Great inventors rarely receive the recognition they deserve. I’d love to shake hands with the guys who invented duct tape, Weedwhackers and WD-40 — three of the greatest inventions of all time. I’d also like to thank John Montagu, fourth earl of Sandwich and eponymous inventor of the original fast food — the sandwich.
Life wouldn’t be the same without sandwiches. Just slap some meat, cheese or whatever you want between two slices of bread and start eating. Sandwich compositions are as varied as the breads they’re made on. I prefer plain white bread or sourdough bread, but I’ve learned to eat whole wheat, rye or pumpernickel bread, especially if my chosen sandwich is a Reuben.
The Reuben is one of my favorite meaty sandwiches with its thin slices of corned beef, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut and Russian or Thousand Island dressing stuffed between slices of marbled rye then lightly grilled. Arby’s new Reuben sandwich is really good, but the folks at Hinesville’s Uncommon Grounds make the best Rueben I’ve ever had.
Though my preferences lean toward meaty, deli-style sandwiches, BLTs and club sandwiches, a simple peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich is a treat that takes me back to my childhood — a trip I take a lot these days. I used to prefer the chunky variety of peanut butter, but when I had kids of my own, I was out-voted and that one faded from our pantry.
I still maintain “my” jelly or preserves – plum, fig, blackberry or peach. These are the preserves my mama made every year. My mother-in-law still makes strawberry preserves that I look forward to each year. Grape jelly is what the Army stuffed in accessory packages of C-rations and MREs. I ate it only because there was no other jelly option, and it was better than “beef, sliced with juices.”
Sliced tomato sandwiches require nothing more than thick slices of vine-ripened tomatoes sprinkled with sea salt and black pepper on toasted bread with a touch of mayo. If you want something green to go with the tomatoes, use fresh spinach leaves instead of lettuce.
Fried green tomatoes also make a good sandwich, especially if your condiment is a zesty pimento-cheese spread. The Pirates House in Savannah serves fried green tomato as an appetizer. Delicious slices of fried tomatoes are generously covered in smoked gouda pimento cheese and chipotle aioli, a sauce made from egg yolks, garlic, olive oil and lemon juice. I’ve considered skipping their great entrées and asking for sandwich bread to go with my fried green tomatoes.
Unlike the good Earl, most of us don’t eat sandwiches because we’re trying to keep our playing cards clean. Some sandwiches still are eaten because they’re something you can eat in a hurry, but others — like a barbecue sandwich dripping with sauce and cole slaw — is not something you eat if you’re concerned about keeping your hands (or shirt) clean.
Grilled-cheese sandwiches are easy to make and loved by American kids since forever. My mama used American cheese between two slices of Wonder bread, which she buttered then toasted on a flat-iron grill. Years later, I switched to cheddar or cheddar-jack cheese, but I still butter my honey-wheat bread first then grill it in a skillet. I’ve even made grilled cheese sandwiches using pimento cheese.
Regardless of the type of cheese you use, your grilled-cheese sandwich would be lonely without a cup of tomato soup.
Sandwiches allow us to be creative, combining flavors that otherwise don’t seem to go together, like Elvis’ peanut-butter-and-banana sandwiches.
Some sandwiches sound so good, you can’t wait to try them, like Pittsburgh’s Primanti Brothers’ masterpiece of grilled pastrami, provolone cheese, cole slaw, tomato and fries piled high on sourdough bread. Mmm!
I’m sure the earl would be proud to know what’s become of the sandwich.