Monday, March 8, 2010

The toasted sandwich

Above: the toasted cheese and tomato sandwich at the Matjiesfontein coffee shop. Made on the bread baked at the Lord Milner Hotel next door ("Phyllida's Bread", which my mother made famous in one of her food editorials in House and Leisure, back in the day). R28 or $3.70.

Most South Africans, if asked about their national heritage in food, will talk about braaivleis. About lamb, about boerewors. About bobotie, bredie.

How many will mention the toasted sandwich?

If you stop in almost any roadside cafe, coffee shop, petrol station, dive, anywhere...there will be toasted sandwiches on the menu. And they will always be good. White or wholewheat bread. Butter (or margarine, I'm sure), shop made or home made brown* bread or soft white loaf, melted, yellow, please, cheese. I know cheese is not meant to be yellow. But yellow cheese belongs on a toasted sandwich.

You can even eat them in Constantia. Before we left on our trip Guy and Jay invited us over for a braai and Guy toasted four white, cheese, tomato and onion-laden sandwiches over the fire. They were heavenly.

*Brown bread. Odd, but South Africa has the best brown bread, period. Heavy, but not leaden, full of seeds or wholewheat. Moist, nutty-smelling, and ubiquitous. Superb fresh and excellent toasted. You can buy it almost anywhere. Bread for which they charge boutique bakery prices in New York is on the shelf of every supermarket and cafe (cafe is the equivalent of a New York bodega; corner store, elsewhere).

To counteract my upbeat promotion of all things South African, we can talk about everyday security, next.



  1. Damn! You make me hungry...and I've just had dinner!

    A few years ago, I wrote a long lament on the demise of good bread,citing the rise of fast-food outlets as the worst proponent.(Soggy burger buns etc)

    I had some correspondence from travellers in SA who said bread was good everywhere there.

    So...reasons to go to SA: zebra, vineyards, leopard, food, boks, plants...and bread. Rugby?

  2. Well I know what I want for lunch. Too bad it's still an hour and a half away...

    I heard an interesting fact about yellow/orange cheese. That color comes from the beta-carotene in fresh grass, so cheese from happy grass-fed cows has a naturally sunny hue and is more flavorful. As cheese-making became a more commercial than artisan endeavor, the milk used to make it no longer came from grass-fed cows and coloring agents were added to replace it. Of course it doesn't replace the flavor.

  3. mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.

    (and the wv: is bacor, which, when ending in "n," is also tasty on toasted cheese sandwiches)

  4. I love brown bread. Do you have a good recipe that you could share? The only one I know is my mom's old one from Brooklyn and I would really like another.

    Why is it I always read your blog before my breakfast and then the pictures make me SO hungry that I overindulge? Ha, ha!

  5. I was thinking of you and Vince over the weekend...just because I read a recipe for what they called South African Bread...with seeds and nuts... okay...that does it...I'm testing it out.....

  6. I've always wanted to visit South Africa and I'm also a grilled cheese, as they are called where I live, fanatic! Those sandwiches look super tasty and now I want to visit South Africa even more!

  7. What is wrong with a country (US, that is) where Panera BREAD company, does NOT make a whole wheat bread? And, that's just a symptom of the nation-wide problem. Can you bring everyone back on loaf, please?

  8. This post should have a big disclaimer saying "Do not read while on an empty stomach". The first high res pic triggered a toasted sandwich craving instantly.

  9. Your Mom worked at House and Leisure? please thank her for me.

    And I'm with you on the bread. US bread is sadly lacking.

  10. I'm sorry for triggering the toasted cheese craving, everyone! Because it has to be satisfied, doesn't it? Mountain Thyme, I'll dig out Phyllida's recipe.


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