I confess that the last time I was in England, in 1997, I saw a lot of fish and meat paste (described in the link by the Guardian’s Tim Hayward) at a London Safeway (a store that no longer exists here as such), and was curious to try it. It seemed what one might spread on thin slices of bread for a fancy tea, before removing the crusts and cutting them into delicate triangles. My related childhood memory is of Underwood Deviled Ham and Chicken spreads (below), in a can.
But only 13 years later, as Hayward says, pastes are indeed relegated to a couple of small shelves. It’s probably all for the best. Still, there’s nothing wrong with mixing up smoked fish or duck with butter as rillettes for crackers. Rillettes and even taramasalata probably fall into a similar category as pastes, but are a little more cosmopolitan, and a little less disturbingly shelf-stable.