If you believe that John Montagu, the 4th Earl of Sandwich, invented the sandwich in the 1700s, then boy do I have a hero-shaped bridge to sell you. Yes, he may have slapped a piece of cold roast between two crudely cut hunks of bread so he wouldn’t have to stop gambling for more than a few seconds while eating it, but where were the condiments? Where were the garnishes, and where were the manifold variants, that these days finds even McDonald’s calling its burger a “sandwich”?
Indeed, a sandwich is a broad category, and it belongs to no nation. Arabs and perhaps even Romans have been stuffing flatbreads with fillings for millennia, and Chinese were putting morsels of vegetables or meat in a folded bao even before David Chang did it. European peasants in the Middle Ages were at least making open face sandwiches — that is, if they actually had anything to eat besides bread. And what is Ethiopian injera, but a flatbread with several fillings spread across it waiting to be folded?
It is my intention to celebrate the sandwich this year by finding as many tasty examples as possible, with a special emphasis on fringe styles, and also acknowledging sandwiches considered normal 30 years ago that now seem almost quaint. I will do this on a weekly basis and periodically present round-ups of the ones I consider best.
We begin, then, with an uncommonly found sausage sandwich.
Liverwurst isn’t as easy to find as it used to be. A century ago, it was a common foodstuff, and came into its own as a sandwich filling. But today, you may have to visit a few delis, as I did, if you want to find it available. Liverwurst is a German or Austrian sausage of the spreadable sort, like ‘nduja, made with pig liver, lard, and sometimes onion or bacon. It often comes encased in a pig’s or lamb’s large intestine, but this covering is peeled away before the sliced sausage is served.
In fact, there’s no better way to enjoy liverwurst — which is high in protein and iron — than on a sandwich. Mustard is a necessity, and raw onions an asset. Finally, you need a good stout bread. I asked for whole wheat at Ray’s Deli, where I found liverwurst ($6). But I first requested pumpernickel, which would have been the perfect bread to stand up to the richness of liverwurst, only the deli didn’t have it. If you can find a liverwurst on pumpernickel, LMK. 452 Hudson St., between Morton and Barrow streets, West Village