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Country Living: Old cookbook features simple sandwiches

"A tray of carefully made sandwiches is appealing to the eye as well as the palate, and most women enjoy the little stir of admiration which they are bound to create." - Meta Given, "The Modern Family Cook Book"

I've been highly entertained lately with my recent acquisition of "The Modern Family Cook Book" (modern as in 1942) and its fascinatingly antiquated, meticulous and sometimes odd approach to meal time.

I hit upon the sandwiches section and couldn't believe my eyes when I saw recipes and detailed instructions for such simple offerings as bologna or pb&j sandwiches.  Really?  Yes, we understand that the book was written to the new homemaker in a time when young women no longer grew up, married, and lived next door to their families, but really?  Instructions on how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich?

 I had to stop and examine this section thoroughly.  It begins with the history of the sandwich (Earl of Sandwich recap, of course) and follows with a rundown of the types of sandwiches. Lunch box sandwiches. The hot sandwich. Grilled or toasted sandwiches. Open-faced sandwiches. Club sandwiches. Canapes. Fancy sandwiches and the sandwich loaf.

There are instructions on using a main dish filling, a sweet filling or a relish filling. The tutorial continues with the proper way to slice bread, wrap a sandwich, and cut it for serving -in halves or quarters so it may be handled conveniently. Although it adds, "If everyone is hungry and the sandwiches are good, no one will worry about the arrangement." Just be sure to serve them on a flat tray, large platter, or chop plate, the book advises.

 Beyond that, what was really most interesting were the actual sandwich recipes.  Since most of the recipes are so simple as to be ridiculous, I assume the recipes are written to provide ideas for the harried new homemaker who doesn't have time to think.

 Sandwich recipes include: Bacon. Bacon and pickle. Bacon and tomato.  Chipped beef.  Ham salad. Club. Ham and tuna fish.  Ham and banana. (Seriously?)  Liver sausage. (I don't think ANY arrangement would be artful enough to get me to eat that.) Baked bean. Carrot-raisin.  Broiled sardine. (Ditto my comment on liver sausage.) Olive and egg. Jelly. Peanut butter and jelly.  Peanut butter and watercress. (!) Frankfurter.

 The frankfurter sandwich grossed me out more than anything in the section, including even the liver sausage and broiled sardine recipes.

 How to make Frankfurter Sandwiches:

 5 frankfurters

mustard, sweet pickle relish, or catsup, if desired

5 leaves lettuce

10 slices buttered bread

 Split frankfurters lengthwise and pan-fry in a little butter or other fat. Place 2 halves on each of 5 slices of bread, and spread with mustard, relish, or catsup, if desired. Cover with a lettuce leaf and another slice of buttered bread. Makes 5 full sandwiches.

I could only imagine serving up this culinary atrocity to my three children.

"Kids! I have hot dog sandwiches for supper tonight!" I could see them running from the table. I was definitely not envisioning a stir of admiration.

I was talking to my friend and had to tell him about the hot dog sandwich.  "How disgusting is that?" I asked.

"Hold on," he said, "I ate hot dog sandwiches all the time when I was growing up, and sometimes I fix myself a hot dog sandwich today."

I was boggled. "Why would anyone eat a hot dog sandwich?  Why not get a bun?"

"What if you don't have a bun?"

"Then you don't have a hot dog!"

I told another friend about the sandwich.  Had he ever had such a thing?  Yes, he had.  He'd eaten lots of hot dog sandwiches.

"Why would anyone eat a hot dog sandwich?" I asked.

"Sometimes you're poor.  Sometimes you don't have a bun."

The tectonic plates of my hot dog sandwich world rocked.

I called my cousin.  "Have you ever had a hot dog sandwich?"

"Yes."

"When you were a kid, or recently?"

"Both."

I pondered the notion that people I actually knew ate hot dog sandwiches.  Voluntarily.  Was it just me - because I was from the suburbs?  We always have buns in the suburbs.  Did I need to think outside the hot dog bun?  Was I spoiled to my bun-ability?  Was it really as disgusting as I thought it to be or was I simply a hot dog sandwich snob?

 I had to find out.

 I bought jumbo hot franks. Regular hot dogs just seemed too small for one split hot dog to make a full sandwich. I split a dog and fried the pieces on both sides in butter, following the cookbook's instructions. I buttered the bread and placed the fried dog. Mustard, ketchup, relish and lettuce. I had a hot dog sandwich, and all I had to do to complete the experiment was eat my concoction, of course.

 It wasn't bad. I might make another one. And I'm not ashamed to admit it! Who's coming to dinner? I have hot dog sandwiches. They're artfully arranged.

Writer Suzanne McMinn lives in Roane County, where she writes every day in her blog, Chickens in the Road, at www.chickensintheroad.com.


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