The Earl of Sandwich. John Montagu’s cribbage addiction has given, what the Wall Street Journal states, is “Britain’s biggest contribution to gastronomy”, which is a bit harsh, but probably true. The Earl of Sandwich (in Kent, by the River Stour ) didn’t want to eat meat with his bare hands because it messed up his game, so it arrived between two slices of bread. Mind you, people all over the world had been eating meat with bread long before previous Earls of Sandwich begat John’s ancestors, but his place-name stuck.
Hopes dashed. I wanted this blog to be the result of a sandwich party, where I would lay out all sorts of breads and fillings and condiments, and let the guests’ inspiration create their own sandwiches. But that was not to be, this year.
School friends to the rescue. Instead, I called upon my zoom classmates from Northern India for help. Long, LONG ago, we graduated from Woodstock School, an international establishment 7000 feet high in the foothills of the Himalayas, at a time when everything (including the grand piano) had to be carried up by human power. All of us were children of parents who travelled the world, and we did, too. Here are some sandwich experiences both from Woodstock, and in the wider world we were sent to afterwards.
Memories of school sandwiches were usually bad:
Maudie: A warning! Do not make cucumber sandwiches before 7 am and do not serve them for tea at 4Pm. IF you do, be prepared to drink them.
Joanne: for me the worst part of the cuke sandwiches was the white margarine they used. I so hated that white grease!
All of us. Woodstock was famous for the worst cucumber sandwiches in India.
Judy (me): If we had spaghetti and meat sauce one day, we’d get both spaghetti and meat ground up in sandwiches the next.
Although we had rich experiences, some common foods were totally new to us because our families didn’t do their own cooking. We hired cooks.
Gilbert – learned how to make them when visiting Dick (another classmate), went home, and taught his mother how to make them. To the end of her life she insisted that she had learned from her son.
Philip: My father would ask people – did you know that the Bible mentions sandwiches ? Go to Hebrews 11 verse 12 (New American Standard Bible) and it mentions “and innumerable as the sand which is by the seashore.”
Willie’s jam sandwiches: Jam two pieces of bread together.
Then we scattered into the wider world:
Chris: Very popular in India are ‘chutney’ sandwiches. This is comprised of mint leaves, coriander leaves, bit of garlic, butter and some chillies , all nicely ground up and then liberally smeared between two slices of bread. Delicious! You can also add sugar/salt to taste
Dale: My husband said in Liverpool (England) they used to eat bread and dripping sandwiches. Cold roast beef, the next day, produced thick fat with a jelly underneath. This spread on bread was termed “delicious”. Judy adds: my grandmother-in-law ate it on Energen diet rolls.
[Dale continues]. In Edinburgh, on the one day a week my son was allowed to buy a school lunch, his usual choice was a chip buttie with brown sauce. Chips (for the Americans) meaning French fries, a buttie is a white roll, and brown sauce is a bit like a steak sauce but a kind very particular to Edinburgh, usually liberally sprinkled over fish and chips.
Norman: I sometimes have flight connections in Seoul, Korea, and I am able to use the Asiana Airlines lounge there during my wait. One regular feature in the lounge is mashed potato sandwiches. If you like mashed potatoes as much as I do, it is actually a good sandwich.
Joanne. The town of Bobo-Dialasso in Western Burkina Faso has a famous sandwich. We’d see them every time we visited, but never bought one. A dear friend of ours moved back there after the death of her husband. We had been with her when two of her kids died of sickle-cell. Her husband also died of it. We went to visit and she had bought us a special treat—what we called ‘Bobo sandwiches.’ A hunk of French baguette filled with meat in a spicy tomato sauce. That was the only time during my years in India and Africa that I was unable to eat what was offered to me. The meat in those sandwiches were caterpillars, and they were piled high in the bread. They are about the size of my little finger, and are cooked in their fur coats! It just gets sticky with the tomato sauce!
Judy me again). When I was evacuated from Egypt during the Six Day War (see blog of June, 2019) we were shipped by German freighter from Alexandria to Crete– Germans, Americans and one Englishman all thrown together. We were on a boat that had deep chasms for freight now holding people way down at the bottom of them – accessible by ladders up the sides. I felt sorry for the cook who suddenly had many passengers and no opportunity for extra provisions. We were fed for three days with thick, healthy sandwiches made from dark German bread with seeds and all sorts of good stuff in it. I am still looking for a recipe that could replicate that bread – wonderful!
Thank you, Woodstock family, for your stories!
It’s surprising how growing up in India still affects my life. Surprising, too, are the bits that I missed NOT growing up in America. Like the grilled cheese stories above, I was intrigued to come across “devilled ham”, frequently mentioned in old American recipe books – a kind of sandwich spread or dip. So, looking on the internet I discovered Chef John from foodwishes.com who was happy to oblige. His ingredients seemed so preposterous that I toned them down a lot. I’ve left in his measurements, and put mine in brackets.
In a food processor place 12 ozs (350 grams 1 ½ cups) smoked ham, cut in small cubes. Add ½ diced onion, 1 stick of celery shaved with a potato peeler to get rid of the strings, then chopped, 2 ozs (55 grams ¼ cup) hot pepper cheese (I used cheddar and 4 – 5 slices pickled jalepeno peppers), up to 1 tablespoon hot sauce (I used a few vigorous shakes of tabasco), 2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard, up to ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper (I used a hearty pinch), and 2 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce. Pulse these ingredients, stopping frequently to push the mixture into the blades. Empty into a bowl, and add enough mayonnaise (around 5 tablespoons) to make it of sandwich spreading consistency. If you are using it as a dip, add more mayo. This is only half the recipe but yielded almost 4 cups of devilled ham. I let this sit overnight in the fridge and by next day the flavours had all held hands together (as the Persians say) and, for us, it was the right level of spiciness. It’s good, even on morning toast.
How hot? Chef John frequently tasted his mixture during the process, adding more spicy ingredients than he originally called for. His warning: when tasting hot things during preparation (like curry, or Chris’ sandwich recipe above) one gets immunised to the spiciness, and it’s good to lasso in a passing taster to get another’s opinion.
That’s it for this month, folks. Special thanks again to the Woodstock gang for stories and for technical support.