Sandwich shops and pre-made sandwiches are everywhere but I’m sure if Nell Heaton who wrote ‘Cookery Today and Tomorrow’ could be time-transported from 1944 when her little book was published with its section on savoury and sweet sandwiches, she would be amazed. Her sandwich suggestions come in ‘Light luncheons and supper dishes’, and apart from picnics and home-prepared lunches taken to work, this would be when the two slices of bread with a filling would be eaten. Although pre-sliced bread was available, and had been since the 1920’s, Nell was clearly only thinking of unsliced bread:
Bread should be at least 24 hours old before it is cut for sandwiches. It is easier to spread certain types of sandwich fillings if the butter is slightly warmed and pounded together with them.
Although there are various thoughts and stories about the invention of the sandwich, I’m sure people have been using bread as a handy way to contain whatever they’re eating, cheese, meat, fish, anything, for as long as there has been bread. The story is that the sandwich was invented by the Earl of Sandwich, but I think it was just his name was attached to what people had been eating for ages and just described as bread and cheese/meat/fish etc.
Back to Nell; all through her book she emphasise the importance of presentation and appearance and I’m sure she would approve of the maligned ‘salad garnish’ which appears in cafés and pubs along with the sandwich:
Layer sandwiches should be so arranged that the colours vary. Savoury sandwiches should always be garnished with cress or a sprig of parsley before they are served.
Both savoury and sweet sandwiches may be made in the form of rolls and cut in small sections.
We almost take it for granted that if you have a sandwich these days, at home or bought, it will have a variety of other things inside as well as the main items; Nell was suggesting this very thing in the 1940’s:
Lettuce leaves, shredded spinach, cress or watercress may be used to give an extra layer inside the sandwich.
Maybe, as this was wartime, it was to make the sandwich more of a meal during rationing, but I’m sure she also thought it would taste good too! She has nineteen savoury and eleven sweet suggested fillings; some may seem bizarre to us, some sound interesting and tasty, some economical! Egg and cress, grated cheese and Worcester sauce, smoked salmon, slices of meat and mayo (she’s very fond of mayonnaise) are all quite ordinary. Asparagus tips sandwiches sound delicious – with mayonnaise of course, and then there are the very economical – chutney sandwiches, just that, no other filling, cooked onions with sage, tomato sauce and grated cheese. There are a number of fillings which involve creamed ingredients – would they be made using cream? Or would they be made into a cream? I’m not sure – creamed mushrooms, creamed sardines, creamed tomato, creamed diced vegetables, creamed cheese and mayonnaise…
I was interested in one suggestion, which my dear mother-in-law used to make for us, which seemed most unusual to me at the time and which I had never come across before, or since – minced ham sandwich filling. I have no idea how she made it – I think she must have used a knife and not a mincer, because it had a very even texture. There are several on the list that I wouldn’t even try to eat, let alone make, champion of this is curry powder, mixed with onion and fried in margarine with cress… no, I am definitely not going there!
To me it;s the type of bread that makes the sandwich. I love marble rye but can;t always get it. It has a dark rye and a light rye in a swirl and it is also great toasted. I used to like crumpets for breakfast but now am hooked on bagels. Mainly because there are so many varieties. Blueberry is number one though!
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Yes, the bread is really important, you can forgive a boring filling if you have delicious bread! That marble bread sounds wonderful – I’ve never seen it over here. Yes, we love bagels too but I don’t often see the blueberry; our favourite is sesame seed, but I also really like the mixed seed too.