A look back at the time one man united WhatsApp behind the lockdown Wembley lasagne

A look back at the time one man united WhatsApp behind the lockdown Wembley lasagne
Chef's Quick Tip: Lasagna alla bolognese

No doubt we all remember where we were when we learnt that England was going into its first national lockdown.

But do you remember where you were when you received a WhatsApp voice note from a man reassuring the nation that a giant lasagne was being cooked up in Wembley Stadium to ensure people didn't go hungry during it?

If you don't let us take a trip two years down memory lane, back to the Wembley lasagne.

Londoner Billy McLean sent the voice note alleging just that as a joke to 30 of his friends and it spiralled. While WhatsApp doesn't collect data about the forwarding of messages so we don't know how many people have heard McLean's dulcet tones, it is hard to meet someone who hasn't at least heard of the Wembley lasagne.

The voice note said: "My sister, her boyfriend’s brother works for the Ministry of Defence and one of the things that they’re doing to prepare … is building a massive lasagne. At the moment, as we speak, they’re building the massive lasagne sheets.”

He added: “They’re putting the underground heating at Wembley on, that’s going to bake the lasagne, and then they’re putting the roof across and that’s going to recreate the oven, and then what they’re going to do is lift it up with drones and cut off little portions and drop it off to people’s houses.”

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He said officials were doing this "to make sure everyone is eating" and signed off the message with: "I'm looking forward to that because I do quite like lasagne, so fair play to them."

Speaking to ITV News at the time, he said he started it as a joke:

“Initially it was just a joke amongst my friends but quickly it became apparent how worrying it is that something shared just among friends in a living room with a mobile phone can quickly spread.

He added: “One of the things it’s shown me is that people have a sense of humour even in difficult times.”

He added: “It’s good that people can have a laugh and a joke with it.

"Overall, its had a positive impact.”

To the Guardian, he added that it caught the attention of former flames: “It went around the football group," he said. "Then I got people that I know forwarding it to me, not knowing it was me, or forwarding it to me asking if I’d heard it. Ex-girlfriends were coming out of the woodwork asking was it me.”

Two years on, how does he reflect on the experience? Speaking to indy100 McLean says he feels "lucky to have had a positive experience to take from a time that was so difficult for so many."

"It was a really positive fun thing to have happened, a good icebreaker sometimes," he says

But it has its downsides. It’s embarrassing when people who do know about it tell people who don’t know about it and I’m there in front of them," he says.

"An explained joke is never as funny."

Too right.

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