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The Sandwich

Posted on September 11, 2019 at 6:00 am

By Abra Cole

Earlier this month as my family prepared for a day-long excursion into Glacier National Park from our campsite, we discussed easy travel options for lunch. We had pasta salad and salami and cream cheese rolls, along with other not-so-typical camping fare. Ultimately most of us opted for a good old fashioned sandwich—simple, packable, and customizable per individual tastes!

Ah, the sandwich. From the simple PB and J to the more complex BLT, plus the club, turkey and Swiss, grilled cheese (my personal favorite), French dip, Panini, Reuben, egg salad, and beyond, there are endless ways to enjoy this hiker-friendly travel food.

THE INFORMAL POLL

I will, of course, eat any variation of grilled cheese that you set in front of me, but my all-time favorite would be grilled cheese simplicity. Fresh sourdough bread, lightly buttered, with medium or sharp cheese slices, and if I have it on hand, maybe a few thinly sliced pieces of avocado nestled between the melted cheeses.  

But, that’s just me. I was curious to see where grilled cheese fell in the list of top favorite sandwiches, so I began an informal poll of coworkers here at the library.

I started, and quickly fled, many friendly discussions that turned heated when I asked my coworkers to describe their favorite sandwich. Faces turned sour, and scoffs could be heard echoing around employee break rooms as people disagreed about the best sandwich. 

A few poll participants knew immediately, others had to ponder the question. I loved the details I received from some: Turkey, provolone, black olives, salt and pepper, mustard. The lists went on.

Others answered more vaguely: “Well. . . turkey. And. . . cheese?” This usually required some prompting. Most listed several favorites. The one thing everyone could agree on was that we all like sandwiches.

So, what is the most perfect sandwich?

Is it homemade bread combined with fancy and unique ingredients? Or is it simple comfort food, a throwback to school lunches that were packaged with an occasional note from a parent?

Ultimately, there is no single winner. For as many individuals I polled, I received as many responses. The perfect sandwich is in the eye—or shall we say, taste buds—of the beholder.

HISTORY OF THE SANDWICH

While the sandwich may seem as American as apple pie and fireworks, it wasn’t created here.

According to History.com, the sandwich as we know and love it today first came into existence in 1762 England. It originated in the hands of John Montagu, the 4th Earl of—you guessed it—Sandwich. Lord Sandwich was a known gambler and wanted something he could eat without moving from his spot at the gambling table and without the use of knife and fork, basically something he could lift with one hand while still gambling with the other. His friends began requesting the culinary innovation by name, and the “sandwich” was born.

SO, WHAT IS A SANDWICH?

The Oxford English Dictionary defines sandwich in these ways: “An item of food consisting of two pieces of bread with a filling between them, eaten as a light meal”; “A sponge cake of two or more layers with jam or cream between (British)”; and “Something that is constructed like or has the form of a sandwich.”

Here is my stance on types of food that fall under the category of sandwich.

Is a hamburger a sandwich? Yes.

Is a tortilla wrap a sandwich? Yes.

Is a pita a sandwich? Of course!

Is a quesadilla a sandwich? Bread-like item with cheese nestled between! Absolutely.

Is a hot dog a sandwich? According to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council, the answer is no. Why? Because, as they say, it is not a sandwich because it is a hot dog. Well, okay then.

Where can you enjoy a sandwich? Anywhere. Literally, anywhere. Trailside, gambling table, airplane, bus stop, pogo stick, library (no messes please!), picnic in the park, roller coaster. . . .

Do you disagree? Let’s discuss. Either way, keep reading for some mouth-watering recipe book suggestions.

SWEET SANDWICHES

Here are my favorite sweet sandwiches.

Camping sandwich: S’more

Book suggestion: S’mores: Gourmet Treats for Every Occasion, by Lisa Adams

Ice cream sandwich: Strawberry, hazelnut & maple waffle

Book suggestion: Ice Cream & Friends: 60 Recipes & Riffs for Sorbets, Sandwiches, No-Churn Ice Creams and More, by the editors of Food52

Cookie sandwich: Oreo. What else? It’s the perfect cookie sandwich.

Recipe suggestion: If you want to try your hand at a DIY Oreo, this recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction looks promising.

UNCONVENTIONAL SANDWICHES

We can’t talk about sandwiches without mentioning a few that don’t fall into the typical PB and J category. Some of the tastiest “sandwiches” are not even between two slices of bread!

Savory puff pastry sandwich: Chicken Marsala pocket

Book suggestion: Prep-Ahead Breakfasts & Lunches: 75 No-Fuss Recipes to Save You Time & Money, by Alea Milham

Kid-friendly sandwich: Anything from Funky Lunch: Happy Food for Happy Children, by Mark Northeast.

Some of the designs in Funky Lunch are time consuming, but bread that has been cut into fun shapes is sure to entertain any kid at lunch time. So, never fear—the library has you covered.

Library bonus hack: Make a bread cutter (like a cookie cutter) using the library’s 3D printer. You can browse Thingiverse to find shapes people have already made and shared!

Open-faced sandwich: Tomato, avocado, and cottage cheese

Book suggestion: Open Sandwiches: 70 Smørrebrød Ideas for Morning, Noon and Night, by Trine Hahnemann

Hahnemann shares that rye bread is in integral part of Danish culture. While the open-faced nature of all of her recipes suggest more of an appetizer than a meal, I wanted to eat almost all of them. The photos of her recipes are so light and crisp—all the ingredients look amazing. She uses potatoes, duck, and rhubarb, to name a few of the more unusual ingredients.

This list of sandwiches is by no means comprehensive. Sandwiches, and their ingredients, are as unique as their creators. Here are a few other recipe books to sink your teeth into!

Well, my dear sandwich connoisseurs, at this point if you’re not desperately ravenous for a sandwich, any sandwich, I have completely failed. I, on the other hand, can think of nothing else at the moment. Excuse me while I go eat another sandwich.

Disclaimer: No sandwiches were harmed in the writing of this blog.

Actually, that’s not true.

Multiple sandwiches were devoured during the writing of this blog post. In fact, I’m eating one right now.

Abra Cole

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