The humble sandwich has a history as lively as its makings and is defined only by the limits of the human imagination.
Susan Russo's "The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches" can be viewed as just a cookbook, but it can also be enjoyed as a thought-provoking history lesson. And your mouth will water at the photographs by Matt Armendariz.
The term "sandwich" dates to the 1760s, when the British Earl of Sandwich first demanded a snack of putting meat between two slices of bread and ate it then and there. He probably wasn't the first human to come up with the idea but is generally credited with popularizing the term.
The trend spread to America. In the 1830s a cookbook came out with a recipe for a ham sandwich. The concept had obviously blossomed, since other fillings, such as sardines, cheese, nuts, and jelly, were also listed.
Every ethnic group that came to America brought a new quirk to the humble sandwich. Liverwurst from Germany, the Cubano from Cuba, the Caprese from Italy.
The "classic club" started in a gentleman's club in the 1890s. If you overstuff it, Russo notes, you have a "Dagwood" named for the "Blondie" comic strip character — a multi-level sandwich taller than most human mouths can bite.
Sandwiches come as open-faced, bagel, pouched, wrapped, unleavened, in sugary doughnuts, and even as dessert, like in ice cream sandwiches. Explore exotics like Lobster Roll or Croque-Monsieur or stick with the homespun pleasure of a BLT — bacon, lettuce and tomato.
One thing becomes clear as you go through the book. Between 1890 and the 1920s, there was an explosion of new sandwiches. The well-loved Fluffernutter — white bread, peanut butter and a thick layer of marshmallow fluff — first started appearing after World War I.
There are trends in sandwiches. The sandwich loaf of stacked bread slices with layers of garnishes and then frosted like a cake with unsweetened cream cheese was popular in the 1950s but by the 1970s was scarcely seen.
"The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches" might even get your child interested in the history behind a PB&J.
THE JUCY LUCY CHEESEBURGER
2 pounds ground chuck, preferably 85 percent lean
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
6 slices cheese, such as American or cheddar, cut into quarters
6 hamburger buns
Garnishes, such as lettuce, tomato, pickle slices and fried onions
Preheat grill to medium. Season meat with salt and pepper. Divide into 12 equal patties.
Neatly stack 4 quarter slices of cheese in the center of each patty and top with a second patty. Using your fingertips, seal patties together. The patty will have a small bump in the middle from the cheese.
Place patties on grill, with the cheese-bump sides up. Cook 6 to 7 minutes, flip and piece sides with a knife to let steam from the cheese escape. Cook another 6 to 7 minutes
Remove burgers from grill. Serve on buns with choice of garnishes. Let burgers cool slightly before eating.
"The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches"
By Susan Russo
Quirk Books, Philadelphia
$18.95, 320 pages