Here, Canada – let me write you a sandwich

Letter from Canada August 21st

If you live in the UK, or have visited there recently and lodged with us proles in the suburbs and villages, you’ll know how fond we all are of pre-packed sandwiches. So why do I have to search high and low for one in Canada?HTWB sandwich

In England, it doesn’t matter whether it’s a small village shop, a convenience store, a filling station pay kiosk, a supermarket, a bakery, a souvenir shop, a hospital charity shop or a hypermarket the size of several soccer pitches … there’ll be pre-packed sandwiches in their dozens, to choose from.

“Britain’s only contribution to world gastronomy?”

So, apparently, wrote The Wall Street Journal once upon a time about the great British Sandwich, sneering no doubt at the 4th Earl of Sandwich who started the whole thing back in the 18th century.

This being somewhat before the time when you could dial-a-pizza or go to a drive-thru with your horses and carriage, the noble Earl nonetheless wanted to eat something substantial yet quick and convenient while playing cards, I think. (Or was he playing with his mistress? Whatever.)

Anyway the servants were sent to the kitchens to plonk a slice of cooked meat or cheese between two slices of bread, which did in fact happen a lot faster than spit-roasting a pig or strangling and cooking a peacock.

The sandwich versus junk food

This is where the argument gets interesting. Given that North Americans need quick snacks and lunches as much as the Brits do and don’t always have time or inclination to prepare healthful stuff at home to take with them, why no pre-packed sandwiches?

With the possible exception of Subway (torpedo-shaped sandwiches) and some of the more exotic examples from the Far East, fast food outlets in Canada and the US mainly consist of junky crap guaranteed to curdle your arteries, send your blood sugar levels into the stratosphere and probably glue your jaws together into the bargain.

But pre-packed sandwiches? With good bread, healthy fillings and no artificial additives, they’re pretty healthy. Cheap. Easy to prepare, distribute and sell. And they can even be gastronomic works of art as we’ve seen in England with examples like Prêt à Manger (although their North American menus seem less about sandwiches than they are caffeine and sweetness…)

So, health-conscious Canada, where the hell do I get a pre-packed sandwich?

Admittedly I haven’t looked around in Nunavut or NWT – not even Moosejaw – but all around southern Ontario I have searched high, low and sideways for a decent or even indecent pre-packed sandwich.

Loblaws, Metro, Foodland, gas stations, convenience stores, drug stores, you name it. Diddly squat.

HTWB seagull

Even the gulls turned their beaks up at my Canadian sandwich.

Oh, I did find one in a gas station, once. It was a chicken sandwich at the back of the chiller cabinet next to sticky doughnuts. I stopped a bit further along Lake Ontario to eat it and it was foul. Even the gulls turned their beaks up at it.

Let me write you the recipe…

1. Find some decent bread that doesn’t disintegrate when you try to butter it.

2. Take two slices. Butter one side of each (no hydrogenated fats or other crap – real, unmessed-with butter only.)

3. Add appropriate delicious organic condiments – easy on the salt.

4. Add appropriate delicious organic filling to one buttered side.

5. Slap two slices together (filling in the middle – makes a mess if you get that one wrong.)

6. Shrink wrap, package, distribute in chilled containers to stores and gas stations everywhere.

7. Grab the public’s love of simple, healthy food.

7. Make a fortune.

Now, Canada: does that sound like a plan?

What do you think? Are the Brits unhealthily obsessed with sandwiches, pre-packed or otherwise? Or should Canada, at least, lead the way into a new sandwich generation?

Please share your views while I go make myself a sandwich…

mooseHave a laugh with my earlier Letters From Canada here, and here.