In 1946, as the UK came to grips with itself no longer being at war, Philip Harben wrote a little book called ‘Cooking Quickly’. Known as the first TV chef, Harben was popular, funny, knowledgeable and had a great love of food and life itself. This comes across very much in his writing, his exuberance and sense of humour, and his inventiveness. He was writing about preparing food when many things were still rationed, and the dreaded word ‘Austerity’ meant exactly that.
In his introduction he talks about the sandwich:
Under the heading of ‘Cooking Quickly’, the sandwich I think, can well be included. For instance, for those times when you are sitting up late, perhaps, without your realising it much time has passed since your last square meal. Then timidly at first, but with increasing insistence, hunger comes to claim restitution; what has been spent must be put back. There is no time to think of vitamins and protein – calories, fuel for the engine are what you need, and you want them without a lot of hard work and delay. Into this situation the sandwich fits very neatly. Quickly got, no stove work, eaten in the fingers (so no washing up) tasty and satisfying. But there’s an art in sandwich-making without which they can become stodgy and dull and their purpose frustrated. So many different spreads and fillings – open sandwiches, single sandwiches, double-filles, double-deckers – the possibilities are boundless.
I am not sure I am capable, and it would take an awful lot of research and lateral work, but I would love to write a novel set in 1946-50 with a main character based on but not actually Philip Harben! It would have to be a mystery which he enthusuastically and eccentrically unravels… You read it here first!!!