Yesterday I had a little afternoon snack, and as I took my first bite I was inadvertently thrown back in time to my childhood. Suddenly I wasn’t eating a delightful nibble of pâté and crackers… I was in my school lunchroom, eating what was then known to me as a meatspread sandwich. It was completely humbling.
As a child I really disliked meatspread. Little did I know then that it was a grocery store version of what I would covet as an adult, under the name of goose liver pâté. It was an inexpensive sandwich filling, a change-up from canned tuna or egg salad. My mom did her best to make it appealing: she put it on fresh French bread and added sliced sweet pickles.
The problem was, in those days “French bread” was in the shape of a fat baguette but it was still soft bread. The meat spread was rather firm stuff, and by the time it got distributed across a slice of bread, there could be squished places or even worse, holes, where the pickle juice would seep through and give the sandwich a soggy spot by lunchtime.
I ate my meatspread sandwiches anyway. They were certainly my least favourite, but I was a growing girl who was perpetually hungry so I wasn’t going to not eat. I saw other kids that had lunches with less appealing ingredients than meat spread, in my opinion. I was lucky my mom was a good cook, and a crafty packer of a bag lunch. (Her best trick was to take a piece of Chocolate Wacky Cake and pull the bottom half away, sticking it on top of the icing. Then you didn’t lose any icing when you unwrapped it from the waxed paper!)
I had a rueful smile yesterday as the memory of pickles and meatspread washed over me. It didn’t taste that bad at all, on one of my sourdough crackers. But then, I’m a much wiser foodie now, aren’t I?
I just consumed the few edible parts of what was called a sandwich by a shop in Revelstoke that shall remain nameless as I hope this was an unusual occurrence. It has prompted me to write this post, thus preventing further such lunchtime tragedies. This sandwich was not quite as pathetic as a BLT I once had that was missing the bacon (1/3 of its identity!!) Dare I say there is such a thing as sandwich etiquette?
I’d like to offer up some simple tips for a successful sandwich:
- TAKE YOUR SANDWICH SERIOUSLY. If you own or work in a sandwich shop, eat your product and make sure it works. This should be good value food, something you are proud to share with others. If you are making a sandwich just for you, then take a minute to prepare something tasty that you will enjoy, not endure. Even a PB & J deserves a little respect 🙂
- If you are taking orders in an establishment that makes sandwiches, please TAKE THE ORDER CORRECTLY AND FOLLOW UP TO ENSURE IT GETS MADE CORRECTLY. (Do I sound like a Seinfeld episode?) I ordered a vegetarian sandwich on multigrain. My companion ordered turkey on white. I got vegetarian on white, and he got turkey on multigrain. I would have preferred waiting when the person handing over the bag discovered the error rather than eat something I didn’t order.
- When including vegetables such as cucumbers and tomatoes in a sandwich, SEASON WITH SALT AND PEPPER. Even when you’re using the freshest ingredients from your own garden, a touch of seasoning won’t hurt, and with the commercial groceries most establishments use, salt and pepper can be life savers in elevating the taste of the finished product.
- Remember, NOT ALL MEATS & CHEESES ARE CREATED EQUALLY. Choose one that fits the tenor of the rest of your sandwich. Tomatoes and lettuce from the garden deserve something more than a Kraft Single or a slice of processed turkey.
- For condiments and spreads, DISTRIBUTE EVENLY on the bread or wrap. If you’re going to count this item as a component that contributes to the flavour of your sandwich, then you want to taste it with every bite. Don’t be chinzy! (If it’s too expensive to spread all over, then don’t use it; otherwise you’re just teasing people.)
- BUILD YOUR SANDWICH PROPERLY so it holds together as you eat it. No one wants salami slapping on their chin, or tomaatoes and cheese sliding out the back end on the first bite.
- The bread or bun needs to hold together, not be so soft that a spread or other moist filling makes it go squishy. If it’s toasted, then don’t wimp out – make it crispy! Otherwise it’s just warm bread. Don’t use anything too crusty though, or you won’t be able to bite through the whole sandwich.
- Tomatoes, cucumber and other slippery ingredients need to be not-too-thick, or they will slide around too much. Try to put other ingredients in between two slippery ones if you have them.
- Lettuce works best if it’s in bigger pieces, or entirely shredded. Little torn bits don’t give even distribution.
- Bigger is not always better. You should be able to fit the entire width of the sandwich in your mouth, so you can taste the whole thing.
- PACK YOUR SANDWICH PROPERLY. If you’re not eating a sandwich immediately then this is an important element to enjoying it later.
- Squishy ingredients are best wrapped separately, to be added just before eating.
- Bread softens when wrapped, especially with added fillings, so consider that when choosing your bread in the sandwich-making phase.
- Don’t drop an apple on top of it. If you must pack harder things in with your sandwich, think about a plastic container, or pack those items under the sandwich in your lunchbox or bag.
- Be food safe. If your sandwich has dairy, meat or fish it should stay as close to fridge temperature as possible until you eat it. Use an insulated container and cold packs if need be.
Now, that’s not so hard, is it? Trust me, you won’t regret taking a moment to appreciate this simple portable meal. Show your sandwich some respect and you will feel better about yourself all day.