Post #509 A Sandwich By Any Other Name Tastes Really Good

October 4, 2016 at 4:43 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Reading about, and writing about, food can often bring me to laughter.  I will look up something that I remember from my childhood only to find that my memories are either flawed (not surprisingly considering the number of times my brain has taken a bashing), or incomplete.  I remember reading a story a long time ago about how the Earl of Sandwich created the first sandwich during a high stakes card game which may or may not have been true, but I spouted it like an authority on food my whole junior high school years.

We own a lot of cookbooks.  Oh, hell, we own a lot of books period, and a good portion of those are cookbooks.  I read cookbooks not only to find recipes, but to find out about cultures and food history.  I should not have more than three cookbooks because reading through all of them to find the one tidbit of information I remember reading in “one of them” takes forever.  As I was doing that the other day, I got sidetracked by a recipe for a sandwich that sent me on a different path and a totally different dinner than I had planned.

But it got me thinking about sandwiches, which I love.  And that got me to remembering sandwiches I ate in Arizona.  There was one we used to get all the time called a Torta.  The way I remembered it was a large, rather firm grilled bun with spicy beef, lettuce, cheese, and mayo.  It was delicious and satisfying.  Some people made it in small buns, others in larger ones.  When we were in Tucson, we had one favorite fast food Mexican restaurant we went to all the time.  It was cheap, and good.  I ordered a variety of things from them, and finally got around to ordering a Torta with fries.  The picture looked like what I remembered from thirty years prior.  The reality was nothing like it.  I got the large bun, but it was floppy and the filling spilled out unless held firmly with two hands.  The spicy beef morphed into carne asada which is spicy beef, but the way this place made it, it was very small cubes of beef.  No lettuce or cheese or salsa or anything I remembered, and certainly not as pictured.  I eventually ended up eating it was a knife and fork.

So I was looking up Torta online and discovered something interesting.  What I had always assumed was “THE Torta” was just one of a series of sandwiches defined by their cultures and called something similar.  And the Torta I remembered eating as a kid wasn’t even mentioned.  So suddenly my “authority” as a cook was suspect.  I chuckled for a bit then thought of another food fondly remembered from childhood, the Empanada.

I love spicy meat-filled empanadas.  In their basic form, they are hand-pies that are baked or fried.  In the U.S., hand pies are usually fruit filled.  Everywhere else in the world, they tend to be meat and/or vegetable filled.  I like ’em all, but I really like the spicy beef and potato filled empanada.  So good.

But as I was reading about them, I chanced upon a list of the same food from other cultures and what they are called.  Here it is (in no way a complete list):

  • Borek
  • Bridie
  • Calzone
  • Panzerotti
  • Ravioli
  • Curry Puff
  • Roti
  • Gujia
  • Mandu
  • Jiaozi
  • Khuushuur
  • Kibbeh
  • Knish
  • Momo
  • Natchitoches meat pie
  • Pastel
  • Pasty
  • Pierogi
  • Samosa
  • Scovarda
  • Stromboli
  • Hot Pockets
  • Fried Pies or Hand Pies
  • Strudel
  • Turnover

I was surprised at how many of these I’ve eaten.  I’ve even written about a couple of them.  And I was highly amused at the inclusion of hot pockets on the list, but it makes sense.  And reminded me of an incident from years ago.  I was still working the 9-5 professional job at the time.  I was in my office when I started smelling smoke.  I went to investigate and one of my staffers was removing something from the microwave in the kitchenette nearby.  He placed a blackened lump of smoking charcoal in the sink and turn the water on which resulted in a billow of steam.  We were discussing what it was and what had happened when a young lady showed up.

“What happened to my hot pocket?” she asked.

“Is that what that was?”

She’d mis-read the instructions and set the microwave for 15 minutes to heat up her lunch.  Then walked away since she didn’t want to stand there for that long.  I never knew until then that you could actually burn something besides your tongue with a microwave oven.


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