A toast to austerity

British experts with nothing better to do claim to have identified the ultimate cheap lunch. But it would be even cheaper without the butter.

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Tough times call for tough measures. As German Chancellor Angela Merkel said recently, Europe is certainly going through one of its most trying economic periods since the Second World War. Across the continent, demonstrators have taken to the streets in opposition to calls for austerity measures.

One group of scientists, however, seems to be taking this call seriously. On Wednesday, The Royal Society of Chemistry revealed what it believes to be, at the grand cost of 7.5 pence, Britain's "cheapest" lunchtime meal: the toast sandwich. That is, a slice of toasted bread, and butter, placed between two slices of bread.

In aiming to promote this snack the chemistry society has delved into the pages of Isabella Beeton's Book of Household Management, a best-selling tome that will celebrate its 150th anniversary next month.

While beating such a bargain will be difficult, these savvy chemists have at least put their money where the EU's mouth ought to be. A prize of £200 (Dh1,155) awaits the creator of any cheaper alternative. Perhaps a toast sandwich without the butter? Or half a toast sandwich at 3.75 pence?

We hope Mrs Beeton, or her family, had the foresight to patent her modest creation. Should the financial crisis in Europe get worse, the toast sandwich might yet become a daily special.