On the Table

On the Table: Make sandwiches the way the English do

CorrespondentMay 20, 2014 

— If there were a sandwich standoff between American classics and what’s to be had here in England, Britain would reign victorious. Comparisons trigger ideas for quality improvement on our side of the plate.

For starters, cold sandwiches are the leading menu choice here at business meetings and for anyone on the go. You can find fast food burgers if you search, but they don’t dominate the sandwich scene like they do back home.

And unlike in France, where baguettes rule, sandwiches in England are familiar squares made with loaf bread. That’s where their similarity with American sandwiches ends, however.

One striking difference is the wide variety of creative and healthy choices. These sandwiches have personality.

Another difference is in the way sandwiches are sold and served. Here are some of the distinguishing features:

• Fillings with fiber. Flavorful, colorful and healthful combinations of ingredients often include avocado, tomato slices, fresh basil leaves, watercress, spinach leaves, arugula, hummus, chunks of cooked butternut squash, pumpkin seeds, grated carrots and sliced beets.

Cheeses are grated or chopped, and when cheese or egg salad is served as a filling, the fat and cholesterol are diluted with added veggies.

• Quartered, not whole. Why didn’t we think of this?

Sandwiches served at catered events arrive cut into wedges stacked neatly in molded plastic trays that keep them from falling apart in transit. Setting out sandwich quarters gives you a chance to sample more than one variety two or three bites at a time.

Eat one or two and round out your lunch with fresh vegetable and fruit sides.

• The fresh sides. Bowls of fresh fruit, fruit salads and fresh vegetables are staples at catered events.

• Whole grain breads. Sprouted, whole wheat and mixed grain varieties are popular.

• Grab and go. Every convenience store, newsstand and train station sells sandwich halves made fresh daily and sold in convenient packaging.

Compare this to typical boxed business lunches in the U.S. with large, whole sandwiches stacked high and served with a giant cookie and bag of chips. It’s so easy to eat more than you need or to waste food.

All the more reason to consider some sensible suggestions from the sandwich specialists in England.

Suzanne Havala Hobbs is a registered dietitian and clinical associate professor of health policy and management at UNC-Chapel Hill. Reach her at suzanne@onthetable.net; follow her on Twitter, @suzannehobbs.

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