The club sandwich. Be it diner, deli, or cafe, chances are there’s a club sandwich on the menu. Though the classic club is characterized by three layers of bread with sliced chicken, bacon, tomato, lettuce, and mayo, cut into triangles and held together by toothpicks, there are now an endless number of variations. Just as the sandwich category is held together by a few specific guidelines, so is the club sandwich: as long as it has at least three layers of bread and has a need for toothpick security, you’re good. This allows for a lot of creativity in the fillings, and a lot of great sandwiches.
Supposedly, the club sandwich made its debut at the Saratoga Gentlemen’s Club (get it?) at the end of the 19th century. What is generally agreed upon is that it mimicked the double decker train cars that came into use in America around that time.
The sandwich pictured on its side is the Mickey Mouse Club from Peggy Sue’s that Corey ordered (turns out, he’s a big fan of club sandwiches). This one had oven baked turkey, ham, bacon, tomato, lettuce, and american cheese. Since I’ve already blogged about Peggy Sue’s, I won’t say any more, but I wanted to give an example of a club variation.
The second sandwich, from Sweet Marley’s in Fredericksburg, TX, was great and interesting for a couple of reasons. First, the shop itself: Sweet Marley’s began when Marley was born. Marley has an extremely rare disease, called Rhizomelic Chondrodysplasia Punctata, or RCDP. There are currently less than 100 children living with the disorder, and most of them won’t make it past their second birthday. Marley has broken every rule of RCDP, and is now two and a half years old. Marley’s parents use the shop to pay for most of Marley’s medical bills, and also donate a percentage to other children with the disease. What’s great is that most mornings, you can find Marley having breakfast in the cafe, and can see what an amazing little girl she is. But on to the sandwich…
The Texas Club at Sweet Marley’s is quite a sandwich: three slices of texas toast, black forest ham, roasted turkey, cheddar, pepper jack, bacon, spring mix, tomato, and jalapeno mayo. Now, I’ve had a good number of club variations, but this one was awesome. For me, aside from the buttery texas toast and the sweetness of the ham, it was the pepper jack and jalapeno mayo that did it. The contrast between savory and a little bit of spice was exactly what I wanted from this sandwich.
So as you can see, the club sandwich is pretty pervasive throughout the sandwich world, and could even have its own blog, considering all of the tweaks and personalizations you can do to it. Keep an eye out for more clubs in the future.
When it comes to barbeque, the real question is, where to begin? Barbeque as a cuisine is very personal: it has so many varieties that each region, state, county, city, restaurant, and family has its own barbeque, and they know for a fact that theirs is the best. From Tennessee and the Carolinas, to the Midwest, to the state that is infamous for it, Texas, barbeque is pervasive throughout the United States. Now, luckily, as a sandwich lover, I got to eat some great barbeque in Texas, the state that gives you sliced white bread along with all that delicious slow-cooked meat.
Barbeque’s history stems from cooking methods in the Caribbean and Florida area. Originating from the word barabicu, the Spanish adapted it to barbacoa. This referenced a wooden framework on which meat could be cooked. Eventually, during colonial times, barbeque came to have the meaning it has today, with the added connotations of gathering with many people around large, slow-cooked meals.
Since doing one blog post about the entire culture of barbeque would be both overwhelming and way too long, I’ll stick with Texas since their way(s) of barbeque do fit into the sandwich category. Along with the tender barbeque they serve, restaurants will give you a nice helping of sliced white bread to use instead of (or in addition to) utensils. Now where this idea came from, I’m not quite sure, though one person in a online forum noted that it’s great for sopping up all the delicious juices. Though many people outside the barbeque culture seem to hate on the commercial white bread phenomenon, I think it’s pretty fantastic. Granted, white bread isn’t the healthiest, but what part of barbeque is? The second photo in the blog comes from Rudy’s in Austin. Seth and I decided to share since neither of us could decide what to get. The great thing about Rudy’s is that they’ll let you try pretty much anything you want until you decide. After a bout of sampling, we chose the moist brisket (you can also get lean, but why bother?), the smoked turkey, and a half rack of baby backs. I decided to make half sandwiches, and above you can see my brisket sandwich. Now, I could go on and on about how amazing all the meats were, but let me just say one thing…this brisket was more than moist. It was so delicious and tender that even after I thought I couldn’t fit one more bite, I kept eating it. The other meats were good too, but this brisket was pretty much out of this world.
Another thing about barbeque is the sauce. Again, doing an overview of all the different kinds of barbeque sauce would take a book in and of itself. Everyone makes their own sauce, and everyone thinks theirs is the best. Now Rudy’s sauce was good, but it had nothing on the sauce from Live Oak in Austin. I really wanted to take a picture of the sandwiches I made here, but after the first picture of the box of meats (photo #1), I dove in headfirst and didn’t come up for air or pictures until I was stuffed. The meats at Live Oak were some of the best I’ve ever had. We got a little bit of everything, from brisket, to pork steak, to ribs, to sausage. And as amazing as all of that was, it was the sauce that blew me away. Black, thick, and with a flavor that I couldn’t pin down, I asked the owner what was in it, and surprisingly, he actually shared the ingredients. For the most part, it contained all the usual suspects, and then he uttered one magical word: coffee. As a barista in my professional life, I just about died and went to heaven. I don’t think I’ve ever used that much sauce on anything in my life.
So ultimately, though we only hit two barbeque joints in Texas, I think I get the relationship between phenomenally cooked meat and mass produced white bread. It’s hearty, it’s starchy, it sops everything up perfectly, and most importantly, it’s damn tasty.
Frybread is inescapable in the American Southwest. If you had to pick one food that would represent Native American culture, this would be it. Frybread is essentially a pancake of fried dough that can be served alone as a snack or made into two different types of sandwiches: a Navajo (or Indian) taco, or a meat pocket-type thing.
Frybread originated on the “Long Walk” that the Navajo were forced to make during their relocation from Arizona to New Mexico in 1864. Luckily for them, the US government was kind enough to provide them with flour, salt, sugar, and lard (yes, that was just a tad bit sarcastic). Thus, frybread was born: a food with a very contradictory identity. Though frybread is a symbol of the painful past that the Native Americans have shared, it is also a way for tribes to connect over this history. Furthermore, frybread is central to powwows (gatherings among tribes), but is also credited with many of the health issues among Native Americans today.
But how does all of this relate to sandwiches? Frybread is the base of many dishes…both as a convenient way to eat your mutton and sheep intestines (pictures #2 and #3), and in Navajo tacos (picture #1). A Navajo taco consists of frybread, ground beef, chili beans, lettuce, tomatoes, and cheese. The first picture is a Navajo taco from Charly’s in Flagstaff, AZ. Sadly, we found out once we actually got to the Navajo reservation in Gallup, NM that we had Americanized tacos, which was disappointing, but kind of predictable. I’m sure that by this point, I don’t have to argue the fact that the Navajo taco is a sandwich, even if it is easier to eat with a fork and knife.
Fortunately for us, we have a friend living in Gallup, and so we got to experience the real Navajo culture…and real frybread. We went to the Navajo flea market, and aside from buying really cool jewelry, we ate a whole lot. The second picture is roast mutton…meat, tomatoes, lettuce, onion, all wrapped in frybread. Now, this definitely fits into the sandwich category, as you can pick it up and munch. The mutton, coincidentally, was also fantastic (I think I thanked the Navajo woman about twelve times). The third picture doesn’t appear to qualify as a sandwich, considering that there are three kinds of meat (including a rib and sheep intestines), a potato, a corn cob, all on top of frybread. A great way to eat this dish, however, is to break off a little bit of fry bread and a little bit of meat and eat with your hands. This meal was really fun because I got the boys to try the sheep intestines.
So though I didn’t really talk about sandwiches on this blog, I thought it was important to talk about a different kind of bread, especially one with such a cultural importance. Plus, everything with frybread is phenomenally delicious.