By Zubin D’souza
John Montagu who had the title of the fourth Earl of Sandwich was a compulsive gambler. He loved his game of ‘cribbage’ and did not want to leave his gaming table for as ‘plebian’ a reason as eating and so he ordered his attendants to bring him chunks of meat between two slices of bread so that he could continue playing and avoid getting his cards dirty. His friends being so enamoured with his creation, ordered the attendants to bring them a meal ‘the same as Sandwich!’ He thus inadvertently ended up lending his name to the eponymously titled sandwich that covers an entire gamut of culinary offerings.
Although the sandwich still retains his name, he was definitely not the first to conceive the idea of a mobile meal.
Literary sources point out to the earliest mention of a sandwich type of repast in the writings of the first century BC rabbi called Hillel the Elder who began a Passover tradition of placing meat and herbs between two slices of unleavened bread. There were variations to this wherein people tossed in their own additions like bitter herbs, cheese, olives or dates.
The idea could have caught on and spread across the world or may have developed individually in each location but rather early on in the first century AD there were several cultures across the world eating their own versions of fillings wrapped up in homemade bread.
Then came a dampener, a US court decreed in a case of a non-compete clause that a sandwich should naturally be interpreted as filling between two pieces of bread.
Out went the quesadillas, burritos, tacos and kathi rolls but then the field was left open to interpretation and imagination.
Over the years creativity ensured that the world had a fair share of amazing sandwiches to chomp on and many a brilliant decision has entered the world over a sandwich luncheon.
I am an avid sandwich lover and there are some that are very dear to me. I am going to list them down, not necessarily in order of preference but any of them for a meal would make me rather happy:
I think that the humble Cubano tops the list of sandwiches as my all-time favourite. As the name suggests, it does originate in Cuba and consists of a crisp bread which nestles within its spongy folds some of the best crackling pig, cheese and tart and spicy sauce known to man. It is then grilled between a flatiron sandwich griller till the cheese melts and raises the oomph factor on this culinary delight. If you could peer through these words you would literally see me drool.
The Po’boy is a Louisiana – New Orleans creation that definitely likes to draw on their French roots. It consists of a baguette filled with all manners of fried seafood that has been drizzled with creamy tangy mayonnaise based sauces.
The Dagwood was inspired by the character in the comic strip Blondie. It is open to interpretation since there are no real set rules or recipes. A typical Dagwood could weigh close to a kilo and has several layers of bread that may support all manners of cheese, vegetables, meats and cold cuts.
The Sub or Submarine has inspired and fuelled the growth of one of the largest sandwich chains in the world. It consists of freshly baked long, baguette style bread that is filled with several varieties of vegetables and meats.
The Monte Cristo is a warm sandwich (and there are many more in this category which include burgers and grilled sandwiches), which is essentially a ham and cheese sandwich that has been pan-fried in butter. I am sure that there will be no talk of calories after this.
While on the subject of warm sandwiches, I am sure that I cannot eliminate our own home-grown Vada Pav that has sustained many a bachelor/ student/ individual with its affordability and rustic element of hot and spicy batter fried potatoes couched within the environs of a soft bun liberally sprinkled with colourful chutneys and spice powders.
Who says that you can’t have a sandwich for every meal?
Sandwiches, Cubanos, Sloppy Joes and more
By Zubin D’souza