Because I am at present hurtling around the country on public rather than private transport, I am eating a lot more sandwiches than normal. There is no such thing as a simple sandwich, is there? It’s gone, kaput, finished, a relic. You cannot buy a ham sandwich or a cheese sandwich, as you used to be able to on British Rail (they were the staples not only of railway journeys, but of comedians’ routines in the 1960s – you could say ‘British Rail sandwich’ then, and pretty much build an act around it that would have won the stand-up prize at the Edinburgh Festival).
If you buy a ham sandwich, it comes with cheese at the very least. It is also likely to be crammed with tomato. There is the BLT, which perhaps a lot of people have forgotten stands for Bacon Lettuce & Tomato, and which leaves an aftertaste of salt for a couple of weeks. And then there are the fancier sandwiches, which involve brie and cranberry and malted bread, and – for now I come to the first of the main issues in this blog – a vegetable known as rocket. (In fancy dives, I have seen this written as roquette.) There is evidently something so sexy about the idea of rocket (as against lettuce), that sandwich-makers the world over have turned a few hundred rocket farmers into gazillionaires.
But I don’t like rocket. I want to place that on record. It is sharp (I would say that it is the broken glass of salad veg) because it is pointy. It also adds nothing – taste, texture, aesthetic appeal or aerodynamic property – to the substances with which it is shoved in a sandwich, toasted or otherwise, in a bun, bap, or a panini (honestly! Panini! Or, give me strength, even ‘Italian panini’!), or just plain old wholemeal nutritional freshly-baked and sourced from an old-fashioned baker bread. It just gets in the way. It is true that it does not stain, but the stainless properties of vegetables are not what matter most to me.
While we are on the subject of the contents of sandwiches, Why Grated Cheese? It expands the space between the bread, and, let’s be honest, even if I am something of a messy eater, it falls out of the bread. Get a sandwich which includes grated cheese, and you are almost immediately a one-person food disaster area, with bits of cheese all over you. Why not sliced cheese?
The answer, I suppose, is that, by grating the cheese, you expand the volume of the cheese, creating the illusion of generosity. I would go on about this con-trick, but I have trains to catch, and food to spill.