The humble sandwich.
Sandwiches are the food of life. I learned this when I went to boarding school. Mid-morning, we were given a mug of fresh farm milk and a brown-bread jam (jelly) sandwich. It was the only food of the day that I enjoyed. When my parents bought a caravan-park on the beachfront, my sister and I went back to day school. Here our restaurant chef made the best cheese and tomato sandwiches, and I was the envy of my friends at school. To this day, cheese and tomato sandwiches are my favourite.
In high school, Mom delegated me the task of making the school-lunches. This sealed my friendship with sandwiches for life.
The history of the sandwich:
Apparently, our ancestors made their plates from bread. They put meat and vegetables onto their bread-plates and ate it with their fingers (sounds delicious – a bit like our ‘banya’ or ‘bunny-chows’). Then along came rabbi Hillel the Elder who mixed some nuts, apples and spices with wine, put it between two pieces of matzoh’s (unleavened bread) and wrote down the recipe. But it was the eighteenth-century English aristocrat, John Montagu, the fourth Earl of Sandwich who gave the ‘sandwich’ its name. A notorious gambler, he became annoyed when his gambling was interrupted because he had to leave the table to eat his supper. He told his valet to bring his meat tucked between two slices of bread so that he could eat with one hand, and carry on gambling with the other. Soon his friends were also calling for a ‘Sandwich’. The rest is history.
Tips on how to make delicious sandwiches:
The secret of a successful sandwich is to combine a variety of flavours and textures for your taste-buds to enjoy.
Use only fresh bread. Open sandwiches can be made with a variety of herb and rye breads. Old bread can be toasted, used for a quiche base, or cubed and fried in butter for crunchy croutons.
Use butter if you’re not on a tight budget. Butter or easy-to-spread bread margarine seals the bread so that the filling doesn’t make the bread soggy. For extra flavour (or when you’re feeding a crowd), mustard, onion or garlic salt, or marmite can be added to the butter before spreading. Spread the butter/margarine thinly and evenly over the whole slice, including the corners.
Mayonnaise, creamy salad dressings, cream cheese, mashed avocado or banana can be used as a binder and moisturiser to make spreading easier. These also enhance the flavour.
Meat: Cold meats e.g. ham, beef, lamb and any sandwich loaf can be combined with sauces e.g. Worchester, tomato, sweet ‘n sour, ‘HP’, mint sauce with lamb, mustard with cold beef or chopped pickles e.g. gherkins, onions or ‘chakalaka’. Finely sliced or grated biltong (dried meat or jerky in the US) makes a tasty sandwich filling.
Chicken: Can be combined with a vegetable or mayonnaise
Liver Paste: On its own or with tomato sauce or freshly sliced tomato with finely chopped spring onions or chives.
Hard boiled eggs: Mash and moisten with mayonnaise. Enhance flavour with onion or garlic salt, plain salt and pepper, coriander, Italian or mixed herbs. Add crunch with finely sliced lettuce leaves, radishes, chopped onion or grilled bacon.
Fish: Tinned pilchards, sardines or salmon mixed with mayonnaise and or tomato sauce with a hint of fresh onion makes a tasty filling. Smoked trout or salmon is pricy but worth it for the accolades, especially on an open sandwich made with sliced French loaf.
Vegetables: Mashed potato with mayonnaise and chopped spring onion or chives makes an interesting ‘potato salad’ sandwich. Add a slice of cold beef for a satisfying lunch sandwich.
Mashed avocado pear with a squeeze of lemon juice to prevent browning mixes well with just about any filling.
Lettuce, radishes, chopped spring onion, celery or chopped chives enhances the flavour of any filling as do chopped salted nuts e.g. cashew, almond or peanuts.
Cheese: All varieties, flavours and cheese consistencies are suitable for open, closed and toasted sandwiches.
Children prefer sweet sandwiches. You can add nutritious ingredients to enhance school lunches. Some examples are dates and raisons, chopped stewed fruit or Christmas mincemeat with cream cheese. Peanut-butter and jam (or syrup). Peanut butter can be combined with chopped grilled bacon bits for a different combination. Try marmite and chutney with a few slices of fresh tomato and some grated cheese.
Stale bread makes the best toast. Very thinly sliced and toasted under the griller makes delicious melba toast – a handy standby starter. Here’s the recipe for a quiche you can make from an old bread roll or the left-overs from a French loaf.
Medium slices of bread
1 cup milk
Filling e.g. spinach, cheese, bacon, sliced German Vienna’s, cooked asparagus or sliced ham.
Butter a shallow pie dish. Put the oven onto 180⁰C/ 350⁰F. Arrange the slices of bread, mix 1 egg with about ⅟₂ cup milk and leave to soak. Prepare your filling using the ingredients of your choice and add another egg with the remaining milk. Add this to your bread base, and pop into the oven. Bake for about 30 minutes or until the tester comes out clean and it looks brown and delicious. Serve with a fresh tossed salad.