Bitesize Episode 37 - The Best British Sandwiches

Charlie Baxter

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What's this episode about?

In this episode Charlie tells you about the significance of the simple sandwich in British culture. He also lists some of the best sandwiches available on the market. So, if you've never had a sandwich before, you're looking to be inspired for your next one OR you just want to understand why the Brits are so sandwich obsessed then tuck in to this episode.
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Transcript of Bitesize Ep 037 - Transcript

Hello there. Welcome to the British English podcast with me, your host, Charlie Baxter. Today's episode is a bitesize one, so you can enjoy this all within 10 to 15 minutes. So let's get to it. Having been to multiple countries, I've yet to see a country that admires the sandwich as much as the UK does, so I thought I'd do a whole episode on it because there's some culture around it. I'm not saying that we invented it. Well, maybe we did, but we certainly enjoy it. So we're going to talk all things sandwiches. And to be honest, I think the British get a bad rap for their food. Personally, I think I know it's not a sandwich necessarily, although we could argue this. I think beans on toast for breakfast makes a lot of sense. It's natural, it's delicious. It's full of protein, it's salty. It's the perfect combination, really. But we'll get back to that later. The sandwich, though, has to be Britain's most significant contribution to world cuisine. It's so easy to make that every country has them. Just take two slices of bread to hold something else delicious. And there you have it, a sandwich. But our relationship to the sandwich is much deeper than what kind of bread you put in the stuff. For example, I found out only recently that a lot of Americans don't even put butter on their bread. The sandwich bread is dry. They put butter on everything else, but not sandwiches. Strange for me. Anyway, I'm guessing you know the origin of the sandwich.

I wonder how many times I'll say the word sandwich. Maybe we could make a drinking game out of it. I wonder if you know about this. So sometimes in English speaking cultures, we have a drinking game where the punishment or the reward, depending on the consumer, has to drink a bit of alcohol. And sometimes there's an ongoing joke: when somebody says a word too many times, people joke about it being a drinking game. Every time you hear that person say that word, the punishment or reward is to sip some alcohol. There are lots of drinking games in English speaking cultures, and I might just do some episodes on them because, you know, we might have some young listeners here who who still want to let their hair down and go crazy. So yeah, I might just do that. But yeah, we're here to talk about sandwiches. And my joke is that if you hear sandwich, you have to drink. Yes. Another one on this podcast would be culture. I say that word a lot. So yeah, you'd get very drunk if you played the drinking game on the word culture or in this episode sandwich. Okay. So sandwich. Sandwich. Sandwich. Sandwich. Sandwich. Sandwich. Sandwich. Sandwich. Sandwich. Glug. Glug. Glug. Glug glug. But yeah, the origin of the sandwich comes from the Earl of Sandwich. Or so they say. Legend has it that the Earl was playing a card game when he got peckish, just meaning a little bit hungry. He fancied a snack, so he clicked his fingers and demanded a servant bring him ham served between two pieces of bread.

I hope they were buttered. Now the Earl of Sandwich (drink) lived in the 1600s, so cast your mind back to well before Tesco's meal deals and imagine how crazy this suggestion might have been. Imagine it, one minute you're playing cards with the Earl of Sandwich, the next he's eating meat between two slices of bread. Mental. This is getting wild. So that's the commonly held story about the origin of the sandwich, although some historians claim the Hungry Earl only popularised what was already a common dish, I imagine that, actually, to be honest. I mean, it's not that inventive, is it? I mean, it's pretty simple. Although I was recently told the most genius ideas are simple once discovered. Yes, the most genius ideas are simple once discovered. But it takes the genius to discover them. For example, Elon Musk has just bought Twitter, and his first order of change is to ensure that every user has their national identity attached to their profile, which will lead to less trolling - people saying mean things - because in real life, when there's consequences, we don't just go around being rude to one another because of social etiquette. But online, when you can hide behind a user profile, people get a bit nasty, don't they? So he's making this simple change that to me seems really obvious. But again, I didn't think of it. He's the genius behind this move. Anyway, back to sandwiches.

The question I have for you: Is a sandwich a dish? Can you say that? I mean, how big of a meal does something need to be before it is considered a dish? Because I would have a sandwich for lunch. It's not a snack. It is my lunch. Is that a dish? Yes. I warned you. The Brits relationship with sandwiches is deep and I haven't even mentioned the meal deal yet. Nowadays, though, sandwiches are so much more sophisticated than some simple ham in some bread like the Earl once had. We have rolls, baps, and we've even stolen the baguette from the French. You can even have an open faced sandwich, which is when you eat it with a knife and fork to feel all posh and special. The Earl of Sandwich should have tried that one. Maybe his son did because he wasn't quite half the man his father was, buddum - bum! All right. For breakfast, we have the bacon sandwich. It's glorious. Put a dollop of ketchup or brown sauce on it and you're set. And yes, it's called brown sauce. If that name is too simple for you, though, you can call it HP Sauce, which stands for Houses of Parliament. No one really knows why it's called that, and no one really knows what's in brown sauce. All we know is that it goes bloody well with a bacon sandwich or a sausage sarnie. Mm. Oh, yeah. So breakfast is out the way and it's almost lunchtime. Time for another sandwich, I think.

Yes. Now this is where I get to the good stuff. The staple of the British diet. The meal deal. The meal deal is the real deal. The meal deal is the McCoy. Imagine it. You walk into a supermarket where for a few pounds sterling you can receive a sandwich, a snack and a drink. It's incredible. Incredible, whatever we were doing before the meal deal, I mean, we should just erase it from history. I don't know what we were doing. As far as I'm concerned, civilisation starts with the meal deal, but if you're not tantalised by a supermarket brand pre-packaged sandwich, that's only because you're not eating a British supermarket brand pre-packaged sandwich. Goodness me, that's a tongue twister, a British supermarket brand pre-packaged sandwich. Say it with me! A British supermarket brand pre-packaged sandwich. One of the hardest things about living abroad for me is the distinct inability to get a good sandwich. I mean, in America they do have some sandwiches, but they're on steroids. They're insanely calorific and they don't serve the same purpose. It's not a quick pop into the shop, grab a meal deal for your lunch, get back to work within 30 minutes. Their sandwiches would often comatose me. And then in Germany I couldn't get a good sandwich. I could get a good pretzel. I'll give them that. But no good sandwiches. Not like the British sandwiches. And Australia, the same thing goes. They've got cafe culture, so they do have cafe-made sandwiches and yet I still want to go into a supermarket and buy a meal deal.

And at the risk of sounding like a brand loyalist, M&S Coronation Chicken is a common entry in the meal deal combination for me. I can be partial to a turkey and stuffing when I'm feeling festive, but like my grandmother never said, you can't go wrong with an M&S coronation chicken meal deal combo. I don't know if she ever had a meal deal. Meal deal - that's another phrase for the drinking game. All right. So I know I keep banging on about these meal deals, but honestly, the nation's sandwich industry is booming. It is worth £8 billion. That's a lot of dough. Get it? Dough. Money, bread. Oh, my God. I'm ready to be a dad and groan if you want. But I promise it'll be the first joke you tell when you next see your friends eating a sandwich. But yeah, that outlines the basics of the sandwich. I told you, it goes deeper than just a Subway, doesn't it? But hold on. We're going further. So strap in, because now I'm going to take you down a rabbit hole of bespoke British sandwiches, which by the end may have you questioning your own sanity. And so I give you the quintessential recipe book for the top four quintessential British sandwiches. So one of them that I need to mention that I don't personally have, but I do know people do have, is the banana and crisp number. This delicate combination of mushy banana with jagged salty crisp was a go-to snack for many people in their younger years.

I wonder, though, in this generation they might be missing this number because of all the wonderful new variations available for them. But apparently a standard ready salted crisp would offer satisfactory crunch. But for the more daring consumer, it would be recommended to have maybe pickled onion monster munch. I did hear though that Wotsits are banned and anything else too cheesy like a Cheeto would also not be allowed into this recipe. But your familiar cheese and onion crisp was a safe addition. So there we go. A banana and crisp sandwich. Next one is a Marmite sandwich. Oh, Marmite. How do I love thee! Marmite is a divisive spread, yet easily found in every homeowner's pantry across the kingdom. It's a a tar-like substance, black, sticky, and it tastes of well, marmite. Some think it's a vegetable extract, but I believe it's a by-product of beer brewing. Imagine that, you're making some beer. And then at the end of the brewing process, you see a sticky brown substance at the bottom of your fermentation vessel, and then you stick it on some toast and see if it tastes nice. And lo and behold, it does. It really does. And yeah, now we all love it, but you don't want to be too generous with this. The art of a Marmite sandwich is to spread it thin but evenly because it's a potent product, I must add. The next sandwich is the jam sandwich. There's a famous line in a very funny film called Kevin and Perry Go Large, and Perry says to Kevin's mum and I know it's not going to be funny for you, but I'm going to say it just because I find it funny talking to myself in my sound booth.

So. So Perry goes up to Kevin's parents and says, Oh, excuse me, Mr. and Mrs. Patterson, can I have a jam sandwich, please? So that film is well worth a watch if you want to learn about what teenage boys who grew up in the nineties and Noughties used to think about, although I'm sure you can imagine. Right. So yeah, the jam sandwich. Yeah, it's simple. Just stick some jam and bread and voila, it's a jam sandwich. It's kind of mad when you think about it. I mean, just jam. It sounds too sweet, too sugary, but if you haven't had it, I promise you it makes for a brilliant cake substitute with your afternoon tea. And moving on to number four, the chip butty. The chip butty. This is fine dining. To pull off a chip butty, one of the most sophisticated sandwiches on the British menu, you will need a sandwich and chips. So what you want to do is delicately lift one of the pieces of bread and just cram the chips between the slices of buttered bread. And if you're a fussy eater, add a sauce to compensate for the dryness because it will get dry. Up north though, they have it with gravy, but up north they have everything with gravy.

And finally, we have the absolute king of the British sandwich or the or the irreplaceable queen of the bread thing bread combination. Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, drum roll, please, as we welcome to the stage, the one the only beans on toast. That's right. We started with beans and we're ending with beans. There is not a British person alive who hasn't had beans on toast. Now, you might be saying, Charlie. This isn't a sandwich. You're wrong. This is an open faced sandwich. And as such, is easy to get wrong. To really pull this off, you need some nice, thick, rustic bread. You'll need... Now, this is a controversial one. Is it Branston or is it Heinz beans you're going to go for? I, I would imagine if you're going premium, you want Branston. If you're going everyday you want Heinz. So rustic bread might go better with Branston beans and then you'll need some shredded cheese, some extra mature cheddar cheese. Add that together and you have an open faced sandwich that cannot be beaten, that cannot be bought, that cannot be appreciated until you put the first fork full of toast and beans in your mouth. I promise you this. It will change your life. Well, it maybe it won't change your life, but it will change your lunch. I hope you enjoyed that one. My name is Charlie. You've been listening to the British English podcast. Have a good week. And if you can help someone else, enjoy it, too. Bye for now.

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Podcast host: Charlie:
This will be quite a bit harder for you to understand, as there are a number of accents in the conversation, some poorly delivered at times, as you will notice.

Podcast host: Charlie:
But the aim is to give you a variety of dialects in one conversation and some dialogue to give you native expressions in context. So enter, if you will, to Charlie's pub and his imaginary world.

Character: Mike:
Alright geezer, how's it going?

Character: Chris:
Yes, I'm well thanks. How about you? Have you had a good day?

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Can't say good mate. No my old man he's been giving me a right old earful for what happened on site last week.

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Oh that's a pity. Are you back on your dad's building project again?

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Sad to say mate, but yeah, I am. Couldn't resist this one though. Cash in hand, you know.

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Oh fair play, hard to resist those I imagine. Oh, here she is.

Character: Emily:
Oh, hi.

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I was wondering if you're ever going to join us tonight.

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