Two pieces of bread and a whole load of turkey

I’m proud to say that I come from the home of the sandwich. You can’t beat a simple sandwich, freshly made with great bread and quality ingredients, and preferably accompanied by a bag of crisps. Admittedly the Earl of Sandwich probably didn’t go for cheese and Branston Pickle butties with an accompanying pile of cheese’n’onion flavour potato-based snacks, but I’m pretty sure that he would approve. If he hadn’t been dead for 200 years, that is.

Here in the States, the sandwich is equally revered, but over-complicated. It’s like comparing a 70s prog rock double headed guitar solo with the beautiful simplicity of an acoustic guitar track. By law, every US sandwich must have 73 ingredients, of which 18 are legally required to be cheese. Lettuce and salad can be included if absolutely necessary, but this can sometimes result in only a two inch thickness of turkey being added rather than the statutory four. The Subway chain gets around this by making sure every sandwich filling is actually made of turkey. Including the tomatoes. The only exception is the lettuce, which has to be cut at least six days before being used to ensure that it develops their patented Brown & Unappealing™ look.

Americans make a big play of the fact that they don’t put butter on sandwiches, while neglecting to mention that they smear so much mayonnaise on everything that Brooklyn alone ensures that senior Hellman executives have earned their annual bonus every year since 1934. The inhabitants of some small villages in the Cotswolds have a lower collective calorific intake than the consumers of certain New York sandwiches.

Most egregious of all, as I have indicated before, is the American obsession with putting peanut butter on sandwiches. Peanut butter is neither big nor clever. It is the devil’s food, and its combination with jelly (or ‘poor man’s jam’ as I like to call it) is simply wrong.

In fact, the only good thing about peanut butter is that it ensures that I never drink too much on a weeknight. The Young Ones love peanut butter on the sandwiches they take to school, and even the thought of making them while nursing a large hangover is enough to make me nauseous.

40 thoughts on “Two pieces of bread and a whole load of turkey

  1. Trixie

    I disagree wholeheartedly with about peanut butter (though only crunchy and preferably Whole Earth)- you are missing a trick, schweed’ardt!
    I have to say though, you are completely right about jelly (or ‘high fructose corn syrup with fruit waste product added’ as I like to call it) – but even PB and proper jam is wronger than wrong.
    When I was a (fat) kid I ‘invented’ the peanut butter and chocolate spread sandwich (or ‘tastes like a melty Marathon’ sandwich). Couldn’t do it now, but I LOVED it then.
    So unfair that I have such a ‘slow metabolism’.

  2. Karen

    I love a good sandwich, I had my first encounter with branston pickles whilst living in the UK and must admit I do miss them on a sarnie now. You can buy them here, but they are always 5 years out of date 😉

    Peanut butter as I am sure I have told you before is just beautiful, even more WITH butter on bread, or toast, or just enjoyed straight from the jar with a spoon 😉 haha

    I’d love to try that fluffernutter! Anybody here like it?

  3. Trixie

    Branston is now called Branston Pickle Relish – it upsets me. “Pickle Relish” I ask you?! Branston hasn’t tasted the same since Crosse & Blackwell were bought out.

    It’s sad. Just one more example of the demise of British day-to-day culture.

    Bah humbug.

  4. MikeH

    When I first moved to the UK from the States I was amazed that no one had heard of a PB&J sandwich. They are a staple of the American diet. I can’t say as I miss them much, having not had one in about 20 years, even while living in the States. What I do miss are PB and Bacon sandwiches. Sure, you can get good PB here, but good old American bacon is not easy to find (not your streaky bacon, I mean REAL American bacon).

    I am the first to admit, however, that the food here is much superior to US food. Steak and Kidney pie, full English breakfast, custard . . . how much time do you have?

  5. Marmite Breath

    Oh God, I adore PBJ. After years of refusing to even try it, I did, and was hooked. I eat PB with a spoon.

    Now I’m craving a PB and Nutella sandwich, and that can only lead to bad things.

  6. Almost American

    I can usually make and eat a sandwich in the time it takes DH to plan how he’s going to construct his sandwich 😉

    The children like PB&J, and I am growing to like it. Not on nasty white bread though! DS went through a phase of liking PB & turkey which was just weird. He was not happy last night when he heard that a kid in his class is violently allergic to peanuts, so there are to be no peanuts or peanut products in his school lunches or snacks.

    Butter on sandwiches? Hated it as a child in the UK and have discouraged my children from wanting it. Must be a sub-conscious kosher thing! DH likes Miracle Whip, but I like fat free mayo.

  7. Mom/Mum

    All this sarnie talk is making me want to head straight for the bread bin and do what I like to think of as my classic Brit sandwich done a la USA – cheese (has to be grated), salad cream and Branston Pickle on a full fat toasted white bagel. I was over the moon when I found salad cream for sale here in the British section (love that!) of Meijer. We can’t do PB&J in our house – firstborn has nut allergy, but I used to gobble down crunchy (it had to be crunchy) Jif PB, strawberry jam and shock horror, butter on toast after a night out on the vodka in Life Before Children!

  8. Jan

    Although I do use peanut butter in cooking occasionally, I could never eat it on a butty, with or without the J.

    And I’d like to ask Mike H where one finds this real American bacon? The only stuff I find in the store are lumps of fat with a few stripes of meat in it. 😉

  9. Sarah


    you love ’em or loathe ’em…. I miss them being heaped onto nearly every sandwich I bought/made when I lived back in California. I always think English sandwiches just aren’t adventurous enough, and far too thin. You should never have more bread than filler!

  10. Nat

    I agree with Sarah! English sandwiches are nowhere near exciting enough. As poor students we would put anything (and everything) in between to slices of bread and call it a meal.

    As for peanut butter and jam (sorry jelly) for me that only works with grape jelly… which I discovered when I stayed in NYC and you cannot easily purchase over here since the sad demise of Ben and Jerry’s Home Store!

  11. Lo,TG

    The best PB sandwich is good peanut butter, lettuce (must be LOTS of it and very fresh and crunchy), and salad cream/mayonnaise. Light sprinkling of salt (Trying belatedly to be healthy). Before you scream with horror, think salted peanuts; it makes perfect sense.

  12. Dylan

    I’m just sad to see so many peanut butter lovers among the readership of this blog. I thought so much better of all of you…

    And Mike, as Jan rightly points out, what on earth are you talking about with American bacon?! It’s almost universally bad and fatty, rather than British (or Danish) back bacon which at least tastes like meat!

    Nat and Sarah – you’re missing the point of the sandwich! The joy is in the simplicity. American sandwiches all start to taste the same, given the vast number of ingredients.

    And as for LO,TG – salad cream and peanut butter on a sandwich? You are winding me up, right?!

  13. Brooklyn


    In the eternal war of the Martitians vs. Peanutbutterites who has the better case?

    At least peanut butter (even commercial high fructose corn syrup treated peanut butter) is recognizable as being derived from a terrestial plant substance. Marmite (or vegemite, the Down Under variant) could be:
    (a) Vegetable.
    (b) Animal.
    (c) Mineral.
    (d) Extra-terrestrial.
    (e) Extra-dimensional.
    (f) All of the above.

    [Use a number 2 pencil only]

  14. Brooklyn

    Almost American

    “Must be a sub-conscious kosher thing.”

    Like a glass of milk with a hamburger, feh!!!!

  15. Dylan

    Brooklyn – I’d much rather eat Marmite than Peanut Butter, although in the “love it or hate it” debate, I’m much more closely allied with the “hate it” camp! It does work really well in gravy though – adds a lot of depth!

    And surely it’s both vegetable and mineral – a yeast extract (and a by product of making beer!) with added salt etc. You should try Gentleman’s Relish if you want an acquired taste – a very strong and salty anchovy spread. Much better than Marmite on toast…!

  16. Mom/Mum

    Oh let’s stop all this food talk ‘cos am bloody ravenous now! Let’s talk about BLING! Trophies, awards, accolades, whatever you want to call them, Brit OOW you have brightened up my days since I discovered your blog, so I have an award for you over at my place. Come get it!

  17. Alasdair

    Ahhhh … Salad Cream … it truly does *make* a sandwich into A Sandwich !

    On my every-so-often visits ‘back home’, I return each time with a half-gallon container of Salad Cream … let’s hear it for Macro’s !

  18. Lo,TG

    Dylan – I know all about the BLT (well, not ‘all’, obviously) but you have hit the nail on the head; you will never ‘learn’ unless you TRY the PBLSC (actually I prefer Hellman’s light mayonnaise) sandwich. Peabrain was a sceptic like you but is now a firm convert . Crisp lettuce essential.

    P.S. Have you ever tried Marmite and lots of finely chopped watercress? Butter the bread.

  19. Brooklyn

    “And surely it’s both vegetable and mineral – a yeast extract (and a by product of making beer!) with added salt etc.”

    Big deal, you read the label. But, could you identify its source material by taste (or gagging) alone?

  20. Siobhan

    I miss a simple, uncomplicated sandwich. Cheese & tomato, ham and tomato. I can’t stand pickles in my sandwiches, those are for burgers and burgers only.

    I think I am one of the lucky ones, my (US) husband LOVES Branston and actually got a case of it from amazon from one of his siblings for his birthday last year. Grilled cheese and Branston is divine.

    I totally miss REAL bacon. And don’t get me started on sausages either.

  21. Expat Mum

    God how hilarious – and nauseating. I have never heard of so many revolting sandwiches, but Sarah’s mention of sprouts made me howl. While I know she means little bean sprouts or whatever they’re called, I had visions of Brussels sprouts in a sarnie. (We Brits just call them sprouts see).
    Now that’s a truly revolting sarnie!!!

  22. jAMiE

    I have to admit i do love peanut butter sandwiches but i only fancy them once in a while. I’ve had them with jam and with lettuce, both are yummy.

    I do like sandwiches with pickles…but they have to be full sour dills, yummy! (preferably Strubs)

    I’m a bread lover…so almost any sandwich will do though.

  23. Marjie

    I’ve never really gotten into the whole sandwich fad, but the subway commercials are always fascinating….Jared losing 100lbs. for just eating sandwiches strikes quite a crowd. What makes them less appealing is the ordinary things we put in it…..much like Mexican food, which are all the same except for their names and their shape.
    Maybe I’ll be blessed one day and be able to savor a European sandwich. But untill then, I will always have the burgers.

    And you’re right, peanut butter is the devil. It got me addicted to it and it’s partner as well–the jelly!


  24. Mike

    The peanut butter sandwich is a thing of beauty. And it is especially good, when you are nursing a hangover.

    Yep our “sanwiches” are complicated and ones bought at takeaway can not be replicated at home.

    Dylan, two of my posts you might enjoy at your convenience about this subject are here and here

    As always, I enjoy your site.

  25. Brooklyn

    1.”Brooklyn alone ensures that senior Hellman executives have earned their annual bonus every year since 1934.” [Dylan’s Original Post].

    2.“Must be a sub-conscious kosher thing.” [Almost American Comment 6].

    1. is true only to the extent that changes in the ethnic make-up of the Borough has made 2. less relevant.

  26. That Girl39

    Firstly – I’m still reeling from our sandwich experience at Katz’s when we visited this year – how much meat?!? But loved it nonetheless!
    Second – great blog! I envy that you live in NYC…I have only had time to read a couple of posts but will be trying to catch up on some history now that I found your site (via Mom/Mum).
    And last – did you write the 200 things you have to know about New York? I only got as far as 89 tonight but will be going back for more! Pure genius!

    PS… did you guess yet that I’m one of those annoying brits obsessed with NY?

  27. Name (Required)

    I am an avid reader – and a Brit living in the US, like you, I just finished my 365 days out of water last month. I love your blog mainly because it echoes all that I miss about the UK – and the writing is hilarious – you definitely are a Guardian man – please dont tell me you read the Telegraph 🙁

    Having said that, I was ravenous until I read all your sandwich stories – people, thanks; for my appetite is now a thing of the past.
    Although, someone can make it up to me by getting me a chicken and avocado on brown from Pret a manger. Damn, I miss lunch in London.

  28. Dylan

    Brooklyn – just for the purposes of clarity, can I say that I wasn’t saying that you personally are responsible for Hellmanns execs getting their holidays in the Seychelles…although you may be a big mayo eater for all I know…

    That Girl 39 – am glad you found the blog. Have to warn you that I was an NYCophile, and I ended up living here, so be careful what you wish for! Oh, and yes I wrote the 200 Things list…it was to mark my 200th blog posting, although probably at around number 89 I realised that it was a much more daunting task than I had originally anticipated…

    Name (Required) – glad to see you come out of lurkdom! And yes, much to Brit Out Of Water Sr’s dismay, I am very much a devoted Guardian reader. The paper’s certainly in the top 10 of things I miss about the UK…the website’s good but doesn’t quite make up for it (and nor does Guardian Weekly!). I used to do the Telegraph crossword when I was a kid though – will you forgive me?!

    By the way, other lurkers, please do feel free to make yourselves known…!

  29. Brooklyn

    Dylan: I wasn’t necessarily referring to me. Maybe because of its visual similarity to a dairy product, mayo is not the sandwich condiment of choice for those of Eastern European Jewish heritage, tuna salad sandwiches being the major exception.

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  31. Lisa

    Ok, try this:

    -Peanut butter
    -dill pickles (the sweet kind; not the hamburger dills)
    -American cheese (preferably the “deluxe” kind; not soft singles)

    🙂 My grandmother’s concoction. It’s good. I eat them now and then. Honest.

    My British boyfriend is amazed at how much peanut butter we have in our diet, really… from Butterfingers to peanut butter chicken (which I blame more on Thai cooking than anything else).

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