Reading between the slices


Oh God I love a good sandwich. Whenever I think of all the ingredients that can be spread, layered, stuffed or piled high between two slices of bread, I am overcome by feelings of sheer bliss.

We all know the story of that famous gambler The Earl of Sandwich who was too busy winning or losing at the gaming table to stop for a snack. Someone brought him meat between two slices of bread, but he did not invent the sandwich.

During the Passover Seder, participants make a sandwich of charoset and horseradish between two small pieces of matzo. It’s washed down with four glasses of wine.

Sandwiches are universal. I have a personal relationship with them. Time has not muddled my memory of dainty savory tea sandwiches at Fortnum & Mason in London; a ploughman’s lunch of ham and cheese on a baguette, with all the trimmings in British pubs; a Cuban sandwich in Miami; a toasty hot croque monsieur with a small pitcher of vin de pays in Paris cafes; lobster rolls throughout New England; hot pastrami on rye with kosher half done pickles at Delicatessen on Chestnut Street; the shrimp salad roll made with special rolls Sam Mink flies in from Maine along with homemade potato chips at The Oyster House; and a fried soft-shell crab with homemade tartar sauce and a pile of piping hot, slightly salty french fries along the eastern shore of Maryland.

To say I never have met a sandwich I didn’t like would be a falsehood. I do not care for meatball hoagies or any with gravy or beef au jus because I detest soggy bread.

I do not take a shine to faux ingredients in sandwiches such as fake crabmeat used in some seafood salads or the tasteless, dry dreaded corned beef and pastrami in most places that are not Jewish delis. We know who the offenders are.

You can imagine my delight when I received a copy of “The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches: Recipes, History and Trivia for Everything Between Sliced Bread” by Susan Russo. It was published by Quirk Books in Old City.

I met with Ohio-born South Philly transplant Margaret McGuire who edited the book and discovered we both adore sandwiches. We agreed the grilled cheese is definitely a woman thing.

“Susan Russo wrote ‘Recipes Every Man Should Know’ for Quirk last years so all the editors reached out to her,” McGuire said. “I read her blog and she also writes for NPR.”

McGuire admits she also was drawn to the origin, lore and history of sandwiches and was happily immersed in the editing.

“The book was going to be smaller but when you hold it in your hand, it feels like a sandwich,” she said. “You will notice the Dagwood on the cover does not have a toothpick with an olive.”

McGuire wishes she could have squeezed in more sandwich recipes, but is delighted with the finished product.

As I leafed through the tome, I found a few strange recipes. I would never dream of slathering butter on a liverwurst sandwich. Mayonnaise has no place on an Italian hoagie. Although Russo called the Philly cheesesteak “the king of sandwiches,” her recipe calls for sautéed green bell peppers and mushrooms. I have never seen green peppers on a cheesesteak unless you specifically ask for them.

“The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches” pays tribute to all those born in the USA delights, which I will never take for granted. The hoagie, the cheesesteak, the Kentucky hot brown, the po’boy, the muffuletta, ice cream sandwiches, the loose-meat sandwich, chopped liver on rye and so many more are among my favorite things to eat.

The Elvis


2 tablespoons of peanut butter
2 slices of white bread
1 ripe banana, mashed
2 slices of bacon, cooked
2 tablespoons of butter


Spread peanut butter on one slice of the bread, banana on the other. Add the bacon and close the sandwich.

Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Cook the sandwich two minutes per side, or until golden brown. Eat it while it’s hot. Keep all the ingredients close at hand — you’ll be making another.

Serves one.

Baked Beans on Toast


About 1 tablespoon of butter
2 thick slices of brown bread
1/4 cup of baked beans, preferably Boston-style with molasses, heated


Butter both sides of the bread. Pour the warm baked beans onto bread, buttered side up.

Serves one.

Note from Phyllis: During World War II, Heinz canned baked beans quickly became a staple in British households. The classic dish in Great Britain and Canada is called baked beans on toast. It is eaten with a knife and fork. SPR