Never let it be said that Brits aren’t serious about their sandwiches. Oh yes, we Brits (well, John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich) invented the sandwich and take enormous pride in our skills. Just ask the Daily Mail editors who, when posing the question “Is there no one left in Britain who can make a sandwich?” were blitzed with tweets of “sandwiches” with fillings such as the family pet, office scissors and smartphones.
Our sandwich fillings bemuse many Americans, but Brits have a long history of putting weird things between bread slices. In the 18th century, the Welsh rarebit, or rabbit, was a national favorite. Despite its name, this sandwich consisted mainly of melted cheese rather than cute little animals. We often put a carb in the middle of two slices of bread, such as the beloved chip butty—a French fry sandwich which the U.K. Food Network rightfully describes thus: “The simple and dare I say it, ‘bland’ flavors of the chip butty are its most alluring quality, no matter how refined your taste buds are.” Few things beat the delight of hot chips melting the creamy butter in a soft, white sandwich.
In times of yore, the carb was even another piece of bread, as with the “toast” sandwich, a Victorian favorite that was included in Mrs. Beeton’s 1861 Book of Household Management. In 2011 the RSC (Royal Society of Chemistry) attempted a revival of this, the cheapest of sarnies, but apparently the U.K. wasn’t in enough of a recession, and it didn’t stick.
And then there’s the fish finger (stick) sandwich, which some celeb chefs have included in their repertoire. You can go for the basic frozen fish fingers version, or posh it up a little like this BBC Good Food version.
Another sarnie I don’t see in America much is the humble prawn sandwich. I can recall many a lunchtime spent at my office desk with a Marks and Spencer prawn cocktail sandwich dripping everywhere; the smaller the prawns, the more difficult it was to keep the sandwich intact. I note with amusement the term “Prawn Sandwich Brigade,” which is used in football (soccer) circles to denote casual fans who sit in boxes or hospitality suites munching prawn sandwiches without paying much attention to the match.
There’s even a British Sandwich Association with annual membership, benefits and awards such as the New Sandwich of the Year Award and Sandwich Convenience Retailer of the Year. It also provides quite fascinating information. For example, people in Yorkshire spend the most on sandwiches, over 30 per cent of all sandwiches sold have chicken as a filling, and the top home sandwich filling is cheese. I confess to the odd cheese sandwich myself, always accompanied by good old Branston pickle or Marmite.
Yet another survey has the bacon butty as Britain’s top snack, although most of us might appreciate it more as the perfect cure for any “morning after the night before” symptoms. (Americans should note that this British version is made with “back” bacon, which is more like Canadian bacon in texture and taste, leaner and less fatty than what we call “streaky” bacon.)
When making a bacon butty, I confess to simply grilling my bacon and shoving it between bread slices, but there are a dozen or more shades to this culinary process as journalist and bacon sarnie aficionado Felicity Cloake explains here. Who knew?
We Brits don’t have the monopoly on sandwich weirdness, though; our host country does oddness in the form of the Mother-in-law sandwich amongst others. Found mainly on the south side of Chicago, this delicacy features a corn-roll tamale in a hot dog bun, smothered in chili.
Obviously there’s the grilled peanut butter and banana sandwich made famous by Elvis, as well as “meal-in-a-sandwich” combinations like meatloaf sandwiches, meatball sandwiches and even an entire Thanksgiving dinner sandwich, complete with mashed sweet potatoes and the dreaded green bean casserole.
The prize, however, must surely go to the Fluffernutter, both for its name and contents. A favorite in New England, the Fluffernutter consists of marshmallow crème (from a jar), peanut butter and white bread. Variations include grilling it, substituting Nutella or “going Elvis” by adding banana slices. Dee-lish!Read More