Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Remember Blondie Bumstead, née Boopadoop?

I noted in a post the other day that the 4th Earl of Sandwich was not a very interesting character, but the same cannot be said of the things which may or may not have been named after him. Unlike Cleopatra, age does tend to wither them, but custom cannot stale their infinite variety: other foods cloy the appetites they feed, but they make hungry where most they satisfy.

Here are just a few:

The Reuben sandwich is a New York Jewish creation, combining corned beef and Emmenthal with sauerkraut on pumpernickel, the whole being grilled.

A club sandwich first appeared in print in 1903. It is usually a three-decker toast affair with chicken, lettuce, mayonnaise, tomato and bacon. Some believe that it was originally a two-decker, perhaps matching the two-decker 'club cars' running on US railroads from 1895.

The BLT is another popular and long-established item in North America and also wherever Americans go, which is everywhere.

The Dagwood is a colossal, overstuffed and many-layered sandwich favoured by the character of that name in the comic strip called Blondie.

The submarine, or torpedo (in New Orleans) is a long and substantial cylindrical sandwich, consisting of French bread generously filled with various savoury ingredients.

That's enough about varieties of sandwichius americanus. Sandwiches were a European invention from around 1760, and the English have two slang terms for them: butties are North country and long established and sarnies are more recent. In terms of gentility, the Liverpool chip butty is at the opposite end of the spectrum from the delicate little cucumber sandwiches (crusts cut off) which would have been served, for example, when the two old ladies went for tea with the vicar (though of course on that occasion the vicar had to eat them all himself).

Finally, back to the United States for a recent news item which I have not yet been able to verify: I heard that at the annual Peanut Festival in Plains, Georgia, the 2008 JimmyC Prize for the best Peanut Butter 'n Jelly Sandwich was won not by a native of the state as was usually the case, but by a guitar-playing law professor from Greensboro, NC, whose recipe controversially included a layer of curried sushi.


eric said...

It's funny that the Reuben should have come to be thought of as a typically Jewish sandwich, since the combination of corned beef and cheese renders it non-kosher. But they are delicious.

Your British readers may, or may not, be interested in the many regional variations on the "submarine" sandwich. In New York, where I grew up, it is most often called a "hero" or "sub". Six-foot long versions (sliced, I hasten to add, into manageable portions) were popular fare for informal parties. In New England, the usual name is "grinder". In the Philadelphia region, it is a "hoagie" (the proper version of which is served on an oblong hard-crusted roll, rather than Italian bread). And in New Orleans and other parts of the south, there is the "po' boy" (as well as the "torpedo" which you mention).

Tony said...

Yes, thank you, Eric. To be honest, none of the concoctions you and I have described are a real treat, are they? Except perhaps the cucumber thins, crusts off, with a pot of Earl Grey; just the thing after a good day with the Pytchley.

eric said...

I must confess a fondness for the Philadelphia hoagie. On a proper crusty roll, with good salami, ham, and cheese, topped with some hot peppers, it is a very satisfying lunch.

I neglected to mention before the most outre version I've ever encountered of the American "overstuffed" sandwich. Primanti Bros., a beloved Pittsburgh institution, serves sandwiches on thick slices of white bread, in which the basic filling (which can be more or less any kind of meat, tuna fish, etc.) is topped with cheese, cole slaw, and french fries (chips to you). It is an unwieldy, unhealthy, and unexpectedly enjoyable treat, but something that would surely give any vicar apoplexy.