Saturday, April 19, 2008

That's not a sandwich, this is a sandwich

When I was in Britain for about a week to write a report in the late 1990s I wandered out of the building at lunchtime to look for something to eat. I ordered a ham and cheese sandwich at a place that advertised sandwiches and was somewhat disappointed in what was served. Thinking that this was the consequence of a poor choice in lunch counters, I tried a different place on each successive day of the week with no better result and left Britain wondering whether there was something I had missed. It was a curious thought given that sandwiches were named after John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich, who allegedly popularized them as comestibles at the gambling table.

It turns out that there is now a "British Sandwich Association" dedicated to upgrading the quality of John Montagu's legacy. The BBC carries an article describing its heroic efforts to reduce the amount of salt used to season them. Fortunately for me, the BBC article also features a picture of the kind of sandwiches I remember from my lunch counter misadventures in the Sceptered Isle, so I didn't imagine them.

It has since dawned on me that the food must have been decent enough in its own way, but my perception of sandwiches had been permanently typed by previous acquaintance with the American article known as a hoagie, grinder, sub, triple decker, strollers or Italians or more generically, Plate. Though I'm no expert, I think the concept of a sandwich in some some countries is of a light refreshment; a stopgap between real meals. It's not really the same thing one would expect from a decent deli, accompanied by whole dill pickle, a side of potato salad or fries and a Big Gulp serving of pop, soda, soft drink or whatever else it happens to be called.

I wish some enterprising graduate student would write a treatise on the philosophy of sandwiches and its correlation with national character. Though I'm uncertain how, I think they somehow correlate. The point came home when I saw someone surfing a Detroit sandwich review site. You wouldn't associate Detroit with cuisine. But consider this slideshow depicting the search for Metro Detroit's best sandwiches. And then there's New York. Those items embody a different concept from sandwiches as some other people understand them.








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46 Comments:

Blogger whiskey_199 said...

British food is truly horrible. I don't understand it.

New Zealand food, even the most obscure places in the North and South Island, is fantastic though. Amazing and delicious.

But you could do worse than head from California through Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina, sampling roadside diners. Amarillo has some amazing places. You would not believe the BBQ beef there.

4/19/2008 12:05:00 AM  
Blogger Pyrthroes said...

Chinese, French cuisine is excellent; German and Spanish offerings have real UMPF; but we'll take Italian, high on a cliff with even a mediocre carafe of vintage Red. Lucretia Borgia may unstop a vial, Neapolitans may slip a dirk between your ribs... but Italians know to live high and well.

Ah, the Roast Beef of Olde England! Where is Henry VIII, now we need him most?

4/19/2008 03:28:00 PM  
Blogger Annoymouse said...

Wretch,
I hope that your new site has a dot com. Blogger has been blocked at work for a year or two now really messin' with my lunch break.

The concept of sandwich in the US is more akin to a multicourse meal sometime betraying practicallity in eating them with out requiring a change of cloths and a shower. Witness the stack of the Dagwood. While in Barbados I was introduced to the Cutter. Stale bread with a small sliver of ham and cheese. The British screwed the sandwich in Barbados. Better luck in the Sandwich Islands.

4/19/2008 03:34:00 PM  
Blogger RWE said...

Whiskey199: It is said that during the Falklands War the British captured a Argentinian officer and tried to interrogate him. He was resistant to their methods, and when told of this a British reporter responded. “Hah! Well, we will see how long his resolve lasts with six inches of Cold British Food in him!” No wonder the British don’t have their own Gitmo – incarceration there would be a Death Sentence.

On one of my first trips between South Carolina and Washington DC, I stopped at a small local restaurant in deepest North Carolina. Seeing that they offered one of my favorite Southern Delicacies, the pork Bar B Q sandwich, I ordered one. When asked if I wanted cold slaw with it I responded “Yes” and was astonished beyond words when they plopped the scoop of cold slaw right down atop the meat. Beyond words was a good thing, too - I barely avoided shouting “Good God! How horrible! Are you people mad?” To my way of thinking this was the equivalent of ordering a hamburger and milk shake and having them pour the shake on the sandwich.

And this cultural shock and culinary outrage occurred less than two hundred and fifty miles from where I was born and bred, among fellow Carolinians who, by all rights were at least cousins if not true brethren.

Their pork BBQ is quite good, too, if a bit different from ours of further South – at least, if you can snatch it away from their tender mercies fast enough.

4/19/2008 04:14:00 PM  
Blogger Julia said...

My dear, you missed nothing. Well, except good food, I mean. I've had more hideous sandwiches in Britain than anywhere else. Two limp slices of bread, one slice of ham, and (perhaps) a slice of cheese. Utterly unappetizing. In future, try locating (expensive) wine bars and also pubs, which offer "pub grub" - generally simple fare, which (might) be superior. We hope.

4/19/2008 04:30:00 PM  
Blogger Teresita said...

rwe: No wonder the British don’t have their own Gitmo – incarceration there would be a Death Sentence.

Unless you are talking about suicidal maniacs who want to die:

At one stage during the battle, stories were circulating at the British headquarters that Iraqi troops were demanding food and water from coalition forces at gunpoint.

4/19/2008 04:32:00 PM  
Blogger I'm your daisey said...

In Iraq a favorite is chicken drumsticks baked in fig sauce
(Afkhadh al-Dijaj bil-Teen)

It's great

4/19/2008 04:41:00 PM  
Blogger Wretchard said...

When I expanded the definition of "food" in Britain to include beer things became decidedly better. Instead of going to a sandwich shop I attempted a public house and ordered a "Ploughman's Lunch" on the next to the last day. That was considerably better than the advertised sandwiches and it was helped along by a large mug of beer.

So I think it is a different concept. There will be nothing like a Reuben knocked back by a giant paper cup of Dr. Pepper. Instead you will eat less food but drink more beer.

4/19/2008 04:58:00 PM  
Blogger RWE said...

Did y’all know that Irish Coffee was not invented by the Irish but by none other than Pan American Airlines? It was a beverage for passengers on the Atlantic run, served at a cold, windswept artificial island out in the Atlantic that Pam Am built as a refueling stop.

I suppose that they needed something to both warm the passengers as well as numb them enough to convince them to reboard that vibrating monster of a seaplane for the rest of the trip.

I wonder if Long Island Ice Tea was invented for a similar transportation purpose.

4/19/2008 05:00:00 PM  
Blogger Utopia Parkway said...

Damn you Wretchard. I will never get back the two minutes I spent watching that English nutjob make a butter and bacon sandwich on white. I can't even say what he made without cracking up. Butter and Bacon on white. Oh brother. All washed down with a cuppa tay. Can you say "heart attack by age 30?"

OTOH, I am literally salivating here after looking through the Detroit sandwiches slideshow. I'd rather have the grilled tofu sandwich than butter and bacon on white.

This reminds me of a funny story told me by a scot. He was in the US for the first time and on a job interview/breakfast. He was unacquainted with American breakfast styles or options.

He was deep in conversation with the fellow interviewing him when the waitress asked him what he wanted for breakfast. Eggs. How did he want them? Um cooked? Sunny side up, over easy, hard boiled etc? Um, Sunny side up. Did he want toast with that? Um, yes. White, whole wheat, rye? Um, white. Did he want meat with that? Um, yes. Bacon, sausage, ham? Um, bacon.

I guess in Scotland you only get one breakfast and no options. Even though he appeared totally clueless I think he did get the job.

4/19/2008 05:10:00 PM  
Blogger Charles said...

The choir at my church on sunday mornings has a pot luck. The women bring all kinds of interesting dishes. I go to the local Giant & buy some deviled eggs. They're always among the first foods to disappear.

4/19/2008 05:35:00 PM  
Blogger bobal said...

lutefisk and smorgasboard or you haven't lived--bob

4/19/2008 05:59:00 PM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

May we assume that the Brits show a corresponding lack of heft personally due to their anemic sandwiches?

4/19/2008 06:23:00 PM  
Blogger bobal said...

It's those 'academic' sandwiches are gettin' 'em. The Btits. All goes to the head, nothing to the muscles, and loins.:)

4/19/2008 06:27:00 PM  
Blogger bobal said...

The Brits. Too many acadenic sandwiches.

4/19/2008 06:29:00 PM  
Blogger bobal said...

academic for goodness sakes...

4/19/2008 06:30:00 PM  
Blogger Marcus Aurelius said...

In Heaven:
*The cooks are Italian
*The police are British
*The Mechanics are German

In Hell:
*The cooks are British
*The Police are German
*The Mechanics are Italian

The reuben is my favorite. Real pumpernickel bread, some russian salad dressing, some corned beef, a big pile of saurekrat, and swiss cheese. Makes the long cold winters more bearable!

4/19/2008 08:05:00 PM  
Blogger hdgreene said...

Beans on toast. That's kind of a sandwich, isn't it?

4/19/2008 08:09:00 PM  
Blogger Reliapundit said...

hillel invented the sandwich.

google it.

4/19/2008 09:41:00 PM  
Blogger Cannoneer No. 4 said...

It was a jarring realization to discover on Brighton Beach Pier that authentic British fish and chips are inferior to Long John Silver's or Captain D's. They don't even have hush puppies!

Stopped at a choke and puke on the M20 for breakfast earlier that morning. Lovely eggs, thick bacon, pretty much just like home, except they plopped half a can of cold canned beans on my plate!. Can any Brit Belmont Clubbers explain that to me?

4/19/2008 10:20:00 PM  
Blogger davis,br said...

Okay. I - ahem - disagree. About Brit' food.

We spent our honeymoon in the UK (mostly in Wales, but a few nights in London, and elsewhere); the first time I'd ever traveled anywhere, really (my wife's the seasoned traveler ...been everywhere, or so it seemed/seems to me).

In a London pub our first night in Kensington, I had lamb with mint sauce. It was simply superb. EVERY time - and everywhere - I had fish & chips, it was great, and superior to the pale Long John Silver imitation (admittedly, I've only tried this twice). I had a salmon dinner in a lovely litle family tavern one evening down some road just outside Abergavveny that was truly lovely ...and the experience was repeated a few days later at this decidedly upscale hotel outside London (on our return back to Heathrow). And so it went.

And I found British cheeses - especially some of the sharps - simply superb (we spent a week at the site of Bronllys Castle outside Talgarth, so I had ample opportunity on the cheeses). I never had a bad meal while we were there.

...and the food was always more than merely "adequate". So I dunno, maybe I was merely lucky (because I can be a raging fanatic about bad food), but I find myself not quite able to join the chorus when it comes to complaining about Brit' food.

Of course ...I never had a sandwich during our sojourn, either ....

4/19/2008 11:22:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

RWE's latest vehicle.
---
British Ales have more food value than our light lagers, so a liquid diet is in order.
---
Just thinking of you Annoy!
Glad you're still there.

4/19/2008 11:26:00 PM  
Blogger Random User said...

Hmm, beans (and eggs, bacon and chips)

4/20/2008 12:10:00 AM  
Blogger bobal said...

davis, br--you is one well fed man...

4/20/2008 01:02:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

OT:
Another Democratic delegate arrested - the woman arrested for the hoax call to police on the Texas polygamy compound is an Obama delegate

Rozita Swinton, the woman arrested for falsely tipping off the police that she was an abused child bride at the FLDS polygamy cult in Texas, is a pledged Barack Obama delegate. It was her initial false report that started the investigation which has led to the removal of 400 children from their parents' custody. Swinton has a history of filing false police reports, according to this account. The Jawa Report has more.

Rogues gallery of Dem delegates:

4/20/2008 04:11:00 AM  
Blogger rhhardin said...

Woody Allen has an account of the Earl's invention of the sandwich. Longest cite I can find online :

1741: Living in the country on a small inheritance, he works day and night, often skimping on meals to save money for food. His first completed work -- a slice of bread, a slice of bread on top of that, and a slice of turkey on top of both -- fails miserably. Bitterly disappointed, he returns to his studio and begins again.

1745: After four years of frenzied labor, he is convinced he is on the threshold of success. He exhibits before his peers two slices of turkey with a slice of bread in the middle. His work is rejected by all but David Hume, who senses the imminence of something great and encourages him. Heartened by the philosopher's friendship, he returns to work with renewed vigor.

1747: Destitute, he can no longer afford to work in roast beef or turkey and switches to ham, which is cheaper.

1750: In the spring, he exhibits and demonstrates three consecutive slices of ham stacked on one another; this arouses some interest, mostly in intellectual circles, but the general public remains unmoved. Three slices of bread on top of one another add to his reputation, and while a mature style is not yet evident, he is sent for by Voltaire.

1751: Journeys to France, where the dramatist-philosopher has achieved some interesting results with bread and mayonnaise. The two men become friendly and begin a correspondence that is to end abruptly when Voltaire runs out of stamps.

4/20/2008 04:20:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

Reverend Eric Lee’s Anti-Semitism: A Personal Story [video]
(I would remind:
All of the Black Messiah's foreign policy advisors are Pro-Palestinian.)

4/20/2008 04:37:00 AM  
Blogger Jrod said...

I dunno, can you trust a guy who uses suspenders to hold up his sweat pants to teach you how to make the perfect bacon sammich? Plus, he forgot to add the haas avocado wedges and double cut heirloom tomato slices.

Say what you will about English food, but I never miss an opportunity to have an English breakfast. Now that's a meal!

4/20/2008 06:22:00 AM  
Blogger Teresita said...

Doug: Rozita Swinton, the woman arrested for falsely tipping off the police that she was an abused child bride at the FLDS polygamy cult in Texas, is a pledged Barack Obama delegate.

Okay, that's what she has to do with Obama, but what does Obama have to do with her? The sun is none the worse for shining on a dunghill.

4/20/2008 06:52:00 AM  
Blogger Teresita said...

Doug: All of the Black Messiah's foreign policy advisors are Pro-Palestinian.

At least they aren't anti-Semitic. Arabs are Semites too. Descendants of Abraham through his firstborn son Ishmael. The bible says God blesses those who bless Abraham.

4/20/2008 06:55:00 AM  
Blogger Marcus Aurelius said...

Joking aside I spent some time in Ireland and found the food to be a mixed bag. I enjoyed the soups I had while there and found many of the menu themes to be non-surprisingly similar to be what I would expect here in WI. My worst experience with Irish food, though, was a breakfast one.

My brother and I were at a BnB in Tippery Town and we were at breakfast and the sausages where horrible, not that it stopped me.

I had a sandwich at Schipol in (h)Amsterdam and found it be incredible, the bread was so heavenly, but did not dominate the sandwich. I was surprised at how notable the bread was.

Sandwiches for me can be a complete meal in and of themselves (miracle whip, meat, cheese, lettuce, onion, tomato, pickle, vinegar & oil etc) or pulotan when the drunken munchies strike (bread, miracle whip, & meat). They can be hot or cold.

Anyway gotta go and get a...sandwich!

4/20/2008 08:50:00 AM  
Blogger Utopia Parkway said...

At least they aren't anti-Semitic. Arabs are Semites too.

According to the dictionary on my computer:

anti-Semitism noun - hostility to or prejudice against Jews.

Your remark is simply wrong. The definition of anti-Semitism has nothing to do with Semites or Semitic languages. It just means hostility toward Jews.

Anyone who makes the statement you made either doesn't know how to use the dictionary or has some reason to try to muddy the waters by stating ironically that Arabs can't be anti-Semitic, when all evidence shows that they can.

4/20/2008 09:51:00 AM  
Blogger Arkadiy said...

To contribute to "national character" aspect of the post, the Soviet sandwich was a single piece of bread, with butter and some bologna or cheese on it. The second piece of bread on top was considered not quite right.

4/20/2008 09:51:00 AM  
Blogger Teresita said...

Utopia Parkway: Your remark is simply wrong. The definition of anti-Semitism has nothing to do with Semites or Semitic languages. It just means hostility toward Jews.

Oh boy, you found a dictionary to cherry pick. How about getting the full story?

Extracts from the Catholic Encyclopedia:

CHANAANITIC SEMITES

...As regards the Semites in Chanaan itself, the earliest wave of the invasion, which in consequence of subsequent pressure was ultimately pushed forward to the coast, isknown to us under the name of the Phoenicians...


...To the Chanaanitic races settled in Palestine belong also the Hebrew immigrants under Abraham, from whom again the Moabites and Ammonites separated. A people closely related to the Hebrews were also the Edomites in the Seir mountains, who later appear under the name of Idumaeans in Southern Judea. These mountains had before them been settled by the Horities who were partly expelled, partly absorbed by the Edomites. A last wave of the immigration into Chanaan are the Israelites, descendants of the Hebrews, who after centuries of residence in Egypt, and after forty years of nomadic life in the desert, returned to the land of their fathers, of which they took possession after long and weary struggles....

4/20/2008 10:08:00 AM  
Blogger Mad Fiddler said...

It is wonderful that Belmont, in marked contradistinction to most other politically-attentive sites, is able occasionally to wrench its attention free from the snakepit and take a few happy moments to attend to some REALLY IMPORTANT STUFF!

Sandwiches!

The Belmont Comment Stream finally finds its voice...

Corned beef and mayo
tomato and onion mixed
Wrapped by oats and wheat

Roasted Peanuts crushed
yield their wholesome protein mix
with fruit and muffin

Sardines and lettuce
Basil Leaves and cucumbers
Flesh, fruits, cheese and bread

Ahh! Layered delight -
Unexpected reprise of
Entrees fresh conjoined

4/20/2008 10:36:00 AM  
Blogger Utopia Parkway said...

Oh boy, you found a dictionary to cherry pick. How about getting the full story?

I guess you really don't know how to use a dictionary.

What part of hostility to or prejudice against Jews. and The definition of anti-Semitism has nothing to do with Semites or Semitic languages don't you understand?

Try reading this wikipedia entry for the full story. The first several sections explain the history of the term.

4/20/2008 10:37:00 AM  
Blogger Teresita said...

Arkadiy: To contribute to "national character" aspect of the post, the Soviet sandwich was a single piece of bread, with butter and some bologna or cheese on it. The second piece of bread on top was considered not quite right.

In North Korea, outside of the Armed Forces mess halls, sandwiches made from the relatively tender and sweet white roots of grass, between two pieces of a certain variety of tree bark, are a staple of the ordinary people.

4/20/2008 11:34:00 AM  
Blogger Teresita said...

Utopia Parkway: Your remark is simply wrong. The definition of anti-Semitism has nothing to do with Semites or Semitic languages. It just means hostility toward Jews.

Okay, I'll grant you that. Now tell me how being pro-Palestinian translates automatically to being, under the definition you insist upon, anti-Semitic. My original post made the point that Arabs are children of Abraham by blood too. You can't have one side of his family co-opting the entire blessing.

There is a legend in the Talmud which runs like this: that when the Egyptians were drowning in the Red Sea, and Miriam was singing her song of triumph...the angels in heaven began to take up the refrain; but God stopped them saying, "What? My children are drowning and ye would rejoice?'"

The implication, of course, is that people outside one's own little family, religious, or national group are the children of God too. Much too radical to be taught in John Hagee's church, of course.

4/20/2008 11:38:00 AM  
Blogger HobbesDFW said...

I share one of my favorite quotes from the late Richard Adams (himself a Brit), author of the "Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy" series - this one taken from "So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish":

It is by eating sandwiches in pubs on Saturday Lunchtimes that the British seek to atone for whatever their national sins might have been.

4/20/2008 12:39:00 PM  
Blogger Utopia Parkway said...

Okay, I'll grant you that.

Thank you.

Now tell me how being pro-Palestinian translates automatically to being, under the definition you insist upon, anti-Semitic.

I never said that.

You said:

Doug: All of the Black Messiah's foreign policy advisors are Pro-Palestinian.

At least they aren't anti-Semitic. Arabs are Semites too.


Maybe you meant to have a paragraph break after anti-Semitic. You seemed to be saying that Obama's advisors can't possibly be anti-Semitic because Arabs are Semites. It is this that I objected to. Maybe that's not what you really meant.

The statement that "Arabs can't be anti-Semitic because they're Semites" is commonly made by Arabs or Palestinian apologists and is simply wrong. The statement is meant to undermine support for Israel by ironically suggesting that calling something anti-Semitic isn't a valid argument. Needless to say someone making this argument is arguing dishonestly.

4/20/2008 01:57:00 PM  
Blogger Teresita said...

Utopia Parkway: The statement that "Arabs can't be anti-Semitic because they're Semites" is commonly made by Arabs or Palestinian apologists and is simply wrong.

Okay, but this whole sub-thread started when I objected to the subtext, the implication that Obama and his supporters, because they are pro-Palestinian, are automatically anti-Israel. I'm pro-Obama, that doesn't make me anti-Clinton or even anti-McCain. I'm pro-woman, that doesn't make me anti-men. In fact, I can't even wrap my mind around the mentality of people who think in those with-us-or-against-us terms.

4/20/2008 03:46:00 PM  
Blogger M. Simon said...

anti-Semitic is a German euphemism for anti-Jew.

It has nothing to do with Semites as a group.

4/20/2008 08:38:00 PM  
Blogger davod said...

The sandwich may be a Commonwealth problem. In Australia the basic ham sandwich is two slices of buttered bread with a slice of ham inside.

As far as breakfast is concerned, even the Brits (Well, the gourmets)have problems with the British breakfast. Why the great British breakfast is a killer (Take the time to read some of the comments). For me, I love a good old English breakfast, in moderation of course.

Oh! and cold bake beans, just not done old chap.

4/21/2008 07:11:00 AM  
Blogger LarryD said...

So, the cucumber sandwich is typical? I'll stick with a good, old fashioned American hamburger.

"But you could do worse than head from ... sampling roadside diners."

Indeed, Food Network has a program celebrating such eating places.

Teresita, the Palestinians want the annihilation of Israel far more then they want their own state, so, by their own definition to be pro-Palestinian is to be anti-Israel.

4/21/2008 09:04:00 AM  
Blogger Wretchard said...

In Australia the basic ham sandwich is two slices of buttered bread with a slice of ham inside.

Which is why foccacias, wraps and kebabs have filled the ecological niche of lunchtime fare in much of Australia left by the absence of the sandwich. At least as it is understood in the US.

4/21/2008 09:23:00 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

"I wish some enterprising graduate student would write a treatise on the philosophy of sandwiches and its correlation with national character."

Wretch, have I ever told you that you are just one really weird dude?

I mean that in a good, I'd-love-having-lunch-with-you-and-picking-your-brain kind of way, of course. But still very weird.

4/21/2008 10:43:00 AM  

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