Merriam-Webster’s Definition of Sandwich
– two or more slices of bread or a split roll having a filling in between
Great American Sandwiches is a series focused on America’s best-loved sandwiches. In this series, we’ll explore classic American sandwiches at the state, regional, and national levels, as well the various fillings and types of bread that make them unique.
This series was born out of my love for BREAD. I trained as a pastry chef and my passion was/and always has been, bread. In addition, I have a deep love and curiosity about American regional ingredients. Sandwiches are a way to explore both, so my goal with this series is to research, eat, and illustrate the classic, best-loved, most unique, and also the more controversial and also the ‘newer-style’ American sandwiches.
And, arguably, no sandwich is complete without Condiments, defined by Merriam-Webster as: something used to enhance the flavor of food.
America loves its condiments and in this series we’ll examine the whole spectrum of condiments that help make our sandwiches unique from ketchup, mustard, and mayonnaise, to cheese, coleslaw, and green chilies.
Sandwich suggestions, comments, and questions are always welcome. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to hear from you!
FIRST UP, The HAMBURGER – no discussion about American sandwiches is complete without the HAMBURGER, the common name for a sandwich consisting of a cooked beef patty between two slices of bread (or a bun) with or without various condiments or toppings.
Origin -The term hamburger originally derives from Hamburg, a city in Germany. Hamburger in German is a specific regional term used in Hamburg for meat-based foods. The proposed origin of the hamburger in the United States coincides with a German migration in the 1800s and it flourished under several names including, the Hamburger Steak, before finally settling beginning its evolutionary process as a hamburger steak sandwich in the late 1800s.
Popular Culture – Where to start? How about the mid-western United States – in 1921, White Castle, based in Wichita, Kansas, due to widely anti-German sentiment in the U.S. during World War I began serving hamburgers under the alternative name Salisbury steak. Other hamburger chains began to emerge both during and after World War I; however, it was McDonald’s, which opened in 1940 in San Bernardino, CA that established the baseline for what became known as the American hamburger. McDonald’s widely successful formula was later duplicated in various restaurants including Burger King, What-A-Burger, In-N-Out_Burger, Wendy’s, Sonic Drive-In, Hardee’s, and many others.
Ingredients – at its simplest, the hamburger is a patty made from ground beef that is typically grilled or fried and served between two slices of bread. Meats other than beef have adopted the suffix ‘burger’ and we now how have variations such as lamb burger, turkey burger, bison burger, salmon burger, and a veggie or plant-based burger. With regards to bread, most stores in the United States sell what they call “Hamburger or Sandwich Buns”, which is a yeast-risen product specifically designed to hold a hamburger or toppings. The bread, however, can vary by region, from the classic sandwich buns, to sliced white bread, wheat, sourdough, and everything in between.
Condiments/Toppings – Ketchup, Mayonnaise, and/or Mustard are traditional, as well as lettuce, tomato, pickles, and onion. Cheese, the addition of which changes ‘hamburger to cheeseburger’ is also extremely popular and varies with area. Regional toppings flourish as well including ones with coleslaw, green and red chilies, chili con carne, avocado, bacon, and kimchi.
Side Items – French Fries, sliced, fried white potatoes served with ketchup, are the classic side for hamburgers in the United States. Depending on the region and establishment, side items can vary and may include – onion rings, potato chips, sweet potato fries, zucchini fries, and various forms of salad, such as potato salad, coleslaw, or a green salad with your choice of dressing.