Back-To-School Time: The Humble Ham Sandwich


The Croque-Monsieur, or Mister Crisp

A ham sandwich. Plain and simple goodness. That’s what it is. And millions of kids across America will be happily toting them in their lunch boxes over the next week. We have Elizabeth Leslie (1787- 1858) to thank for introducing it to America when she offered a recipe for a ham sandwich in her 1837 book Directions for Cookery. It reads:

“Cut some thin slices of bread very neatly, having slightly buttered them; and, if you choose, spread on a very little mustard. Have ready some very thin slices of col boiled ham, and lay one between two slices of bread. You may either roll them up, or lay them flat on the plates. They are used at supper or at luncheon.”

Of course, the ham sandwich has experienced many reincarnations since Leslie’s time. The best-loved ones include:

The American ham and cheese, most commonly made with plain boiled ham and American or Swiss cheese or white bread.

The American grilled cheese, most commonly made with American, Swiss, or sliced Cheddar cheese, and grilled to buttery perfection.

The Croque-Monsieur, or French-style hot ham and cheese, pictured above.

The Monte Cristo, a fancier version of the humble ham and cheese that’s dipped in egg and cooked like French toast, until all brown and buttery, then dusted with confectioners sugar’.

But when you think about it, lots of ingredients go well on a ham sandwich— crunchy potato chips and Fritos, salty bacon and pickles, sweet strawberry jam, nutty peanut butter. What else? Tell me!  What’s your favorite way to enjoy a ham sandwich? What kind of ham do you like? Bread? Condiments? Fillings? I want to know. Really, I do!

Photo credit: Courtesy of Matt Armendariz, from the book The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches by Susan Russo.

6 thoughts on “Back-To-School Time: The Humble Ham Sandwich

  1. What a beautiful sandwich! Ham and Cheese Sandwiches are my kids favorite lunch items! If I let them, they don’t mind to eat that every single day! :) I like to bake an old fashion honey glazed ham and thinly sliced them myself. I think those are way better than store bough packaged ham (don’t like the “water added” wordings on those).

    Wish you a wonderful weekend. ;)

    1. Thanks, Amy! Sounds like your kids are smart cookies. :)
      I agree about the old-fashioned honey-glazed. Some of the most amazing sandwiches I’ve ever had have been post-Easter ham sandwiches.

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