Articles

It's a sin what they do to the sandwich!

JAMES DUGAN October 15 1952
Articles

It's a sin what they do to the sandwich!

JAMES DUGAN October 15 1952

It's a sin what they do to the sandwich!

Professor Dugan, long recognized as the international authority on his subject, has devoted thirty years to the preparation of this article, and developed a stomach of wrought iron

Roman Grinder, prepared by Mickey Lester, is a true tes

JAMES DUGAN

THERE is a pretty legend about sandwiches that I don't believe. It says that the Earl of Sandwich (1718-1792) invented them. His Grace is supposed to have been tied up in a long card game. He said to a kibitzer, "Evelyn, old boy, I'm holding a hot mitt. How's about grabbing me something off the sidelioard? Oh. anything — beef, bread, something I can eat without getting up.” The toady was then supposed to have taken "two slices of bread, usually buttered” and put iietween them "a thin layer as of meat, cheese or savory mixture" Webster . The Earl took an absent-minded bite and cried. "Hello what’s this” By my gaiters, boys, it's a sandwich I”

The storv doesn’t hold mayonnaise. The human race couldn't have waited that late in history to think up sandwiches, or it wouldn't lie present in such numbers. The sandwich is a lot older than the Earl, I trow-. Card games were going on for a long time back. Bread had tieen invented and meat is as old as the caveman's pogamoggan. You can’t tell me that people who invented the wheel didn't have sense enough to stick a slab of white auk meat between two hunks of bread, and thereupon invent the poor-bov sandwich.

Southern Europe gave the world Aristotle, Leonardo da Vinci and the poor-boy sandwich, to use its New Orleans name. It is constructed in

the Crescent Citv of a loaf of unwrapped, unvitaminized, iron-poor, milkless bread, without honey, wheat germ or chlorophyll. The loaf is sundered lengthw-ise and crowded with ham. salami, cheese, tomatoes and sliced peppers. The upper story is lowered into place and the operator starts in on one end and eats his way to euphoria.

The French variation is pain et jambon. In Italy the poor bov is an art form, of which two noble branches have been brought to eastern Canada and New England.

The first is called the Roman Grinder. Excavate the soft interior of a long loaf of hearth-baked bread and fill the pit with shredded cabbage, oiled with the essence of the olive and garlic. Lay down on the cabbage bed slices of proscuitto ham, provolone cheese and green-pepper wheels. This lieats humming-bird tongues glacé or anything on your everyday menu.

The second Italian symphony begins with the usual split loaf. Blanket the bottom half with sliced ham, tomatoes, and shredded mozzarella cheese, oil

lightly and season. Grill under a top flame long enough to make the cheese runny, then close the sandwich and crisp in the oven. Men have given up lives of crime after this repast, which is known as the Submarine. The Submarine should be floated in red wine. Domestic ham and cheese can be substituted for the Italian originals. The formulas of the Grinder and the Submarine can also be varied with salami and other processed meats.

The old European masters set the principle that a sandwich should be crunchy and it should be a meal, both of which precepts have been subverted in this countrv. The adoption of soft sliced commercial bread has all but undone the sandwich.

Bread is a food. All my work is done with wholewheat bread, or white bread, if it is French or Italian baking. If there is anyone in Moose Jaw who still bakes at home I will issue a certificate to her. The liest bread is the Sicilian brown loaf, which French or Italian bakeries still bake for a few unregenerate customers.

Hot-dog rolls and hamburger buns are an offense against hot dogs and hamburgers. There must be a flaw in the national fibre when people will take a noble sausage and thrust it into a dab of wallpaper cleaner. In a brown roll a grilled hot dog meets its just reward.

Perversely enough, the best wieners I ever had

were one lime at the Derby at Epsom Downs. My hostess imported some hot dogs at fabulous ex|>ense, but the only rolls she could find were made of the ubiquitous British austerity flour. It happens to Ire the (rest bread Ireing fed to the species, since the flour is ground of all the whole grains at hand in the national granary - wheat, rye and or barley. Do the British people appreciate this boon? They do not. They pine for the bleached stuff we eat.

If there is no alternative to sliced white bread — and many sections of the country groan under this yoke—use day-old bread. That good woman,

Mrs. Simon Kander, so rules in her Settlement Cookbook (The Way to a Man’s Heart . But. even Mrs. Kander succumbs to the bridge-party taste and allows people to cut off the crusts. This is like ripping the covers off books. God put crust on bread to l>e eaten, crumbily if possible. It is very dangerous to dunk a sandwich that doesn't have crust. People have been scalded reaching in for lost parts of sandwiches. Mrs. Kander. u ho started off so good, then gets her trolley pole completely off the wire by permitting rolled sandwiches and little bridge-trav cubes decorated with gook shot out of pastry tubes. Pastry tubes should be used for only one purpose, that of blowing pills into the mouths of epizootic horses.

Fanny Farmer of the Boston Cookbook is even worse. She would probably spring a whalebone stay if she ever saw a Roman Grinder. She lists something called the Calla Lily Sandwich, in which the bread is folded to resemble a plant.

Fortunately the male sandwich architect is beyond the influence of these Borgias. He knows that a sandwich is the product of fine benchwork, a careful stratification of veneers, a creation that must lie gripped as in a vise and held up by planting the elbows firmly on the table. A sandwich is a challenge to the mandibles, a progress through the seven tiers of paradise.

Boys understand the principle very early. The first unlettered genius of sandwich making whom I knew was Rav Crotsley, a boyhood idol who lived across the street and paid no attention to school, parlor games or bedcheck. His mother, Irma Crotsley, baked homemade bread, five hundred loaves a day, wrestling the dough with her great forearms in a trough as big as King Tut’s tomb. No pa[>er wrappers ever sap|>ed the goodness of her manna and it was not until she was in her decline that a slicing-machine salesman got his foot in the door. When she Continued on page 49

CONTINUED EROM PAGE 13

removed a new batch from her stonefloored oven with a peel as big as a galley slave’s oar the smell floated across the neighborhood as a vesper.

Ray was too busy to make mealtimes. He followed a busy round of flattening pennies on trolley tracks, fighting other boys, sneaking into the movies by way of the fire escape, and listening to old soldiers tell lies. When hunger seized him he would heat a can of chili con carne on the hearth of Irma’s oven. He would grab a smoking new-born loaf, cut it lengthwise with his huntin’ knive, and claw out the dough. Then he would fill the golden shell with chili and run into the night, carrying this tabernacle clutched to eating position, and giving off savory clouds of steam. He understood sandwiches.

A sandwich that lingers in my souvenirs is one that no cookbook has ever been able to explain to me. They list deviled crab all right, but the recipes never match the masterpiece of Ocean City, Md. It was sold from a carnivallike booth by a large Negro woman who kept Louis Armstrong records turning on a machine near her hot plate. 1 was in sin in those days, dealing chips for chuck-a-luck games on the boardwalk under the pretext of working my way through college. The innards of this crab sandwich were

4v®-*

INVERSE PUNCTUALITY

Flie boss is seldom at his desk When I arrive on time:

But sure enough, the very day That he's not tardy. I’m.

MARJORIE L. LONG

a fried cake of soft-shell crabs, eggs, corn meal, hot peppers, black pepper, chopped onions, salt and alchemy. Or perhaps I was young and hungry in the sea air. Recipes do not list air.

The decline of the sandwich in North America was abetted by the railroads. They fed so many to their captive audience that the standards were destroyed. The hawkers of the day coaches sold both sandwiches and magazines, and it took a keen palate to tell them apart. I have eaten many a digest magazine without butter or mustard, and learned some of my best jokes by studying the bread slices.

Immobilized diners and dog wagons, which specialize in sandwiches, rarely make good ones. There is a thing called a western that is actually consumed in these places. The west should sue. I swore off westerns in the sixth grade. My sainted grandmother used to make them for my lunch. She would harden the eggs in a skillet to the consistency of the hide of the frilled shark. For a time I used to trade her westerns with other kids, but I soon ran out of friends.

Short-order cooks believe that eggs are something you break on the hot plate and forget for a while. Actually eggs are difficult to cook well. Gentle slow fire and constant attention will prevent them from turning to leather, a care they seldom get in the westernsandwich dives.

Chopped beef is worth the tooth,

which is proven by the fact that people still like hamburgers after what hamburger joints have done to them, flattening the meat on a greasy griddle, greying it, and serving it out on two pieces of pulp. The customer instinctively reaches for something with which to defend himself and picks up the ketchup bottle. It was invented by a fiend. To discharge the stuff you turn the bottle upside down and hammer on the bottom until your sandwich is deluged. With luck you can sometimes avoid smashing the bottle against the dish. The mustard interests have built jars that can be emptied by the human hand, but the ketchup people are laughing at us.

There are hidden shrines that make fine grilled hamburgers, such as the one invented at New Joe’s in San Francisco. Take a half pound of ground top round steak, season, and work into the meat chopped onions and shredded green spinach. Form into a torpedo shape to fit a small French loaf. Grill the meat close to red charcoal to put on a semi-charred coat and seal the juices inside. Toast the open halves of the bread on grey charcoal. Eat this sandwich standing up. facing west, with California, Here l Come on the phonograph. Anybody caught putting ketchup on a grilled hamburger gets six days on Calla Lily sandwiches and water.

Another interesting twist on hamburger is to put hamburger and thin slices of tomatoes on hard-toasted rye bread, upon which you have rubbed a clove of garlic, and grill. The toast should be hard enough to be abrasive. The meat juice will soften it up some.

Grilled cheese sandwiches are favorites at our house, but I mean grilled, not fried. The so-called grilled cheese is fried on a hot plate or in a waffle iron, and comes out soggy in the middle and leathery outside I make them by toasting one side of the brown bread slices under flame or electric element and then putting process cheese "food” on the toasted sides with a quarter teaspoonful of Worcestershire and some chopped chives. The bread keeps its structure if you toast the inside façades first. With a mild yellowycheese, fresh sprigs of dill make a tangy addition. As r matter of fact, two well-toasted slabs of brown bread done in an electric toaster will be hot enough to get process cheese running, if the cheese is imprisoned immediately after the toaster burps.

My tastes are distinctly in the minority on Swiss. Cheddar and other hard cheeses as components of the sandwich. I like the commercial cheese “foods" and spreads better, especially pimento mixtures. The legitimate soft cheeses, Liederkranz. Camembert and port salut are too fine to go with bread. They have to be eaten with crackers or hard biscuits. If I may be allowed to twist the definition of a sandwich far beyond my legal rights, let me tell you about something invented by a woman on Hanlan’s Point, Toronto, that will drive you away from any other dessert cheese combination Roquefort on thin rolled oatmeal cookies. This savory is the quintessence of Canadian kitchen culture. French and Scottish.

The biggest sandwich mine on i he North American continent is Reuben’s, a king-size delicatessen on 58th Street. New York City, which deals a halfmillion whopping sandwiches per year at an average two dollars a blow. There are sixty-five varieties, most of them christened for Broadway types. The Walter Winchell ($1 95' is made of sturgeon. Swiss cheese and dill pickle. The Ginger Rogers ($-1.10) is wrought of Beluga caviar and cream cheese on rye toast. The Al Jolson Tartar ($2.25)

is composed of raw chopped steak, mixed with a raw egg and raw onions.

The biggest seller. Reuben's Special ($1.95) was originated in 1911 when Arnold A. Reuben, the curator of this hall of fame, was a lowly delicatessen keeper on upper Broadway. A showgirl named Annette Seelos came in from a long rehearsal and asked Reuben to make a substantial sandwich. He went to his bench in a creative frenzy and built a pagoda of turkey, ham. Swiss cheese, lettuce, sliced tomato, sliced Bermuda onion, and Russian dressing, and two millstones of Jewish rye bread. Amazed at his Dagwoodian genius Broadway thronged to Reuben's grotto.

He went into deep contemplation one day and came up with a number so staggering that he named it for Marjorie Rambeau. the soubrette in The Eyes of Youth. Then his clientele disappeared. He ran into one of the delinquent actors in the street and asked the guy why he hadn’t been around. “I'll tell you. Reuben.'’ said the thespian. “I’ve brought my business to you for a long time, but when vou bill this doll. Rambeau. over me. I ball the jack.” Reuben immediately named all his sandwiches after good customers. Today the Jack Benny is among his best-sellers—tongue, turkey. Swiss, cole slaw and Russian dressing on rye. Reuben gets two dollars ten for a hamburger. Over the years Reuben has retired many a famous name from his menu billing, but there is always fresh ham for a sandwich.

As terrible as this revelation will be for veterans of the First Great War I like canned corned beef in a sandwich. As a matter of fact I had undisguised horse on many an occasion in the recent war. For a time in London I took room and board with some American girls who went to the Belgian horse butcher in Soho and queued up with other meat lovers 'who brought their pet dogs along as transparent alibis for buying horsemeati. We ate big chopped onion horseburgers on Tuesdays. I cannot claim that I won the Olympic high jump as a result, but you may have read my book. Beautiful Joe. which was written during this period.

One of the least suspected manufacturers of serious sandwiches is the ultra ritzy Vendôme épicerie on Madison Avenue in New York. Behind the shelves and counters laden with fresh South African grapes flown by air and other items priced like the down payment on a yacht, there is a sandwich counter, where Antoine Dadone. the Toscanini double who owns the place, busies himself making fine hearty sandwiches at prices lower than the drug

counter's. They may be had in French bread à ia pvoor boy, including a caviar sandwich under a dollar. It is made of grey Caspian Sea roe. the supreme of caviars, which Dadone imports in one kilo (2.2 pounds) cans under refrigeration. Each tin is sewn in a rough linen sack with a stamped serial number, from which Dadone can tell what individual sturgeon the eggs came from. This is a fine pwint for connoisseurs. If a particular serving of caviar strikes one’s fancy the customer may note the fish's serial number and reorder from the same animal months later. Dadone also handles Canadian lake caviar, a hearty red roe (the color indicates that the red is “younger” than the black. The grey is the last pre-natal stage.)

Dadone is a devotee of the Bermuda onion. Each morning he goes to the sandwich board and personally slices the onions for the day’s sandwiches. He has an easy, relaxed but firm stroke with the big knife, cutting mathematically true one-eighth-inch slices which, by some magic of his technique, never bleed their juices. Dadone’s French and Piedmontese background has endowed him with respect for bread and raw onions. He does not list a straight bread and raw onion special but, as every honest eater knows, this is a creation of noble fibre and rewarding aftertaste.

Nino's, an old restaurant in the sporting and horsy area of Long Island, carries bear meat and venison on its everyday menus. Nino himself prefers i bear steak sandwich around closing time at two a.m. before he drives to the city to Fulton fish market to select the crustaceans and fish for the kitchen.

Nino takes a three-quarter-inch bear steak, well-hung and rip>ened and, without sauce or seasoning, broils it quickly and decisively close to hot coals. The effect is one that good steak houses call black-and-blue; that is. the coat is quickly sealed, almost charred, and the inside is juicy red. Bear steak exptosed to frying pans or too long held on coals toughens like a piece of bakélite. but black-and-blue and surrounded with two chewy pieces of bread it is as tender as prime steer. Remember that, the next time you shoot a bear.

In the days when Britons ate meat there was a wonderful sandwich that broke all the laws of good sandwich making, a glittering exception to the rule. It was called the Bookmaker and could be found in the side pocket of many a student of the breed at Newmarket and Ascot, along with his tout slip and getaway money. The Bookmaker begins with a subContinued on page 53

Continued from page 50 stantial one-inch slab of steakmeat broiled. Cut the end crusts from a loaf of bread and then cut off the top and bottom crusts about two inches thick, lengthwise. Throw away the inside, or give it to some poor woman who is entertaining at whist. Place the sputtering steak between the top and bottom crusts and wrap the gigantic concoction in blotting paper. Put it in a press for a half hour. If you have a little engraver's proof press around to make money, it will do. Otherwise you can put Dr. Eliot’s Five-foot Shelf or some bricks on top of the sandwich. The pressure saturates the sandwich with juice and drives out harmful chemicals, such as water. The Bookmaker is then wrapped in wax paper and we’re off to the races.

I have made one modest contribution to sincere sandwich design, an item I call the Bandit, named for the Caucasian sheep thieves who invented shashlik. It begins with the shashlik or shish kabob formula of the Levant. The night before cut up one-inch cubes of lean roasting lamb, three-quarters of a pound per sandwich, dip the chunks in olive oil, and marinate overnight in red wine vinegar, thyme and raw onions. Take whole mushroom stools, halved tomatoes, and whole onions the size of a silver dollar and dip in olive oil. Then on t stainless steel four-sided skewer, impale alternately the meat, mushrooms, tomatoes and onions to the length of a slender loaf of French or Italian bread. Leave little spaces between the morsels on the skewer. Spit the shashlik over charcoal or top oven fire, turning regularly on t he sides of the skewer and hasting with olive oil. until it looks pretty black

twenty minutes is a fair guess on a hot fire. In the final minutes open the loaves lengthwise on a hinge and toast the open faces on the grill. Then place the swordload in position along the loaf, close the top. and grip firmly as vou withdraw the weapon. ’This leaves something in your hand that Alexander the Great probably ate before 1 thought of it.

The Bandit may also be made of cubes of roasting beef or steak. Dip the chunks of meat in olive oil. then marinate in soy sauce with chopped onions and basil. If soy sauce is too salty for your taste put pieces of rawpotato in to draw off some of the suilt. This does not have to soak overnight. About an hour will do it.

But recipes are the enemy of sandwiches. They are improvisations in the music of cuisine. I would update Webster by saying a sandwich consists of two or more slabs of firm-textured bread with butter, oil or salad, between which is placed anything you can think of which is of different consistency than the bread. It is eaten by hand and gives the teeth a workout.

Pay no attention to my recipes, except in so far as they light the sacred flame of inspiration. The best sandvv ich you will ever eat—are the womenfolk in bed? is the one you’ll go out in the kitchen and make right now. ir