The 10 best sandwiches
It’s British Sandwich Week 2010 between May 9th-15th, which is nice, because sandwiches don’t get a lot of coverage and not many people know about them. They do, however, have their own association! Oh yes, The British Sandwich Association are there to uphold the rights of the perfect lunchtime snack and protect our bread based meal from evil salad interlopers. I am thankful to them, because they care – care about one of the best creations on the planet, care enough to have a week which is ‘designed to recognise the importance of one of Britain’s greatest food inventions’ (their words, although I do agree!).
Sadly though, as much as I want to be a member, they are fools. They published this list of top 20 ‘best selling’ sandwiches, almost as a way of confirming their lack of insight.
Chicken Salad (1)
Prawn Mayonnaise (7)
Mixed Selection (5)
Ham+Cheddar Cheese (20)
Southern Fried Chicken (16)
Chicken Caesar (14)
Egg Mayonnaise (-)
(Source: Kantar) Figures in brackets show position a year ago
Well, this is a thrown-down-gauntlet by any other word! I see your top 20 and raise you a top ten, Epicureans Answer stylee. Obviously though we need rules, a list without rules is like an open sandwich – messy and pointless.
So we have five that are pre prepared and five that are home made. No hot fillings either – otherwise the list begins and ends with the fishfinger sandwich.
Marks & Spencer Egg & Bacon (pre-prepared)
On a substantial malted brown bread, these were a revelation when they hit middle England circa 1988. I remember the amazement at their heft and variable textures; soft & creamy, whilst being crisp & salty, held together with bread that could beat up any other bread.
My earliest sandwich memory is all about the ham. Saturday’s lunch would consist of a brown bread ham sandwich, cut into triangles and a lurid green limeade, in Beatties coffee bar, Wolverhampton. I would bite strategically, forming each into the shape of K9 (‘Affirmative Doctor’) and smile to myself. Art meets culture meets food – my life on a side plate.
Prawn mayonnaise (pp)
I’ve never really understood the allure of prawns? Sure they’re okay, but for the effort and expense, surely we can do better than this ugly bottom-feeder? Except, of course, when you smother them in mayonnaise, lie them betwixt two pieces of oat meal bread and package them up in a factory, on an industrial estate in Wembley. Then I’m getting them. Hit me up with a triple pack, I got the buzz!
Egg & Cress (hm)
As mentioned elsewhere on this site, my preference for this filling, is one made with the acrid tang of salad cream, not the European blandness of mayonnaise. I find the mild egg needs a flavour counterpoint, to bring it to life, otherwise you find yourself in a world of beige flavours. Served still warm, with a crescent of Walkers prawn cocktail, can only add to the enjoyment.
For many of my formative years pastrami was the stuff of American TV and film – often ‘on rye’. It speaks volumes of our food culture that this distinctly New York flavour has now made a home for itself on chiller shelves everywhere. Don’t panic, we’ve managed to water it down enough, so Americans wouldn’t recognise it! Think of it as a posh ham sandwich and it’ll feel British enough.
It’s a startling revelation when you make a list and discover that brown bread is your preferred sandwich surround. There is however, always the exception. Behold the Crisp sandwich. There is so much more to this childhood basic that slapping some crisps between a couple of slices of Mothers Pride – what flavour crisps? Butter? Arrangement of said crisps. Each one is a knife-edge decision, which can alter the enjoyment disproportionately. My choice has to be thick sliced white, Walkers ready salted & Heinz Tomato Ketchup (on both slices).
Smoked salmon (pp)
Nothing says posh like fatty, factory farmed salmon in mass produced bland bread, all glued together with artificially produced low-fat spread. If you’re lucky they’ve put some, inaccurately named, cream cheese in there too. Now, where’s that regatta…?
Cheese & pickle (hm)
I find on the whole that, in the lunch domain, cheese equates to cheap. Not as much as sweetcorn, which, as we all know, cheapens a meal. Cheese and pickle turns that rule of thumb upside down. A mature cheddar and an over generous dollop of Branstons is the stuff sandwich dreams are made of. Don’t ever buy from a shop, the ratios will be stingily profit-driven and the cheese reminiscent of those huge FOR BIG MISTAKES rubbers than you had when you were at school.
Boot’s Shapers Chicken & black pepper mayonnaise (pp)
A fleeting packet, tucked away, like a mirage in the always badly arranged, meal deal shelves of Boot’s. This concoction may seem like the anti-sandwich – Shapers branding, bland chicken and a low calorie mayonnaise ‘style’ dressing – but If this is wrong, I don’t want to be right.
Tomato sauce (hm)
Some may argue that simply pouring Heinz Tomato Ketchup on two slices of bread and putting them together does not constitute a sandwich. Some people deserve to be punched in the face. A coincidence? I think not! Almost arrogant in its simplicity, it shouts ‘keep your fancy fillings, I know who I am and I’m proud of it’. And it does, and it is. I’m not a complete slave to its dominance, I secretly have some cheese on the side. When it’s not looking.