Good Food Blog
Thrilling fillingsPosted at 3:06PM, 12 April 2011 by Stuart Walton - Food and wine writer
What are you having for lunch today? Yep, me too. Same yesterday and same tomorrow no doubt. There's no point in wondering why the sandwich took over our lives as midday sustenance - the answer is so obvious. It's the original and ultimate convenience food, requiring little effort, no imagination and no cooking, and yet millions of us can't even be bothered to make them ourselves.
There's no point in buying a sandwich unless it's more interesting than one you could make yourself.
I start out from the principle that there's no point in buying a sandwich unless it's more interesting than one you could make yourself. So perhaps I'll slice baby plum tomatoes onto pastrami from the deli, add some colourful salad leaves, then whip up an instant mustard mayonnaise with Hellmann's and Dijon, pepper it, and clag the whole thing together. Or I'll thickly slice some of Sunday's leftover roast beef, plonk it on floury wholemeal, spread with spicy chutney, throw some rocket and tomato in there, and then - the pièce de résistance - slather the other slice of bread with creamy, spreadable, dirty-blue Gorgonzola. Yum. Or then again, perhaps I'll just buy another BLT from M&S.
The first and worst thing about shop sandwiches is that they're too cold. If you only buy it at lunchtime, you're eating it in its most blandly refrigerated state, tasting more or less of nothing. The same is true if you queue for half-an-hour to have one made up before your very eyes at the deli counter. All those tubs of mayonnaisey stuff look so tempting, but often turn out to be underseasoned and dull - and of course, fridge-cold.
When I worked in an office, I made a sandwich in the morning to take in with me. At least it was the right temperature, and it saved oodles of money. Now I have access to my kitchen all day, but do I whip up some pasta, warm some soup, or make a salad? No, mostly I just make another sandwich. Perhaps it's the carbo-bulk that's decisive.
I quite often buy sandwich filler, though I don't know why. The simple egg mayonnaise is useful for adding the essential wadding element to a sandwich of leftover bits of smoked salmon. But more often than not, I end up adding nothing more to it than a twist of pepper.
There are things called sandwiches in the cheap supermarket near me that consist of two thick white pieces of something spongy with a single thin line of something pink between them. Who spends money on those? They look even worse than train sandwiches, which are even more refrigerated than supermarket sandwiches.
A few years ago, I went to the legendary Katz's Deli in New York, and had a beef brisket sandwich made up by a man in a white hat. He carves the warm meat, crams it inches thick onto your choice of bread, adds whatever pickles tickle your fancy, and then hands it to you on a paper plate, averting his eyes while you drop some loose coinage into the tips cup. 'Thank you, sir!' When I could get my moosh round it, it was a great sandwich. But still somehow just a sandwich.
Are you in a sandwich rut? Could there be another lunchtime favourite waiting in the wings?