The 4th Earl of Sandwich is probably turning over in his grave. His one-time dish of the nobility has now been fully Americanized and made extreme. Perhaps the Earl is partially to blame for this. As First Lord of the Admiralty during the American Revolution, he is criticized for keeping much of the British Navy in European waters to avoid attack by the French. Who knows, a few more British warships off the American coast and things might have turned out differently for the rebellious new nation– we could be eating painfully thin sandwiches and driving on the left side of the road,
Thankfully, we have made the sandwich our own – and pretty much any of our sandwiches can clearly kick the “butty” of any English “sarnie.” Below we provide a brief history of extreme sandwiches, a glimpse into the current craze of extreme sandwiches, and imagine what the next stage in the evolution of this ubiquitous dish will be like. And, like the pickle spear you get at most delis, we’ve thrown in a sandwich related math theorem for you.
A Brief History of Extreme Sandwiches
I wish that I could say that I was the first to come up with the idea of extreme sandwiches as a comedic device, but I can’t. Blazing the trail was the creator of the “Blondie” comic strip, Murat Bernard “Chic” Young. In a 1944 strip, Dagwood, Blondie’s husband, creates a sandwich that is as big as his head and has to be doweled together with frankfurter. Making multiple appearances over the years, a typical Dagwood sandwich would include the following ingredients in varying quantities: 3 large onions, sliced, 1 head lettuce, 4 tomatoes, sliced, 1 lobster tail, 1 eagle talon, 1 fish (preferably 2 days old), 1 pot spaghetti – cold and gooey, 1 lb. bacon, 1 meatloaf, 1 ham, 1 fried egg (over easy), 1 string of sausages , 1 gallon mayonnaise , 1 jar of pickle relish , 1 tin of sardines in oil , 1 bottle of ketchup, 1 bottle sweet mustard, 1 bottle hot mustard, loaf bread, assorted cheeses, assorted vegetables, assorted olives. Serves one.
This sandwich changed the way that a nation looked at sandwiches. Baby Boomers tell stories of their own fathers making mile-high Dagwood Bumstead Sandwiches. In Cleveland, Ohio, there is even a Dagwood’s Sandwich Shop. In culinary literature, wherever the 4th Earl of Sandwich is mentioned “Dagwood” is not far behind. Besides being a tastier sandwich, we think the Dagwood style of sandwich was one of the first outward manifestations of America’s new found glory, dare we say “hubris.” After saving the world from German and Japanese tyranny in World War II, America was about the only country left standing. While Europe and Japan were busy rebuilding their cities with the help of the Marshall Plan, America was building sandwiches!
If it wasn’t for the US we would all likely be wearing lederhosen now. Seeing that Hitler was a vegetarian, if the Allied forces had not been victorious, Hitler, as ruler of the West may have even banned meat altogether. How boring would sandwiches be then?
So, what do you get when you combine a little hubris, insatiable appetites, and little help from Chick Young? Answer: See below.
Some Actual Extreme Sandwiches
The Primanti Brother’s Sandwich (Pittsburgh, PA): This gem of a meal features a big hunk of grilled meat, cole slaw, a fried egg, tomato and French fries between two slabs of Italian bread.
The Hamdog (Mulligan’s in Atlanta): A hotdog wrapped by a beef patty that is deep fried, then covered with chili cheese and onion, served on a hoagie bun, topped with a fired egg and two fistfuls of fries.
The Luther Burger: This tasty treat is named after R & B singer Luther Vandross. The story goes that one day Luther wanted a bacon cheeseburger but did not have any buns. So he used two glazed donuts (possibly Krispy Kreme) in place of buns. The sticky sides of the donuts are placed facing into the burger to make a less messy meal. We considered trying to verify this story with Luther’s office but given his recent passing in July 2005, we thought that would be a little too tacky. Instead, we put on Luther’s greatest romantic hits, grabbed our special ladies, lit some candles, and had a Luther Burger.
We are not the only ex-British colony getting into the extreme sandwich craze. The Australians have cast off the colonial yolk of the boring, thin sandwiches to create the following:
The Aussie (from Hungry Jack’s, the Australian equivalent of Burger King): An all-beef patty topped with lettuce, tomato, onion, ketchup, plus a fried egg, bacon and beets on a sesame seed bun.
The Future of Extreme Sandwiches
Given the current rate of evolution of the sandwich you are very likely to see these sandwiches at your local deli in the near future:
The Mustache Melt: Ground round topped with shorn mustaches from San Francisco’s Mustaches for Kids fundraiser Vidalia onions and Thousand Island dressing on grilled rye bread. Will likely be considered a delicacy in the Mission and Lower Haight.
The Puppy Muffuletta: An AKC-registered puppy of your choice on a standard Muffuletta sandwich: muffoleta bread filled with the olive salad and thin slices of mortadella, cappicola, salami, provolone, and emmantaler cheese.
The Cowboy Wrap: Horse meat, ranch style beans, shredded horse thieves, and golden fried barbed wire wrapped in a pair of worn leather chaps.
The Watch on the Rye: A gold watch, aged for two years between Christopher Walken’s butt cheeks on rye bread with Hellman’s mayonnaise (with apologies to Lillian Hellman and thanks to Quinten Tarrintino.)
The Shackleton Supreme: Poached polar bear, stewed Emperor penguin with pemmican spread on hardtack. Best served half-frozen. Frostbitten and amputated fingers and toes are optional. (Note: If you want to create your own version of the Shackleton, stay away from polar bear liver. It has lethal quantities of Vitamin A.)
The Balco Burger: Ostrich meat ground with piracetam, mazindol, THG, modafinil, topped with a Power Bar, smeared with a clear cream between a nine grain bagel. Guaranteed to increase the size of your head and shrink your testicles.
Fear Factor Sandwich: Buffalo testicles, sheep eyes, night crawlers, pig rectum, roaches, crickets, 10 live slugs, and stink beetles on moldy bread. Cow bile and cow eye juice are provided as dipping sauces. (Except for bread all ingredients were actually consumed by contestants on “Fear Factor.”)
The New French Dip: Frog legs, 37 kinds of cheese, the contents of a dirty ashtray, and a stick of butter on a croissant spread generously with surrender sauce.
PETA Panini: Veal, sweetbreads, rabbit, pate, and three PETA activists with mayonnaise on an organic multi-grain roll.
The Dada Sandwich: A sweaty gym towel and a light bulb.
The William (inspired by my two year old nephew): Tangerines, grapes, apple sauce, pizza, the nearest mouth-sized toy, crayons, and one’s own hand between two pieces of “cake” (which can mean any of the following: birthday cake, cookies, brownies, bread, or cornbread).
A Sandwich-Related Theorem
And for those who like a little math with your sandwich, we give you an actual sandwich-related math theorem.
Ham Sandwich Theorem: Let A1, . . . ,Am be measurable bounded subsets of Rm. Then there exists an (m-1)-dimensional hyperplane which divides each Ai into two subsets of equal measure. This theorem has such a colorful name because in the case m = 3 it can be viewed as cutting a ham sandwich in half. For example A1 and A3 could be two pieces of bread and A2 could be a piece of ham. According to the theorem it is possible to make one cut simultaneously cut all three objects in half. Source
This theorem sounds great, but we think all hell breaks loose if you cut the sandwich diagonally or if you prefer to have the crusts cut off.