March 08 2013

Built to Last

New York-Table Talk

The Standard Grill's sumptuous BLT Turkey Club rises like a Mesopotamian ziggurat from the plate, its terraces— toasted white bread, turkey, lettuce, tomato and bacon—cemented together with freshly made mayonnaise. It’s a substantial structure, to be sure, one whose underlying blue print can be traced back over a century.

Exactly who assembled the first Club Sandwich remains a matter of some debate, but its name most certainly derives from its popularity at late-19th century country clubs. By 1894, it was being served at the illustrious Saratoga Clubhouse, an exclusive gambling den in Saratoga Springs, New York, where the potato chip was also born.

In 1929, Florence A. Cowles even remarked on its murky origins in her cookbook, Seven Hundred Sandwiches:

"Anyway, who cares, and what difference does it make? The Club Sandwich is here to stay. It is a meal in itself, and a meal which may have highly diversified component parts, as long as the principal specifications of toast, meat and salad ingredients are adhered to."

She continued:

"The club sandwich may consist of anywhere from one to five stories. The foundation is always toast, but the superstructure depends on the maker's fancy—and the materials at hand. The sandwich should be eaten with knife and fork."

The inherent grandeur of the Club Sandwich appealed to former King Edward VIII of England and his wife, Wallis Simpson, who, by some accounts, took great pride in preparing them. In the decades since, it’s become a more egalitarian dish, with politicians frequently citing it as their favorite food because, electorally-speaking, it appeals to all classes. And politicians are hardly alone. In 1963, pop art sculptor Claes Oldenburg created a giant version using vinyl and wood.

But the final word goes to researchers at the Centre for Life at Newcastle University in England. They found that the Club Sandwich and its cousin, the BLT, really do cure hangovers.

“Binging on alcohol depletes neurotransmitters but bacon contains a high level of amino acids which tops these up, giving you a clearer head," explains researcher Elin Roberts.

Sounds like our kind of Club.