Friday, November 02, 2012

The Day of the Sandwich.

Tomorrow is the birthday anniversary of John Montague, Fourth Earl of Sandwich, in 1718. As we all know, the Earl was most decidedly not the inventor of the snack that bears his name but which is nevertheless inextricably linked with it. I am reliably informed that tomorrow has been designated ‘Sandwich Day’ in his honour, and also to provide a marketing opportunity for those in the bread and filling businesses.

I was surprised to discover that it was not until two centuries after the Earl’s birth that the sandwich really took off as a take-out lunch option for the busy businessman. At least, that is how I interpret the following article, which appeared in the New York Times of November 2, 1924.

Sandwiches Flourishing.
The day of the sandwiches has arrived. It is so proclaimed by placards and posters plastered over the business districts. A new type of lunchroom substantiates the announcement - the 'sandwich house.' It may offer side lines of hot dishes and pastries, but to sandwiches it owes its existence. For them it is known and patronized. In its turn it has served to change the status of the commodity. 'A sandwich used to represent a picnic or a pink tea,' commented one business man addicted to the habit. 'At best it was just a mouthful of something to eat to tide you over until mealtime. Now it is lunch. You may order something to keep it company, but the sandwich is the main thing. It is the corn beef and cabbage, the steak and onions, the liver and bacon of other years.' Restaurant keepers agree. One of them in the financial district, who presides over a chain of sandwich buffets, believes he has hit upon the secret of the business man's desire for his midday meal. Once he was manager of a large hotel where men came in leisurely, ordered lavishly and ate copiously. That day is gone, he is convinced, as he watches throngs file past his counters and stacks of sliced bread, meat and cheese disappear. At one of his lunchrooms he feeds 700 at every lunch hour. When the day is over 1,000 sandwiches have usually been consumed. Only 25 per cent of his patrons, he estimated, call for hot dishes - the rest are sandwich eaters. This development has brought with it all the machinery of sandwich-making, now becoming as common a feature of restaurant windows as the hot cake steam plate New Yorkers know so well. There is a machine that slices the loaves and another that slices the meat. This last, at the press of a button, cuts and stacks ham, tongue, beef and so on without touch of human hands. Sandwich-making is thus facilitated and sandwiches themselves have changed not only in status but also in stature and girth. These sandwiches have little in common with the link tea or picnic offering or even with those pressed slabs in waxed paper piled up at soda fountains, for the business man's lunch is a high stack of bread, meat and salad, combined, and they make it as you order. The vogue of the sandwich is attributed to a considerable extent to the rush of modern business life. Men have no time to sit around leisurely waiting for large orders. They must grab a bite, preferably wholesome and satisfying, but essentially without delay. The sandwich has been found to fill the need. Education, too, it is said, has something to do with the matter. 'Ever since the war people have seemed to understand eating better than they did before,' said one restaurant keeper. 'Before the war you could not get away with the idea that a sandwich was enough lunch for a business man. But somehow they have come to the conviction that a light lunch is the best thing if they expect to go back to the office and do their best during the afternoon. They have heard, too, that salads are good for you and so they have tried them out and felt much better for the experiment. Salads and sandwiches - they are the style for a business man's lunch today. That is what they want and that is what they get.

The Times of India, on September 11, 1931, gave some ideas for ‘unusual sandwiches’ which are very appropriate for our topic today, although admittedly the suggestions were specifically for picnic sandwiches. I cannot give you all of the recipes, as the ink is blurred in places and the text impossible to read.

Some Unusual Sandwiches.
Varied Fillings which are Sure to Please.
Liver and Bacon Sandwiches.
Cut up small six ounces of calves’ liver and three ounces of uncooked bacon, add a teaspoonful of crushed peppercorns [?], a little chopped parsley, and a bayleaf, and a pinch each of salt and pepper.
Put together into one ounce of hot fat [?] in a frying pan over [word?] heat for six minutes, stirring all the time. Sieve, and when cold, use in sandwiches.

Fig Sandwiches.
Chop some figs finely, add sufficient water almost to cover, and cook in a […} saucepan to a pulp. Heat [presumably a typo for ‘Beat’] to a smooth beast, with a few drops of lemon juice, and spread between buttered bridge rolls.

Green Pea Sandwiches.
Pound four ounces of cooked peas and mix with one finely-chopped hard-[boiled?] egg. Add half a teaspoonful each of salt and pepper. Use between buttered bread or bridge rolls.

Egg and Chutney Sandwiches.
Pound together the hard-boiled yolks of two eggs, two ounces of butter, one teaspoonful of chopped chutney, and salt and pepper to season.
Sieve and spread fairly thickly between buttered bread slices.


Anonymous said...

"Pink tea"? Is that meant to mean a frou-frou ladies' meal instead of a proper substantial working-man's tea?

The Old Foodie said...

Sorry for the late response, Sandra - I dont know where my time goes!
'Pink teas' or 'pink luncheons' were in fact very popular for ladies and brides-to-be at the time. Also, for the brides, sometimes white teas or lunches. I have several menus for them - maybe a post next week?