While the 4th Earl of Sandwich (1718-1792) is given questionable credit for giving it a name, the time-saving practice of placing random foods between two pieces of sun-baked flat-breads probably dates back at least 8000 years, to a time when previously wild-growing wheat plants first came under domestication in ancient Egypt. In one form or another, sandwiches have been with us for a long time.
In September, 1930, the American cartoonist Chic Young introduced a comic strip character named “Blondie” (actually, Blondie Boopadoop to be completely accurate). Popular from the start, the comic strip really took off when, on February 17th, 1933, Blondie married her boyfriend, Dagwood Bumstead. Dagwood quickly endeared himself to a captivated public eventually fed by 2000 newspapers, published in 35 languages in 47 countries; to say nothing of a twelve-year run on film and radio. His love affair with multi-level sandwiches became the lynchpin of a success story which continues to the present day.
To prove that the idea was not the exclusive domain of comic strip editors, the late mystery writer Lawrence Sanders launched a series of detective “who-dunnits” under the “Deadly Sin” rubric in the 1970s, featuring New York City Chief of Detectives Edward X. Delaney. Speaking for many readers, I for one waited with great expectations for each new Sanders novel, not just because Delaney was a great literary protagonist, but because of the creative approach to sandwich-making which was his ongoing passion. A down-to-earth practical man, Delaney broke down his favorite activity into two carefully-crafted categories. There were those sandwiches which could be eaten over a flattened-out newspaper, and those which should only be eaten while standing over the kitchen sink. Whether a “wet” model or a “dry” model, what could be counted on was the unending inventiveness involved in each culinary undertaking. As I recall, the artful gumshoe was especially partial to anchovies.
Because I, along with other family members enjoy bread-making, and since bread is at the very heart of any sandwich, it should come as no surprise that I glory in following a tradition honored by such heroes as Dagwood and Chief Delaney.
Built on a foundation of hummus and clamped between pieces of whole wheat bread, this vegetarian special features lettuce, red onion and tomato slices, carrot shreds and clover spouts, shingled over with garden-fresh cucumber.
Reuben’s Delicatessen in New York City is credited back in 1914 with giving us a sandwich which, with variations, is still with us today. This one has the traditional pastrami, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut and thousand island dressing, to which slices of avocado add a special touch, all encased between slices of home-made pumpernickel rye bread.
Taking a note from Dagwood Bumpstead, this multi-level “skyscraper” is made up of advancing stories of honey-smoked salmon, lettuce, cheese, prosciutto, onion, liverwurst, pastrami, bacon and green olives, coated gently with touches of mayo and home-made corn relish. The chosen bread is Italian ciabatta.
All photos by Cooper Family