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JUMP BACK | BE FORWARD

After a half-century of perceived American cultural hegemony, Europeans feel the need to get back at us in any way that they can.  You really can’t blame them; after endless decades of ruling the world, here we come with our fat loudmouthed tourists and our Big Macs, ruining everything, and it’s not like they can just up and carpet-bomb us.  So their revenge has taken the form of naming a bunch of low-grade foods and beverages after us.  It ain’t beating us in a war, admittedly.  And it’s not like we didn’t foist a bunch of our own stereotypes on every European nation whose name we could be bothered to pronounce.  But for we few who respect, admire, and even embrace European culture, it cuts to the quick to be handed a watered-down coffee and be told it’s an “Americano”.

That’s the case with our very first sandwich.  I’ve long been familiar with the lazy quasi-breakfast item that consists of cream cheese and jam between two slices of bread, but I always assumed that it was called a goyim bagel or something like that.  Imagine my dismay, as a longtime Europhile, to discover that in Europe, it is known as an “American sandwich”.  What we did to deserve this I cannot imagine — the firebombing of Dresden, maybe — but since this project is designed to progress in alphabetical order, it’s the lead-off sandwich in my century of sandwiches, so in the spirit of peace, conciliation and eternal friendship between America and our European brothers and sisters, here we go.

THE SANDWICH: An American sandwich is, simply enough, cream cheese and some sort of jam, jelly or preserves between two slices of bread.  Its origins are shrouded in the midst of antiquity, but an educated guess probably would involve sleeping late on Sunday, cultural proximity to urban Jews, and a desire to finish the Style section before getting dressed.

THE INGREDIENTS: Two slices of white bread, a.k.a. honky manna, are called for.  I used Cascadian Farms organic raspberry preserves, and whipped Philadelphia cream cheese.  (In another instance of geographical naming as cultural stereotyping, Philadelphia cream cheese has nothing to do with that fine East Coast town; its origins are British and the brand started in New York, but was named for Philly because of its one-time association with fine cuisine.  Now, of course, Philadelphia is thought of as the home of angry sports fans who throw batteries at underperforming athletes.)  Curiously enough, given its association with America, the sandwich is meant to be presented with the crusts cut off and shaped into neat rectangles, in the British style.  It thus belongs to the tea sandwich family of European oppressors more than the crude, boorish American meat hunk-style sammy.  Thank goodness for food’s little ironies.

THE TASTE TEST: I’ve never been a fan of foods traditionally associated with breakfast, nor do I especially enjoy frou-frou finger sandwiches, and I far, far prefer savory to sweet, especially in the sandwich medium.  So you’d think I’d hate this delicate little throw-together, but honestly, it was a perfectly adequate start to the project.  It’s simple to make, light, easy to digest, and would be perfect as a brunch item.  It’s not that great, really; more inoffensive than spectacular.  And you’d have to eat about three dozen of them to make a meal.  But it’s a good way to begin, and despite its extremely humble ingredients, the European naming strategy and construction gives it a curious elegance.  Cultural backfire never tasted so modest!

Mirrored from LEONARD PIERCE DOT COM.

Comments

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flying_blind
Feb. 8th, 2011 08:56 am (UTC)
If they're going to call it an American sandwich, it should really be made on an English muffin instead of bread (what breadish substance is more American than an English muffin— cornbread excepted?) In fact, I myself have, on several occasions, had cream cheese and jam on an English muffin (toasted, of course.) I never gave it a name, though.
ludickid
Feb. 8th, 2011 06:39 pm (UTC)
Coming up, I have a "breakfast" sandwich, which is made with American cheese, English muffin, and Canadian bacon in a semantic clusterfuck of epic proportions.
minnesattva
Feb. 8th, 2011 09:08 am (UTC)
Surely it should be peanut butter rather than cream cheese!
ludickid
Feb. 8th, 2011 06:40 pm (UTC)
That would be a PB&J, an entirely different sandwich altogether. Although the European dislike of peanut butter is something that will forever separate me from my overseas brethren.
(Deleted comment)
minnesattva
Feb. 8th, 2011 09:54 am (UTC)
I LOVE curry and fries. It never seemed that incongruous to me... unusual, yes, but only because curry sauce was unknown to me before.

I also love that, at least in South Manchester, you can get half rice, half chips with your curry sauce, rather than having to choose only one form of carbohydrates at a time!
(Deleted comment)
ludickid
Feb. 8th, 2011 06:41 pm (UTC)
One thing I am learning about UK sandwiches (or "buttys") is that, ingredient-wise, they are held to an even lower standard than what we're willing to call a sandwich here in America.
tonyzaret
Feb. 8th, 2011 12:19 pm (UTC)
Growing up in the midwestern united states, people in my family used to eat these all the time. Often on toast.
solipsiae
Feb. 8th, 2011 03:36 pm (UTC)
This is the first I've ever heard of this food-bomination.

... Kinda want to try it though. As a Texan, you are probably no stranger to that weird-ass chipotle-raspberry sauce shit that entertainer-hostesses like to dump all over a brick of cream cheese and serve with a small knife alongside crackers.
ludickid
Feb. 8th, 2011 06:43 pm (UTC)
I actually considered using that stuff, but I didn't want to get too exotic the first time out of the gate.

Make one! It's really just a little tea sandwich, and is harmless at worst. I am sure you will like it better than some future installments, which are terrifyingly meat-laden.
thaitea
Feb. 8th, 2011 06:28 pm (UTC)
I am very excited about the launch of this Sandwich Century. I'll bring the Tums.
This sandwich sounds marvy! Cream cheese & jam are great together. God bless 'murrica.
ludickid
Feb. 8th, 2011 06:44 pm (UTC)
I need to hire a better photographer for these sandwiches, too. And maybe a food prep guy to make them look nicer.

Someone please give me a job, is what I'm saying.
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ludickid
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Leonard Pierce is a freelance writer wandering around Texas with no sleep or sense of direction. If you give him money he will write something for you. If you are nice to him he may come to your house and get drunk.

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