While I could fill you all in on the reasons for my relative absence over this last temporal stretch (new job, new city, New England), I would rather pay tribute to an unavoidable truth. The last 24 months have invited a nearly global need, shall we say, for diversion and Trazodone-- I mean good cheer and community engagement. No. What I actually mean is diversion and Traz, but since I'm rooted in a rather more "hugs-not-drugs" model, we'll have to settle for substances that follow the same neurological pathways in the brain, the abuse of which can also land you in the E.R., or at least in the on the hunt for some waistband extenders... the greatest anxiolytic of all: Food.
In these divided times, I think it's a good place to start. To quote a genius: "All of humanity has one thing in common: The sandwich."
Not so long ago, (OK, a really long time ago), Zoog and I were ambling around DC's Mount Pleasant neighborhood, and as often happens, we were stopping at every one of those Little Free Library jobbies that are popular now. Mostly we look because Zoog feels best when he is near trash, but this particular Little Free had a couple absolute gems, one of which was a copy of Women's Day magazine from 1955.
I'm a sucker for old periodicals. I love the escapism--err--history and insight they provide. And as luck would have it, this issue's cover features Adam Rippon's dad as a kid, or something, and the promise of not just a few, but one hundred and ninety-two paths to watch your cares, and your cheese, melt away: Varyingly-edible mid-century sandwiches!
Interested? Of course you are! Just grab a big tub of Oleo from your bomb shelter, and a loaf of your whitest bread. Then head upstairs to gaze into your wood-paneled electric icebox .
Today it’s quite likely you’ll find containers of exotic ethnic condiments like salsa and hummus. Open the meat and cheese drawer, and you might see some turkey breast or an aberration like— Heaven forfend— a plant-based meat substitute (are we still at war or something?). But the kitchens of yesteryear were stocked with heartier fare, as is made apparent by at least two-thirds of the sandwich “recipes” in this marvelous magazine.
It’s the snack that tastes you back: Sliced beef tongue! Cover your eyes…
Now you’ve obviously asked your butcher to carve this organ up nice and thin (please let it be thin?), but you’re still stuck with four pounds of cow’s tongue. What to do? Eat up, mate!
Here’s one helpful prep. Don’t have time for all that fresh tongue gathering? Use canned!
The first line says it all: Mix tongue, cheese and chutney.
No, YOU mix tongue, cheese and chutney!
And because it’s the 50s, you’ll need margarine and milk. You know, I have to say that the act of grilling might take the foulest edge off the combination, sort of like tanning can make a person look .8% less obese.
But still, it’s not for everyone. Thank goodness there’s a curry-banana palate cleanser listed on the same page. You’ll note that spicy yum yum is “sandwiched” between two “recipes” calling for the placement of either strawberries or pecans upon circular pieces of bread, but not before moistening with mayo (not throwing stones, here; I know they’ve got 188 left to list…)
Don’t skip past the ingredients list at the top right, either: horse-radish, apricots and cream cheese. But at least it wasn’t ripped from a cow’s maw before you ate it.
If you’ve not yet acquired this taste for taste organs, there’s a less lingual option. If flakes are good frosted, why not “salads?” This ain’t no Betty-Crocker-Rich-and-Creamy-meets-Caesar proposition, it’s a sensible approach involving canned ham, mayo and cream cheese frosting (thinned with milk, because what IS this, 1925?) The “recipe” continues into the next photo, but don’t miss the last half of the “stack-ups” instructions just below. (In case your curious, steps 1-5 involved consecutive layers of radish-cucumber mayo, ham and swiss coleslaw, salmon salad, crab meat salad, and peanut butter, chili sauce, and bacon. Sounds useful to Delta Pi for their hazing rituals, if nothing else.) See for yourselves!
Still hungry? Fry up a quick banana-and-cheese (above) for a bedtime snack. Not sleeping so well? Maybe it’s because you ate a banana-and-cheese sandwich as a bedtime snack.
Woman’s Day, which started as an in-store recipe mag at A&P, had almost 5,000,000 readers in 1955, when this issue came out. They were therefore able to afford to print color photos, whetting appetites with images such as:
Chuckle as we might at these endless combinations of cheese, banana, tongue, raisins and ham salad, Women’s Day is a gift to the modern reader, not so much for its innovative lunch solutions, but for its irreplaceable look into post-war America and the culture of domesticity.
The mock liver-pate might be lacking, but the magazine is 160 large, well-written pages. There’s even a story on a young scientist with a promising future:
All I’m saying is in an era of “Six Weird Things Celebrity Pythons Can’t Go Without,” and “Quick Tips to Get Your Boss Into Bed,” it’s refreshing that a periodical would really see something through to the end. Maybe even past the end. It was a time of hope— the kind of hope that begets the courage to invent Wiffle balls and cure polio and combine tinned fish and tropical fruits.
So here’s to the sandwich—even to the ones we’d never dare put in our mouths—and to the mouths that fill our sandwich.