Sunday, April 17, 2011

A Giveaway: Susan Russo's "The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches"

Sandwiches are my guilty pleasure, but I’m hardly a gourmet when it comes to slapping some filling between two slices of bread. For me, it’s all about fast flavor. I like the simple preparation, the quick satisfaction of hunger and the easy clean up. Some sandwiches are pantry specials - the ingredients always within reach in a pinch. I can go for days existing on Fluffernutter Sandwiches or Tuna Salad made with Miracle Whip, and I still crave several favorites from my youth - Bologna with Yellow Mustard on White Bread or Cream Cheese and Jelly (cut in four small squares, of course).
You might say I need to expand my sandwich horizons. Fortunately, my pal Susan Russo, "The Food Blogga" has come up with the perfect answer. She's just published "The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches" with Quirk Books. Matt Armendariz provides the sumptuous sandwich photography.
Take a look inside, and you will truly appreciate the artistry of the sandwich. Susan delves into the history and tasty trivia behind some retro stacked favorites (who knew the hot dog was once called a “Frankfurter Sandwich?), and creates some new classics that take the art of the sandwich to a whole new level. Not only are the recipes lip-smacking, but it's an engaging read.

Susan is known for healthy and delicious California cuisine and fresh farmers market fare - so I tracked her down to find out what it was like to turn her culinary prowess to the archetypal finger food, in her new role as the Queen of Sandwiches:

TW: How many sandwiches did you make while researching the book?

Susan: Well, I made the 110 sandwiches in the book (some more than once), some variations and several that didn't make it. So I'd say about 200. And if you're wondering if I gained weight - yes!

TW: Do you think the sandwich has been overlooked or underrated in the past as a culinary institution?

Susan: Until fairly recently, the sandwich was underrated. Nowadays sandwiches are hot! I think the introduction of international sandwiches such as the bahn mi and Italian porchetta have made the sandwich seem suddenly sexier. It also helps that over the last several years, exclusive restaurants such as Campanile in Los Angeles have created artisanal (and expensive) grilled cheese sandwiches, thereby elevating the humble sandwich's status. And with so many celebrity chefs including Tom Colicchio and Rick Bayless opening up sandwich shops, the sandwich's status just keeps soaring.

TW: Your dedication included your husband and notes that he has eaten every sandwich in the book. Did he have a favorite?

Susan: The Muffuletta. I think he actually sang when he ate it.

TW: Was there a piece of sandwich history that surprised you the most?

Susan: Yes. I was surprised to discover that the homey PB & J was once considered a delicacy due to its high price. It wasn't until the introduction of mass-produced peanut butter in the 1920s that it became the iconic American favorite we know today.

TW: Some readers might be surprised to see our favorite "Food Blogga" including the Spamwich in the book. What's your response?

Susan: Well, since the book's title is The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches, I just had to include the Spamwich. I'll admit I'm not a fan, but I didn't let my personal tastes affect my choices in writing the book. But there are plenty of people who really enjoy the Spamwich. If you can believe it, Hawaiians love the pink stuff so much they eat an average of six cans per year. You can even find it at some McDonald's and Burger King restaurants.

TW: What's your go-to bread?

Susan: Crusty Italian. I like a muscular, chewy bread.

TW: What's your "guilty pleasure" sandwich?

Susan: A potato chip sandwich with peanut butter and pickles. I can't believe I just admitted that.

TW: What do you see as the essential ingredients for an outstanding sandwich?

Susan: I think it's subjective, so my honest answer is your favorite bread, your favorite fillings and anything else you want to squirt or pile on top!

To celebrate the publication of Susan's new book, I'm giving away one copy of “The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches” to a reader of this post chosen at random. Simply leave a comment before 11:59 p.m. on Saturday, April 23rd that mentions your favorite sandwich and you'll be eligible. Sorry, but we are only able to ship within the United States. The winner will be selected and announced on Sunday, April 24th. Meanwhile, I'm off to buy some Spam and a jar of pickles. Or maybe I’ll really go crazy and indulge in a Banana Fluffernutter!

©2011 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved


charlene020 said...

Great Giveaway - I love a great tuna melt on Jewish Rye!

Deana Sidney said...

Guilty pleasure sandwich??? Well from childhood, liver sausage with raspberry jam on homemade bread.... sounds awful, tastes great... think of foie gras with a sweet glaze... not so far off. That book looks awesome... good for her!

PS 1 1/2 hour wait at M Wells, we skipped it!!!

Nupur said...

I enjoyed reading this interview! My favorite sandwich would have to be grilled cheese made with fresh tomato slices and a mix of pepper jack and sharp cheddar cheeses. Mmm.

Sam Hoffer / My Carolina Kitchen said...

I've always loved sandwiches and I'm so glad they are "in" again. My favorite sandwich from my childhood in the south would naturally be pimento cheese on homemade white bread.

Great give-away. Susan's book is on my wish list. I can't wait to try Susan's version of Louisiana's favorite sandwich (which happens to be her husbands favorite also) the Muffuletta.

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

My absolute favorite: corned beef and pastrami on rye. (But I've also been known to eat tuna with Miracle Whip.) Don't enter me in the giveaway -- I already have (and love) Susan's book.

lnross said...

Oh, give me a New Jersey sloppy Joe from Millburn Deli...3 layers of thin sliced bread, ham or turkey or beef, cheese, mustard, mayo, topped with coleslaw and cut into thirds! Yum. Also adore mid summer fresh tomato sandwich on whole wheat toast with lettuce and homemade mayo!

Anonymous said...

I know this is supposed to be a sandwich love-in, but since both my parents worked full time when I was growing up, the sandwiches of my youth were borne out of expediency above all else, my youthful sandwich experience reads like a 1960's version of Kitchen Nightmares. The most dreaded was the meatloaf sandwich: an ice cold slab of last night's meatloaf betw two slices of wonderbread with a splash of heinz ketchup, the smell alone, after four hours congealing in a metal lunchbox,was enough to bring a 9 year old to tears. Equally olefactory challenged, was the crunbly scrambled egg sandwich. There was also a long black period when my mother decided to spice up my weekly baloney with hellman's sandwich spread, a particularly heinous mid-century concoction of mayonnaise and sweet relish.

The Book Gal said...

After a fancy meal the night before at Jean Georges in NYC my husband and I sat down for a ciabatta sandwich with fresh tomatoes and basil from our garden with extra virgin olive oil and fresh mozzarella. The taste was amazing and proved you don't have to spend a lot to eat well!

~~louise~~ said...

A sandwich book with history! Oh glory, I'm all over this post!!!

Let's see, for the purpose of this give-away I will try to select one favorite sandwich but let me tell you T.W. this is no easy task. After cream cheese and jelly on "wonder bread," cut into quarters of course, I'd have to say a Manhattan Special. Thinly sliced rare roast beef loaded with onions and gooey mozzarella snuggled in between crusty garlic bread and smothered in dripping au jus drives me wild!!! However, a good deli egg sandwich does pretty much the same. I come from a sandwich loving family. (if you need an excuse:)

Thanks for sharing, T.W. and thank you to Susan too!!!

Barbara said...

Great giveaway, TW! And one couldn't read your for any length of time and not realize how much you love sandwiches....of all kinds! :)

Nice interview with Susan.
Hmmm, my favorite sandwich? So simple as to not be believed. Peanut butter and honey on old fashioned white bread. The honey just soaks into the bread and tastes crunchy almost. My dad made these when I was a kid vto take when we'd go fishing. I've loved them ever since.

Barbara said...

Had to come back and ask if you've seen this? Just read about it.

T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types said...

Barbara - Ha! I'm anxiously awaiting delivery - I pre-ordered the book weeks ago. Can't wait to hit the streets again!

Sarah said...

Love this interview and the sound of this cookbook! I'm terrible at picking single favorites - especially when it comes to food - but I have to say my #1 sandwich of the moment is my top pick because it isn't currently available and I am craving it in a major way. Friedman's Lunch in Chelsea Market serves an heirloom tomato and buffalo or burrata mozzarella sandwich on ciabatta bread (with a drizzle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar) in the summer months, when such tomatoes are in season. And it is heaven in your hands and in your mouth, I tell you! Simple yet perfect. I can't wait for this to return to the Friedman's Lunch menu, hopefully in pretty short order :)

Susan from Food Blogga said...

That was so much fun, TW! Thanks for the wonderful post and for all of your enthusiastic support. Here's to an ever-expanding sandwich horizon!

Stacy (Little Blue Hen) said...

Sounds weird, but childhood nostalgia is strong: tuna with red grapes on whole wheat. Don't knock it 'til you've tried it. Or, just give it to me.

Jana said...

My favorite sandwich is crunchy peanut butter, bacon marmalade and thin sliced dill pickles on toasted whole grain bread. Looking forward to reading/purchasing Susan's new book. I like to buy a few and give them as gifts.

Trish said...

My newest favorite is something our restuarant chef just cooked up, a wild mushroom, gruyere, chorizo grilled cheese on malted brown bread. Susan's book is definitely on my must have list!

Mary Bergfeld said...

What a great interview. On your recommendation and the interview I'll be off to find the book. My guilty pleasure was a baked bean sandwich. I kid you not. Have a wonderful holiday. Blessings to you and those you love...Mary

tasteofbeirut said...

I am so sorry I don't know what is a fluffernutter and have never tasted these iconic American sandwiches you mention so longingly; I think I had a taste of a bologna and mustard (the yellow one) once and that was enough. Nevertheless, it can be a fascinating topic and I am sure the book is very interesting; a beautiful Lebanese lady, Lina, started a fancy sandwich shop in Paris with items like foie gras and fancy cornichons and became so successful it became a chain of restaurants all over the world (called "Lina's"). Anyway, that was my two cent.

Anonymous said...

I tend to go for pretty simple stuff, grilled cheese (usually cheddar, maybe swiss and bacon), or roast beef with butter (and maybe some spinach).

Jane said...

Wow! Thanks for alerting us to this fabulous book, which I'd love to get my hands on. My favorite sandwich is one that I had at a place called "D'Deli" while on a trip to Golden, Colorado. Called the "Popeye," it consisted of the following, all between a nice fresh hunk of French bread: olive tapenade, hummus, roasted garlic, mozzarella, baby spinach leaves, artichoke hearts, and cucumber. It was simply heavenly. I'd love to try and replicate it here at home. In fact, just thinking about it has made me hungry!