“What? You don’t think that’s a sweet-flavored sandwich? It’s got fruit in it, for God’s sake. Yes, cranberry counts as a fruit, I don’t give a shit if it’s tart!”
~Inter-Office Debate Among AFFotD Staffers
For the past few weeks, we’ve been shouting at you about various sandwiches that originated in America, using a list of arbitrary rules that, frankly, we’ve ignored more often than not in deciding what sandwiches warrant inclusion in our Sandwiches of America series. We’re now in the homestretch, where we talk about what we’ve deemed to be the oddest sandwiches in America. Admittedly, most entries in the open faced sandwich article, and some regional entries, definitely qualify as “odd” but we needed to limit this article’s length so we just kind of played fast and loose with our definitions of regional sandwiches and just general oddities. Deal with it, this is already published, and there’s nothing you can do to fix it.
For the rest of you who don’t particularly care about what sandwich shows up in which article, we’ll delve into our second to last article, where we tell you about strange sandwiches that we’ve decided to arbitrarily place in the “sweet” category.
American Sandwich Series: Sandwiches Oddities of America (Sweet Division)
To answer your first question, no, we’re not going to count an ice cream sandwich in this because if we decided to bring “desserts sandwiched between wafers” into the mix this would speed off the rails super quickly. Otherwise, our definition of a “Sweet” sandwich is simply a sandwich that has a sweet component in place. That doesn’t it wouldn’t have savory aspects to it—just needs an ingredient that we’d deem to be sweeter than, say, lettuce and tomatoes. Sometimes that gives us very sweet sandwiches (like the first two on the list) and sometimes that will lead to sandwiches that you, a reader who is wrong, might assume doesn’t belong on this article. We’re the ones who make the rules here, so you’ll have to deal with it. Anyway, onto some sandwiches.
Sealed Crustless Sandwich
The first patent for making sealed sandwich without a crust was given in 1949, but until 2009 it wasn’t a commonly seen sandwich type. What happened so suddenly after 60 years of relatively idleness on the “sealed crustless sandwich” front? Smuckers came along with Uncrustables, an exciting new way for parents to let their kids know that they don’t really care about them nearly as much as they should. Uncrustables, for those of you who had parents who loved them and thus didn’t ever open a lunch box in school to see one of these sad disks slowly thawing away like the belief that you were special in your mother and father’s eyes, is pre-made peanut and butter jelly sandwich where the sandwich edges are pressed together that is available in your frozen foods aisle.
This is technically a type of sandwich, and it technically is a sweet sandwich, but really, it’s not sweet at all. It’s a bitter, bitter reminder that your parents don’t have time to make you a PB&J, which is just the saddest thing.
As a combination of peanut butter and marshmallow crème (usually Marshmallow Fluff) that’s widely popular in Massachusetts, this one could have just as easily gone down in the little-known regional section, or in the classic sandwich section, depending on how far traveled you feel that the term is. Most of our writers grew up knowing that Fluffernutters were delicious ways to feel like you were contracting diabetes, but some people out there might have gone their whole lives until now without realizing that a spreadable marshmallow confection exists and is wonderful.
The Fluffernutter has been around ever since Somerville, Massachusetts resident Archibald Query invented what he called Marshmallow Creme in the 1913—which happened to coincided roughly with the spread (pun intended, may God have mercy on our souls) of peanut butter’s popularity. It didn’t take long to have a Reese’s Peanut Butter moment about the two ingredients, with the first published recipe of the sandwich being published during World War I under the name Liberty Sandwich. When the war led to sugar shortages, Archibald Query sold his cream recipe to H. Allen Durkee and Fred L. Mower out of Swampscott, Massachusetts, who renamed it Toot Sweet Marshmallow Fluff. Eventually, they dropped the “Toot Sweet” from the name, and continue to sell fluff to this day.
While Fluffernutters have been made ever since, they weren’t called a Fluffernutter until 1960 when an advertising firm hired by the Durkee-Mower company coined the term in an effort to make the sandwich easier to market. It was a great move, since calling this a Fluffernutter is way easier than “a peanut butter and marshmallow fluff sandwich.” We’re frankly it took that long for them to come to that realization. It remains a hugely popular sandwich on the East Coast, and is considered by many as the unofficial sandwich of the state of Massachusetts, which goes pretty well with their unofficial state ailment, childhood obesity.
In our last article, we talked about the Fool’s Gold, an arterial atomic bomb favored by the singer on everyone’s grandmother’s ceremonial ceramic plate collection, Elvis Presley. While his enjoyment of that hollowed out peanut butter, jelly, and bacon loaf is responsible for its continued existence, the Elvis owes so much to his very specific culinary tastes that it’s named after the damn guy. It’s a toasted sandwich with peanut butter, bananas, and bacon—some try to claim that an Elvis doesn’t necessarily need to have bacon in order to be an Elvis, but those are people who are colloquially known as “wrong” and “bad.”
An Elvis is fried, like a grilled cheese, and really most sandwiches that bring joy and happiness into your life. Elvis in no way invented the sandwich, mind you, but it’s still associated with him, because not only did he love the sandwich, he would not shut up about how much he loved it. Because of Elvis’ tendency to eat just about anything he wanted in large quantities (see also—the existence of Fat Elvis) the recipe has sort of grown to be more than “a toasted peanut butter, bacon and banana sandwich” to the generally accepted “all of the bacon and all of the bananas and all of the peanut butter you can fit on a fried sandwich.” It’s delicious, and incredibly unhealthy, and we’re not saying if you eat enough you’ll end up a bloated corpse on a toilet, we’re just saying that everyone dies and life is better lived when you consume things that are delicious.
You could easily make the call that the Jibarito, a Puerto Rican specialty that was invented in Chicago in 1996, deserves to be in the savory division, since it’s filled with steak, cheese, lettuce and tomato (with the option to switch out the meat with something that’s not steak and therefor a lesser choice). We’d not fight you on that point. But at the same time, when the sandwich in question replaces the bread with fried green plantains instead, we feel we can get away putting it in the sweet division. Any time you replace your bread with “fruit” …well we have no idea how to finish that because this is literally the only time we’ve ever encountered a sandwich that replaced the bread with fruit. So we’re saying this is sweet, and if your adamant in saying fried green plantains aren’t that sweet well we don’t care we’re looking to fill out this article, lay off.
Anyway, the jibarito was first introduced by Juan “Peter” Figueroa at the Borinquen Restaurant in Chicago’s Humboldt Park neighborhood. Figueroa was inspired after reading of a Puerto Rican sandwich using plantains for bread, which led to him constructing a sandwich along those parameters with meat, cheese, lettuce, tomato, and a garlic-flavored mayonnaise. The original jibarito had steak filling, because that’s of course the best way to go, but it’s not unusual to see a jibarito with chicken or pork. While Borinquen has since closed, it was so popular that restaurants throughout Chicago and even outside of it began carrying the sandwich.
Compared to many sandwiches in our series, the jibarito is relatively young—it was created less than twenty years ago, and is still watching its influence spread. As we’re automatically proponents of adding anything fried to a meal, we’re hoping that this sandwich continues to garner attention, because it’s a delicious reminder that America is better than anyone else at taking a culinary idea from another culture and appropriating it in the most fattening and delicious way possible. USA! USA!
Another “savory sandwich that is on this list because fruit is involved” is the Pilgrim, which you probably know better as “what you make for lunch the day after every Thanksgiving.” The Pilgrim wasn’t particularly popularized by one restaurant in particular, as what you might know as the Thanksgiving Sandwich was more of a product of common sense and a desire not to cook the day after Thanksgiving than any one particular sandwich pioneer. The Pilgrim, for the three of you still confused as to what we’re talking about, takes all your Thanksgiving leftovers and puts it between two slices of bread. At its minimum, it has turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and gravy, though really you can add whatever else you’d want to smash in there. Mashed potatoes? Don’t mind if we do! Green bean casserole? That’s goddamn brilliant! Yams? Uh, sure, like, yams are fine we guess! As long as we’ve been eating these traditional dishes for Thanksgiving, we’ve been making sandwiches the next day out of the leftovers, as if we all shared some deep bond as Americans that we knew that this sandwich was the best thing to eat on Black Friday.
The Pilgrim can be whatever you want it to be—it’s the sandwich you need, not the sandwich you deserve. Actually, screw that, you deserve it too, you survived through another Thanksgiving despite spending the entire year eating Elvis Sandwiches and Fluffernutters, you’re arteries are a war zone, and you’re still going on like a true American hero. Relish your Pilgrim sandwich, for it is delicious, and you made it with little-to-no forethought.
And with that, we’ve nearly reached the end of our series. Stay tuned for our last entry—Sandwich Oddities of America (Savory Division).