The next sandwich is a taste sensation I experienced at lunchtime at school one day. After years of suffering terrible school lunches I was able to take a packed lunch when I moved up to the sixth form. Our lovely comprehensive school had extensive playing fields so, in the summer, we used to eat our sandwiches outside sitting on the grass. One sunny morning I spread my sandwich bread with rhubarb sauce (see the recipe in my previous blog on our Mrs Beeton title) and put slices of liver sausage on top. At lunchtime I strolled down the playing field to find a quiet spot to eat lunch (well away from the smokers hiding in the hedge and the snoggers also hiding in the hedge further along). This was the first time I had tried the liver sausage and rhubarb sauce combination and it was a revelation – the sweet spicy, slightly acidic, sauce complimented the strong taste of the liver sausage perfectly. I will never forget it. Rhubarb sauce is also fantastic in a BLT by the way. Soft and mild bread balances these strong flavours best so I prefer white bread.
Another sandwich and school-related memory that has stayed with me is the tale of the boarders’ packed lunch and a trip to Stratford to see Othello. Although our school was a state comprehensive it did have a few pupils who boarded, mostly because their parents were in the forces serving overseas. In the sixth form we made several trips to see performances of the plays that were set texts for A Level. One summer’s day the English class was travelling in a minibus to Stratford. We brought our packed lunches with us and the boarders had been given a packed lunch by their boarding house. They opened their pack of sandwiches and looked at the filling. It was blue cheese and pickle. Some of the boys were disgusted by this offering and decided to throw the packs of sandwiches out of the minibus window. Unfortunately (for the driver) the car travelling behind our minibus on the motorway was an open-topped sports car. The packs of blue cheese and pickle sandwiches exploded on the windscreen and sprayed their contents all over the car and driver. The inhabitants of the minibus were hysterical at this sight and the teacher driving the minibus, needless to say, decided to put his foot down and leave the scene at speed. We didn’t see what happened but can only assume the driver of the sports car had to pull in at the next service station and hose himself down.
After A Levels I left Dorset for Scotland and university. One thing I missed terribly was my Mum’s home-grown beetroot sandwiches. For me, beetroots can only be eaten freshly dug from Mum’s garden and boiled. It is a sin and a shame to adulterate a lovely beetroot with vinegar, which renders them inedible as far as I am concerned. Beetroot sandwiches are a wonderful thing – white bread (which the beetroot stains pink) and some mayonnaise are all that is required for a memorable taste experience. I was very homesick in my first term at university so my Mum parcelled up a beetroot sandwich and sent it to me in the post. The envelope arrived covered in red stains so I can only imagine what the postmen thought was contained inside – a kidnapper’s ransom note accompanied by a severed finger perhaps? However, it was delivered and the sandwich was a great cure for homesickness.
This blog post is now far too long so I will finish with a final couple of sandwich memories, the first from my university days. My hall of residence provided breakfast and an evening meal but we had to fend for ourselves at lunchtime. Being extremely cold most of the time in Scotland I often felt the need for a hot lunch. I had brought with me an ancient sandwich toaster. We weren’t allowed electrical cooking/heating appliances in our rooms so the sandwich toaster lived on the landing outside my door. I experimented with various fillings for toasted sandwiches (paté and pickle was a favourite) and the toaster would often be sizzling and spitting when our cleaner arrived. She had a dim view of my toastie experiments and was terrified of the toaster, always skirting round it to get into my room. Her lovely Fife accent became incomprehensible when she was expressing her fear and outrage at my dangerous sandwich-making equipment!
The very last memory is from a couple of hours ago – my lunch. My favourite lunchtime sandwich is a pitta bread filled with tinned mackerel fillets, potato salad, cucumber, tomatoes, spring onions, lettuce and some beetroot if I can squeeze it in. This way I get my five-a-day and some oily fish for brain health all in one go! The potato salad is naughty but it smooths off the edges of the mackerel nicely and means I don’t need to add mayonnaise as well. Delicious and it keeps me going ‘til dinner time.
Flavours are as evocative as scents, probably because the two are inextricably linked. But also, these sandwich memories are tied up with people and places from my early life, summoning up images of events fondly remembered and family and friends loved and missed.
Recipes for apple chutney, a wide range of pickles and for various types of marmalade can be found in our new publication, Mrs Beeton’s Jam-Making and Preserves.
Share your own sandwich-based memories with us by adding a comment or by posting on Facebook. We would love to hear from you.
Photo of a BLT: By jeffreyw [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons