Sandwiches; the Weird, the Wonderful and the Downright Ridiculous!
A staple said to have been born out of nothing more than sheer convenience, the origin of the sandwich can date back to the mid-1700’s, when the 4th Earl of Sandwich, John Montagu was so engrossed while gambling on a game of cribbage that he didn’t have the time, nor the spare hands, to pick up a knife and fork. This led the Earl to request that his meat be served between two slices of bread, so that he could keep one hand free for the revelry as he used the other to transfer his creation from table to mouth. In this, me and the Earl have something in common. I can’t abide halting my bi-monthly poker game for something as trivial as a meal – alas I must eat, lest I want go hungry for a night.
One of, if not the, most diverse of food types, the choice when it comes the sandwich is almost endless. The panini, the ciabatta, the bagel, the toastie and the club sandwich are just a few of the many choices one can make when considering how best to enjoy the bread based delicacy, while the fillings deemed to be acceptable are even more wide-ranging – and vary from diner to diner. Ham and cheese, cucumber, steak, and peanut butter are four examples of those universally accepted contents, while the likes of the burger and, contrary to what I stated before, the kebab, are believed by some to be a genuine part of the discussion.
The flexibility in meal-time is another aspect on which the sandwich comes out on top in comparison to many other dishes. Whether you have half ‘n’ hour to line the stomach before a big night out, are looking for a quick lunch amidst a day of exploration, want to start the day off in style, or merely finds yourself hungry in between meals, the sandwich will be there for you. The fact has never been more apparent than it is this week, as this week the nation celebrates National Sandwich Week, and because of this, I will be detailing some of the weird and wonderful creations that have been brought to my attention – through both my travels and my research.
From the ridiculous to the sublime, the list of options that appear when searching ‘weird and wonderful sandwich types’ in Google is beyond comprehension. A Lasandwich that incorporates a cold Lasagne between two slices of white bread, and a Rubik’s Cubewich, which is everything you’d expect it to be, are just two of the crazier inventions that I’ve come across.
These are just the tip of the iceberg however, and are definitely topped by the likes of the ‘Fried Brainwich,’ a calf (or pig) brain filled concoction that can be found in most mid-Western eateries, and a beer spread sandwich that was actually discovered by a colleague of mine. Though the item that surely takes the cake, or the sandwich, can be seen in the form of ‘The candwich,’ a ludicrous mixture that I would find questionable even in the event of an apocalypse, a suspect blend that comes in a can, requires no refrigeration, and includes such flavours as BBQ chicken and pepperoni pizza.
Despite the above, it is not my intention to repulse the readers of this piece, to put them off all things sandwich from now until the end of time, as there is in fact a variety of glorious alternatives for those looking for something outside of the norm. One of the big foodstuffs of 2017, haggis features heavily in the haggis, poached egg and potato cake number, while the roast pumpkin, goat’s cheese, rocket and dukkah combination makes for a vegetarian staple that even this hardened carnivore is happy to stomach. With a selection this limitless, it’s impossible to put forward all that the world has to offer, so I’ve detailed five of the more delectable choices that I’ve had the privilege to sample.
The Calamari Sandwich
An item that I discovered while I was on holiday in Madrid, and the primary reason that I’d return to the Spanish capital (ok, that’s a lie, but I’ll certainly be sampling more than one if I was to go back), the Calamari Sandwich was a must-have almost every lunch time. A long-time favourite of mine, calamari has become an almost compulsory side dish when me and the wife spot it on the restaurant menu, so it would have been almost criminal not to at least try it, particularly when we’d done our research and found it to be a city-wide favourite.
Having eaten it at a number of different restaurants across the five days, we didn’t once come across a calamari sandwich that we didn’t enjoy, though with the simplicity that goes into making such, in that they would merely place fried squid on a baguette and coat with a truly gratifying aioli sauce, it’s not hard to see why. Nevertheless, that discovery alone was enough to make the trip to Madrid worthwhile, as it is something that I would never have thought to make had we not gone, but is something that I will continue to prepare when the hunger pangs start to get the better of me at home.
Smoked salmon, cream cheese and egg bagel
A combination that is appearing in more and more cafes and coffee shops across the land, many will deem the smoked salmon, cream cheese and egg bagel to be far too commonplace to feature here – but as I’ve been in adoration of the dish for several years, I simply couldn’t leave it out.
My discovery of this assortment came upon a predicament that I had when working at a previous company, whereby I could enjoy an extra thirty minutes in bed before having to walk 45 minutes before I would arrive at the shop, or I could jump in the car with the Mrs, cut the walk out but get there 45 minutes early. The decision was made easier when I knew that I had this delight waiting for me, alongside a cup of caramel latte and the year’s copy of Football Manager.
Cured ham, Manchego Cheese and Apple Panini
This one, I must admit, I came across by accident. Oh, I knew what I was ordering when sitting at the bar of the New York café that I found myself in, but I’d originally requested that it come free of apple. When it came adorned with the fruit however I considered sending it back, deciding after around two minutes deliberation that since it had already been brought out, the least I could do was to take a bite out of it – having previously prided myself on trying everything that has been put in front of me. And boy was I glad that I did! The sweet sharpness of the apple brought a new element to what has always been a huge favourite of mine, taking the sandwich to levels that I had never experienced – and while from time to time I don’t think you can beat a standard Iberico ham and cheese pairing, I’ll be sure to add a slice or two of apple on occasion to mix things up.
Honeyed Pork Belly and Pickled Vegetable Slider
Another blend that I discovered during my time in America, the honeyed pork belly and pickled vegetable number was my best-liked of a number of sliders sampled by both me and the wife, when a food festival happened to be taking place during our visit to Disneyland in California.
Sweet toothed carnivore that I am, I was originally enticed by the honeyed pork belly, while not being too excited by the accompanying pickled vegetables. I couldn’t have been more wrong however, as the latter was more than complementary to the former, tantalising the taste buds and serving to enhance the slider dramatically.
Avocado, Mustard, Mango Chutney and Cashew Nuts
One for the vegans out there, I came across this assortment when conducting research for this piece of writing, and it was one that I was quite frankly terrified of trying. Being avidly against all things nut, I was to taste only three quarters of the sandwich, so I enlisted the help of the other half to give a nut topped version a go too.
Having not thought to order a vegan or vegetarian sandwich from a restaurant before, or found this specific option on a menu previously, this had to be made at home using store bought produce, but it was certainly nice enough to try again should we be hankering for something other than meat (it is certainly worth considering on fast days like Good Friday).
Above, I’ve detailed a number of options that you can make for yourself this National Sandwich Week, though as Gourmet Society members you’re in an enviable position in that there are a number of restaurants on our roster that promise to provide you with the staple that Britain holds dear, all coming at a fantastic discount when you take your Gourmet Society card, should you desire to be catered to hand and foot, rather than create your own. In London, the likes of Covent Garden’s Scarlet’s and Soho’s Courthouse Hotel are just two of the available eateries that promise a selection of fine sandwiches, while such charming venues as The Black Cat Café in Cambridge, The Quills in Rochester and 4Degrees in Maidstone are there for those that find themselves further south. The Midlands is represented in style by Birmingham’s Velvet Music Rooms and The Crafty Crow in Nottingham, and further north, diners are sure to find satisfaction in one of many fine establishments, such as Manchester’s Christies Bistro, Liverpool’s Gourmet Coffee, and The Arc, which can be found in the Headingley area of Leeds.
This is just a snippet view of the multitude of restaurants accessible for Gourmet Society members this National Sandwich Week. For the full list of restaurants, simply click here and search your desired location. Alternatively, if you’re looking to develop one from the above list, or have your own creation to share, then why not let us know on Facebook or Twitter? And be sure to check out the rest of the gourmet goodness on the Gourmet Society blog!
By Calum Dewsbury.