Plane sandwiches?? Let me explain. In my family, I have a reputation for being very fussy and taking far too long to make a sandwich. I call it loving care and thought in creating tempting bread-based snacks. A sandwich is not a sandwich unless the filling has a minimum of three ingredients (which, for the benefit of any American readers, is considered extravagant in the UK). I realise now that I missed my calling in life. I should have been the catering manager on the set of Scooby Doo. I would have been in my element constructing those three foot high sandwiches which our four legged hero would wolf down in one gulp while being chased through the abandoned fair ground/factory/creepy house by the former janitor/boss/security guard sporting a rubber monster mask or wrapped head to toe in bandages.
A few years ago I went through a phase of directing all that love and care to the production of epic sandwiches for my wife to take to work. However, she has far simpler and less sophisticated needs when it comes to food (she hails from Birmingham*; I don’t know why I felt compelled to mention that). The last straw came with some beautifully crafted roast chicken, mayonnaise, sweet chilli sauce and salad wraps. Being of the “eat to live” rather than “live to eat” persuasion, she complained: “There’s too many ingredients – can’t I just have a plain sandwich?”. Now, by pure coincidence, I had been flicking through a large reference book about a week or so before when some long-forgotten 2D cardboard cut-outs of World War II aeroplanes fell from the pages. They would have formed a mobile to hang from the ceiling of a young aviation enthusiast’s ceiling had such a person lived in our house. I’m an old aviation enthusiast and probably a bit beyond that sort of thing (and in any event, my wife wouldn’t let me hang it in our bedroom).
The germ of an idea grew in my mind. If my dearly beloved wants plain sandwiches, plane sandwiches she shall have (see what I did there?). I have to say, they were much quicker to make. Two slices of bread, a scraping of low fat spread and a sprinkling of P-51 Mustang and P-38 Lightning, all topped off with a P-40 Kittyhawk (still three ingredients, you’ll notice). The aviation savvy amongst you will notice I went for the “lite” option with fighters rather than bombers.
“What sort of sandwiches have I got today?”, my wife enquired. “Plane sandwiches, just liked you asked for, dear.” Fortunately, she didn’t notice the difference in spelling when I said “plane”. She was blissfully unaware until she sat down in the staff room at lunchtime (she’s a teacher, by the way) to tuck into her simple fare. Oh, how her colleagues laughed when a wingtip peeping out of her sandwich piqued my wife’s curiosity and she peeled back the top slice of bread to reveal ….. a plane filling. Fortunately, she saw the funny side so I only had to spend one night on the sofa (actually, that’s the only part of this tale that is not true).
Now everyone has their favourites when it comes to sandwiches and those favourites often hark back to childhood. So, I will leave you with some of my favourites from my earliest days of sandwich making (I was still relatively sparing with the number of ingredients back then). Three of them are classics, one of them is my very own invention. Try one next time you are feeling peckish and the Scooby snack jar is empty.
SWEET AND SOUR SANDWICH
My gift to the culinary world, although apart from immediate family, you, dear reader, are the first to know about it. Marmalade provides the sweet and Marmite provides the sour. Spread one of these delights on each slice of bread and slap them together. Believe me, it works (well, it works for me). I have no idea if Marmite is sold outside the UK (Australia has a similar thing, Vegemite). Marmite is a thick black, salty tasting, savoury spread made from yeast extract – a by-product of the beer brewing industry. I’m not selling it that well, am I? But in the UK, people love Marmite. Or they hate it. There’s no middle ground.
CHEESE AND JAM (JELLY)
Some people nod knowingly when you mention this classic, others look at you as if you are a swivel-eyed loony. Why? It’s not that far removed from fruit and cream. Cheddar, a proper Red Leicester (not orange rubber) or a creamy white cheese like Wensleydale or Cheshire together with marmalade or apricot jam are my favourite combinations.
FISH FINGER SANDWICH
The ultimate kiddies’ sandwich. At least in the 1970s it was. And for me it had to have a good layer of Heinz Salad Cream on, rather than the ubiquitous tomato ketchup. Again, I think salad cream may be a British peculiarity even though Heinz is a US company. It’s a sort of a poor man’s mayonnaise with a more vinaigry taste and that’s what people had on their salad (and fish finger sandwiches) back in the seventies. Now we are all more sophisticated, salad cream sales have plummeted and mayonnaise rules. Except in Birmingham.
As an aside, someone I know used to love fish fingers when he was little but hated fish. When he found out fish fingers were made from fish(?!!?), he stopped eating them. (I concealed your identity there, little brother. Oops.)
THE CHRISTMAS SANDWICH
The ultimate sandwich and part of my Christmas Day ritual since I can’t remember. As a kid, I may even have looked forward to the Christmas Sandwich as much as the traditional Christmas turkey dinner (which I love). This was because, when it came to making the Christmas Sandwich, there was no grown up around trying to force feed me Brussel sprouts. I would sneak into the kitchen some time after the end of The Great Escape and before waking up the adults in time for the Morecambe and Wise Christmas show. There I would cram a two slices of bread full of turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce. Fabulous. Only 32 sleeps to the next one!
By the way, does anyone remember a BBC sitcom called Colin’s Sandwich(!!)? My reputation obviously came to the attention of Auntie Beeb. It was broadcast between 1988 and 1990 and starred the late Mel Smith. Probably not the BBC’s finest hour.
* That’s “BirmingGum“, England not “Birming [pause] Ham” in the sweet home state of Alabama, USA.