Recently I was in Sainsbury’s (a chain of supermarkets and convenience stores) where I saw two Italian teenagers picking through a shelf of pre-packaged sandwiches, turning them around at different angles, trying to get a better look at what was inside. “Panino?” I heard one of them say.
No one else was paying any attention, but I speak some Italian, so I was able to follow along.
“This one I think is ham. And cheese.”
“Why does it look like this?”
“It looks dry. Does it have any sauce on it?”
“I don’t see any sauce.”
After a moment or two observing, I decided to try to help.
“Di solito, i panini qui, sono con burro,” I said in my rudimentary Italian: “Usually the sandwiches here, they are with butter.”
“Burro?- Butter?” One of them replied, in Italian and English, sounding surprised in both languages. The two teens carefully put their “panini” back on the shelf, and walked away.
I fear that with my limited language skills, I was unable to help them properly. Yes, they were clearly disappointed with what passed for a panino/sandwich in Britain. But they were also clearly wrong. Sandwiches are British. They were invented here- named after the 4th Earl of Sandwich, which is a real place in Kent. Thus, it is the British who get to decide what makes for a proper sandwich. If you don’t like the result, the problem is with you, and not with the sandwich. In order to help other tourists, I have written up the following, usually unspoken rules of sandwiches.
The 10 commandments of British sandwiches:
- Sandwiches shall be lubricated with butter.
- Sandwiches shall be thin- meat and other fillings shall be kept to a minimum. Extravagantly-filled sandwiches are sinful, and worse, American.
- Thou shall not dare watch a sandwich being made. Sandwiches must created away from prying eyes, either in factories or in secret little kitchens.
- Sandwiches shall be packaged in triangular boxes with clear-fronted windows, and lined up in an orderly fashion on glass shelves.
- Sandwiches may be sold from any refrigerated glass shelf, anywhere. This includeth petrol stations, news agents, supermarkets, cafes, and Boots chemist’s.
- Sandwiches shall be offered as part of “meal deal” complete with a beverage and a ‘snack’ for a reduced price. This snack shall include at least one healthy option such as little carrot batons, but verily, all shall choose crisps instead.
- If ye shall have an event or meeting in thine office, ye shall cater it with a selection of pre-made sandwiches.
- These sandwiches shall of course be dogmatically cut up into triangles.
- These sandwiches shall be served on the large plastic trays on which they were delivered to ye.
- There shall always be far more vegetarian sandwiches in this selection than people who desire them.
- No person shall eat the last few remaining, unpopular sandwiches. Instead, place them as a tribute, upon a table somewhere in thy office dwelling. Verily, someone shall eventually eat them when no one is looking.
- Honour thy ingredients. Do not deviate from using the following humble British components, as God intended:
- White Bread, Cheese, Butter, Ham, Bacon, Chicken, Egg, Sausages, Salmon, Tuna, Sweet Corn, Chips (fries), Coronation chicken (a monstrosity of chicken, mayonnaise, currry and raisins), Cucumber, salmon, soft cheese, one thin slice of Roast beef, Mustard, Pickle, Chutney, Gravy, Brown sauce.
- Thou shall not eat sandwiches composed of foreign ingredients, for verily, they be poncey:
- baguettes or wraps, rye bread, prawns, brie, sun-dried tomatoes, pesto, hummus, spinach, cilantro, basil, roasted peppers, tamarind, aoli, prosciutto, avocado, feta, shaved reggiano, etc..
- Those who break any of these commandments, must label their products artisinal, or mayhaps artiginal, or even artiginial, and ye must charge yon punters who desire these filthy abominations at least…. er I dunno, two quid more a go?