Tired of those long sails spent sucking on soggy sandwiches which have spent the day sweating in the sump of a not-very-dry-sack™?
Had enough of choking on crumbling crackers of compressed corn and cinders wondering where all the flavour went?
Want to keep your baguettes beguiling through a bout of battering in the bilges?
Then, with apologies to Emma Lazarus
"Give me your tired rolls, your poor fillings,
Your curdled messes yearning to be eaten with glee,
The wretched refuse of your croque monsieur.
Send these, the tasteless, salad-tossed to me,
I lay my ham beside the coleslaw."
The origins of the modern sandwich
can be traced as far back as the Middle Ages
to a kind of crude open-faced slab known as a trencher
acting as little more than a bready plate;
stale loaves were sliced open and filled with roast meats or stew, the gravy-soaked remains then being fed to the dogs, or the peasants.
If the dogs were full.
However it is only very recently that the more familiar closed versions emerged to fulfil
a Boston, Massachusetts court's 2006
ruling that a sandwich includes at least two slices of bread
The rapid refinement of the modern sandwich
was famously undertaken by Admiral Lord Nelson
who began developing a closed bread-based food wrapper known as a nelson
to sustain him through his extended naval battles.
The fledgling nelson
performed well during its early sea trials in the fight against the Americans,
eventually joined by the Spanish and French, in the American War of Independence,
and soon evolved its now familiar lines.
This leaner, trimmer nelson
easily overcame the laughably insubstantial Spanish-American burrito
at the Battle of Cape St Vincent in 1797 and Nelson's work culminated in its most successful victory over the upstart French
at Trafalgar in 1805,
confirming the superiority of his innovation and permanently establishing it as a maritime staple.
No longer need sailors suffer grimy pies or poisonous pasties like plebeian Welsh coal miners or Cornish tin diggers.
Being clean of hand and free of toxins we can handle good honest bread with impunity.
Despite the later noble history of the nelson
its name was ruthlessly hijacked by the First Lord of the Admiralty, gambler, and renowned plagiarist John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich,
after Lord Nelson's ill-considered demonstration of his novelty creation during an Admiralty picnic in 1762.
In attendance with his retinue of drinking buddies,
Sandwich (described as being as mischievous as a monkey and as lecherous as a goat
and other members of the infamous Hellfire Club
sat at the back playing cards, jeering and making rude gestures.
Then whilst Nelsons's back was turned Sandwich was seen to run off with his slices of bread and roast beef,
and went on to claim the invention as his own.
The rest of the tale is, as they say, history.
Notwithstanding an heroic effort to rehabilitate the name by Nelson's supporters in the newly established Patent Office
by enacting the Trade Mark Registration Act
of 1875, the bill arrived too late
and this delightful comestible became ever-after known as the sandwich
Worse, their failed attempt inadvertently built a legal framework whose inexorable expansion today enables
a venal, avaricious international
cabal to oppressively regulate any sketch or drawing which might vaguely resemble a set of coloured rings.
Oh the humanity!
It wasn't long before intensive development and modern materials began to produce the more familiar sandwich varieties we know today.
It is unfortunate, and somewhat ironic, that it was one such experimental flimsy, crustless affair of cucumber and mint which failed to stop
a bullet fired at close quarters from the upper rigging of the French Téméraire Redoutable
passing clean through Nelson's breast sandwich
pocket and penetrating his spine.
One is left to wonder if Nelson had instead chosen anachronistically to prepare a robust Edwardian
(consisting of fried steak, mushrooms and onions rammed into a hollowed out loaf,
lubricated with mustard and horseradish and then pressed overnight)
his life might not have been saved.
Today with the modern inconveniences of mechanically sliced bread and meats,
we are principally faced with three problems of sandwich maintenance:
Organising the texture somewhere edible on the scale between wet sponge and dusty shoe leather.
Bread, particularly the tasteless white pap which masquerades as a modern processed loaf
now fortified with niacin, riboflavin, iron, but sadly neither flavour nor texture,
is keen to turn to chewing gum at the first hint of moisture.
Curiously other bread, such as thin German rye, has the opposite problem and can dry out like biltong.
Keep your bread well greased and consider a protective layer between the slices and the filling. Especially a wet filling.
Fighting your sandwich's tendency to lose its more vibrant flavours through exhaustion,
so that your early morning's tasty hoagie mysteriously morphs into buttered flannel by lunchtime.
For this you need to make sure you have strong flavours secreted in there somewhere.
Holding the sandwich together,
so that the fillings don't shoot out across your deck or squeeze gobs of mayonnaise all over your expensive oilskins
as you try and stuff it into your mouth whilst steering one-handed around the leeward mark.
It turns out that you can over-lubricate bread in your attempt to stop it drying out.
Consider the judicious use of sticky glue agents or grainy, chunky components to hold the fillings in place.
But avoid toothpicks.
Forget casually tossing together those ingredients you found in the bottom of your fridge -
making a proper sandwich needs to be undertaken with all the preparation and planning of a military campaign.
First the bread
There's really only one use for cheap sliced white bread and that's poisoning the ducks in the park.
Throw it away. Best to go with a nice crusty loaf, baguette, or one of those packets of part-baked rolls
sealed in the atmosphere of venus that you finish off in the oven.
They're quite good: their sturdy crust helps to keep them moist, holds them together, and stops the filling escaping too badly.
Plus they almost taste like real bread.
Next the lubricants
You must MUST
grease the bread with butter, and plenty of it.
It adds mouth-feel, holds the sandwich together and protects the bread from fillings which are too wet or too dry.
Margarine is not butter, and probably gives you cancer. You might as well smear on axle grease. You have been warned!
Now it's safe to trowel on your mustards, pickles, mayonnaise or pastes.
Depending on your choice of fillings you might also want to add a protective membrane that will stop the bread getting too wet or too dry,
like lettuce or thinly sliced vegetables.
Finally the filling
You need flavour, texture, moisture, coherence and of course, some nutrition.
If the filling is wet you need to protect the bread using something that won't just let it all slide straight out of the sides.
Tomatoes and cucumber must be used with caution.
If the filling is sloppy you might need something to hold it together like thinly cut onions or chunks of vegetable.
If the filling is dry (think peanut butter, hummus) you need something to moisten it.
If the filling is tasteless, well, you need to stop and ask yourself what on earth you're doing.
Here are some basic ideas to get you going:
: butter, lettuce (though it needs to be a sturdy leaf or it will just collapse), thinly sliced celery, sliced meat.
: onion, radish or mooli, even apple.
: Mustard, pickle, olives, herbs, hot sauce, wasabi, horseradish, blue cheese, marmite.
: Butter. Olive oil might be acceptable to foreigners. Mayonnaise is good. Cream cheese helps.
For the glue
: Spreads, pastes and patés, hummus, mustard, shredded onion, diced pepper, sweetcorn, lumpy pickles.
For the filling
: Cooked sliced meats (obviously), bacon, sausage, sliced cheese, cream cheese, egg, paté, tuna, hummus.
For the bin
: Those commercial sandwich fillings
from your local Fucking Supermarket™ which inevitably taste of sick.
Funnily enough, those classic sandwiches of yore all seem to follow my simple guidelines...
- Cheese and Pickle
preferably piccalilli, but Branston, gherkins, or mustard pickle are also acceptable.
- Cheese and Onion
consider marinating the onion for a little while in cider vinegar, for that touch of common luxury.
moisture, filling and flavour all in one delicious greasy mouthful. Drain off your own if you happen to be having a pork roast.
- Bacon Lettuce and Avocado
with a smear of mayonnaise. You could try the more traditional BLT, but use tomatoes with caution -
if they spend anytime pressed against your bread they'll turn it to mush.
I'd slice them as thinly as you can, and give them a little sprinkle of sea salt.
- Egg mayonnaise
though tends not to be very robust.
- Tuna mayonnaise apparently.
- Peanut butter and jelly
perfect combo if you're American in which case jelly is jam. If you're not an American then this sandwich is just weird and wobbly.
Once you've got your perfect regatta sandwiches all made up, wrap them tightly in clingfilm,
stuff them into the bottom of your bag and go and sit on them for a few hours in your boat before eating.
Even if I do love them...
- Jam and cheese. The bread will turn into something like a roly poly pudding.
- Pickled Beetroot, Salt & Vinegar Crisps and Mayonnaise. Is it just me?
- Philadelphia Cream Cheese, thinly sliced Cucumber and a smear of Marmite.
This will separate the men from the posh boys.
- Duck and Port Paté, super thinly sliced Tomatoes sprinkled with Sea Salt, thin Red Onion, Mayonnaise, Lettuce.
The filling will squirt out of the side as soon as you look at this sandwich.
- One of those messy, gloopy fillings like caesar or coronation chicken.
Finally my own humble contribution to the sandwich lexicon: