The Simple Sandwiches of the 60’s

Decisions, Decisions

In the mood for a sandwich while I was shopping at Central Market recently, I wandered over to the “build your own sandwich” bar.  There was a very detailed set of instructions on how to do this seemingly complicated task.  Next to the list of choices, calories were also noted.  Talk about barriers to my sandwich craving–that just about turned me around to head over to the salad bar.  The process goes like this:  first select one of eight bread choices, one or more of eleven spreads–think chipotle aioli or salsa pesto, not just mayo and mustard, one or more of thirteen fillings, anything from grilled salmon to antipasto grilled vegetables and the usual ham and turkey, up to four toppings from a list of thirteen ranging from caramelized onions to roasted red bell peppers in addition to complimentary lettuce and tomato, and finally one of eight cheeses like manchego or goat cheese.  No, American cheese is not listed here.  If you put together a sandwich like the “signature sandwiches” listed on the next blackboard over, say a “California Connection” with sourdough bread, basil pesto, salsa pesto, chipotle mayo, roasted turkey, avocado, caramelized onions, tomatoes, and provolone cheese, you’re consuming 1190 calories for $8.99.  That’s about the daily total of calories I plan to consume when I wake up each morning (but rarely achieve).  Seeing my hesitation, the young man behind the counter asked me if I had any questions.  No, I replied, just looking.  I walked away thinking about how good that California Connection sandwich would taste.

California Connection Sandwich

Before bread was evil and to be avoided at all costs by many, we ate sandwiches nearly every day.  People were a lot skinnier then too, believe it or not.  Granted, bread was usually the standard white bread everyone ate unless you were forced to eat brown bread, which then was considered undesirable, quite the opposite of today’s love of all things multi-grain.  The average refrigerator contained packages of bologna, called baloney by us, American cheese slices, mayonnaise or “salad dressing”, and yellow mustard.  There was peanut butter in the cabinet if all else failed. We slapped a slice of meat, piece of cheese, slathered the mayo or mustard or both on the bread and we had a sandwich.  Adults threw on lettuce, tomatoes, and onions.  One year my uncle Sam, who was living near us at the time, made a sandwich with piles of meat, cheese, lettuce, tomato, onions, and sprinkled salt and pepper on it.  This was considered an extreme deluxe sandwich at the time.  Regular people ate simple sandwiches.  In addition to bologna, various packages of “lunch meat” such as chopped ham (yuck!),  pressed meats (Buddig brand comes to mind), olive loaf, and liverwurst (double yuck!) visited our refrigerator.  Cans of tuna, spam, and potted meat (yes, that nasty stuff) were always lurking in the pantry (just a cabinet in those days, not a walk in room).  Cheese whiz was also seen on occasion.  I despised it so it never appeared on my sandwiches.  At my grandma’s house in North Carolina, pimento cheese was always available.  Turkey only appeared on sandwiches after Thanksgiving and really good ham, after Easter.

To go along with our sandwiches, we had Fritos or potato chips.  Doritos came out in 1966 but we didn’t eat them until the 70’s.  I’m guessing the sandwich and little pile of chips we’d eat would be about 450-500 calories.  Of course, today I wouldn’t consider eating a sandwich with processed meats filled with artificial ingredients, processed cheese “food” on spongy, tasteless white bread with a long list of preservatives.  Nope, I like whole grain bread, preferably organic and simple unprocessed fillings such as hummus, grilled vegetables,  nitrate free ham or fresh turkey breast, but still, the key word is “simple”.  I don’t want to go back to the sandwiches of the 60’s, but at the same time I don’t want to stress over 57 possible sandwich decisions and then consume my day’s worth of calories in one sandwich along with the bag of kettle chips (a double serving), that I can’t resist.  I suggested to the guy at the counter that Central Market should offer half sandwiches of their signature sandwiches for the lighter eater, but I don’t think that will happen.  In the meantime, I will make my own sandwiches or bring my granddaughter with me and share one at Central Market.

Just curious, what was your signature sandwich when you were growing up?