How the modern sandwich has changed! The lunch! event held in Sydney for the take-away food industry incorporated competitions for the best sandwich, wrap, juice and smoothie. The overall winner in the sandwich section, Mal Gill from Lady Marmalade & Shady Palms, Brisbane, cleaned up with a wrap including Berbere spiced shredded beef brisket, sweet potato, beetroot hummus and bitter leaves. A fine example of the modern sandwich and a long way from toasted ham and cheese!
Gill was also a winner in the lunch roll section with his Tokyo Pork Belly Sub with spiced pear relish, miso mayo, raw Brussell sprout slaw and five-spiced crackling. The winners in the other divisions were equally exotic. The winning Smoothie, dubbed “The Warrior” used all organic ingredients: banana, blueberries, raspberries, coconut oil, chia seeds, almonds, brown rice protein powder and mesquit powder. The top juice was a little less daunting – a Fresh Fruit Frappe of apple, pear, watermelon and pineapple, with a topping of strawberries, passionfruit, grapes and fresh mint.
It’s significant that we now get our sandwiches from cafés with fancy names. In the past, a sandwich bar was just a sandwich bar, milk bar or corner store and the only signage was likely to be advertising for a brand of ice cream or cigarettes. Sandwich ingredients were a choice of ham, luncheon meat, cheese, tomato, egg (sometimes curried), a limited range of salad ingredients or any combination of the above.
The salad sandwich was the most exotic of the bunch. It seems it was a uniquely Australian specialty, especially with the inclusion of beetroot. Writing in the New York Times, Aussie expat Besha Rodell waxed lyrical:
A stalwart of school lunches and milk bars and sandwich shops and cafes, the salad sandwich was unavoidable for decades. Its basic components: sliced bread, butter or margarine and layers of shredded lettuce or alfalfa sprouts, shredded carrots, sliced or shredded cucumbers, and — the key ingredient — canned red beetroot. Magenta beetroot juice seeping through white bread is instantly recognizable as a portrait of Australian lunch.
Rodell laments the difficulty of finding a good salad sandwich these days, although she has kind words to say about the offering from South Dowling Sandwiches in Sydney. But with grilled eggplant, sweet potato fries and other ingredients, it belongs to the modern sandwich genre rather than the traditional – even if it does include beetroot.