As you know, it is the prime picnic season here in New Zealand. Even though it is Autumn our temperatures are still screaming “summertime”. Remember my post about picnics? If not, here it is; Cake Crumbs and Beach Sand. Well, this got me thinking about the good old common sandwich. Which would be a delight alongside cake and sand. Despite the apparent backlash against all things that are carbohydrates and gluten.
The sandwich has endured.
As it should, it takes just a few moments to conjure up a mighty tasty light meal, I say light, though that all depends on what goes into the said sandwich. Can be filled with whatever is around. Eaten with one hand.
Over the years there has, or I should say still is some debate about what constitutes a sandwich. Whether it’s distinct from a burger, bagel or slider, and where a wrap or gozleme fits in.
Even the most traditional sandwich, British in origin still involves the construction of placing two slices of bread and a filling of some sort. It does take years of practice and some know-how from previous generations.
The perfect one has to be not too dry and definitely not too soggy. Remember those tomato sandwiches in your school lunchbox? You may also like to do some de-seeding of the tomatoes and sweating the cucumbers to avoid the latter. The next big question is, and the most crucial ingredient is what type of bread do you use? What else are you going to glue the filling to the bread, butter, mustard or mayonnaise?
Then there is the debate on how to cut the sandwich.
It has been said that cutting across is more acceptable years ago as triangular sandwiches were considered a bit common. Googling “sandwiches, square or triangular” you might be directed to a programme on NPR (the American public radio organisation) in which they actually debated the question, with chefs, foodies, an architect, and a mathematician, who all agreed on the visual superiority of the diagonal. It allows for better display of a sandwich’s interior. The architect compared the diagonally cut sandwich to a burlesque dancer. “Covered enough to be clothed, but uncovered enough to be very, very appealing.”
If the bread is soft enough, though, you can just fold it. Or you could roll your sandwiches, why limit the aesthetic of the asparagus roll to asparagus? If you want to get fancy about it, you could stick one slice on top of the other, pinch and crimp it at the edges and then cut the crusts off. That’s what a US company did when it developed frozen packets of peanut butter and jelly crustless crimped sandwiches – it even tried to copyright the cut of their sandwiches, without success.
Sandwiches are wonderfully adaptable to social trends. A fashionable bakery I frequently walk by serves artisanal sandwiches with kumara, fermented-oat or seeded bread that can be filled with things like smoked kahawai or salmon gravlax, spring onion labneh or whipped bottarga (don’t ask me) and carrot or pear kimchi.
The sandwich can, of course, be the site of contemporary anxieties. Not so long ago, peanut butter sandwiches were banned from primary schools, to protect children with peanut allergies. The consensus now is that children with peanut allergies aren’t likely to suffer an anaphylactic attack unless they actually eat someone else’s peanut butter sandwich, and by the time they get to primary school they’re smart enough not to. It’s unclear whether recent studies suggesting that preserved meats are carcinogenic will put people off their ham or bacon sandwiches. I suspect it may not.
The beauty of the sandwich is that practically anything goes. Some suggestions have included outrageous combinations such as peanut butter and cabbage, and walnuts, lettuce, and pineapple.
We have made our own bread by hand and the use of a breadmaker off and on for years. Devoured all sorts of sandwiches filled with delightful bits and bobs from the fridge. Even concocting up some bizarre combinations. Cold baked bean sandwich anyone? We were also known to take some to work, not the baked bean variety, for obvious reasons.
Then there was the day I read of a more creative and adventurously even, use of leftover soup that had been hardened into a spread. Not surprisingly it was called a soup sandwich. Much to the horror of myself and even more so when I naughtily suggested it to the Squire. He, of course, rejected it before we could even try it. I thought he was such a killjoy. It could be argued that we dip bread into soup, so why not slap some cold soup on our bread? No, I’m not about to even contemplate doing that. Don’t let me stop you experimenting with your next yummy sandwich. What’s mine? Crunchy peanut butter and banana, between two slices of Vogels, usually enjoyed after a good bout of exercise. The Squires ultimate is cheese and onion between slices of his homemade bread.
So, tell me what your favourite combination is?