I am in England, still, and having fun. I am travelling between major locations by train, which I like, because I can enjoy the scenery and can’t get lost. Navigation is not one of my strong points. Most of the small number of journeys I am making this time last only a couple of hours, so provisioning is not a big deal. It would be a very big deal, if I was taking longer journeys however, as the little food I have purchased at stations and trains over the years does not leave me slobbering for more.
The novelist Anthony Trollope understood this, when he wrote:
The real disgrace of England is the railway sandwich - that whited sepulchre, fair enough outside, but so meagre, poor, and spiritless within, such a thing of shreds and parings, with a dab of food.
I know that many of you miss the daily quotation which used to be appended to the bottom of every post. I know because I still get emails of mild complaint. I may return to the habit, but it was taking longer to find an un-used quotation than it was to write a post, and something had to give. Railway food, and particularly railway sandwiches are, however, an irresistible subject for pithy quotes, so I give you a few choice examples below. They seem to indicate rather strongly that the American railway sandwich is also not prized by travelers, nor is the Canadian.
The apples of Sodom, which are generally understood to have been in reality railway sandwiches ... (Pearson’s Magazine, Britain, 1898)
At Springfield, yesterday, Representative Mitchell introduced a bill “defining sleeping cars as hotels.” He should introduce another “defining railway sandwiches as paving material.”
Railroad Digest, Vol. 3 (U.S.A. 1893)
The Romans had not always been careful to remove the sandals from the feet of their captives, and these had been as hard for the dragon to digest as railway sandwiches are for us. (John L. Stoddard’s Lectures, 1899.)
The railway sandwich Mr. McGee said, could be used as an example of a plot to drive away rail passengers. “These sandwiches consist of two pieces of bread ingeniously designed to turn into lumps of lead after they have been swallowed, filled with a microscopic film of what appears to be lard, but what is probably uncolored margarine.” An example of the sandwich situation was “a piece of the most tired cheese it has ever been my misfortune to consume.” One could have ham instead, but these sandwiches were “about as pleasurable and delightful to eat as an old piece of shoe leather. (Ottawa, House of Commons, May 19, 1961)
I was inspired, if that is not too lofty a word, to make railway food a topic for today’s post by the following little recipe. I assume, because it is a small pudding, that it was not an item to be purchased at a railway station café, but was made at home in preparation for the journey, to enable that little ordeal to be avoided.
Railway Puddings (Ireland.)
Required, two ounces of butter beaten with a teacupful of flour; add a teacupful of castor sugar, a small tablespoonful of baking powder, half a teacupful of milk, and one egg. Bake fifteen to twenty minutes on two flat tins. Spread with jam and fold over.
Pot-luck, or The British home cookery book (1915.)