The humble egg salad

The humble egg salad

Sandwiches as we know them have been around for a few hundred years. The egg salad sandwich is a more modern creation but a delicious one no less — and one that bridges a couple of national cultures: the English and the French.

The indulgent Lord John Montagu, the Earl of Sandwich, is widely credited with “inventing” the sandwich in about 1762¬†(in as much as he ordered some food be brought to him so he wouldn’t have to leave the card table), but it took some time before an egg sandwich appeared. At that time, it was likely that the egg was fried and was slapped between pieces of bread.

The origin of the hard-cooked, smashed up-egg preparation is more problematic, though variations of the technique date to the ancient Romans. It likely popped up in some form sometime in the 1800s: we therefore, of course, need to acknowledge the French and oeufs mayonnaise, the latter ancillary to the “mother sauces” being a perfect binder for the chopped ingredients.

Simple egg salad with paprika and scallion garnish (Photo: WREats).

Simple egg salad with paprika and scallion garnish (Photo: WREats).

By the early 1900s in America, eggs were being hard-cooked, peeled, separated, the yolks smashed up and mixed with mayonnaise — they were called “salad eggs” — and the concoction, flavoured and seasoned variously, soon was applied to pieces of bread a la sandwich. Served with fries, the plate was a high-protein and inexpensive lunch at a diner across the United States and Canada.

It’s a humble dish and a delicious sandwich that, like tuna salad, just seems to be the perfect lunch-counter meal — if only there were more proper lunch counters.

 

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