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Tuesday, 8 December 2015

From dullness to something else

Other than haslet (a sausagey blob from the sweepings of a butcher’s floor) the dullest sandwich filling is bog-standard, supermarket Cheddar cheese. Piquancy expectations are low; take a bite and you’re into negative values. Yes you can add onion but then it’s a cheese-and-onion sandwich; same with pickled cabbage. With that thinking why not go the whole hog and say the tastiest cheese sandwich is a pork pie?

Assuming you’re claiming to eat a cheese sandwich (a modest claim) the answer lies in a small dab of this or that, so that the structure (two slices of bread and filler) is visibly unchanged. Take this as your starting-point rule. And VR reveals a new twist; to ensure cheese sandwich authenticity, integrate the dab with the butter smeared on the bread. Brilliant!

Yesterday was diet day so no tests. What am I thinking? Crushed chilli paste mixed with the butter! So little paste! The sandwich’s physical integrity remains intact.

Bear in mind: we’re aiming for a flavoured cheese sandwich, not a layered monstrosity which betrays the concept.

Hardline Hope, a novel (5847 words)
Jenson, edging towards them, had now arrived. “Can I help you ladies?” he asked, the expression on his face hopelessly wrong.

Gayle surveyed him eye to eye. “Rickon a Shimatsu (supercar) suits... ladies?”

“Sure. We sold one to a Man City defender’s wife.”

“Who’s famous for being married to a soccer player?”

Jenson simpered which surprised Lindsay. Whatever his oafishness he was supposed to be ace at selling. Jenson said, “Well, yes.”

“Yuh’see Jenson, I’m sort of famous myself. And not for being married to anyone. Seems you’re selling hairy chests here, and not changing the story for those of us who wear bras; or sometimes nothing at all in that department. Get my meaning?”


  1. Difficult if we are not going to make marked additions to the basics. (onions or pickled cabbage I agree on). However a thin smear of beef extract (Oxo, etc.) adds piquancy, or if you prefer a vegetarian substitute, Marmite.
    My wife makes suberb chutney or Sharwoods Mango Chutney is an acceptable addition in my family. But that might be a marked addition in your book?

  2. Dare I suggest a few drops of Tabasco? Or, use blue Stilton instead.

  3. Avus: I repeated the rules three times to ensure we were, as it were, talking about the same thing. Bovril and Marmite are possibles but both dominate all other tastes so overwhelmingly that it would make sense to discard the supermarket Cheddar.

    There was a further point. Say "cheese sandwich" without further qualification and most would envisage Cheddar. It's astonishing that this bland comestible has endured possibly for centuries. Or perhaps there are more peptic ulcers around than I imagined.

    Sir Hugh: Blue Stilton! Why not smoked salmon, caviar or, as I jocularly suggested, a pork pie? Tabasco OK, but nor greatly different from crushed chilli.

  4. The wan representative of bread in the picture - is that what you use? I suppose it has few calories. I'd upgrade the bread and dispense with the cheese. Onion on rye perhaps.

  5. MikeM: This is the first time this subject has arisen between us. For starters there is little commonality between sandwiches on either side of the Pond, thickness ratios being the distinguishing factor. On average a US sandwich enjoys a bread/filling ratio of, say, 1:2.5; in the UK 1:0.33. You would be most disappointed, you would even claim to be defrauded.

    On the other hand the UK has much wider and more palatable range of cheeses although, alas, this doesn't make any difference to the situation I have defined: two slices of bread round a slice of Cheddar.

    Amusingly the three answers I have received all, in effect, tell me not to eat a Cheddar cheese sandwich and seem to agree that it may be the most boring sandwich ever devised. Nor would I, anyway. But this doesn't explain why cheese sandwiches are nationally available, and in quantity. Someone must like the damn things. So to rearrange the basic premise: suppose a basic cheese sandwich was all that was available, what modification would you apply which would nevertheless allow you to say you were still eating a cheese sandwich?

    In fact the superiority of US sandwiches disqualifies you from taking part in this Aritotelian conundrum. And this without considering that special US sub-section: the club sandwich.

  6. Toast and butter the bread before inserting the cheese.World of difference.

  7. Four or five strips of crisp streaky bacon will improve even the worst of the peel-and-stick cheeses found over here.

    I prefer Fontina on diagonally sliced Italian bread which was browned lightly on one side under the broiler. Brush the cheese sides of the bread with a rich, fruity olive oil, apply a nice olive tapenade atop as many slices of the Fontina as you like and close the sandwich. Brush the outsides of the sandwich with more olive oil, place in a medium-hot skillet, flip over after the first side has toasted to your liking and repeat on the other side. Serve with a fresh tomato soup and an assortment of pickles or relishes.

  8. MikeM: Now you're cooking with gas. Inventive but not betraying the concept. I'm surprised that no one has suggested what we call grilling and you, I think, call broiling, the simple cheese sandwich; this is utterly transformational. What's more it doesn't matter if the bread is terrible Mother's Pride since you could say bread treated this way dies and goes to heaven.

    Crow: I think once I've stripped away the "cheating" streaky bacon and the tomato soup (I mean, why stop there? Why not add the whole Thanksgiving Dinner so that the cheese sandwich gets lost in the subsequent avalanche? With a bottle of Jack Daniel.) your suggestion comes closest to what I was looking for. That is, without adding a foodstuff that is completely superior to the cheese, how do we make a cheese sandwich more palatable?

    This was always a whimsical proposition (RR at his worst you may say) and despite repeated insistence on the rules, others have, as in Handel's Messiah, wandered:

    All we like sheep,
    Have gone astray,
    Everyone to his own way.

    And I may be thankful since it has given me an opportunity to show I have a broader cultural background than merely grinding out unsellable fiction.

    Parenthetically I decided to re-read LBB. I wouldn't be tempted to turn it into a novel but it might form the basis of an essay on personal morality and the way our personalities may change provided the force for change is big enough. But the Hell with that; pretentious stuff. I should get back to motor-bikes on which topic, if I remember correctly, our dialogue began all those many years ago.

  9. The cheese in your photo looks like peel-and-stick stuff that we usually avoid. The only way I could think to make that stuff palatable was to add bacon. Otherwise, it isn't worth the trouble. To make a cheese sandwich you'd never have to ask that question about, switch cheese(s). My mother used to make an open faced broiled cheese and sliced tomato sandwich, using the sharpest, tangiest cheddar she could buy.

    Geeze, I haven't had lunch yet and talking about grilled cheese sandwiches is making me drool.

    About LBB: I have some questions, but I'll email you.

  10. Crow is right. That looks like decal cheese.

  11. Crow/MikeM; I love you both but that isn't the point. Plain cheese sandwiches (bog standard Cheddar and nothing else) have persisted for decades if not centuries; they sell 'em in service stations and supermarkets. Whose taste is so debased as to be satisfied with such culinary boilerplate? You're telling me no red-blooded American would eat such a thing; I'd respond by saying the Atlantic is 2500 miles wide. To add bacon is to create a bacon sandwich with cheese (on the basis of which is the more palatable taste). It seems the need for a cheese sandwich exists; devise then a solution that is still recognisably a cheese sandwich. And stop drooling Crow.

  12. Okay. I've had cheese sandwiches of various ingredients for more than 65 years, but not all of them were made with cheese. That cheese in photo above appears to be individually-wrapped sliced cheese product and if so is not really cheese, don't care what the label states. It is processed cheese food: whey plus vegetable oil plus salt plus plant-based thickeners plus food coloring and some flavoring kept secret from all but MI5 and the CIA.

    Cheese, that glorious food of the most ancient gods, starts life in the udder of some mammal whose milk is collected, flash-sterilized, pumped into sterilized stainless steel vessels, heated, salted, colored (as the variety calls for it), laced with rennet (animal or vegetable), allowed to thicken, has it's whey drained, is either paddled or cheddared or whatever other process beats the cheese into almost-finished shape, is placed into various moulds or presses, sometimes has molds injected, or herbs incorporated into the curds, then is set to age and develop into the exquisite ambrosial offerings we mere mortals adore...and argue about. It can be sliced wafer thin, crumbled, chunked, wedged, cubed or grated. Made into sandwiches on whichever bread one prefers, slathered with whatever condiments one likes or left naked and dry; untoasted, broiled, grilled in a skillet or over the coals in a fireplace or on the barbie. Doesn't matter: a cheese sandwich is a cheese sandwich is a cheese sandwich. Which cannot be said for a sandwich made with decal cheese-food or peel-and-stick cheese-food or any cheesy-looking, slick, shiny stuff that was squirted onto a rectangle of plastic wrap, pressed into a square and retains the shape of its wrapper after the plastic is peeled away.

    Try this: split open one of those short baguettes, but not all the way through. Load it with your favorite REAL cheese, close the sandwich, wrap in foil and heat in a moderately-hot oven (about 400F) until the cheese melts - 5 to 10 minutes, depending upon how much cheese is in the bread. Now, that, my friend, is a cheese sandwich to talk about, especially if you coated the inside of the bread with a bit of butter. (Not necessary, but I like a bit of butter.)

  13. MikeM: An ironic suggestion I take it.

    Crow: Let's take this very slowly.

    First, I live next to the greatest source of cheese in the world; I know about cheese; I will be eating Roquefort (the real stuff made in the French village of that name, not that which goes into salad dressing) with my wine tonight. Cheese - or rather, better cheese - isn't the issue.

    Second, ignore the picture, the cheese there may be - for all I know - an orange-coloured tyre patch. I would never consider eating such a cheese sandwich.

    Third, but some people do eat such cheese sandwiches. Cheese sandwiches only a little better than that are sold in service stations and supermarkets. I am concerned about the poor mutts who buy (and presumably eat) sandwiches like that. I am concerned there are a lot of them about.

    Fourth, I wish to be sanctified for my concern; I wish to distance myself from modern-day Marie Antoinettes who instead of saying "Let them eat cake." are in effect saying "Let them eat a thin slice of Bleu d'Auvergne, spread on a doorstep of pain de seigle, smeared with Normandy butter." Because they wouldn't; it would cost more than a rib-eye steak sandwich if that exists. I wish to improve the lot of muttish cheese-sandwich eaters but without disrupting their essential culture.

    Fifth, the improved cheese sandwich will look exactly like the unimproved version because it will use the same bread and the same cheese. That's what the mutts expect; anything other would put them off. But it will be privily changed. And it is these changes (invisible to external inspection) that I wished to discuss.

    Sixth, I am very depressed. Nobody has read carefully what I was saying, or if they did read it they didn't understand it, or they didn't understand it because it was badly expressed, or they read it, understood it, decided I was full of crap and their stuff was what I was really after.

    Seventh (and last). I am even more depressed. Nobody is going to read this far in such a long comment. I am shouting down a well.

  14. I read to the last word.

    You asked, "Assuming you’re claiming to eat a cheese sandwich (a modest claim) the answer lies in a small dab of this or that, so that the structure (two slices of bread and filler) is visibly unchanged. Take this as your starting-point rule."

    I suggested change the cheese or the bread or both. I suggested variations on filler, just to be different, helpful. You did not say, until your final comment, that the sandwich was to look exactly like the unimproved version. I responded to your starting point rule with every intention of abiding by that rule.

    I don't think you wanted an answer - any answer, from anyone - as much as you wanted to argue.

    This is my fourth (and final) attempt at answering the unanswerable. Now I must try to extricate myself from your hook, dumb fish that I am.

  15. Crow: Hey, lighten up. You make it sound as if you've been tarred and feathered and run out of Dodge on a pole. It's not that bad surely.

    You're wrong about argument. It's the easiest thing in the world to get that; I'd only have to be as stupid as Donald Trump. Interesting to see that the bald eagle was angry enough to seem to be saying: "Gimme a Glock; I'll finish this right now."

    For the record I never want to argue with anyone but I do want to be original. I try to bring up subjects that are new or, at the very least, old subjects dressed up in new clothes. I hate cliché because it can be written or spoken without engaging the mind; even worse it can be read or heard without engaging the mind; bells in two towers clanging away, always the same sound, just occasionally a bit louder.

    Looking back I see that the cheese sandwich thing is far more complex than I realised, people went off in all directions. But that's good isn't it? What's bad is if you got hurt in the process. I'm sorry about that, honest.

    And in case you see me as a Great Manipulator take a look at my orphan child, the post: "Rheumy eyes an advantage?". I tried to point out something new there and interest in that is virtually zilch. I'm in tears, I exposed myself and no one cares. Boo hoo. Better write something about Elvis but not peanut-butter and banana sandwiches. Better keep right out of the sandwich area.

    Or could you save me? Go in there with both fists, keen to show the old Pond Ponce what's what. Because for a time you were up there in the ring punching away. And that's good too isn't it? C'mon Crow, remember the days when we talked about motorbikes and lighting out for the territory (a book of genius I now find to my horror is sort of banned). I never managed to lay a glove on you; I had to bribe the ref.

  16. Adding Value? I am currently teaching Business Studies and may put this question to my students.
    The answer is simple to me, and I insist that you try it. Salad cream and cheese makes a fabulous sandwich (at least it did when I was fourteen!)

  17. All: This fraught trawling expedition grew out of VR's suggestion contained in the original post:

    And VR reveals a new twist; to ensure cheese sandwich authenticity, integrate the dab with the butter smeared on the bread. Brilliant!

    From this I got the following: Avus: Mrs Avus's home-made chutney and/or Sharwood's mango chutney; a thin smear of of beef extract (he says Oxo but I think he means Bovril ) or vegetable extract (Marmite). Sir Hugh: A few drops of Tabasco. RR: Crushed chilli paste. MikeM: "Toast the bread"; OK in diners, etc, but not practical for sandwiches sold in bulk; excellent for those making their own sandwich. RR: "Grill the whole". Again not for shops, good for DIY. MikeM: Sugar. Query: Was he serious? - he's a puckish type is Mowing MikeM. Blonde: Salad cream; a suggestion born out of the business studies course B2 is teaching - said to be fabulous but she may be joking.

    Otherwise I was recommended to get rid of the basic cheddar sandwich and in effect start again. Quite true - a better sandwich would ensue. But not what I was asking for.

    A new word emerged which may need explaining to UK readers: decal, which we would call a sticker, the sort of thing some people attach to their cars (Baby On Board, Horses In Transit, Vote Tory, etc). When used in conjunction with cheese, or non-cheese as Crow puts it, it's an effective term of abuse.