Thursday, May 5, 2011

Review: The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches

I was fortunate enough to get my hands on a review copy of The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches by Susan Russo (published by Quirk via Random House). As soon as I took it out of the package I knew it was going to be a good read. A smaller plate-sized book full of delicious photos (by Matt Armendariz) and stories about sandwiches - and recipes, of course!

Russo gives a detailed, but not long-winded overview of the history of the sandwich and pays homage to many of the standards, as well as some of the more obscure (yet historical) works not frequently seen in public. Dessert sandwiches, open-face and pita filled creations are included, as well as the common hamburger and frankfurter (both included since they fall within Russo's definition of sandwich). Yes, the standard Peanut Butter, Club, and Fried Bologna and Grilled Cheese sandwiches are there (including some trivia about the sandwiches themselves), but there's far more to it:
  • The Elvis, a sandwich fit for the King of Rock and Roll: peanut butter, butter, banana and bacon on white bread
  • Chip Butty, an English French-fry sandwich (did you know that 'butty' is 'sandwich' in Welsh?)
  • Toasted Chocolate Sandwich (possibly created by Hershey's to sell more chocolate)
  • Fluffernuffer, invented in 1913 by Emma Curtis of the Curtis Marshmallow Factory
  • Spamwich, made with SPAM, of course - a product that's as wildly popular in Hawaii as it is the butt of jokes in Canada.
There are also some fairly sophisticated sandwiches that once seen should make a regular appearance on your table:
  • Croque-Monsieur, more than a glorified grilled cheese with ham
  • Curried Chicken Salad sandwich, with roots in Buckingham Palace
  • Denver Sandwich, similar to a Western omelet, with possible roots in the Chinese dish Egg Foo Young
  • Felafel Sandwich, with a unique-looking felafel rolled in sesame seeds
  • Grilled Portobello Sandwich, a super-yummy looking balsamic marinated mushroom with roasted red pepper and mozarella on a ciabatta bun.
Okay, I think you're starting to get the picture.

Jeremy loves sandwiches even
though he's still not big
enough to eat one.
In terms of attention to detail for a book that includes recipes, what really caught my eye in this book is that the ingredient index is in the front of the book - very practical when you're staring into your fridge and spot what's left of the hummus, and are wondering what to do with it.

Instructions for building the sandwiches are very well written, with ingredients on the left and directions on the right, with notes at the bottom for any variations or extra tidbits of information.

If you love sandwiches or if you're someone who has trouble deciding what to do with the leftover turkey dinner, I recommend picking up The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches.

Deciding which sandwich to recreate was a challenge. Did I want to try a standard, something fancy-pants, or something more on the wacky side? I decided to go with sardine. Sardines aren't the first thing someone of my generation thinks of when you say "do you want a sandwich?" Maybe my parents. Certainly my grandparents generation.

Sardines, in my opinion, are an up-and-coming food. They're full of iron, calcium (from the bones), Omega-3s and they're low in mercury and other toxins since they're such a small fish.

Russo's sardine sandwich is on rye bread (as it should be) and uses sardines packed in oil, spicy mustard, lemon juice and red onion. The sandwich itself was initially brought to North America by Scandinavian immigrants and quickly made its way into New York delis. And Russo doesn't fail to mention the downside of the sardine sandwich - fragrant breath that might not appeal to the average person sitting nearby.

My sardine sandwich on a medium rye. I opted out of the
hard-boiled eggs, however, I couldn't say "no" to the mayo.
My sardine sandwich was on a medium rye bread, and it was excellent. The lemon removes some of the fishy taste you get with sardines (not that I mind it), and gives it a lighter taste.

Recipes by the Haggis and the Herring: tasty world recipes tested in our kitchen
Try other tasty recipes


  1. I've seen that book on amazon and thought it looked very interesting. Now I think I must have a copy of my own! Can't say I'd go for the sardine sandwich, however :-)

  2. Don't knock it 'till you try it! It was surprisingly good.

  3. Wasn't this an awesome book!? Great review and that looks like one good sammich =)

  4. Very informative... I only knew of that Elvis sammy thanks for the great read!

  5. Great review - this sounds like my kind of cookery book.

    I like that the ingredients index is at the front, as I personally find that kind of listing of more practical use - some recipe books seem to overcomplicate matters with their contents page and I find that highly frustrating.

    My dad owns a chippy and my sis and I always used to have chip butties when we were younger! Does the book have a fish finger sarnie in there? Another childhood fav, mm!

    What the devil is that sandwich being pointed at Jeremy? At first glance, I thought that was half a scotch egg on top!

    Cheers (sorry for the rambling comment by the way!)

    Hungry Jenny x

  6. @Jenny:
    Your dad owns a chippy?! Awesome. Nobody in my family is in the food business (heck, only a few know how to cook). Meredith's cousin in the UK actually owns a restaurant in Burnham-on-Crouch - one of the chefs is Moroccan so it was quite a treat.

    Fish finger sarnie? I had to look that one up (not in the book, unfortunately). I know what fish fingers are, but I had to figure out what the sarnie was. Duh - "sandwich." Looks delicious (I found a fancy-pants youtube video of some boys putting one together from scratch).

    It's funny that the Inuit have 200 words for "snow," when the English have just as many for "sandwich!"

    re: Jeremy - that's actually a burger in some hand-sliced bread. We rarely buy buns for some reason. There's always something nicer on hand (hence the grilled chicken-cheeseburger recipe we've made a few times :-)


  7. Awesome - I hope Jeremy enjoyed it ;-) now that's what I call a doorstep! Have you heard of that one? Never occured to me til now how many sandwich related terms we have, haha!

    Hungry Jenny x

  8. Doorstep! Another one I had to look up. Of course, someone had a shot of one in a Tesco (good 'ol Tesco).

    Look more like stairs!

    My mother-in-law is there this week (the UK, not Tesco in particular) and I asked her to pick us up some beanz, crisps and Scotch (yeah, the comfort food isn't quite the same here). She'll be coming back to Canada with a suitcase full of groceries.

  9. Being a huge sandwich lover, I have to get my hands on this book. And I actually like sardines. I never thought I did, but Joe insisted years ago I try them (he loves them) and much to my surprise I liked them. I just needed to get by the smell. And looks.

  10. @brenda: It looks excellent!

    Was disappointed that your grilled cheeseburger wasn't in there.


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