Food Facts & Lore

The Club

The oldest known published recipe for the Club Sandwich appears in the Good Housekeeping Everyday Cookbook (1903). The choice of words itself is a masterful delicacy for the senses. We include it here for your enjoyment and inspiration.

“Club Sandwich – Toast a slice of bread evenly and lightly butter it.  On one half put, first, a thin slice of bacon which has been broiled till dry and tender, next a slice of the white meat…  Over one half of this place a circle cut from a ripe tomato and over the other half a tender leaf of lettuce.  Cover these with a generous layer of mayonnaise, and complete this delicious “whole meal” sandwich with the remaining piece of toast.” – Good Housekeeping Everyday Cookbook, 1903

The origin of the Club Sandwich is debated. At least two New York State restaurants claim authorship. First, the Union Club of New York City (founded 1836). Second, the Saratoga Clubhouse (founded 1863). The latter is the most likely place of birth according to many. This is where the potato chip was born, which some believe gives additional credence to the notion that the establishment may have initiated the Club as well, probably sometime in 1894.

Coincidentally, King Edward VIII of England was born in 1894. We mention his name here because the Club Sandwich was said to be an all-time favorite. It is not clear whether the Club he knew and loved was similar in its composition to the one we are familiar with in America, but the connection to country clubs is evident. This majestic sandwich, and variations thereof, was definitely an icon of the club scene of 19th and early 20th-century of Great Britain and America.

Some place the birth of the Club Sandwich at least three decades later. They explain that a similar sandwich was served on double-decker club cars of trains servicing the New York-Chicago corridor beginning in the 1930’s. It is believed that the train configuration inspired the sandwich’s expansion to the two-layer extravaganza we so love to this day.

Others yet point to the “obvious” use of an acronym, stating that the name has absolutely no relation to the men’s clubs of the era when the sandwich first appears on menus. The idea is that CLUB stands for “Chicken and Lettuce Under Bacon.” This was first, and innocently, proposed in a dialogue between characters of a British comedy show. It was then adopted by the audience and brought into daily conversation much as we make small daily wordplay the centerpiece of our social media today.

Clubs were indeed the hub for the sharing of daily news and musings, as well as friendly and heated debates over all manner of topics, from the club’s menu to politics to neighborhood events. It is said that the speed at which news and ideas (accurate and distorted alike) spread into the community via these meeting places is comparable to social media’s reach today. Words turned into trends in no time, even a century ago.

Clubs were thought to be the exclusive realm of high society men, but it is a good, down to earth sandwich that has earned the name, and rightly so. A good, wholesome and humble sandwich is the ideal nourishment while contemplating the small and big issues of one’s world.