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Sandwich Time

Dagwood snapshot Dagwood
by John Raven, Ph.B.

The most popular version of the invention of the sandwich is that John Montague, the 4th Earl of Sandwich, ordered sliced cold meat between two slices of bread so he could eat and not get his hands greasy while playing cards.

A sandwich is some foodstuff placed between two slices of bread. The exception that proves the rule is the open face sandwich, which just piles the filling atop a single slice of bread.

The sandwich came to the United States with the European immigrants. My German ancestors had a liking for "Butterbrot", literally butter on bread. My German aunts and uncles still used the term and were especially fond of their butterbrot. There was a version popular in my family known as butter bread and jelly without the jelly. I don't remember which of the cousins coined that phrase. My mother said her school lunch often was a lard sandwich. Bread smeared with hog lard with a bit of sugar on it.

In my first six years in school, every day at noon I had a lunchmeat sandwich. I found out later that the correct name for the lunchmeat was pressed ham. Two slices of bread, one slice of pressed ham and a bit of lettuce was what I had. I did not like mayonnaise or mustard, so the sandwiches were a tad dry.

Our lunchmeat came from Mrs. Henderson's neighborhood store on the Old Thorndale Road in Taylor, Texas. Mrs. Henderson had a meat case where the lunchmeat was kept. The pressed ham came in a can about sixteen inches long and about four inches square. The new can had a key that you used to open it like a can of Spam. The slicing machine delivered as many slices as you wanted and as thick as you wanted them. I'm fairly sure there was baloney in a big stick in the case, too, but we only used pressed ham.

Today there are a lot of different sandwiches available. Technically, a hamburger is a sandwich as is a hot dog. Of course, anything rolled up in bread is a "wrap", and if it's in a tortilla, it is not a sandwich.

The more popular sandwiches of the modern era are:

The Sub (short for submarine)
Tradition is these were invented to serve the submariners around the submarine training station in Connecticut. Subs are built on long loaves of French bread and can contain about anything.
The Philly cheese steak
A sandwich in a sliced roll with steak and melted cheese.
The BLT
Bacon, lettuce and tomato between toasted bread slices became popular with the soda fountains. Very simple, very good.
The Club
A double-decker sandwich with lots of everything usually cut into quarters and held together with a toothpick.
The Ruben
This is a combination of corned beef, sauerkraut and Swiss cheese.
The Grilled Cheese
American cheese between two slices of toasted bread and then skillet grilled until the cheese melts.
The Melt
As in tuna or patty melt, it's very like a grilled cheese sandwich with tuna or a hamburger patty added.
The Dagwood
Named after the very popular comic strip character Dagwood Bumstead. Dagwood was famous for constructing sandwiches that stood about eight inches tall when completed. Contents were anything found around the house that fit.
The Turger Burger
This was invented by Hondo Crouch at Luckenbach, Texas. It was a limp piece of lettuce b
In the broiling hot Texas summers, a cold sandwich is a treat. You can have cold, crisp lettuce and the best tomatoes ever to go on your sandwich.

Ham is probably the meat of choice. The ham can be sliced right off the whole ham or it can be obtained packaged forty-six different ways in the deli section of your supermarket. The deli section can also provide baloney (bologna), salami, roast beef, summer sausage, olive loaf, pickle loaf and turkey, either dark or light, roasted or smoked.

There is a lot of cheese out there, too, sliced just right for a sandwich. American is probably the most popular, followed closely by Swiss. You can have a lot of fun and get a good cheese education selecting cheeses for your sandwiches.

The "smear" you use on your sandwich is a matter of personal choice. Mayonnaise is very popular, as is mustard. Of course, there are a dozen different kinds of mustard out there now and flavored mayonnaise called sandwich spread.

The bread is also a matter of personal choice. The sandwich bread you see on the shelves is merely thin sliced, gummy white bread. I prefer a fresh hamburger bun for construction of one of my special sandwiches. Various buns and rolls also work for sandwiches. If your supermarket has a bakery or there is a bakery handy, find when they put out the fresh merchandise. It's worth the extra trouble to a real sandwich lover.

Right now, my favorite sandwich is my heart-healthy noonday sandwich. That would be two slices of low-calorie whole wheat bread, two thin slices of pressed ham, a slice of American or Swiss cheese accompanied by sliced tomato and crisp, cold lettuce. The bottom slice of bread gets a nice smear of yellow mustard; next a ham slice goes on, the slice of cheese topped by the other slice of ham. (There is method in this madness; the cheese is slick whereas the ham has traction and the tomato does not slip off the ham as it would slip off the cheese.) Next come the tomato slices and finally the lettuce. Press it down and put a napkin around it. Mighty good and filling.

My favorite sandwiches

Hot barbecue brisket sandwich
Sturdy bread topped with hot sliced brisket, ketchup, pickle and onion. You need two napkins for one of these.
Cold roast beef sandwich
This one was a favorite when I was driving the truck. Sliced cold roast beef topped with ketchup and Tabasco. Very simple and very good.
Spam Sandwich
This one can be done cold or hot. Two slices of regular Spam topped with a slice of cheese between two slices of white bread. The Spam salad sandwich is here, too. Spam salad between white bread. (You can find my Spam salad recipe over in Traditional Texas Food in my article Is This Spam?.
Again, as with the biggest part of what I recommend, you are not bound by hard and fast rules. Experiment and find what works best for you.

Schmeckt gut ja?

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