“What’s that? This is the last one? The no more sandwich articles? FREEDOM! FREEDOM!”
~AFFotD’s Recently Over-Taxed Research Department
Several weeks ago we embarked on a dangerous mission—to write about every kind of American sandwich that we hadn’t previously covered in our four-part Submarine Sandwiches of America series from over a year ago. Some thought it couldn’t be done. Some resigned in outrage. The rest of us got drunk and decided, “Fuck it, we’ll probably miss a few sandwiches, but whatever” and got to writing. Since then we’ve talked about American classics, regional favorites, and way more open faced sandwiches than we expected to have to cover when we shruggingly decided to count random piles of shit on a single piece of bread as a sandwich. But we’ve finally come to an end to our journey, and we’re going to take things out the only way we know how.
By telling you about extremely strange sandwiches that have been created by America’s culinary know-how and disregard for convention. Well, not like last time when we talked about sweet ones. This here’s the savory division, y’all.
American Sandwich Series: Sandwiches Oddities of America (Savory Division)
These sandwiches fall in a category of “generally kind of crazy” without necessarily meeting our definition of “classic” or “regional delicacy.” They’re just odd. Some are relatively normal in the grand scheme of things, but are still far more complicated than your average ham and cheeses. Others are made with fried brains. The sandwich world is anarchy, people, we’re just doing our part to try to make a tiny bit of sense out of it.
Anyway, here are the final five sandwiches we’ll ever write about…until invariably we add an addendum to this article with all the sandwiches you mention in the comments that we foolishly left out.
When people make fun of what kind of food we ate in the 1950s and 1960s, they’re almost specifically talking about the sandwich loaf, which you rarely see nowadays, but which used to be all the rage during those years where men could say “women should stay at home” without rightfully getting a swift kick in the dick as a response. Listen, things were weird in the 1950s, and sandwich loafs were an example of that. The sandwich loaf usually is made as a party entrée, like a savory cake. It basically involves taking whole loaves of bread, slicing it horizontally, and staking it up with various fillings inside. You can use the same filling for each tier, but honestly you’re that rookie shit you’ve just proved why Stanley stays out so late working each night, Barbara. You gotta make each layer different, if for no other reason than to justify putting all the effort into making this absurd cake-like concoction instead of a bunch of egg salad sandwiches. What would people put in there? Well, just about anything, but considering that this was the 1950s and we were still putting mayonnaise in everything, the most common ingredients would be your various protein salads—egg salad, chicken salad, ham salad, and tuna salad. They often used Cheez Whiz, because God our culture really has gone a long way in the culinary field in the past 60 years.
The sandwiches typically are frosted in some manner of cream cheese, since the entire purpose of this cake is the depressing sense of accomplishment its creator feels while exclaiming, “Ha ha, I made a sandwich, but it looks like a cake, whose not exciting anymore now, Stanley!” Also, heart disease was just a whispered rumor back then, so no one thought twice at making a stack of white bread, mayonnaise-drenched cold cuts, and cream cheese and garnishing the whole thing with olives, parsley, carrot curls, and grapes. Wait, really? Fucking grapes? What the hell is wrong with you, 1950s?
Blondie is a super weird comic strip whose popularity makes increasingly little sense as time passes. One of those characters was named Dagwood Bumstead, who first appeared in the comic in the 1930s, and looks like a balding waiter with hair horns and black, soulless eyes. He was often illustrated making enormous sandwiches, because “look how tall this sandwich is, that’s crazy!” actually passed for entertainment in 1936, and eventually whenever someone stacked a whole shitload of cold cuts between two slices of bread, it’s come to be known as the Dagwood.
In the 1951, the first Dagwood-themed restaurant was opened up in Toledo, Ohio, where they’d sell the sandwich (though they had to change the name after a cease and desist order was given by the owners of the comic strip), and a handful of Dagwood-focused restaurants have been created since, including the sandwich chain Dagwood’s Sandwich Shoppes, which was founded in 2006 and expanded locations to Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, and Georgia by 2012 (though they appear to be in rough shape now) and Dagwood’s Sandwiches, which has three locations in Indiana and a very outdated website. The inside of a Dagwood sometimes has extra slices of bread but always comes with piles of various deli meats, cheese, and standard sandwich ingredients. There’s no official point where a sandwich becomes a Dagwood or not, it’s literally if you make a really tall sandwich, and you want to call it a Dagwood, you have a Dagwood, so long as the Blondie people don’t’ hear about it and sue you first.
We said we weren’t going to do hot dogs, and we said we weren’t going to do sausages, and we said we weren’t going to do sandwiches on long rolls, but shut up and look at that masterpiece of insanity up there. We’ve seen it listed as a “sandwich” and that’s good enough for us, because if there’s one thing you should know about us is that we’re usually half-drunk when we’re writing these articles, but if there’s two things you should know about us it’s that whenever we get a chance to write about a hot dog wrapped in a beef patty, deep-fried and covered with chili, French fries, and a fried egg, we are going to write about it, and nothing you can say will stop us.
The Hamdog was invented by Chandler Goff, the owner of a suburban bar in Decatur, Georgia, in 2005. He sold it at the Indiana State Fair the following year, and it has spread to the “ha ha holy shit you ate what?” circles at other state fairs. In 2007, Minnesota’s state fair began a hamdog eating contest, possibly as a form of population control. That said, somewhat surprisingly, it’s not as bad for you as you might assume—it has 623 calories and 35 grams of fat, which is not at all healthy, but also makes it healthier than eating two Big Macs, and admit it when you get McDonald’s you end up hungry enough to eat two Big Macs don’t you? And this feels way unhealthier, just like it should. Nice work, Mr. Goff.
The Pudgy Pie might not be that well known, and isn’t really available at a lot of restaurants, but it is one of the more ingenious ways that Americans have managed to make camping slightly better than what it really is (don’t kid yourself, white population of America, all your s’mores and woods drinking isn’t hiding the fact that you’re sleeping on top of dirt protected by the elements by thin fabric draped over rods, and you pay money to do that even though you’re within a 30 minute drive of a damn hotel room). Basically, these sandwiches are made by putting a fully made sandwich in a Pie Iron, which should hopefully seal it together, and cook it over a fire.
Some might call them pie iron sandwiches, but we prefer the sound of Pudgy Pies. These pie irons essentially make crustless toasted sandwiches. You can put anything in there, from peanut butter and jelly and s’mores (“hey that’s not a savory sandwich that’s sweet then” oh shut up) to something more savory (happy now?) like ham and cheese or bacon and eggs. It’s a fun way to toast a sandwich over a fire in the middle of the woods, which as a general concept can only really have originated in America. But now, we’re on to our final sandwich, which is easily our weirdest…
What the fuck is wrong with you, St. Louis!? When St. Louis stockyards began to rise in the 1880s, it was decided that the best way to get rid of all the damn sliced calves’ brains they had lying around was to fry it and place it on white toast. Admittedly, St. Louis came to their senses, or at least stopped eating food so depressing, to the point that very few restaurants sell them anymore. Unfortunately, they managed to spread, where they’re popular in the Ohio River valley and in, for some reason, Evansville, Indiana that likes their fried brains sandwich so much that they switched from calf brains to pork brains when the Mad Cow Disease scare hit us. That is a Hannibal-Lector-level of devotion to the consumption of cooked brain meat.
Oh, and now if you want to make a brain sandwich from a cow, it has to be younger than 30 months old at the time of slaughter, which, along with Mad Cow, has led to other brain sandwich pushers going with a pork route. We’ll leave you with two separate sentences, straight from Wikipedia, to describe this sandwich, which now must reside in your nightmares.
“But as pigs’ brains are substantially smaller than cows’ browns, the amount of preparation required for each sandwich increases.”
“Each brain must be cleaned before being sliced and pigs’ brains produce fewer slices.”
So there you have it, America. You like to eat fried animals’ brains as a sandwich. Well, at least some of you do. The crazy ones. But for those of you (99.999%) that would rather not take part in the brain devouring method of sandwich eating, we’ve just finished listing dozens of better options for you to choose from over the past three weeks. Because though America might not have invented the sandwich, we’ve definitely made our mark on its role in our day-to-day lives. And we definitely make some of the best sandwiches out there. And we now know more about those sandwiches than we have any reasonable right to.
Time for us to get drunk and start talking about high alcohol beers or like, weird Japanese food, again.