When the Earl of Sandwich slapped a slab of salty meat between two pieces of bread, a new star appeared in the culinary galaxy. Ever since, we’ve been tinkering with the Earl’s creation to make it our very own.
Dagwood promoted the lunchtime favorite with a high rise-version, that cleaned out the refrigerator. Wimpy negotiated with his local eatery saying: “I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.”
Who’s Eating Sandwiches These Days?
Hamburgers and hotdogs are among America’s contribution to the advancement of sandwiches. Other countries and cities have their favorites, as well. The Banh Mi, the star of Vietnamese food, is on few menus, but growing in popularity. The Muffaletta, Lobster Roll, and Po’Boy are as popular in NOLA as jazz is. In the South, count on Party Sandwiches aka Funeral Rolls to show up at wakes and church suppers.
Finger Sandwiches Fit for a Queen
In England, the Queen nibbles on petite, crust-less tea sandwiches made of thin cucumber and cream cheese. A royal custom requires the bread be cut round rather than have pointed edges—no sharp instruments around Her Highness, even if it’s just bread.
My Favorites Have Evolved
My sandwich making has gotten more sophisticated in recent years. The banh mi has replaced the hamburger as my sandwich of preference. My tuna salad that once called for just a dab of mayo, relish, and celery, I now gentrify with fresh lemon juice, Dijon, and fish sauce.
I keep a bottle of Robert Rothchild’s Roasted Pineapple and Habanero Sauce to spike tuna or chicken salad, when I’m feeling feisty. But it’s the humble BLT that’s my go-to sandwich during the summer, when tomatoes are fresh and flavorful.
A Sandwich a Day Keeps the Blues Away
Lucy Van Pelt of Peanuts fame had a lot to say about the therapeutic value of a sandwich. Well, not just any ol’ sandwich. When Charlie Brown shows up at her psychiatric booth, saying he feels hopeless, Lucy advises: “Go home and eat a jelly-bread sandwich folded over. Five cents, please.”
According to Lucy, the reason for folding rather than cutting a sandwich is to prevent the flavor from falling out. Hmm . . . . she may be onto something there.
Try a New Sandwich
Today there are sandwiches being sold in St. Louis that would rival Dagwood’s creations in height and content. Taste enhancers include such things as tomato jam, goat cheese, chutney, caramelized onions, pickled carrots, and sautéed mushrooms. No doubt about it, sandwich building has become an art form. We’ve come a long way since the Earl ate salted beef between slices of toasted bread.
Options to Bologna on Wonder Bread
- Reuben or Rachel: A Reuben is grilled after filling rye slices with corn beef, sauerkraut, cheese, and Russian dressing. Rachel is the sliced turkey, coleslaw, and Swiss cheese version.
- Sloppy Joe, a crumbled beef mixture topped with cheese and heaped inside a hamburger roll. Quick, easy and beloved by all ages
- Shawarma, a Mediterranean sandwich of roasted meats cut from a vertical, cone-like spit, and topped with tahini, tabbouleh, or hummus and snuggled into a round of pita bread. (Pronounced: shuh-wor-muh)
- Pulled Pork, I put a pork roast in the Crockpot overnight along with some onions, and can of beer.
- Croque Monsieur, thin slices of beef and cheese grilled between bread slices. The Croquet Madam add a poached or fried egg for an open face sandwich.
- Monte Cristo, a fried version of the Croque-Monsieur. Made with ham, cheese, a bit of mustard, and mayonnaise, then dipped in egg and cooked like French toast.
- Torta, the Mexican submarine, gets steak slice, peppers, onions, cheese, beans, and avocado served hot, or cold, on a bun or roll.
- Bagel with cream cheese and lox, served open-faced on a bagel enhanced with cream cheese and often tomatoes, capers and/or cucumbers.
- Gyro, a Mediterranean sandwich of lamb, or a combo of lamb and beef, generously seasoned with herb and spices with added tomatoes, onions, lettuce, Topped with tzatziki sauce and served on pita. (Pronounced:: yee-roh. rhymes with “hero.” The “G” is completely silent.
- Po’boy, eat this one at Central Grocery in NOLA whenever possible.
- Pan Bagnat, a French picnic sandwich of raw vegetables, hard boiled eggs, anchovies, and/or tuna.
When the Hotdog Saved Democracy
The Roosevelts served King George VI and the Queen of England their first hotdogs when they visited the “colonies” in 1939. The royal couple were the first reigning British monarchy to set foot on American soil. The Queen inquired of the President how the hotdog should be eaten.
The King followed FDR’s advice, but the Queen used a knife and fork. The event was later called the Hotdog Summit of 1939. The friendly visit between the two leaders caused a greater willingness among Americans to join Great Britain in World War II.
Name Your Sandwich Shop
You won’t go wrong with these local sandwich shops: Fozzie’s, Mom’s, Carl’s Deli on Clayton Road, Gioia’s on the Hill and Creve Coeur, Posh Nosh, Protzel’s, Nathaniel Reid, and Blues City Deli . . . and so many more I’ve yet to try.