Zen And The Art Of Sandwich Making
Tired of those long sails spent sucking on soggy sandwiches which have spent the day sweating in the sump of a not-very-dry-sack™?
Had enough of choking on crumbling crackers of compressed corn and cinders wondering where all the flavour went?
Want to keep your baguettes beguiling through a bout of battering in the bilges?

Then, with apologies to Emma Lazarus
     "Give me your tired rolls, your poor fillings, 
     Your curdled messes yearning to be eaten with glee,
     The wretched refuse of your croque monsieur.
     Send these, the tasteless, salad-tossed to me,
     I lay my ham beside the coleslaw."
A Brief History of the Sandwich
The origins of the modern sandwich can be traced as far back as the Middle Ages to a kind of crude open-faced slab known as a trencher acting as little more than a bready plate; stale loaves were sliced open and filled with roast meats or stew, the gravy-soaked remains then being fed to the dogs, or the peasants. If the dogs were full.
However it is only very recently that the more familiar closed versions emerged to fulfil a Boston, Massachusetts court's 2006 ruling that a sandwich includes at least two slices of bread.

The rapid refinement of the modern sandwich was famously undertaken by Admiral Lord Nelson who began developing a closed bread-based food wrapper known as a nelson to sustain him through his extended naval battles. The fledgling nelson performed well during its early sea trials in the fight against the Americans, eventually joined by the Spanish and French, in the American War of Independence, and soon evolved its now familiar lines. This leaner, trimmer nelson easily overcame the laughably insubstantial Spanish-American burrito at the Battle of Cape St Vincent in 1797 and Nelson's work culminated in its most successful victory over the upstart French croque monsieur at Trafalgar in 1805, confirming the superiority of his innovation and permanently establishing it as a maritime staple.
No longer need sailors suffer grimy pies or poisonous pasties like plebeian Welsh coal miners or Cornish tin diggers. Being clean of hand and free of toxins we can handle good honest bread with impunity.

Despite the later noble history of the nelson its name was ruthlessly hijacked by the First Lord of the Admiralty, gambler, and renowned plagiarist John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich, after Lord Nelson's ill-considered demonstration of his novelty creation during an Admiralty picnic in 1762.
In attendance with his retinue of drinking buddies, Sandwich (described as being as mischievous as a monkey and as lecherous as a goat) and other members of the infamous Hellfire Club sat at the back playing cards, jeering and making rude gestures. Then whilst Nelsons's back was turned Sandwich was seen to run off with his slices of bread and roast beef, and went on to claim the invention as his own.
The rest of the tale is, as they say, history.

Notwithstanding an heroic effort to rehabilitate the name by Nelson's supporters in the newly established Patent Office by enacting the Trade Mark Registration Act of 1875, the bill arrived too late and this delightful comestible became ever-after known as the sandwich.
Worse, their failed attempt inadvertently built a legal framework whose inexorable expansion today enables a venal, avaricious international cabal to oppressively regulate any sketch or drawing which might vaguely resemble a set of coloured rings.

Oh the humanity!

The Modern Sandwich
It wasn't long before intensive development and modern materials began to produce the more familiar sandwich varieties we know today. It is unfortunate, and somewhat ironic, that it was one such experimental flimsy, crustless affair of cucumber and mint which failed to stop a bullet fired at close quarters from the upper rigging of the French Téméraire Redoutable passing clean through Nelson's breast sandwich pocket and penetrating his spine. One is left to wonder if Nelson had instead chosen anachronistically to prepare a robust Edwardian shooter's sandwich, (consisting of fried steak, mushrooms and onions rammed into a hollowed out loaf, lubricated with mustard and horseradish and then pressed overnight) his life might not have been saved.

Today with the modern inconveniences of mechanically sliced bread and meats, we are principally faced with three problems of sandwich maintenance:
  1. Organising the texture somewhere edible on the scale between wet sponge and dusty shoe leather.
    Bread, particularly the tasteless white pap which masquerades as a modern processed loaf now fortified with niacin, riboflavin, iron, but sadly neither flavour nor texture, is keen to turn to chewing gum at the first hint of moisture.
    Curiously other bread, such as thin German rye, has the opposite problem and can dry out like biltong.
    Keep your bread well greased and consider a protective layer between the slices and the filling. Especially a wet filling.
  2. Fighting your sandwich's tendency to lose its more vibrant flavours through exhaustion, so that your early morning's tasty hoagie mysteriously morphs into buttered flannel by lunchtime.
    For this you need to make sure you have strong flavours secreted in there somewhere.
  3. Holding the sandwich together, so that the fillings don't shoot out across your deck or squeeze gobs of mayonnaise all over your expensive oilskins as you try and stuff it into your mouth whilst steering one-handed around the leeward mark.
    It turns out that you can over-lubricate bread in your attempt to stop it drying out. Consider the judicious use of sticky glue agents or grainy, chunky components to hold the fillings in place. But avoid toothpicks.

The Construction
Forget casually tossing together those ingredients you found in the bottom of your fridge - making a proper sandwich needs to be undertaken with all the preparation and planning of a military campaign.

First the bread:
There's really only one use for cheap sliced white bread and that's poisoning the ducks in the park. Throw it away. Best to go with a nice crusty loaf, baguette, or one of those packets of part-baked rolls sealed in the atmosphere of venus that you finish off in the oven. They're quite good: their sturdy crust helps to keep them moist, holds them together, and stops the filling escaping too badly. Plus they almost taste like real bread.

Next the lubricants:
You must MUST grease the bread with butter, and plenty of it. It adds mouth-feel, holds the sandwich together and protects the bread from fillings which are too wet or too dry. Margarine is not butter, and probably gives you cancer. You might as well smear on axle grease. You have been warned!
Now it's safe to trowel on your mustards, pickles, mayonnaise or pastes. Depending on your choice of fillings you might also want to add a protective membrane that will stop the bread getting too wet or too dry, like lettuce or thinly sliced vegetables.

Finally the filling:
You need flavour, texture, moisture, coherence and of course, some nutrition.
If the filling is wet you need to protect the bread using something that won't just let it all slide straight out of the sides. Tomatoes and cucumber must be used with caution. If the filling is sloppy you might need something to hold it together like thinly cut onions or chunks of vegetable. If the filling is dry (think peanut butter, hummus) you need something to moisten it. If the filling is tasteless, well, you need to stop and ask yourself what on earth you're doing.

Here are some basic ideas to get you going:
For protection: butter, lettuce (though it needs to be a sturdy leaf or it will just collapse), thinly sliced celery, sliced meat.
For texture: onion, radish or mooli, even apple.
For flavour: Mustard, pickle, olives, herbs, hot sauce, wasabi, horseradish, blue cheese, marmite.
For moisture: Butter. Olive oil might be acceptable to foreigners. Mayonnaise is good. Cream cheese helps.
For the glue: Spreads, pastes and patés, hummus, mustard, shredded onion, diced pepper, sweetcorn, lumpy pickles.
For the filling: Cooked sliced meats (obviously), bacon, sausage, sliced cheese, cream cheese, egg, paté, tuna, hummus.
For the bin: Those commercial sandwich fillings from your local Fucking Supermarket™ which inevitably taste of sick. Fish paste.

Classic Sandwiches
Funnily enough, those classic sandwiches of yore all seem to follow my simple guidelines...
Once you've got your perfect regatta sandwiches all made up, wrap them tightly in clingfilm, stuff them into the bottom of your bag and go and sit on them for a few hours in your boat before eating.

Hopelessly Inappropriate Sandwiches
Even if I do love them...
Finally my own humble contribution to the sandwich lexicon:

The California Un-Sushi Roll
snack fish
Like a California sushi roll. But in a sandwich!


First you need to buy a lobster. Or a brown crab.

You'll get these from our friendly neighbourhood fisherperson Colin Flint who owns the little red fishing boat Lucy E down at Port Edgar. You know the one - you'll have noticed whenever you happened to be downwind of it ;)

Colin goes out very early in the morning to haul up his lobster pots and shake his fists at all the crustacean disruption caused by the bridge building. He usually comes back in around 11 a.m. when he's happy, nay eager, to sell you his lobsters for around a tenner, and his brown crabs for £2 (depending on size).
Which is good value, by the way.

Now you need to kill your choice of crustacean:
How To Kill Crabs (or Lobsters)

Lobsters are difficult to kill because they don't have brains as such, they have distributed ganglia, and destroying one of these (even if you can find it) doesn't usually kill the creature.
Boiling seems to be the most accessible option even if it may not be the most humane. You can however chill the lobster down so it won't suffer (as much - probably). Keep him in the fridge overnight, or stick him in the freezer for half an hour or two.
You can always freeze the lobster completely to kill it, but then you have a frozen lobster to defrost.
If you need the lobster flesh raw you can try and kill him by chopping his head in half - hold him firmly belly-side down in a thick towel and use a big knife to cut down through the cross-shaped markings on the back of his head in one firm thrust.
Be prepared for the mess and the thrashing...

Crabs have evolved fused body segments, during which process their ganglia have more-or-less coalesced into two main units, making them easier to kill quickly and effectively.
You can usually kill a crab by laying him on his back and driving a spike (or a chopstick) through the hole at the tip of the triangular apron below his eyes, then by lifting the small flap at its bum and skewering him through the hole underneath. Don't think about what that hole is.

You can also drown crustaceans in fresh water, but it's probably no kinder and may take quite a lot longer.

If you don't really care for all that touchy-feely nonsense then you can just stuff them straight into a big pot of boiling water and slap the lid on. Remember - no one is watching you when you're alone!

Cook the crustacean for about 5-6 minutes per lb (you can use seawater if you like), let it cool (or plunge it into cold water), then crack it open and throw away anything that isn't pink or white.

Crabs have grey gills called dead man's fingers around their core and dark intestines that will need to be flushed out of their bodies.

Lobsters have a sand sac behind their eyes, and a black vein that runs down their tail (just inside the flesh) that you'll want to avoid. You might also pass on their green tomalley (liver) and any hard red, or black gooey eggs if you're a novice. In any case most of their flesh is in the claws or tail.
Prise out all the good meat and shred it, or cut into chunks.

Shred some crispy lettuce leaves.
Cut up some cucumber (you can use celery or spring onion if you prefer) and avocado into sticks or cubes and dress with lemon juice.
Cut a nice crusty fresh roll open at the top, and smear the inside with mayonnaise.
Add a smear of wasabi (or you can use cayenne pepper or just some chopped fresh dill if you're a complete wuss).
Fill with the vegetables and the lobster meat.

Serve immediately. We're not making regatta fare here - this is the Queen of sandwiches.