Monday, February 28, 2022

Rant: Chicken & Mayo Problem

During the last several days, I was away at a local conference and the available time for dinner between sessions was limited. The main hotel restaurant wasn't an option, due to a series of prior issues at that location. So, delivery was one of the prime options, and there were a multitude of choices. 

One evening, I opted for a new spot, a ghost kitchen which served a Japanese-style fried chicken. The idea intrigued me. I decided to order several pieces of chicken and a side. When you ordered online, you were provided several options for your chicken, and I chose to omit the mayo, which is usually drizzled all atop the chicken. I don't have any allergies to mayo but I dislike the taste. So far, everything seems fine.

Well, first the delivery got delayed, and it took at least 90 minutes to arrive, despite my location being only about 5 minutes from the kitchen. That really used up much of the available time I had for dinner, so I would have had to rush my food but I could have accepted it, if the food arrived hot. And it did arrive hot, except that there was mayo on my chicken! My request had been ignored. 

Now, I could have painstakingly tried to scrape off all of the mayo but that would have been laborious, and would not have removed all of the mayo unless I removed some of the crispy coating too. Scraping mayo off a piece of crispy fried chicken is no easy task. Removing the crispy coating wasn't an option either as that is one of the main reasons for ordering fried chicken. To me, the food was ruined, and I was extremely disappointed that my online request had been ignored.

What could I do to remedy the situation? I didn't have time to contact the restaurant and ask for another order to be sent to me. I had a session I needed to attend, and couldn't eat during the session. I'll probably send a metaled email to the restaurant about my experience, but as I won't be in that area again for some time, there is little that could be done. It will just be an unpleasant experience that might prevent me from ordering food from there ever again. Those who did eat the chicken liked it, but I can't offer my own opinion. 

Damn you, mayo!

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

A History of the Club Sandwich (Part 2)

Let's continue our exploration of the origins and early history of the Club Sandwich. 

We begin with another variation. The Wichita Eagle (KS), March 15, 1903, gave a recipe for a “Club Caviar Sandwich.” It stated, “These are made by cutting white bread in very thin slices, spreading one-third of them thickly with caviar butter, another third with cream mayonnaise thickly covered with minced ham and olives and covered with shredded crisp lettuce.” So, this sandwich eliminates the chicken/turkey, but retains the ham. 

Another recipe was provided in The Parker Message (KS), March 27, 1903. “A club sandwich, hot and crisp, is a toothsome morsel when a man and his friends are hungry. The toast is made in the chafing-dish and kept hot by ingenuity. Bacon comes in cans, and can be fried quickly. If lettuce can be had, so much the better. If the hour is too late to provide it, a sandwich may be ‘club’ by name at least, without it. First put on the toast a generous spreading of butter, then a layer of canned chicken, and then a slice of crisp bacon. If cold boiled ham is possible, it adds to the flavor.” The lettuce is noted as being an essential element of the "club" sandwich. 

Over less than fifteen years, the club sandwich had evolved, from a rather simple sandwich to a much more complicated one. The Buffalo Sunday Morning News (NY), July 5, 1903, described some of this in an article entitled Evolution of the Complicated Club Sandwich. It began, “From a simple matter of toast, ham and chicken, the club sandwich has developed into a veritable meat course. Those made by the most recent recipes are exceedingly complex affairs and altogether appetizing.” This is not the first mention of the complexity of the later recipes for the club sandwich. In addition, it makes a clear line from the simple Union Club sandwich to the more elaborate versions that were later created. 

The article provided its own recipe: “For a perfect club sandwich the toast must be neither very brittle nor in the least tough. The white meat of the chicken is preferable, although dark meat of a young fowl will serve in a pinch. Cold ham, sliced very thin, is usually added, but a later suggestion substitutes crisp strips of bacon. Between the toast and the chicken are placed lettuce leaves, which have been rendered tender by an ice water bath. If one is in a hurry a good cream dressing may be used instead of the oil mayonnaise for dipping the lettuce. All kinds of little relishes, chopped or sliced, are added if a really substantial sandwich is desired. Hard boiled egg is crumbled over the meats and teaspoonful of minced olives is shaken in. Some epicures substitute cold boiled tongue for the ham or bacon, and game is occasionally used instead of the chicken. But to the average palate the ordinary combination is tasty enough.”

It is this complexity, with a variety of different ingredients, which might be the reason for the high cost of the sandwich in some places.

What is the proper way to eat a club sandwich? It’s a sandwich so you would think your fingers were sufficient for the task, but some felt it required a knife and fork. The Democrat & Chronicle (NY), September 10, 1903, noted, “Some discussion has been going the rounds in the New York papers as to how a club sandwich shall be eaten, whether with a knife and fork, whether with just a knife or a fork or taken in the fingers and devoured the same as any sandwich.”

It seems that some men from Chicago stopped at the Astor House, and ordered club sandwiches. The food was brought, piping hot, and served with a knife and fork. Nearly all of the men ate it with their fingers and their waiter commented that they must be from out of town cause of how they ate the sandwiches. It seems New Yorkers knew to use a knife and fork. 

The question then spread to various newspapers, “Should a club sandwich be classed among that sort of cooked food, which for the sake of daintiness, should be handled with cutlery when being consumed?”

The Inter Ocean (IL), September 12, 1903, expanded on this story, the writer being of the men from Chicago who had club sandwiches in New York. He stated it, “…cost as much as a roast dinner in Greenpoint.” He also stated, “When it was brought on I found it was cut square, and then diagonal, making two triangular halves. I picked up one in my fingers, spurning the knife and fork which the waiter had left at my place.” He then noted that a nearby woman told him that he must be from Chicago because of how he ate the sandwich.

In the Pittsburgh Weekly Gazette (PA), October 11, 1903, there was Beatrix Lee’s Counsel, a column of Q&A from her readers, where “Questions of general interest to women will be promptly answered in this column.” She received a question about the club sandwich, “What is the proper way to eat a club sandwich?” Her answer, “Use a knife and fork when eating a club sandwich.”

Instead of a dainty dish, this newspaper considered the club sandwich to be a hearty meal. The Inter Ocean (IL), November 11, 1903, began, “Instead of a ‘bite’ to check one’s hunger until a full meal can be eaten, it is a meal in itself.” It then gave its own recipe, “First the bread is toasted carefully, for this part of the preparation cannot be slighted. Then comes the complex filling wherein much variety of taste is allowable. Lay one slice of trimmed and toasted bread on a plate, on this a crisp lettuce lead dipped in cream or mayonnaise dressing, then a slice of white chicken meat, a shaving of cold boiled tongue, and two or three slices of bacon cooked crisp, sprinkle with chopped hard boiled egg, lay on another dressed lettuce leaf, and last another slice of toast.

As we see, there was a third type of meat, tongue, accompany the chicken and bacon, as well as the addition of chopped hard-boiled egg.

The article also mentioned a variation, “Another combination is chicken and boiled ham, with chopped olives on the chicken and chopped boiled egg on the ham. Everything must be of good quality and put together daintily, else the club sandwich is a mussy affair, suggestive of remnants of left-overs. Then there is opportunity for novel seasonings.”

A doctor recommended the club sandwich! The St. Louis Republic (MO), December 26, 1903, discussed an interesting experiment conducted by Dr. Horace Fletcher of Yale University, who had been previously involved in scientific research into chemical physiology and nutrition. Recently, he had been living at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel, in New York City, spending $1 a day for his food and drink.

His usual dinner was a club sandwich and a cup of chocolate, and he noted the health benefits of the sandwich. “The club sandwich is a peculiarly well-rounded dinner, with chocolate, which, as everyone knows, is one of the most nourishing liquids.” He continued, “The toast I have of whole wheat bread—my stomach never calls for ordinary white bread. Then there is vegetable acid and certain valuable salts in the lettuce and sliced tomato. The bacon has all the properties of meat and a sort of fat that is invaluable, and the chicken, with the cream dressing, adds to the palatable quality of the dish. I have the dressing specially prepared; it is not rich, like ordinary mayonnaise dressing, and the toast is not buttered.”

The club sandwich was complex, but still dainty. The Washington Times (DC), December 27, 1903, noted that “...while it can be prepared in a hurry, care must be taken to have it put together daintily, else it will have the appearance of being made from the remnants and leftovers.”; The article also stated, “There are several combinations for the filling, but the foundation is always toast, carefully prepared. Trim the toast, then lay a crisp lettuce leaf onto it, having first dipped the leaf into cream, or mayonnaise dressing. Next a slice of cold chicken, the white meat, a shaving of cold boiled tongue, and two or three slices of bacon cooked crisp, and sprinkle with chopped hard boiled egg, and then add another slice of toast. Each layer may be separated with a thin slice of toast if desired and it really makes a nicer dish.

We finally see another reference to a third slice of toast, a variation on the traditional recipe, and it again seems that the third slice exists primarily to separate the cold (chicken/tongue) and hot (bacon) ingredients.

The sardine club arose again. The Buffalo Commercial (NY), March 15, 1904, printed, “A variation of the favorite club sandwich, which is achieved by using well drained sardines in place of chicken. Toast thin slices of bread and place between the slices blanched lettuce leaves, two slices of crisped bacon and a sardine, split and boned. Lettuce and bacon must be placed on each slice of toast.

A lengthier and more detailed description of the club sandwich, and its preparation, was presented in the Saint Paul Globe (MN), April 24, 1904. It began, “Nothing is more delicious than a well-made club sandwich.” The article continued, noting the ingredients of the sandwich, “To make and serve a club sandwich in perfection the best of materials must be at hand. A club sandwich is a combination of hot and cold materials, and yet as a complete thing it must be served hot. It is made of hot boiled ham, cold chicken, hot toast, lettuce leaves, and a very little mayonnaise dressing. The bread must be the very lightest and quite fresh. The ham must be well cured and cut as thin as a wafer, and the breast of a cold boiled chicken must be used, sliced very thin.”

The preparation instructions were then provided. “First cut the chicken and lay the slices on a plate where they will be at hand. Cut some thin slices either from an uncooked or from a boiled ham, have you crisp leaves of lettuce on a dish by the sliced chicken, and a little bowl of mayonnaise dressing also ready and at hand; also some butter, pepper and salt.” In continuance, “Cut slices of fresh bread from a square or brick-shaped loaf of American bread. Have the slices medium thin, trim off the crust, and toast as many slices as are required. While the bread is toasting broil the ham quickly.” 

And then, “As soon as the toast and ham are done, lay a slice of toast on a hot plate and butter it very lightly. Next, lay a slice of ham on the toast, then a leaf of lettuce on the ham. Sprinkle the lettuce with a little salt and black pepper, then spread a very little mayonnaise on the lettuce. Next put on the slice of chicken, cover it with a thin coating of mayonnaise, then lay a leaf of lettuce over it. Last of all, top off with another slice of toast, and trim the sandwich all around. Cut it in two triangles,… and serve.”

As we see, two slices was still more of the norm in these recipes, with three slices more of a minor variation. That would slowly change over the coming years. 

For example, the Blue Valley Blade (NE), May 18, 1904, briefly noted, “Ed Howe’s lecture entertainment is like a three-story club house sandwich; it is in three substantial layers with the most delectable parts in between.” So, we know some places were serving three slices of toast in their club sandwich, but most still only served two.


During the early 20th century, when soda fountains were common and popular, they often created sundaes and drinks that reflected various popular foods, like the Chop Suey Sundae I previously wrote about. Thus, it’s not surprising that the Argus-Leader (SD), July 15, 1904, briefly noted that the “new Club Sandwich Sundae” was available at a spot called Dunnings. No description of the sundae was given. 

The Club Sandwich Sundae was mentioned briefly, and not described, in several subsequent newspapers, such as the Harrisburg Telegraph (PA), September 21, 1906, which had an ad for Dives, Pomeroy & Stewart where a Club Sandwich Sundae cost 15 cents.

The Bay City Daily Tribune (MI), May 12, 1907, mentioned a Club Sandwich Sundae cost 30 cents at the Frantz. And the above ad is from the Bay City Daily Tribune (MI), July 7, 1908. The Evansville Courier & Press (IN), May 12, 1909, also briefly noted that the Lukas & Kolius Candy Co. offered a Club Sandwich Sundae for 20 cents.

A description of the sundae finally appeared. The Dispenser Soda Water Guide by The Soda Fountain (2nd edition, 1909) presented the recipe for the Club Sandwich Sundae, stating, “A club sandwich sundae is a new acquisition to the soda water trade and one that comes first among the many innovations introduced by warm weather. Have an individual mold made by a tinsmith. He may use for a model a small ice cream sandwich mold, making it three inches wide and two and one-half inches long. Have the bottom plate made to fit very closely and perfectly flat on the inside so as not to retain any soft cream or water that may accumulate during the rush hours. Take two saucers, one smaller than the other, put a napkin between them, place a fresh, crisp lettuce leaf on the top saucer, then proceed with the sundae. Cut a slice of orange, trim all the rind off carefully and put it on the bottom of the mold. Place a crème de menthe cherry in each corner and fill mold half full of vanilla ice cream. Then cover with two Nabisco wafers, several slices of pineapple (crème de rose pineapple adds to the color scheme), and fill balance of mild with orange sherbet or water ice. Press firmly, turn our and place before your customer.

It’s an interesting sundae, and the use of a lettuce leaf at the bottom does give it a bit of a tie-in to the sandwich. Otherwise, all of the other ingredients don’t bring to mind the sandwich, except for the intricate construction of the sundae, trying to make it more like a sandwich with the mold.

Other recipes for club sandwich sundaes existed too. In the Rockford Republic (IL), January 25, 1912, it was reported that Ralph Hay, in charge of the soda fountain at Lewis Branch, had won a contest, held by the Soda Fountain Magazine, for his club sandwich sundae. Unfortunately, the recipe wasn’t provided. Additional brief mentions of the Club Sandwich Sundae appeared in the Repository (OH), April 7, 1912, Knoxville Sentinel (TN), November 26, 1913, Green Bay Press-Gazette (WI), June 26, 1915, and the Times-Tribune (PA), May 11, 1917.

Another variation of the Club Sandwich Sundae was presented. The National Druggist, volume 42, September 1912, provided, “Club Sandwich Sundae. Place a slice of vanilla ice cream on a plate, place over this two sweet wafers, and over them a slice of chocolate ice cream, giving a perfect sandwich. This sandwich is sometimes served on a lettuce leaf. Chopped nuts and fruits may also be used for fillers, likewise sliced apple, sliced orange (relived of rind), and other sliced fruits. Sliced banana answers the purpose well, as it may be eaten easily with a spoon, a point to be kept in mind. If you will have a sandwich mold made, you can get very elaborate effects.” This is similar in a number of respects to the first detailed recipe.

A very different Club Sandwich Sundae existed in North Carolina. The Asheville Citizen-Times (NC), August 3, 1916, had an ad, noting the sundae contained fresh peach cream, pound cake, whipped cream, nuts, and cherries. There was no mention of a sandwich mold or lettuce. This would be one of the last mentions of a club sandwich sundae in the newspapers.


As a brief aside, the Evansville Journal (IN), August 26, 1904, mentioned that “Pickles are a necessary article in the club sandwich of commerce,..” Although some recipes did call for pickles inside the sandwich, or as a garnish, they didn’t appear to be necessary, and more just a variation.

The popularity of club sandwiches allegedly impacted the cost of turkey! The Yonkers Herald (NY), November 22, 1904, reported that, “The appetizing ‘club sandwich’ is largely responsible for the high price of turkeys in New York this Fall, according to a statement made yesterday by a member of the poultry commission house of Heineman Brothers in Washington street.” It was noted that, “The extraordinary popularity of the club sandwich, said Me. Heineman, ‘has been attained within the last year and a half. It was served every day last Summer in all the fashionable hotels and restaurants in this city. Every ‘club sandwich’ has a slice of turkey in it, and the enormous number consumed has had an appreciable effect on the turkey supply.” It was also added that broiled turkey, another fad, had contributed to the turkey shortage.

The sandwich had achieved great popularity in New York, and it seemed that turkey, rather than chicken, was the bird of choice for the club sandwich. This article also notes how it was a very good summer sandwich.

Another cookbook presented its own recipe. How To Cook for the Sick & Convalescent by Helena Viola Sachse (2nd edition, 1904, gave two Club Sandwich recipes: The first stated, “Toast lightly (on one side only) two square slices of bread. Spread with butter and on one piece place a slice of chicken and a slice of tongue (or several slices of any desired cold meat). Season lightly, then cover thickly with shredded lettuce; garnish with mayonnaise dressing. Place the other slice of bread on the top (toasted side up). Serve with a knife and fork.” The second recipe was similar although the bread was softened with liquid, likely to make it more palatable to those who were ill and had difficulty eating.

Still a dainty sandwich. The New York-Tribune (NY), January 8, 1905, mentioned, “A club sandwich has a roystering sound to the feminine ear, but in reality its composition is of the daintiest: Two thin slices of delicately browned toast; between them a thin slice of carefully broiled ham, the fast crisp and brown; a thicker slice from the breast of chicken, and a lettuce leaf touched with mayonnaise.” Still, just two slices of bread. 

Another recipe, but still with only two slices. Home & Abroad, Volume 61, Part 1, Boston (May 27, 1905), stated, “Rightly made, a club sandwich has been known to create a reputation for the maker. The ideal club sandwich is made thus: Take fresh and very light wheat bread, remove the crust and cut the loaf into thin slices. Toast the bread a delicate brown, and be careful that it does not get dry and hard while being kept hot. Toast for a club sandwich should be as far as possible from the popular zwieback or hard toast. Dip one side of the bread in melted butter, place it on a platter, on the toast lay a crisp lettuce leaf, then a thin slice of broiled ham or a thin rasher of bacon, according to preference; then a slice of turkey or chicken, combining light and dark meat harmoniously; season with salt and pepper; lay on another lettuce leaf, and crown with a second slice of toast. Press together, cut triangular shape, and send to the table at once, with a well made mayonnaise in another dish.

In brief, the Democrat & Chronicle (NY), July 30, 1905, noted “..very popular with regular city picnickers is the club sandwich made with ham.”

The third slice appeared again. The Washington Post (DC), August 12, 1905, first began with a discussion of the toast. “Bread should be just browned, not toasted in the oven or in an ordinary toaster.” It then continued with the ingredients, “Have ready some slices of mealy chicken, without a grain of toughness in it; some broiled ham, some crisp bacon, some fresh and young lettuce, some mayonnaise dressing, and a hot pot of coffee. If you like then, some thin slices of tomato, or better still, the tomato pulp crushed.

For the preparation, “Now, throw your bread on the lid of a hot stove, and the minute it begins to smoke turn it quickly. When it is browned, but not hardened, take off and butter generously. Lay on a cover of lettuce, next a piece of bacon, then your chicken, then your mayonnaise, then another piece of toast, piping hot. Then another pieces of lettuce, a slice of ham, a layer of tomato, chicken again, mayonnaise again, plenty of lettuce and your third slice of toast. A club sandwich, to be right, should always be three stories high, with bacon in one side and ham in the other. This sounds thick and clumsy, but it depends upon how you make it.” This is much more like the club sandwiches of today.

The fork and knife return! The Anthony Republican (KS), January 19, 1906, printed, “Club Sandwich. Butter two thin slices of bread, or better still, toast and butter then; on one slice place a thin piece of chicken or turkey breast, either roasted or stewed. Broil thin slice of ham and breakfast bacon, and while hot place on the other slice of bread. Scatter over the whole bit is chopped olives, dill pickles and one or two slices of hard boiled egg and bits of celery. Cover a fresh crisp lettuce leaf with Yacht Club salad dressing, place between the slices of bread, making a sandwich. (As this is rather bulky to ‘bite’ it must be eaten with a knife and fork, which is rather an insult to a sandwich.)

The complexity of the club sandwich was referenced again. The Philadelphia Inquirer (PA), July 7, 1906, noted, “If possible, one should have an assistant in making club sandwiches, as they must be made as quickly as possible, in order to keep them hot and at the same time soft and fresh.” It was also mentioned in the Pittsburgh Press (PA), July 31, 1907, “The club sandwich is such an intricate affair nowadays, with its various layers of chicken and toast and bacon and lettuce and mayonnaise that it is hardly advisable for a picnic.”

Another cookbook provided a club sandwich recipe, this time using three slices of toast. How We Cook in Tennessee (1906), compiled by the Silver Thimble Society of the First Baptist Church, publishedClub Sandwiches—Three slices of bread, thinly cut in any desirable shape, toasted and buttered, are the basis of a club sandwich. Place a lettuce leaf on the lower slice, and on its top put slices of chicken breast, then put another slice of toast on top of that with another leaf of lettuce, followed by thin slices of broiled breakfast bacon, topped with a third slice of toasted bread. Finish the sandwich with thin slices (lengthwise) of small pickles, on top of the last slice of toast. The toasted bread and the breakfast bacon should be hot.”

However, the cookbook also had a different recipe for Club Sandwich, which used only two slices of toast, and a few other changes, like adding mayo and slice of tomato and canned chicken. 

However, other cookbooks still clung to two slices of toast. Louis’ Salads & Chafing Dishes (1906) by Louis Muckensturm, stated, “Club Sandwich. Toast two slices of bread and cover them thinly with mayonnaise dressing. Place two slices of chicken, white meat only, on one piece of toast. On top of this place one or two lettuce leaves and sprinkle some salt over it. Put the other piece of toast on top of this, and press the sandwich together a little and trim nicely, and cur the sandwich in two triangles. Serve warm if possible. Sometimes thin slices of broiled bacon sliced tomatoes and even sliced pickles are added to the club sandwich. Bacon is acceptable, but if the two other articles are added this combination is superflouos.”

A brief joke was presented in the New York Times (NY), January 13, 1907: “Club Sandwich. Go to the club. Drink six toasts. Eat a slice of meat. Drink six more toasts.

A club sandwich could mean something different in other regions. For example, the Washington Times (DC), January 2, 1908, claimed that, “When you order a club sandwich in Philadelphia you get a hamburger steak with a slice of onion on top of it.” Nowadays, hamburger club sandwiches are common, although they were rare back around 1908.

Another sandwich contest winner. The Chicago Tribune (IL), August 30, 1908, stated that the contest winning recipe was, “New Style Club Sandwich. Use three slices of bread, thinly cut in any desirable shape, and buttered. Place a lettuce leaf on lower slice and on its top put slices of chicken breast, then put another slice of bread and a lettuce leaf, followed by thin slices of veal loaf or peanut butter. Another slice of bread with thinly sliced pickles on top.” This recipe used three slices of toast, which might be the reason it was called “new style,” and the recipe was reprinted in many newspapers around the country.

Another contender for the inventor of the club sandwich. The New York Times, December 27, 1908, in an article previously in The Washington Herald and reprinted in many other newspapers across the country, stated, “Alan Johnstone is said to have originated the famous club sandwich, and the story runs that going to the club one night between midnight and daybreak, he invaded the larder, toasted himself some thick slices of bread, sliced them through, buttered them while hot and laid thereon everything he found in the refrigerator, cold chicken, ham and lettuce, with a spoonful of mayonaise. The result was such an epicurean discovery as it not often made, but the story was too good to keep; he confided the recipe to his cronies and it straightway became one of the popular dishes of the club menu, and so the father of the club sandwich, so deservedly popular is the present British minister to Copenhagen.”

No evidence was put forth for this claim, and the claim wasn’t repeated often after this time period. In addition, this article discussed a club sandwich which had already evolved from the original version, which makes it less credible. The club sandwich didn't appear fully formed, but it evolved from a single two ingredient sandwich. 

The two-slice club sandwich was still popular and written about in The Rumford Complete Cook Book (1908) by Lily Haxworth Wallace. “Recipe for Club Sandwich. Toasted bread. Slices of bacon. White meat of chicken. Slices of tomato. Lettuce. Mayonnaise dressing. Butter lightly a slice of toast and lay on it slices of bacon cut very thin and well broiled. Over this place slices of the white meat of chicken, then tomato, lettuce and a good portion of mayonnaise. Lay another slice of buttered toast over the top and serve at once.”

But, other cookbooks continued to promote three slices. The Standard Domestic Science Cook Book (1908) by William H. Lee and Jennie A. Hansey, printed, “American Club Sandwich—Three slices this toast buttered. Remove crust if preferred. Cover first piece toast with thin slices of chicken, sprinkle sparingly with salt. Place second slice of toast on top, and on this layer place lettuce leaf and three strips of well browned bacon. Cover bacon with a little mayonnaise dressing, placing third piece of toast on top. A club sandwich should always be served with the toast and bacon hot.”

A strange article then appeared in the Muskogee Daily Phoenix & Times-Democrat (OK), January 8, 1909, alleging that the club sandwich was created by “two well know raconteurs,” including Captain Mitchell McDonald of the army and his social side partner, Judge John Campbell. However, much of the article was the same, word for word, as the previous article on Alan Johnstone. Why is that the case? Why are mainly the names different but the circumstances of its origin, its ingredients and preparation are the same? Again, these two names don’t arise again in later newspapers. And the same criticisms appear here as in the Alan Johnstone article.

A turkey shortage, of sorts again. The Omaha Daily News (NE), February 5, 1909, reported that “Club sandwiches have turkey in them no more, and some hotels and restaurants are eliminating turkey from the bill of fare, for the bird is 30 cents a pound at retail in Omaha. Last year at this time it was 22 cents a pound.” At least this time, club sandwiches haven’t been blamed for the high prices of turkey.

Another fanciful origin story, which should be taken with a grain of salt. The Retail Grocers’ Advocate (CA), August 6, 1909, stated, "It will not surprise any who know how frequently most excellent things are born of necessity to know that the club sandwich originated through accident. A man, we are told, arrived at his home one night after the family and servants had retired, and being hungry, sought the pantry and the ice chest in search of something to eat. There were remnants of many things in the source of supplies, but no one thing that seemed to be present in sufficient abundance to satisfy his appetite. The man wanted, anyway, some toast. So he toasted a couple of slices of bread. Then he looked for butter, and incidentally something to accompany the toast as a relish. Besides the butter he found mayonnaise, two or three slices of cold broiled bacon, and some pieces of cold chicken. These he put together on a slice of toast, and found, in a tomato, a complement for all the ingredients at hand. Then he capped his composition with a second slice of toast, ate, and was happy. And his success was too good to keep, so he told his family, the cook and all his friends, and since then the club sandwich has had an honored place with those who have once met it. The name ‘club’ was given to it through its adoption by a club of which the originator was a member. To his friends, also members of the club, he spoke of the sandwich, and they had one made, then and there, at the club, as an experiment, and referred to it afterward as the " club sandwich." As such, its name went out to other clubs, restaurants, and individuals, and as such it has remained. At least, this is the story as it is generally told.

As I've already mentioned, the club sandwich evolved over time, and didn't suddenly appear fully formed, with lettuce, tomatoes, mayonnaise, etc. So, this tale is clearly fiction, a fun story but not the reality of the invention of the club sandwich. 

As I've mentioned previously, there were a number of variations of the club sandwich, and some were codified in The Up-To-Date Sandwich Book: 400 Ways To Make a Sandwich (1909) by Eva Green Fuller. Nine different club sandwiches were listed such as the Ham & Egg Club Sandwich, Boston Club Sandwich, Sheridan Park Club Sandwich, Colonial Club Sandwich, and Country Club Sandwich. 

There was also the, “Chicago Club Sandwich. Toast lightly two slices of white bread and one of rye; lightly butter and on the slices of white bread, place slices of cold cooked chicken and a couple of slices of bacon well crisped; cover with the slice of rye bread and on that place a lettuce lead that has been dipped in a little mayonnaise dressing; sprinkle with a little chopped green pepper, then cover with the other slice of white bread.”

And the: "Sardine Club Sandwich: Three slices of thinly cut white bread, toasted and buttered. Place a lettuce leaf that has been dipped in mayonnaise dressing on the lower slice, and on top of that put slices of broiled breakfast bacon, then put another slice of toast on top of that, with another lettuce leaf followed by boneless and skinless sardines split open, topped by a third slice of toasted bread. Garnish with slices of lemon cut very thin and dipped in finely chopped parsley.”

As well as the: “Turkey Club Sandwich. Toast three thin slices of white bread and butter, on the lower slice lay cold white breast of turkey; cover with another slice of toast; on that lay a thin slice of hot boiled ham; cover with another slice of buttered toast and press together. Serve on a lettuce leaf. Garnish with small pickles.

And finally, the: “German Club Sandwich. Thin slices of pumpernickel, rye and white bread are used for this sandwich. Rub half a pound of smearcase until smooth, add three tablespoonfuls of thick cream and two of melted butter; season with pepper and salt. Spread some of this cheese mixture on a buttered slice of pumpernickel bread, followed by a slice of rye covered with the cheese, covered with a slice of buttered white bread. Garnish with slice of pickle.”

Nearly all of the club sandwich recipes called for three slices of toast, which may indicate that three slices was becoming more common, starting to surpass the two slice recipes. 

The Yonkers Statesman (NY), February 21, 1910, noted, “There are some things in this world that can’t be done gracefully even by the daintiest and mot fastidious person, and eating a club sandwich seems to be one of those things.”

A brief mention of the club sandwich origins. The Pittsburgh Daily Post (PA), March 14, 1910, stated, “More than one famous dish is the result of accident, like the club sandwich, which represented the contents of the icebox put together to satisfy the appetite of a hungry man. Brains were not responsible for that combination.”

A lengthier discussion of the mystery of its origins was presented in the Norfolk Daily News (NE), July 14, 1910, which was just over 20 years since the Union Club sandwich made its public debut. The article was titled, The Club Sandwich—Why? Historians Say Mystery of the Three-Decker Can’t Be Solved, and it was originally printed in the Kansas City Star.

The article posed two important questions, “Who invented the club sandwich and what is the idea of using three slices of toast and two fillings?” For him, “The origin of the club sandwich is one great mystery.” He didn’t accept the identity of any of the potential candidates as the inventor of the club sandwich.

Next, the writer stated, “…I say that sandwiches should be eaten, not with the aid of a knife and fork, but with the fingers. Admitting this to be true, where is the man with soul so dead and a mouth large enough to get this triple deck between his teeth for the purpose of biting and masticating? It can’t be done.” For him, the sandwich was much too large.

He continued in that vein, “Furthermore, the third slice of toast is not alone superfluous, but it is unsanitary.” And then stated, “There is a slice of toast at the bottom, upon that the chicken and bacon filling, not forgetting the lettuce leaf; then another slice of toast, completing what we used to know as one ordinary sandwich, sufficiently large to satisfy a small appetite, and sufficiently small to permit or getting any one of its four corners into any fair sized mouth.”

In addition, the writer noted, “But with this newfangled sandwich, the chef doesn’t stop at the reasonable limits, but he goes ahead and adds more of the chicken and bacon filling, placing the third and final piece of toast at the top. But after you have taken the bottom two-thirds of this sandwich and eaten it with your fingers, you have only one slice of toast and the filling, and I’d like to have some healthy acrobat show me how it can be eaten with only one slice of toast with which to do it. I tell you there is no reasonable excuse for the architecture of the present day club sandwich, and if there is any rule for eating that third or final portion left one sided by the absence of a fourth slice of toast.” 

The third slice continues to be more prominent, a sign that the time of the two-slice club was waning. 

To Be Continued...

Check out Part One

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

A History of the Club Sandwich (Part 1)

A pessimist is a man who looks for splinters in a club sandwich.”
--Great Falls Tribune (MN), February 8, 1902

The "classic" club sandwich, sometimes referred to as the clubhouse sandwich, is commonly made from three slices of toast (usually white), chicken/turkey, ham/bacon, lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise. It's a sandwich found in diners and lunch rooms, and now comes in many variations as well, such as a cheeseburger club.

Why is there a third slice of toast in this sandwich? What is the origin of this sandwich? Let's examine some of the early history of this iconic sandwich, delving into its origins as well. 

Various articles have put forth a number of alleged inventors of the sandwich, from the Union Club to the Saratoga Club, as well as individuals such as E. Ely Goddard, Richard Canfield, Alan Johnstone, Mitchell McDonald, and John Campbell. However, evidence for nearly all of those alleged inventors is scant. And we may never know the truth. However, we can trace the evolution of the sandwich, and get a better idea of its origins and history.

In 1879, there was a tantalizing, albeit very brief reference, to a possible “club sandwich.” The Chicago Daily Tribune (IL), January 9, 1879, referred to an “Owl Club sandwich,” but no description of the sandwich was provided and additional information appears lacking. Although this is the first mention of a "Club sandwich," the lack of accompanying information doesn't help determine whether it was an ancestor to the club sandwich we now know.

As a short aside, the Buffalo Weekly Express (NY), July 29, 1886, had an intriguing article on food for picnics. It stated, “The general directions for sandwich manufacture are the same in all cases. Butter the end of the loaf smoothly, slice thin with a keen knife and pare off the crust. Cut in triangles or in long, narrow strips, or give the full size of the loaf slice, as you like.” This is relevant as the club sandwich would eventually follow these rules, having thin sliced, buttered toast, without the crust, and be cut into triangles. That wasn't unique to the club sandwich, but was more a staple of many sandwiches at this time.

Another tantalizing and brief mention was in the San Francisco Examiner (CA), July 29, 1888, as to a “Bohemian Club sandwich,” again though without a description. There would be another reference to this sandwich in a Luncheonette ad in the Petaluma Daily Morning Courier (CA), September 7, 1918, but also without any description.

In 1889, we find the first direct reference, with a description of its contents, to a Club Sandwich, and its potential origin at the Union Club in New York. It should be noted that this sandwich existed at the Club for an unknown amount of time prior to 1889, but it was only in 1889 that the sandwich became known to the general public. And the newspapers at this time seemed to believe the Union Club invented this sandwich.

The Sun (NY), November 18, 1889, published an article entitled, A Dainty Tidbit That Has Made a New York Chef Popular. It's interesting that this sandwich, allegedly created at a men's social club, would be described as "dainty." However, this wouldn't be the first time that the sandwich would be described as dainty over the years. 

The article then stated, “A famous institution of the Union Club at Fifth avenue and Twenty-first street is what the epicures of the club have proudly christened “the Union Club sandwich.” It differs essentially from any other sandwich made in the town, and is a particular hobby of the club chef and of club men who like a good thing after the theater or just before their final nightcap. Heretofore the composition of this sandwich has been a mystery to the outside world. The club chef toasts well two slices of Graham bread cut thin, and between them places a layer of chicken or turkey and ham, and serves the sandwich warm.” 

Graham bread was a type of brown bread, and only two slices were used. We also see that the fillings were simply chicken/turkey and ham. Some people would later disagree whether the sandwich should have chicken or turkey, but the original sandwich gave the option. The sandwich also lacked lettuce, tomato, or mayonnaise. Over the next twenty years, this basic sandwich would evolve, adding different ingredients, and there would be plenty of variations. 

Additional newspapers repeated much of this information. The Evening World (NY), November 18, 1889, mentioned, “Have you tried a Union Club sandwich yet? Two toasted slices of Graham bread, with a layer of turkey or chicken and ham between them, served warm.” The Sullivan Democrat (IN), November 22, 1889, noted, “The Union Club of New York, a tony republican organization has an original sandwich, known as the Union Club Sandwich.”

The Omaha World-Herald (NE), December 10, 1889, expounded a bit on the past history of the Union club sandwich. “The secret of the ‘Union club sandwich’, a delicacy known only to the members of that particular organization, has at length been made public.” It then continued, “…the general public will no longer have to wait six years, pay $1,000 initiation fee and annual dues of $75 before they are privileged to taste of this delectable morsel.” That $1000 fee would be equivalent to about $30,000 in today’s dollars. So, this started off as a very elite sandwich, available only to wealthy men at the Club, until its secret was finally revealed.

There was another reference in The Sun (NY), December 26, 1889, in an article about the Christmas celebration of the Tenderloin Club. “The banquet board consisted of a brand-new pine shelf built around the wall of the club room and groaning under the weight of coffee pots, plates of sinkers, champagne bottles, and Union Club sandwiches of toasted Graham bread buttered, with a thin layer of turkey and ham between.” We see that soon after the big reveal of the make-up of the Union club sandwich, it was also being served at other men’s clubs. This also makes sense as some of the same men belonged to multiple social clubs, so would have talked about the Union club sandwich they enjoyed.

This is also supported by more information about the alleged inventor of the club sandwich. The New York Herald (NY), July 9, 1891, reported on E. Ely Goddard, ex-president of the Fifth Avenue Stage Company, Wall Street speculator, and member of a half dozen fashionable and expensive clubs, including the Union Club. Goddard was also one of the founders of the Tenderloin Club and it was stated that he was “the formulator of the equally famous Union Club sandwich of toasted bread and sliced chicken.” 

This would seem to possess some credibility, as it was stated close to the time of the invention of the sandwich. However, in his obituary in the New York Times, October 20, 1910, there was no mention of Goddard's creation of the club sandwich. Later newspapers also seem to omit Goddard as a possible candidate as the inventor of the club sandwich. He is certainly the earliest candidate to be named, but more investigation as to his potential invention of the sandwich is warranted. 

The next named candidate alleged to be the sandwich’s creator is Richard Canfield, who purchased Morrissey’s Club House, to be renamed the Saratoga Club, in 1894. Located in Saratoga Springs, this became an exclusive gambling establishment. However, the newspapers making the claim that Canfield was the sandwich inventor didn’t start doing so until the 1950s, after Canfield had passed away.

The Press & Sun-Bulletin (NY), March 29, 1951, mentioned that Canfield’s gambling place was the first to serve club sandwiches. This claim was repeated in the Daily News (NY), June 23, 1963, the Journal News (NY), June 1, 1976, and other later newspapers. However, no details about the creation were provided, and the nature of the sandwich was not described. And as we’ve already seen, the Union Club sandwich predates 1894, when Canfield allegedly created the sandwich, so he cannot possibly be the inventor.

It is also around 1894 that the club sandwich begins to evolve, to add more ingredients, and also gain a reputation as a sandwich that should be eaten with a knife and fork, rather than just your fingers. The Brooklyn Life (NY), October 13, 1894, discussed The Musician’s Club and the club sandwich that was served there. The Club “...has already a toothsome and dainty article of diet peculiar to itself that goes by the name of the ‘club sandwich.’ As it first appears to the eyes of the hungry instrumentalist, it seems merely a plate of delicately tinted, unadorned salad. But below are the bread and meat, chicken or veal, and it is eaten with a knife or fork, the proper method being to make the salad disappear in equal ratio with the other concomitants.”

Two years later, the San Francisco Call (CA), May 24, 1896, reported that “At the Manhattan Club in New York club sandwiches a la Straine, which is pronounced to be excellent, and according to Vanity this delicacy is the usual club sandwich, but in addition to the sliced chicken and lettuce leaf it has a layer of thin broiled bacon and sweet Virginia pickles, likewise a taste of sardines, the delicate piscatorial morceaux being dipped in powdered cracker and fried in its own gravy."

We now see the addition of a lettuce leaf, which would soon become a staple ingredient in the club sandwich, and the substitution of bacon for the ham, which would also become common. The sardines made for an interesting variation, and one which would continue to be popular in some circles. The addition of pickles is also a common variation over the years. However, there still wasn't a third slice of bread. 

What do you drink with a club sandwich? One of the standards was a club sandwich with beer, as mentioned in the San Francisco Chronicle (CA), July 26, 1896, the Sun (NY), August 23, 1896, and the Guildhall Essex County Herald (VT), November 20, 1896. The Atlanta Constitution (GA), January 31, 1904, noted "A club sandwich and a glass of beer is an easy little ‘bite’ to serve after the theater or after a game of cards when there is no need for a very elaborate supper.”  

Other drinks would also be paired with it in the future, from milk to chocolate. The Washington Post (DC), August 12, 1905, stated, "And a club sandwich without coffee isn’t worth eating.”

In a general article on sandwiches, The Chicago Chronicle (IL), August 20, 1896, made some interesting points. It stated, “A sandwich is anything from two thick hunks of bread with meat between to dainty wafer like bits made to tempt the appetite and rejoice the spirits. Every lunch counter holds the former, not one person in a hundred knows how to present the latter. The well-made sandwich is of inestimable value. As an appetizer there is nothing to equal it. No picnic is complete without it. It is a garden party dish without peer, and it is the proper accompaniment for any touring trip. The demand for it is endless and its variety infinite.”

It continued, mentioning the club sandwich in specifics. “The use of lettuce as a filling for sandwiches is comparatively new, and has met with unqualified favor. Dressed with mayonnaise potatoes and laid with bits of chicken or beef or any other kind of meat between thin slices of toast, it makes claim to the title of club sandwich.” We know see that lettuce and mayonnaise seem to be elements of the club sandwich, although any type of meat is permissible.

The Evening Star (DC), March 13, 1897, also printed an article on sandwiches, noting a house in Washington, D.C. that “….makes and serves to her guests a most delightful club sandwich.” The sandwich was described as such: “These good things were made by slicing very thin the white meat of chicken or turkey, and put with lettuce leaf, which has been dipped in mayonnaise, between slices of bread, cut three cornered. A daintier sandwich cannot be found,..

Through these years, variations on the club sandwich would arise, using a variety of extra or substitute ingredients, like tongue or a poached egg. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle (NY), April 25, 1897, mentioned that a “Club house sandwich is prepared by putting a lettuce leaf on a thin piece of buttered bread, a thin slice of tongue, ham or turkey on top the lettuce lead, then a poached egg, then a thin slice of ham, a lettuce leaf and last a thin, piece of buttered bread.


How much did a club sandwich cost? The first price I found was listed in The Journal (CT), May 3, 1897, which advertised a Club Sandwich for 10 cents at the City Market. However, the prices of club sandwiches varied, and they started becoming one of the most expensive sandwiches on lunchroom menus.

This led to a short joke in the Brooklyn Life (NY), August 14, 1897. “Bill: Are you enjoying that club sandwich? Tom: I have to; it cost a quarter.” 

In Connecticut, the New Haven Daily Morning Journal (CT), December 16, 1898, presented an ad with a lub sandwich advertised for 15 cents. The Xenia Daily Gazette & Torchlight (OH), August 22, 1900, noted that a New York restaurant sold club sandwiches for 30 cents each. 

The pricey nature of the club sandwich is well exemplified in an advertisement in the Herald & Review (IL), March 21, 1901. The menu for Greider’s Café was given and a Club House Sandwich cost 25 cents, making it the most expensive sandwich on the menu. A roast beef sandwich only cost 6 cents, while the second most expensive sandwich, ham & egg, cost only 14 cents. Even a sirloin steak entrée with onions only cost 21 cents. Why was the club sandwich so pricey?

The Times Union (NY), September 19, 1902, noted a club sandwich cost 25 cents, about the same as a year ago. The St. Joseph News-Press (MO), May 10, 1903, printed an ad for a café where a Club Sandwich with Bacon cost 25 cents, the same price as a hot roast beef sandwich. 

The Democrat & Chronicle (NY), September 10, 1904, mentioned a club sandwich at the Astor House cost 40 cents. More details were given in The Inter Ocean (IL), November 11, 1903. “A club sandwich costs 25 cents at any lunch counter or restaurant where the ordinary sandwich is but 10 cents. If cold game enters into the makeup it may cost even as much as 50 cents; but if well built up it is worth that sum.” That shows that the club sandwich was often over twice as expensive as the usual sandwich.

The Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette (IN), December 27, 1903, noted that at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City, a club sandwich cost 40 cents. In The Daily Times (Iowa), January 2, 1904, there was a café menu where a Club Sandwich cost only 20 cents, which was much less expensive than in other places. The menu also noted a Chicken Salad Sandwich and a Cold Roast Beef Sandwich were each 25 cents. On the other hand, a simple ham sandwich was only 5 cents. And in the Evening Bulletin (HI), February 18, 1904, a café menu had a club house sandwich for 30 cents.

The Argus-Leader (SD), November 25, 1904, presented a cafe menu where a club sandwich cost 25 cents. The Appeal (MN), October 28, 1905, printed a lunch room menu, with a club sandwich also for 25 cents. The Allentown Leader (PA), September 19, 1906, also printed a menu with a club sandwich for ,25 cents and the Grand Forks Herald (ND), November 10, 1906 had a menu with a club sandwich for only 20 cents. 


Another variation on the club sandwich was the Coogler Club, described in the Atlanta Constitution (GA), May 30, 1897. “Uncle Bud” Kernedle “…promulgated the Coogler Club sandwich” The article stated, “The Coogler sandwich consists of a slice of ham, two slices of pickles and a slice of turkey placed between thin pieces of light bread, along with a slice of tongue and an artistic touch of mustard.”

Why was it called a “club” sandwich? Most likely because it was invented in a men’s social club, but one newspaper gave a more fanciful origin. The World (NY), July 18, 1897, noted that in Atlantic City, club sandwiches were served at one of the hotels. It then noted, “They call them club sandwiches because there are as many ingredients to a club sandwich as members to a club.” However, as the first known club sandwich only had two ingredients, chicken/turkey and ham, it seems unlikely this origin tale has any validity. 

One of the first recipes for a club sandwich was presented in Good Housekeeping: A Monthly Journal, August 1897. “Club Sandwich. Butter two slices of bread; on one place a thin slice of chicken, broil a thin piece of raw ham, and, while hot, place it on the other piece of bread, dip a leaf of lettuce in a small quantity of salad dressing, place it between the meats, making a sandwich; trim and serve as quickly as possible.”

We see the common elements of the club, the use of chicken and ham (although turkey and bacon are valid substitutes), two slices of bread (not three), lettuce, and salad dressing (or mayonnaise). In addition, we should add that this sandwich includes cold and hot elements, for the chicken is cold while the ham and bread are generally supposed to be hot. This would be an important aspect of the sandwich throughout the years. 

Another recipe was given in the New York Evening Journal, April 6, 1898, recommending it for children to take to school. “Does your little one go to school and take a lunch? If so, prepare a club sandwich for the luncheon basket. Cut the bread in thin slices, toast and butter. Slice the white meat from a roast chicken, salt, pepper, and add a dash of mustard to suit taste. Put between the layers of chicken a slice of broiled breakfast bacon, not too well done. Lay next to toast two pieces of crisp lettuce, and you have the most palatable as well as healthful thing in the way of sandwiches.” The addition of mustard is an uncommon variation.

Another variation appeared in the Des Moines Register (Iowa), June 18, 1898, which mentioned that in New York City, “The club sandwich, containing nasturtium leaves in place of the conventional lettuce, is meeting with high favor.” This is definitely an idea which didn’t catch on with the general public after a brief time.

Some actresses were mentioned as enjoying club sandwiches. The Cincinnati Commercial Tribune (OH), October 9, 1898, reported that, “May Irwin may be found after the play usually devouring a hot club sandwich and a glass of fresh milk from her own farm.” In addition, “Nella Bergen…enjoys nothing more riotous than a club sandwich and a cup of chocolate in her own rooms after the performance.” Milk and chocolate pairings with a club sandwich! And this would not be the only time we would find someone drinking chocolate with this sandwich.

A brief recipe. The Saint Joseph Herald (MO), October 12, 1898, printed, “Club Sandwich. One slice hot fried ham. One slice cold chicken. Two lettuce leaves. Spread between two slices of toast. Serve on hot plate.

The club sandwich eventually made its way to Connecticut. The New Haven Daily Morning Journal (CT), December 16, 1898, presented an ad for the Palm Tea Room, with a menu of their selections. There was an area of “Specialties New to New Haven” which included the Club sandwich for 15 cents.

Some people felt that the club sandwich was odd. The Daily Illinois State Journal (IL), July 3, 1899, in an article titled, Queer Gastronomic Fads, noted, “The oddest combination evolved by Americans in the provender line is the club sandwich, which is made up of toast, lettuce, chicken, bacon and mayonnaise sauce.”

Another brief recipe. The Passaic Daily News (NJ), July 26, 1899, noted, “Club Sandwich. Thinly sliced chicken, broiled ham, with lettuce leaves, on thin slices of buttered toast, seasoned to taste.

An intriguing article in the Philadelphia Times (PA), July 31, 1899, discussed sandwiches, including the Club sandwich. It began, mentioning the number of sandwiches that might exist. “Then some one remarked that she had read in the New York Sun there were sixty-five varieties. Time was when there were but three—ham, tongue and corned beef—with its thin spread of mustard.” I’m not sure about the accuracy of this statement, but it’s interesting nonetheless.

The article continued, “Of combination sandwiches, made with more than one kind of meat, as sandwiches of ham and chicken, chicken and tongue, and so on, there are various kinds, as there are also of sandwiches made of various materials combined, as, for instance, sandwiches made of minced ham and chow chow, sandwiches of chopped chicken, ham and egg, sandwiches of minced tongue and chicken, egg sandwiches and so on.”

Raves to the club sandwich. “One of the best of sandwiches served at a local restaurant is the Club sandwich, made of small, thin pieces of turkey, ham, beef, lettuce, pickles, plenty of red pepper and salt, with an excellent mayonnaise dressing, between two buttered slices of bread, which are cut triangular shape.” This sandwich varied as it also contained beef, a rarity for the club sandwich at this time, and it also had pickles, which would be an occasional addition in later recipes.

More interesting information came in The Morning Post (NC), August 6, 1899, presenting the latest version of the club sandwich. “Mayonnaise is used as a dressing for club sandwiches in all of the best restaurants and hotels. In some of the most thoroughly up-to-date hotels bacon instead of ham is used in making a club sandwich. This is the way to make a club sandwich: Cut some slices of fresh bread, toast them quickly a light brown; lay a crisp leaf of lettuce on a slice of toast; on the lettuce spread a little mayonnaise; next lay a thin slice of the breast of a cold roast chicken, sprinkle it slightly with pepper and salt, on the chicken lay a thin rasher of freshly broiled ham or bacon, quite hot; on this a leaf of lettuce and a little mayonnaise; then put on another slice of toast. Press the whole down with the hand so it is compact, then cut the sandwich across in two triangles and lay it on a hot plate.” Again though, there wasn’t a third slice of toast.

The tomato! The Birmingham Age Herald (AL), August 20, 1899, briefly noted, “…the favorite lunch dish when you don’t want anything is a club sandwich, made of two slices of toast with a slice of chicken and bacon, two lettuce leaves, a slice of tomato and a generous layer of mayonnaise over all.” The addition of the tomato is common going forward, and would become a staple of today’s classic club sandwich.

Another variation. The Catholic Union & Times (NY), September 14, 1899, stated, “Club Sandwich. Slice chicken very thin and broil some shavings of ham. Season to taste with pepper, ketchup or Tabasco sauce and lay between thin slices of buttered toast.” Ketchup or Tabasco? Very few club sandwich recipes would ever include these two ingredients.

The first cookbook to contain a club sandwich recipe is likely Salads, Sandwiches and Chafing-dish Dainties (1899) by Janet McKenzie Hill, editor of “The Boston Cooking-School Magazine.” Most other sources allege that the earliest cookbook recipe was in 1903, but that is clearly incorrect. Hill’s recipe was for Club Sandwiches (Steamer Priscilla style). The Steamer Priscilla was, in 1894, the largest steamboat, able to hold about 1500 passengers, and travelled between Fall River, Massachusetts and New York City.

The recipe stated, “Have ready four triangular pieces of toasted bread spread with mayonnaise dressing; cover two of these with lettuce, lay thin slices of cold chicken (white meat) upon the lettuce, over this arrange slices of broiled breakfast bacon, then lettuce, and cover with the other triangles of toast spread with mayonnaise. Trim neatly, arrange on a plate, and garnish with heart leaves of lettuce dipped in mayonnaise.” 

Once again, there’s no mention of a third slice of toast. And if you look at the photo above, you can see it is a much thinner sandwich than what we now call a club sandwich. It certainly is a much more dainty sandwich, and not the huge meal sometimes mentioned in connection to this sandwich. 

Another recipe, with variations, including beef. The Philadelphia Inquirer (PA), January 26, 1900, reported on a cooking demonstration at a local Food Exposition conducted by Mrs. Rorer (no first name provided). The article had a recipe for her club sandwich. “Take a whole wheat loaf, butter and slice, and put slice in lettuce leaves, which have been wiped dry. If you use chicken or turkey, cover bread with thin slices of same; next with a thin layer of pickled cucumbers, more turkey, and then another slice of bread. Cut off the crust, and cut diagonally into two pieces. Cover with lettuce leaf. If beef or mutton is used instead of turkey, use one layer of beef and one of tomatoes. The sandwich may be served with mayonnaise or Bearnaise.”

First, we see it called for wheat bread, not white which was the norm. It then included the usual chicken/turkey but no ham or bacon. There were lettuce leaves, as well as pickled cucumbers. The option of using beef or mutton was given, with the addition of tomatoes. And the Bearnaise sauce was another intriguing option.

In Atlantic City, the club sandwich could be found. The Boston Sunday Globe, August 5, 1900, noted, “An Atlantic City hotel serves a club sandwich that is composed of broiled ham, cold chicken, lettuce and mayonnaise dressing between thin toast. This is one of the newest evolutions of a dish that promises to rival hash as a general mixing up of foods. The club sandwich began mildly as a sandwich of cold chicken and lettuce; then warm broiled bacon was added, which in time gave way to ham. The addition of mayonnaise dressing with broiled ham seemed rather startling, but under the mysterious influence of the toast, presumably, it has obtained a reputation among the hotel’s patrons.”

This is close to the current version of the club sandwich, except it still lacks the third slice of bread.

Another recipe was provided, although with a bit more detail than prior ones. The Poughkeepsie Eagle-News (NY), August 17, 1900, stated, “Club sandwiches should be made of thinly-sliced stale bread, bacon, cold roast chicken and salad dressing. In all cases remove the crust of the bread. The bacon should first be broiled and then laid on a rack in a pan, this being placed in an oven, so that in this way all fat is extracted from the bacon and drops into the pan. The bacon becomes crisp and the slices remain flat for spreading between the slices of bread, on which, it may be said, no butter is used. Dark chicken is better for sandwiches than the lighter parts of the fowl, and the meat is better roasted than boiled. This work must be done early enough to have the chickens and bacon perfectly cold before it is used. The chicken and bacon, the edges of the latter being carefully trimmed, are placed between the slices of bread with enough mayonnaise dressing to moisten it all, and this dressing should be added just before the sandwiches are needed, because, by standing long, the mayonnaise will liquify and become absorbed by the bread.”

The creation of this sandwich had become a lengthier and more laborious process, ensuring that the ingredients were carefully prepared and at the correct temperatures.

The club sandwich was mentioned multiple times as a good option during the summer. The New York Times (NY), September 16, 1900, mentioned “The hot toast, the chicken on the lettuce leaves, and the thin slice of fried ham to give an appetizing flavor which one needs in hot weather were all excellent.”

Another variation, with its own name, arose, the New Sterling Club Sandwich. The St. Louis Post Dispatch (MO), September 20, 1900, reportd, “The New Sterling Club Sandwich.—(By Charles M. Ess, chef of the Bennett, Binghamton, N.Y.)—Take the white meat of a boiled fowl, run through the meat-cutting machine and mix with sufficient mayonnaise to make a paste; season very high and set on ice. Toast two thin slices of bread, butter very lightly and spread with the chicken force (not to thick); add very fine shredded hearts of lettuce, trim to diamond shape and serve hot.

This variation made more of almost a chicken salad, and there was no ham or bacon. And only two slices of toast.

Another variation, which definitely intrigues me, was put forth by the Chicago Tribune (IL), December 16, 1900. “Lamb and duck go well together and slices of them can be laid upon the plates in club sandwich style. Harmony pervades their relations.” As a lover of lamb and duck, this is certainly an alternate version that I would like to taste.

A dainty sandwich. Once again, the club sandwich is mentioned as being dainty. The Nebraska State Journal (NE), April 29, 1901, in an article titled, Sandwiches For Spring, stated, “To make the dainty club sandwich, remove the crust from the white bread and toast, cut into triangles, spread each with mayonnaise dressing, add a Boston lettuce leaf, on this a slice of cold fowl, then a slice of broiled bacon, cover with other triangles of toast, garnish with lettuce and hard-boiled egg.” The hard boiled egg became a common variation, sometimes cut up and added into the sandwich, other times simply as a garnish.

When was the first time that a third slice was added to the Club sandwich? It appears that it was about 12 years after the Union Club sandwich was first discussed in the newspapers. The Daily Times (Iowa), June 22, 1901, would be one of the first newspapers to detail a recipe that included a third slice. Throughout the end of June and into July, this same article was reprinted in various newspapers across the country, including California, District of Columbia, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Montana, Nebraska, New York, Pennsylvania, Nebraska, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin. So, many, many people were exposed at this time to the addition of a third slice to the club sandwich.

However, the article failed to detail the reasons why a third slice was added, or even who might have first done it. It seems like that someone added it prior to 1901, and it took a little time for it to become more public, and noticed by the press. From the description of the recipe, it is possible, and logical, the third slice was added to the sandwich to better separate its cold and hot components.

The article stated, “Club Sandwich. This belongs to the salad sandwich group and is very tasty and is quite substantial. Butter the bread, slice thin and cut into oblong shape, lay a lettuce leaf on a buttered slice, on this place a thin slice of chicken; spread with a little mayonnaise, cover with a lettuce leaf and another slice of bread; on the second slice place another leaf and two thin, narrow strips of fried bacon (ham may be used but is rather dry). Cover the bacon with lettuce leaf and slice of bread. Fold neatly in oiled paper. With these sandwiches are served olives and small, sweet pickles. These are especially nice for travelers’ luncheon.”

The Kansas City Star (MO), August 24, 1901, reprinted an article from Good Housekeeping, noting, “Toast a slice of bread evenly and lightly and butter it. On one half put, first, a thin slice of bacon which has been broiled till dry and tender, next a slice of the white meat of either turkey or chicken. Over one-half of this place a circle cut from a ripe tomato and over the other half a tender leaf of lettuce. Cover these with a generous layer of mayonnaise, and complete this delicious ‘whole meal’ sandwich with the remaining piece of toast.” Still only two slices of toast.

Numerous sources asserted that the oldest club sandwich recipe was presented in the Good Housekeeping Everyday Cook Book (1903) by Isabel Gordon Curtis, although obviously the recipe was published earlier than that, in 1899 in Salads, Sandwiches and Chafing-dish Dainties. The 1903 Good Housekeeping recipe was also the exact same one as published in the above mentioned Kansas City Star (MO), August 24, 1901.

The Kansas City Star (MO), September 23, 1901, published an ad for a club sandwich, mentioning it was a “light luncheon” that was “appreciated by any girl.” The Pittsburgh Press (PA), October 6, 1901, also noted that “Ladies and Gentlemen say Olmstead’s club sandwich best in town.” This was very much a sandwich that appealed to both men and women.

The club sandwich came to Delaware, and other cities, The Sun (DE), December 21, 1901, detailed that “The club sandwich is a present fad at the Vienna bakeries in several large cities, having originated in New York. They can scarcely be called dainty—being much too substantial and hearty—there being veritably ‘three meals and a night’s lodging’ in each, but they furnish an admirable way to present scraps and fragments in fashionable form.” There was a dichotomy here, where sometimes the club sandwich was called dainty, while others referred to it as huge and a full meal.

Their recipe was as follows, “Procure a square, rather short loaf of bread and cut into lengthwise thin slices. Toast these very lightly so that they are barely colored. On each of half the slices lay a piece of cold turkey or chicken, a thin lengthwise slice of dill pickle; next a lettuce leaf, a small piece of boiled ham and a bit of cream cheese; all these, of course, being arranged side by side on the large surface of bread. Spread over all a light coating of mayonnaise and cover with the remaining pieces of toasted bread.” Cream cheese was certainly a unique addition, one not seen in other recipes.

The American Cook Book: One Thousand Selected Recipes (1901), published a recipe as well. “Club Sandwich. For one sandwich, take two square slices of bread, cut the crust off, toast and butter them. One one slice of toast places four pieces of hot fried bacon, then two small lettuce leaves, then some sliced chicken or turkey (sprinkled with salt), three slices of tomatoes; then pour on dressing. Take the other slice of toast and lay on top of this; cut once, from corner to opposite corner, making two triangles; then place on top two slices of tomatoes. Serve at once while hot.” Again, the recipe only called for two slices of toast. 

The Northwestern Christian Advocate, Vol. 50 (September 24, 1902), provided some advice on the preparation of the club sandwich.  “A club sandwich should have nothing cold in it but the chicken and lettuce. The toast must be made of very spongy fresh bread and must not be buttered. The ham must be cut as thin as possible, broiled quickly and put hot between slices of hot toast. First a slice of hot toast, then a leaf of lettuce, then a slice of cold broiled chicken, then a slice of hot broiled ham, then a leaf of lettuce, then a slice of hot toast, served on a hot plate and served just as quickly as possible. Serve English mustard and mayonnaise in separate dishes. Do not put butter on the sandwiches. Let each person use the different dressings to his own liking.”

Despite the appearance of a third slice of bread in some club sandwich recipes in 1901, two slices continued to be prevalent. The Boston Globe, December 28, 1902, printed a recipe, “Club Sandwich. For 1 sandwich, take 2 square slices of bread, cut the crust off, toast and butter them. On 1 slice of toast place 4 pieces of hot fried bacon, then 2 small lettuce leaves, then some sliced chicken or turkey (sprinkled with salt), 3 slices of tomatoes; then pour on dressing. Take the other slice of toast and lay on top of this; cut once, from corner to opposite corner, making two triangles, then place on top two slices of tomatoes. Serve at once while hot.

Part Two

Monday, February 21, 2022

New Sampan Article: Charles Shue First Chinese Justice of the Peace

The most interesting feature of Chinese life to me was that on board their boats, or sampans, as they are called....Upon these boats live whole families of three and even four generations.
--The Fall River Daily Herald, November 20, 1888

For over a year, I've been contributing to Sampan, the only bilingual Chinese-English newspaper in New England. It is published in print as well as online, available in both Chinese and English. I've previously written thirty articles for Sampan, and you can find links here

My newest article, Charles Shue, First Chinese Justice of the Peace, is now available in the new issue of Sampan. Charles K. Shue, who lived in Boston’s Chinatown, was a wealthy merchant, restaurant owner, and the first Chinese justice of the peace in the United States. He would also be the first Chinese man in the U.S. to win a nomination to public office. His tale is a fascinating and inspirational one. You'll have to read my latest Sampan article for the details. 

What is a "sampan?" The newspaper's site states, "A sampan is a popular river boat in traditional China. This small but useful vessel, by transporting cargo from large boats to the village ports, creates a channel of communication among villages." And like that type of boat, Sampan delivers news and information all across New England, and "acts a bridge between Asian American community organizations and individuals in the Greater Boston area."

Sampan, which was founded in 1972, is published by the nonprofit Asian American Civic Association, "The newspaper covers topics that are usually overlooked by the mainstream press, such as key immigration legislation, civil rights, housing, education, day-care services and union activities. These issues are crucial to the well-being of Asian immigrants, refugees, low-income families as well as individuals who are not proficient in the English language."

There is plenty of interest in Sampan which will appeal to all types of readers, from restaurant reviews to historical articles, from vital news stories to travel items. In these current days when racism and prejudice against Asians and their restaurants is high, it's more important than ever that accurate information about the Asian community is disseminated and promoted. We need to combat the irrational prejudices that some possess, and support our Asian communities just as we would support any other element of our overall community. We are all important aspects of a whole, and we need to stand together.

Support Sampan!

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

The Bancroft: A Steakhouse of Consistent Excellence

Over the weekend, we decided to celebrate Valentine's Day by having lunch at The Bancroft in Burlington. The last time I'd dined there had been pre-pandemic but it had been one of my favorite steakhouses. They didn't have a special Valentine's Day lunch menu, just their usual dishes (including some of my favorites), and that was fine with me. 

Overall, we had an excellent experience, and the quality of The Bancroft hadn't diminished a single iota since my last visit. That consistency, despite the problems caused by the pandemic (which still plague numerous restaurants), is a sign of a top notch restaurant. It continues to earn my highest recommendation. 

Lunch is only available Friday through Sunday, 11:30am-2pm. The lunch menu has Starters (7 choices, $8-$24), Salads (4 choices, $12-$21), Sandwiches (6 choices, $13-$26), and Entrees (7 choices, $18-$43). You can get dishes such as Maine Lobster Bisque, Lobster Cobb Salad, Buttermilk Fried Chicken Sandwich, Panko Crusted Haddock, Filet Mignon, and Charred Skirt Steak

We opted for a bottle of Gruet Rosé Sparkling Wine, as pink bubbly is a good choice for Valentine's Day. Gruet makes delicious sparkling wine and their Rosé is crisp and dry, with tasty red fruit flavors. It also pairs well with a variety of dishes. 

We then selected a couple Starters, including the Iced Tiger Shrimp Cocktail (MKT price), with a red & green cocktail sauce. The five shrimp were quite large, tender and tasty, with a bit of spicy heat from the cocktail sauce. 

The Fried Ipswich Clams ($24), with homemade tartar sauce, lemon, and onion strings, were overflowing the bag they came in. Absolutely delicious, they had a fresh, clean taste and there were an ample amount of fried clams. These fried clams were as good as any you'll find in any New England clam shack. And the thin onions strings are very good too. I've ordered this dish before here and always been very pleased. 

As for Entrees, one of our choices was the Griddled Duck Confit ($19), topped with with brie & fig jam, and accompanied by truffled fries and housemate pickles. An amazing sandwich, with an ample amount of tender, delicious duck, enhanced by the sweetness of the fig and the creaminess of the brie. The griddled bread also added a nice textural element, some crispness to the sandwich. Highly recommended! And the fries and pickles are tasty accompaniments. 

The Steak & Blue Cheese sandwich ($15), which usually also comes topped by caramelized onions, is accompanied by house chips and housemade pickles. Again, this was another excellent sandwich, with an ample amount of thin sliced, tender steak and plenty of melted blue cheese on a soft and buttery roll. As a blue cheese lover, this sandwich was quite compelling. The house chips, which seem to be made from a variety of potatoes and vegetables, are crunchy and tasty. 

Despite all of these dishes, we were still tempted to get dessert. The Sundae of the Month ($12), was made with roasted strawberry ice cream, red velvet cake crumbles, and a white chocolate sabayon, with fresh whipped cream. It was also topped by a heart-shaped shortbread cookie. A decadent treat, with a rich strawberry taste, and crunchy bits of red velvet. A great way to end our meal. 

The Banana Coconut Cream Tart ($10), made with coconut dulce de leche and banana toffee ice cream, was also delicious, a nice blend of flavors and textures, including the crisp thin banana slice topping the dish. 

Service was excellent and the restaurant has a fine ambiance.  The Bancroft is definitely a great place to go to splurge on lunch or dinner. It has remained consistently excellent over the years, and I'll be returning again soon. It earns my highest recommendation.

Monday, February 14, 2022

Rant: Is Your Sandwich Bread Too Thick or Thin?

"The bread must be wafer-thin. It is nothing more than a vehicle to convey the filling to the stomach."
--The War & Colonel Warden by Gerald Pawle

The above quote is fhe sentiment of Winston Churchill, who had a hefty appetite for food and drink. , Dinner with Churchill, by Cita Stelzer, is a fascinating book that details how Churchill used dinner parties, picnics and other food & wine events to further diplomatic ends. The book also details some of his food and drink idiosyncrasies, likes and dislikes, from his great love of Champagne to his sandwich preferences.

Churchill preferred very thin bread on his sandwiches, his focus much more on the fillings, such as roast beef. That raises questions in my own mind. Is there a perfect size for sandwich bread? Does it depend on the type, size and nature of the fillings? Or is it all a matter of preference? How does a restaurant decide on the proper size of the bread, or one which will appeal to the greatest amount of diners, for their sandwiches?

Based on anecdotal evidence, it seems people are divided on the issue and it might be primarily a matter of preference. Some agree with Churchill that the fillings are most important and the bread should be very thin. I am in agreement with those who feel the type of bread is dictated more by the type of sandwich. For example, a grilled cheese sandwich, which might be thin on fillings, needs a thinner bread. Yet a thick cheeseburger needs a thicker bun but not too thick. 

There should be a proper ratio of filling to bread, and that ratio is somewhat a matter of preference. However, the size of the bread is only one factor and the texture of the bread is important too. A thin slice of a thick textured bread may work as well as a thicker slice of bread with a lighter texture.

Over the weekend, I tasted a Griddled Duck Confit sandwich and a Steak & Blue Cheese sandwich at a local restaurant. In both cases, the bread to fillings ratio seemed perfect, but the texture of the bread also played an important role. With the Duck Confit, the griddled bread added some crispy texture to the dish, while the soft, brioche-type roll on the steak and blue cheese was soft and buttery. 

Restaurants must find a way to please the vast majority of their customers with their bread to fillings ratio. That is probably a good reason why so many sub shops use a similar sized roll for their sandwiches. And it also probably why so many loaves of sliced bread have very similar sized slices. You can find thick and thin sliced breads, but they are more the exception than the norm. 

Some restaurants are more apt to take chances with their bread choices, which is riskier as they stand to alienate some sandwich lovers. For example, did they use too big of a roll for their hamburger? Or too little of a bun? Is their grilled cheese much more bread than cheese?

Do you prefer thin bread, like Churchill, or thicker breads? Does it depend on the type of sandwich?

Wednesday, February 9, 2022

Row 34: Lunch & Cocktails (Tuna Melt!)

Although Island Creek Oyster Bar in Burlington, one of my favorite seafood restaurants, had to close, it was replaced with a new location of Row 34. And it's still a great place for seafood! 

There are currently three locations of Row 34, Boston, Burlington and Portsmouth, New Hampshire, with a fourth location, in Kendall Square, Cambridge, coming later this year. The Burlington location has recently expanded its hours and is now open Tuesday and Wednesday, from 5pm-9pm, Thursday from 11:30am-9pm, Friday & Saturday from 11:30am-10pm, and Sunday from 11:30am-9pm. 

Recently, I stopped by Row 34 in Burlington for lunch. When it was Island Creek, I loved their Tuna Melt, a simple dish which they elevated to an excellent comfort food. The Tuna Melt was still on Row 34's lunch menu so I was drawn there, as it had been far too long since I enjoyed that sandwich. I never order a Tuna Melt anywhere else as they never seem to measure up. 

Now, they have always had an excellent wine list, with lots of intriguing and delicious choices. However, they also have a fine cocktail program, offering some fascinating choices, and for this lunch, I opted for a couple cocktails, both using ingredients which you don't find often in cocktails. 

A Baijiu cocktail? I had to check it out and I wasn't disappointed. The Westward Winds ($13) is made with Oaxacan rum. Ming River Baijiu, passion fruit, lime, and Campari. It was delicious and well-balanced, not overly sweet (with hints of bitterness) and with rich fruity flavors, and the taste of the Baijiu shined through. Refreshing, it was a touch of the summer during this cold winter. And it's also a very good example of the potential of Baijiu in cocktails. 

I also enjoyed the They Reminisce Over You ($13), made with Plantation Single Cask 2009 Long Pond Rum, lime, demerara, manzanilla sherry, and tiki bitters. Once again, the cocktail was well balanced, not too sweet, with a delicious, complex taste of tropical flavors, salinity, and citrus. As a lover of Sherry, I also love cocktails where it is a component.

We began lunch with the Baked Oysters ($16), made with chorizo and scallion butter. The plump, tender oysters were enhanced by the meaty chorizo and were dripping with butter. Raw oysters are tasty, but baked oysters shouldn't be ignored. It's a different sensory experience, worthy of your attention. I could have easily consumed another dozen of these beauties.

We also chose a Side of Cornbread ($8) with maple butter, and it was moist, lightly sweet, and quite tasty. This is the type of cornbread I prefer.

The Beer Battered Fish & Chips ($23) offers an ample piece of moist, white fish, in a delicious light coating, with plenty of thin French fries. The freshness of the fish is obvious and it's a great choice for a traditional fish & chips dish. 

The Tuna Melt! Ahi tuna, with cheese and pickles. The tuna mixture doesn't ooze mayo like many similar sandwiches, and it's clear it is mostly tuna. The melted cheese and pickles enhance the sandwich, with different flavors and some acidity. So delicious! The main difference from the version that was once served at Island Creek is the bread preparation. Previously, the bread was served more like a panini, with visible grill marks, adding more of a crunch to the sandwich. For this tuna melt, it was more like the bread was lightly toasted, so there wasn't as much crunch from the bread. 

Overall, Row 34 satisfies with its seafood menu, wine list and cocktails. It's the best seafood restaurants in the Burlington+ area and I'm glad it's open on additional days for lunch. 

Have you dined at Row 34 in Burlington?