Recently it has become apparent that white bread is not my friend. Perhaps it never was, but some personal detective work managed to link the ingestion of white bread with what feels like a shark attack inside me. The shark prowls about gnashing its considerable teeth forcing my stomach to expand as everything else in there tries to escape the danger. Other terrified occupants rush south, storming the checkpoint at the only exit, as they scramble for freedom.
I know, right?
However, I don’t die, and eventually I feel fine. Eventually. But this new development means that I must pick and choose my battles with delicious bread. And bread is delicious, and important in all our lives, because bread means sandwiches.
If you read that last sentence and thought “meh, sandwiches aren’t my thing” get out. Get the fuck out. Have you ever considered you might be an alien? Because nobody gets to say they don’t like sandwiches. They hurt me, and I still eat them. That’s how good they are. If you don’t like sandwiches you should be forced to wear a bell so that people could mock you. “There’s that asshole who doesn’t like sandwiches…La Di Da…” Parents would point at you, and say to their children, “that guy over there doesn’t eat sandwiches, and he’s making Baby Jesus cry.”
It seems hard to imagine a world without the sandwich, but it must have existed at some point in history. For example one of the Gospels, I don’t know which, probably the Book Of Food, talks about Jesus feeding a crowd of 5000 with a few loaves of bread and a couple of fish. It’s one of the miracles off Jesus’s first album. Although the crowd was far too many people to feed with his meager bounty, Jesus simply kept giving out bits of bread and fish to people until everyone ate and was satisfied. It must be a miracle because there is simply no way he could have had other food hiding somewhere, and simply give that out.
However, what would have been more impressive is if he would have set up at a table and made up thousands of fish sandwiches. But he didn’t, and he was meant to be the Son of God. I mean they don’t talk about plates in that yarn, so imagine someone giving you a lump of soggy fish, in your hand. Come on Jesus, you could have at least made them a sandwich. And if he didn’t know anything about sandwiches then maybe some other things about him should be put under the microscope. Not so all knowing after all it would seem…
Maybe it’s because they are such a big part of our lives that we cannot countenance a brain unable to figure out that putting things inside two slices of bread is a winner every time. Mmm, meat and bread. My favorite. Right, I’ll just take a bite of meat, and then maybe a bite of this lovely bread. Delicious. Now another bite of meat, and another of bread…. The oft-told story of the origin of sandwiches is shady at best, and I’m officially calling bullshit.
The story goes that a man called John Montagu, the Fourth Earl of Sandwich (1718 – 1792) loved his gambling. One night he was at his gambling table with the boys and felt hungry. In order to be able to continue his gambling he simply put some food between two slices of bread and gambled away while stuffing his face with this new revolutionary, yet somehow blindingly obvious invention.
Sounds totally legit, right? It’s the offhand way it’s meant to have happened that throws up red flags for me. Imagine the scene.
(Montagu and several noblemen sit around a table playing cards and drinking in the Earl’s beautifully appointed games room)
Montagu: Boom. Read ‘em and weep bitches.
Nobleman 1: A pox on this game.
Nobleman 2: You Scoundrel.
Montagu: Lady luck is looking upon me this night. But I am so very hungry.
Nobleman 1: No you don’t Montagu. We keep going, for we are not yet tired and I fear you have put the mockers on yourself now.
Nobleman 2: Yes. I can feel it. It is us who will have Lady Luck’s favor now.
Nobleman 1: Great. Now you’re jinxing us. Stop with the mockers everyone. Christ…
Nobleman 2: Sorry. Montagu, you can dine when we win back several scores of pounds you fleeced from us.
Montagu: Oh you think that’s what’s going to happen? Pish. Pour yourselves another drink and I will be back in a jiffy.
(Montagu leaves and arrives back with a sandwich, and sits down, making no mention of it. He takes a bite)
Montagu – (speaking with his mouth full) Alright girls, whose deal is it?
Nobleman 1: Wait. What the Hell is that?
Montagu: (Taking another bite) What the Hell is what? Come on, deal.
Nobleman 2: That bread concoction you are eating.
Montagu: This? I don’t know, just some bread and meat or whatever.
Nobleman 1: Ok stop the carriage. What do you mean ‘or whatever?’ I’ve eaten meat and bread before, but you Sir have fashioned some sort of portable one handed food table.
Nobleman 2: It’s efficiency personified! Is it safe?
Montagu: Safe? Em, I think so.
Nobleman 2: Have you used some sort of glue to keep the composition together?
Montagu: Not really. I mean there is some sauce on the meat, but it’s mostly just my hand.
Nobleman 1: John, seriously. You’re blowing my mind. Sauce?!
Nobleman 2: So let me get this straight, it is meat with sauce twixt two slices of bread, and that’s it?
Montagu: Pretty much.
Nobleman 1: I still don’t get it. But, I must have one. Teach us.
Montagu: But the cards…
Nobleman 2: Forget The Cards Man!!! Do you have any idea what you’ve done?
Nobleman 1: What do you call this ingenious invention?
Montagu: Well I just sort of call it a “Bread Fist”, but I’m not really pushed.
Nobleman 1: Well it’s something between 2 pieces of bread… What about a “Tweensie”.
Nobleman 2: I like “Bread Duvet”.
Nobleman 1: What about “Bread-velope”
Nobleman 2: No that won’t catch on.
Montagu: …“Meat Case?”
Nobleman 1: Wait. What about “Sandwich?”
Montagu: Huh? Oh, like my name? Yeah I like that.
Nobleman 2: Enough of this banter. To the Kitchen!… For… a Sandwich!!!
(All three laugh and skip to the kitchen in their expensive pantaloons)
Sounds dodgy to me. The reality is that Mr. Montagu happened upon sandwiches on his travels in the Middle East, and simply took the idea back to Britain and passed it off as his own. Just like Columbus “discovering” America, whilst fending off the indigenous original inhabitants of said land. But I still can’t get the idea that in the 1700’s there people eating bread out of one hand and meat out of another. Like morons. During The Age Of Enlightenment no less! Not so enlightened now when you think of it.
These days the sandwich is everywhere, and rightly so. America is at the forefront of sandwich technology. I remember asking for a grilled cheese sandwich in a diner in New York, and when I was presented with a stuffed and quite obviously fried sandwich I stood and earnestly applauded the ingenuity of the line cooks.
Here in Ireland we can of course get gourmet style sandwiches for lunch in various fancy café’s (Hipsters – every sandwich is by definition Artisanal, so you can cut that shit out right now) but the problems start when time is of the essence and, usually while involved in a heavy session, you need ‘something to soak up the booze’. You end up in a Spar or Centra* (*Americans – Think 7/11 with a deli counter). Here no one cares about presentation or construction. Oh they’ll technically give you what you asked for, but it can turn out all forms of wrong. I’ve found it’s best to put in your order and then look away and hope for the best, because you’re too polite to instruct them how to assemble your sandwich, and anyway if you do, they’ll do something gross to it somehow.
Some of the more distressing things that can happen at a shitty deli –
- “Butter or Mayonnaise” – That giant tub does not contain real butter. It is a horrible cheap margarine hybrid. Stop referring to it as butter.
- Your server picks the last rock hard bread roll with which to make your sandwich and you say nothing, but inside you’re screaming at him.
- You see them pick up one, just one, rubbery, thin wet slice of ham to put in your sandwich. Seriously. One.
- When asking for mayonnaise on your roll, they cut the roll down the middle and then in one swift motion drag a mayo laden knife down the spine of the roll, leaving both sides dry. Then they ask you what you like, and instead of telling them to fix the mayonnaise issue, you list the ingredients like Dirty Harry, through gritted teeth and a shit eating grin.
- The tuna is, for reasons that completely bewilder me, an unnerving shade of grey. It is also most likely swimming in mayonnaise, the ratio of mayo to tuna obviously mixed and calculated by an infant. Or someone who hates you.
- They use that grated cheese that has obviously been out in the air for days, and now has a dry and chalky texture.
- They throw the ingredients down on the bread and do not take the time to ensure an even spread of filling over every inch of bread surface, something that would be of paramount importance if you were the sandwich technician.
- They use some sort of speed toaster, which merely colors the bread and warms it through, insuring you simply have a warm soft sandwich.
Such places should be avoided at all costs. No good will ever come them, so just hope you’re drunk enough not to care.
If anyone reading this does own a café or any type of set up with a deli counter, here is a simple Maxim by which your employees should approach their task – Always make the sandwich as if you are making it for yourself.
Anything less is a crime against the fine and storied tradition of sandwiches and a besmirching of the good name of one of the greatest charlatans in history, John Montagu The Fourth Earl of Sandwich…