I rant you risten

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

serious sandwich talk

the beginning
In my humble opinion, the greatest invention in the world has to be the sandwich. Due to the common sense of housing meat inside bread, everyone claims to have invented this wondrous meal, but the truth is, no one really cares but if you really really want the truth, we invented it. The actual name sandwich is attributed to the 4rth earl of sandwich, who in order to not get his fingers messy had meat stuffed between bread. There are two stories behind the earl’s request, #1 he was constantly working and wanted to eat something at his desk with minimal mess #2 he frequently gambled and wanted something to eat while he played cards.

Here’s how it panned out in 1762 (read in a very English Stewie Griffin voice):

Percy: john, these snacks are absolutely delicious, who would’ve thought to put cold cuts between bread, wouldn’t you say so cecil?

Cecil: oh absolutely smashing your earlness.. absolutely smashing.

John, the 4th earl of sandwich: pretty good ayh gents? now lets call. I’ve got three jacks.

Cecil: I fold, like a tartan kilt.. ahahaaahahaahhaa.. (the room goes quiet) ahhahha?

Percy: sorry john but I win with four queens, dreadful luck ol chap. That takes my winnings to…

John: yes, well you still need to cover the expenses of the sandwich.

Percy: the what?

John: the sandwich you Poncy bastard. You owe me for the sandwich you’re eating. Now pay up before I have Reginald shove a Cornish hen up your rectal cavity.

Incidentally, that marked the first sandwich sale, and gave birth to the short-lived but still famous 4rth round sandwich or Cornish game hen up the butt game at gambling tables worldwide.

yanks take the cakewich
The level of sandwiches offered here in the Middle East, depending on where you eat, are a little disappointing. Let me come out and say that we have no problems in the shawarma and falafel categories – nor do we have any issues with the cafeteria sandwiches (there’s nothing like a samboosa and sliced processed cheese with Tabasco in a white bun). However, the “other” sandwiches tend to cater to a more anglo-palette, carrying a much more angular taste than you’d like. Although sandwiches from all over the world are delicious, I’m just going to again come out and say something else: in the field of creation and reengineering, no one can compete with the Americans. In fact, if there were a sandwich Olympics, I’d just give gold to the Americans in every category and not bother competing. Allow me to elaborate: because of the hodgepodge of ethnicities in the US, a number of immigrants intermingled their national foods and then had to repackage it to suit the average American consumer (think how real Chinese food was altered to suit the American palette) – hence the extra fillings, the pressing, the meals converted into sandwiches, etc. In defining a sandwich, I’m inclined to say almost anything housed between bread is considered to fall within the sandwich grouping, so if a = b, then the Americans (with their multi-ethnicities) have excelled at hotdogs, burgers, cold cut sandwiches, burritos, chacareros, PB&Js, chicken parms, lobster rolls, cheese steaks, and others.

skimping out
When ordering a sandwich here, the person behind the counter usually layers on a slice or two of the actual meat into the sandwich, cheapishly known as the skimping out method. It’s as though they rub the sliced turkey on the bread for you to get the basic gist, but then leave you with two slices and enough lettuce to think you’re a vegetarian. The American method involves layering so much meat you actually have to ask for less pastrami on your sandwich because it’s a little overkill. I like it when I have to ask for less of an ingredient, especially if it’s the meat filling.

mustard misfortune
I am a huge fan of mustard, and although I do like English mustard, that’s the only mustard that is regularly stocked in restaurants and sandwich shops here in the Middle East. I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of sinus opening condiments, I do like them, but not as the only option of condiment I can put on my sandwich. I would pick any other mustard over English any day, hands down; whole grain, deli, honey, brown, Dijon, even regular ol’ yellow, there are so many other options. But this goes back to my anglo-palette statement, leaving you to wonder, what kind of culinary contributions have the English given the world that we must cling to their English Mustard to go with our meals?

do your thing
Making due with what we have, I’ve learned to hover in front of the counter as they prepare my sandwich.. If you don’t have what I like on the menu, I will pay you more to let me create my sandwich as I like… a simple substitution of cheese, the choice of bread, the wonders of pressing the sandwich, extra meat, there’s a lot there going on, and if you have the same problem as me, then don’t be afraid to speak up. I’ve trained the cafeteria cooks at work to prepare my sandwiches the way I like them, and have slowly begun reengineering their prepackaged sandwiches to suit your taste.

Some of my Ultimate sandwiches:

Italian: cold cuts with lettuce, tomato, green peppers, pickles, olives, a little bit of onion, salt, pepper and olive oil, toasted.

Hangover: egg with onions and a little green chili, melted cheese, tomatoes, in a white sesame bun pressed.

Union square: prosciutto, brie & cherry tomatoes, all in a buttered plain bagel in a toaster oven.

Work: turkey, cheese, lettuce, tomato, mustard in a submarine sandwich, pressed to death.

PBnN: Creamy Peanut Butter and Nutella on white bread.

OyVey: Hot Pastrami with swiss cheese and brown mustard on rye.

Paahhm: chicken cutlet, marinara sauce with tomato chunks, and melted cheese - all in a nice hoagie bun..

Primrose hill: plain bagel, egg salad, tomato and cucumber slices.. salt and pepper..

Dang. I could write a whole post listing my favorite sandwiches and I haven’t even broached the burger topic... What are some of your favorites?


Notes from behind the bike shed said...

Beg to differ, but it was the tuna with red cabbage salad on rye bread that was the sandwhich of distinction at the Primrose Hill Patisserie

Bahraini Rants said...

the real beauty of it - everyone has their own primrose hill sandwich..

Anonymous said...

I hate to come across as a sycophant, but mate this has got to be one your absolute best blogs. So well written that it has left me starving for a sandwich and I just bloody ate! See what you have done. Now you will have explain to my wife my ever increasing waistline.

Note though for all of us survivors of the US collegiate experience, specifically those of us that went to school in the Northeast, you forgot to highlight the all time classic Steak and Cheese sandwich. Really folks, could the Middle East have been educated without that delectable and fantastic culinary creation?

Please for the love of God, do not write a blog on beer. After reading it I will undoubtedly end up shit-faced in the middle of the day. Wait check that, that seems to happen anyway!

BTW, you should send this over to that Nido bitch and show him what real blogging looks like.

Bahraini Rants said...

my relationship with steak and cheesebombs began in medford with espressos..

The real question i have regarding steak and cheese subs.. i know a lot of aficionados that swear by mayonaise on your steak and cheese sub.. so here's my question.. is it acceptable? i'm a no fuss guy, i can do with or without..

what do you guys think?

Seroo said...

I'm "eh" about mayo, but in England every other sandwich has mayo in it and ALL have BUTTER. Buttering your bread before making a sarnie (even a nutella one!) is a must.

I do know this post goes back to the English (with the Earl of Sandwich coming from Kent and all...) but I think you haven't given them enough credit: By Jove, they are the creator's of the world's most expensive sandwich which sits in the food hall in Selfridges for the hefty price of 85 squids... Now you've got to give them credit for that!

I give the English much more credit than the yanks (and as some would disagree to, the Irish) in terms of sarnies... But that might just be me...

Reshoo, comments, as my other fellow englishman on the board?

Anonymous said...

Those so called aficionados are heretics who should be burned at the stake! As laid out in the holy collegiate guide book, “How to be a moron, waste your parents money and still graduate with a degree in something useful”, there are only a few things that you are allowed to put on a steakbomb:

1) Steak
2) Cheese
3) Mushrooms
4) Onions
5) Peppers
6) Salt & Pepper

Ketchup and mustard are ok on the side but never together. Other dipping sauces that may contribute to flavor for a particular individual are generally allowed. However UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES does one spoil a perfectly amazing steak and cheese sandwich by putting mayonnaise on it.

Here endth the lesson…

Anonymous said...

The good book also makes clear two other things:

A) Espressos steakbombs are superior to all other steakbombs.

B) American sandwiches, like an American education are pretty much untouchable.

Cerebralwaste said...

You owe me a dozen Shawarma for posting this........ And I expect them NOW!

yarzz said...

I have to agree with bahraini rants about the americans and sandwiches (sorry seroo) To those bostonians, T Anthony's steak and cheese....reshoo, what says you?
thank you bahraini rants..now i want W'house of pizza subs!!!

Melissa said...

Great post!
It is horrible when people start calling names and spoil an entertaining comment line! Excuse me---if I want to put mayonnaise (homemade, of course)in my sandwich, I'll put it and will enjoy it...even if you do not like it! LOL :)

A hug from Panama!