The History Dish: 1001 Sandwiches


Welcome to the world of early 20th century sandwich making, when the advent of sliced bread gave birth to a booming sandwich culture.  The first bread-slicing machine was installed in a factory in 1928; within two years, 90% of store-bought bread was factory sliced. Standardized and convenient, housewives focused their creative energies on what went in between the bread.

1001 Sandwiches, published in 1936, is the expanded edition of 700 Sandwiches written about a decade previous. To give you a sense of common of ingredients in a 1930s sandwich, here are the “ sandwich ‘makings’” author Florence Cowles advises you to keep on your emergency “sandwich shelf”:

Peanut butter, packaged cheese, potted and deviled ham, corned beef, chicken, tongue, dates, sardines, lobster, salmon, pimientos, pickles, olives, salted nuts, jams and marmalades, honey, horse-radish, mustard, bouillon cubes, Worcestershire and Tabasco sauces, mayonnaise and crackers.  With a good selection of these ingredients you can calmly meet any sandwich emergency which may arise.

I taste-tested four sandwich creations from this book, choosing recipes that sounded bizarre but potentially tasty.  I also subjected Jonathan Soma, co-founder of the Brooklyn Brainery, to my sandwich antics.  The recipes, and the results, are below.

Cheese and Cornflake Sandwich




This was a crunchy sandwich; definitely very auditory.  And scratchy–it really tears up the roof of your mouth.  Soma is crazy for cream cheese, so he said he would make it and eat it–he votes yaaay! I vote boo!

Potato Chip and Olive Sandwich



 I was out of mayonnaise when I assembled this sandwich, so I substituted tartar sauce.  Soma thought it looked like Thai food and tasted “like all of its ingredients individually.”  Very non-harmonious.

I liked it–it was super salty! It would fix a hangover in no-time flat.  I vote yaaay! This was my favorite overall. Soma votes boo.

Bacon and Prune Sandwich



 Soma informed me that prunes are no longer called prunes.  They’re now “dried plums.”  So this is a Bacon and Dried Plum sandwich, which sounds very sophisticated. We both agreed this was not bad–although I wouldn’t eat it willingly.  This was Soma’s favorite hands-down

Ham and Banana Sandwich



This sandwich was promptly re-named the Hamana Sandwich.

We tested these sandwiches in front of a live studio audience, and someone screamed out “It looks like someone already ate it!”

The weird part is really expected this one to be good.  It was instantly repulsive.  Soma described it as “Not the worst thing I could of had.”  I was nauseous. Horrific. Horrendous.

11 thoughts on “The History Dish: 1001 Sandwiches

  1. This may be my favorite FPF post ever. Got two or more ingredients that should never ever be in your mouth at the same time? Put ’em on a sandwich! These are words to live by – I will remember them for my next sandwich emergency.

  2. Pingback: Reading: “The History Dish: 1001 Sandwiches” | The Tart Little Piggy

  3. I’ve never dared try this dainty tea sandwich from the 1930’s:

    Spread on buttered white bread, peanut butter jazzed up with some ketchup and chopped sweet pickles. Top with an iceberg lettuce leaf and another slice of buttered bread.

    I know there are people who swear by peanut butter-pickle sandwiches, but the ketchup makes me cringe.

    • I like that that’s how the sandwich gets “jazzed up.” Yes, pb & pickles seemed to be really common in the early 20th century, but I have not braved it either!

  4. Wonderful blog post. I have Ruth Berolzheimer’s 500 Tasty Sandwiches (1941) in my lap… Many sound quite edible. However, there are some pretty grim combinations here too: Liver and Raisin (chopped onion and chili sauce are among the ingredients); another combining mashed canned pork & beans with canned vegetable soup and mayonnaise; and another that combines tuna with chopped walnuts, chopped sweet pickles, chopped green pepper, chopped pimento, and mayo. I concur with Mina on the combination of catsup and peanut butter.

    My mother-in-law is closing in on 100. She loves catsup and puts it on not only the usual hamburgers and hot dogs but also spaghetti and baked lima beans, among other things. Definitely a remnant of 20s/30s/40s cookery…

    • I appreciate the simplicity of throwing 2 or 3 things together between bread. Perhaps I should attempt my own numeric sandwich book, and challenge myself to have no more than 4 ingredient sandwiches that are the most delicious and most flavorful.

      Although eating through 1001 Sandwiches would be a hell of a blog.

  5. A friend who grew up in SW Louisiana swore there was nothing better than white bean sandwich — just white beans on bread. Talk about good!

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