you board the bus?
Well – brush your teeth!”

Any of Henry’s deficiencies in meter and form, however, were directly counterbalanced by a level of mouth trumpet acumen seldom seen in our day. We continued along the river.