The Sandwich

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It is often said that John Montagu, the fourth Earl of Sandwich, invented the sandwich when he ordered his staff to bring him some roast placed between two pieces of bread so that he might continue playing at his gaming table while eating his meal. Since Earl Montagu was a world traveler it is likely that he picked up the idea from cultures that regularly wrap meat and vegetables in various forms of bread and then convey them to the mouth with the hands. In other words the general idea of a sandwich has been around for a very long time but John Montagu gets the credit for its discovery. 

I have to admit that while I like the concept of eating on the run that sandwiches provide I have never in my life been a fan of them. I’ve never understood the proliferation of sandwich shops and the enjoyment that people seem to find in them. Perhaps my dislike of sandwiches goes back to my school girl days when I carried lunches from home in a tin box that insufficiently kept the contents fresh. The sandwiches on white bread filled the hunger in my belly but nothing about them was particularly appealing. Nonetheless, day after day for twelve years I was grateful for the bounty inside that box or a brown paper bag even as grew weary of the dull sameness of those slabs of white bread with some form of protein smashed between them. To this very day I would rather eat anything thing else than a sandwich. 

I want my chicken in recognizable pieces of legs and wings and thighs, not pressed together under a bun with a pickle on top. I’d rather enjoy tuna in a bowl or on a leaf of lettuce than between two slabs of bread. Even when sandwiches are fresh and the ingredients have not yet warmed to room temperature I dislike the way things fall out of the sides and get all over my fingers. I suppose it is finicky of me but the whole concept just does not work with only a few exceptions. 

I enjoy a really good hamburger, but not one loaded with sauces and ketchup and I especially abhor the idea of mayonnaise on my bun. Give me a good old number one mustard burger at Whataburger and I am in heaven. Leave the square patties for someone else and please do not even get me started on a certain brand from California that is so inferior to the ones I find in Texas. 

I can also handle a nice freshly made sandwich from a really good delicatessen but I tend to prefer mostly corned beef on dark rye with nothing more than spicy mustard. I’ll eat tomatoes and lettuce on the side like a salad but I don’t want those things moistening the bread and making it doughy. Damp bread falling apart while I attempt to contain the contents in between gives me flashbacks to those school day sandwiches that became warm clumps of damp bread clinging to oily sandwich meat and limp tomatoes. 

I suppose that I sound like a petulant child when I complain about sandwiches instead of appreciating that I have food of any sort to stave off hunger. Don’t get me wrong I will quietly make do with a sandwich when I am with other people. My mother taught me to have good manners so I never make ugly comments about any kind offerings. It’s just that if I have my druthers, sandwiches would be very low on my listing of things that I like to eat. 

There is one distinct exception to my general dislike of sandwiches that drives my husband insane. I absolutely adore grilled cheese sandwiches. I would be willing to live off of them on a daily basis. They are my go to comfort food but of course they have to be hot with the cheese all soft and melted. I’d rather order a grilled cheese sandwich for lunch or dinner than almost anything else. So when I go with my husband to a place that offers a vast array of possibilities and choose the homely grilled cheese sandwich it drives him insane. His thinking is that it takes no talent to make such a sandwich so I might just as well have stayed home. My idea is that I like the utter simplicity of it and I can be reasonably sure that nothing about it will be off putting. Of course it’s not the kind of thing that can be wrapped in waxed paper or placed in a baggie and transported for later consumption. Therein lies it’s only flaw as far as I am concerned.

There is one more kind of sandwich that I treasure and reserve for Christmas Eve. Years ago my brother began hosting that annual night of family revelry. He decided to serve Reuben sandwiches which combine pastrami, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut and dark rye bread that is toasted much like grilled cheese. He combines the ingredients perfectly and I look forward to the special treat all the year long. Christmas of 2020 kept our family from congregating as in the past due to the pandemic so I had to learn how to make the yummy concoction myself. While I did a reasonable job it was not quite the same as when I am with all of the people I love. 

I suppose that in the end that is what food is all about. We certainly eat to stay alive but the real joy comes from sharing whatever with have with other people. Since so many that I know actually enjoy a meal comprised of two slices of bread holding all sorts of vegetables, meats and cheeses I suppose that I will continue to go along and find something on the menu when I get those invitations to go grab a sandwich. I’m willing to fake it for the joy of being in the company of friends and family. Maybe that was the idea the the fourth Earl of Sandwich had. He found a way to satisfy his hunger without having to leave his friends. I suppose it was indeed a great idea.