Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Sandwiches: The First Instance of Convenience Food

Welcome to Sandwich Week!
Sandwiches are part of our culture, part of our cuisine.  Sandwiches can be a meal in themselves or a light snack.  Sandwiches can be healthy or indulgent, sweet or savory. And they can be eaten for breakfast, lunch or dinner - or in between!
And every culture has their own version of sandwiches -- or more accurately each culture has multiple versions of sandwiches.

For the next week, we will take a closer look at sandwiches, fillings, toppings and accompaniments.
And for our purposes, let's start out by defining sandwiches.  Simply put a sandwich is anything that can be put on a bread or bread-like base and optionally topped with additional bread.

Now, this definition encompasses open faced sandwiches (served on only one layer of bread), sandwiches made with crackers, burritos, wraps, tacos, hamburgers, hot dogs, gyros, panini, tartine, crostini, bruschetta and more!

Anything that can be put into a salad, can be made into a sandwich.
Anything that you think of as a pizza topping, can be made into a sandwich.
Almost anything can be put into a sandwich!

Did you know that sandwiches date back to the first century B.C. with Rabbi Hillel the Elder placing filling between two matzoh during Passover?  From then on, sandwiches have been recorded through out the ages.
During the Middle Ages (6th through 16th century) sandwiches were known as "trenches".  Thick slabs of dried or stale bread were used as plates.   Food was placed on the trench and the then eaten.  The food soaked trench was eaten by some, but most people fed them to dogs or beggars.
In 1762, John Montague, the Fourth Earl of Sandwich ordered his valet to bring him salt meat tucked between two slices of bread.  He requested this for convenience as he wanted to eat at his desk.  Some people dispute this story, and argue that Montague, a known gambler, wanted his food at the gambling table.
In 1936, the Blondie comic strip featured a Dagwood sandwich.  At the time, this was a tongue sandwich, with onion, mustard, sardines, beans and horseradish- fairly popular food from the time.  But, through the years, the Dagwood sandwich has evolved into a mile high sandwich with everything from the kitchen sink.

Now, what do you think are the 10 most popular sandwiches?

10. BLT  - bacon, lettuce, tomato
9. Chip Butty - from the UK, this sandwich features french fries between 2 slices of buttered bread
8. Pan Bagnat -from France, a baguette with tuna, green pepper, red onion, hard boiled egg, olives, tomatoes and vinaigrette
7. Cuban -  a pressed sandwich of roast pork, chicken, salami, pickles, Swiss cheese, mayonaise, yellow mustard between Cuban bread
6. Rueben - Rye bread between a filling of corned beef, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut and mustard
5. Sloppy Joe - seasoned ground beef, with a thick tomato sauce served atop a hamburger bun
4. Grilled Cheese
3. Pulled Pork
2. Philly Cheesesteak - shaved beef grilled with onions, peppers, American cheese on a roll
1. Peanut Butter and Jelly

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