BLT: British, lousy and tasteless
British don't use their loaf over sandwiches, say Americans
Earlier this week the reputation of the British sandwich had been subjected to a savage attack. The Wall Street Journal, esteemed organ of the American financial world, ran a front-page article which claimed that "barely edible sandwiches dominate the landscape" in Britain. It said Britain's "biggest contribution to gastronomy" had been reduced to factory-produced, film- wrapped bread containing fillings "so similar in taste that they were barely distinguishable to an American palate".
For the cream of the British sandwich establishment, this proved hard to stomach. It was here that the product was invented, when the 4th Earl of Sandwich absent-mindedly shoved a piece of beef between two slices of toast during a 24-hour gambling session. True, there was a time when the best that British catering could muster was two limp slices of white Mother's Pride smeared thickly with margarine, with a sliver of cadaver- coloured ham inside.
Back then, aficionados would gaze longingly across the Atlantic, where a sandwich meant a triple-decker pastrami on rye, with dill pickles on the side and "hold the mayonnaise". It meant 10 varieties of bread stuffed generously with a wide choice of succulent fillings. A square meal, in fact.
But times have changed, argue the likes of Jim Winchip, director of the British Sandwich Association. He believes that the advent of freshly made supermarket sandwiches, such as Marks & Spencer's hugely popular range, and of outlets such as Pret a Manger, with their exotic fillings, means that the British industry can hold its head high.
The food critic Egon Ronay is another defender of the British sandwich. "Ridiculous," he spluttered yesterday, dismissing the Wall Street Journal's attack. "Coming from the home of junk food, I find this quite extraordinary."
But there are still some who believe that, with the exception of the "gourmet" chains, there has been little evolution since the days when the British Rail sandwich was staple fodder for stand-up comedians.
In the London office of the New York Times, Sarah Lyall, a staff correspondent, gave her considered opinion. "British sandwiches are repulsive," she said. "You walk into a sandwich shop and see a glass case containing glutinised lumps of stuff with crusty bits on top.
"They use the same spoon for all the ingredients, so you get prawns leaking into your ham or tuna. Some of the mixtures are gross. Why do you guys put corn in everything? And to be honest, I've evolved past white bread. The ingredients in America are much fresher and they're not disguised with a whole bunch of sauce slopped over them."
The difference in products, Ms Lyall believes, is a reflection of the British and American psyches. "You English have a tendency to be grateful for what you're given. Americans are much more demanding. They believe they have a right to fresh, good food." But Bill Bryson, the American author, had an unexpectedly kind word for the British sandwich. Mr Bryson, who criss-crossed the country by train for his travelogue, Notes from a Small Island, said: "When I was travelling across the Western Highlands, I couldn't help but notice British Rail's very fine chicken tikka sandwich. The British sandwich is something you can be very proud of now."
- 1 Saudi Arabia mosque bombing: Two volunteer security guards hailed as heroes for stopping Isis suicide bomber reaching worshippers
- 2 Maisie Williams has an excellent message for one confused fan
- 3 Puerto Rico, island of lost dreams: People are leaving the debt-hit territory in droves as near neighbour Cuba's star rises
- 4 Tampon tax scrapped in Canada after petition convinces conservative government
- 5 Kate Moss on the naked Calvin Klein shoot and the obsession that ended her relationship
Saudi Arabia mosque bombing: Two volunteer security guards hailed as heroes for stopping Isis suicide bomber reaching worshippers
Maisie Williams has an excellent message for one confused fan
Archaeologists discover 2,400-year-old gold bongs in Russia
Tampon tax scrapped in Canada after petition convinces conservative government
Migrants in Kos: Photos show real tragedy after British tourists complain of 'awkward' holidays
EU referendum: David Cameron's rules are a 'democratic disgrace', says French-born Scottish politician set to be denied a vote
British tourists complain that impoverished boat migrants are making holidays 'awkward' in Kos
A nation of inequality: How the UK is failing to feed its most vulnerable people
Australian man punched in the face for defending Muslim women from abuse on train
David Starkey 'tells Amal Clooney to shut up and stop over-promoting human rights'
EU referendum: David Cameron to deny EU migrants and under-18s the chance to vote
£16500 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the leading Mercedes-Ben...
£27500 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...
£19500 - £23500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Experienced B2B Telemarketer wa...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This global company are looking for two Showro...