This posting is about the sandwich toaster, that must-have gadget … of 25 years ago.
I don’t use mine very often. I’m usually out and about at lunchtime and in any case, as no one else in my family is interested in making toasted sandwiches, it is banished to an inaccessible cupboard.
Mine is a genuine 1980s model, purchased by my mother at the height of Breville-mania, though the make is actually Sunbeam. It has burnt cheddar clinging to the side, possibly of 1991 vintage, because I could never really be bothered to clean it properly after use.
To tell the truth, I never fully evolved as a sandwich maker beyond the ‘things with cheddar’ stage. This is partly because the little recipe book that came with the toaster seemed notably keen on cheese: leftover lamb with cheddar, tomato with cheddar, and so on. Also, I soon discovered the salami, baked bean and cheddar sandwich. It sent me into such raptures that there seemed no point trying anything new.
Toasted sandwiches are not without their problems. If you didn’t know that tomatoes turn into molten, scaldingly hot blobs of redness when cooked within two slices of bread, you’ll soon learn a painful lesson. And toasties can be fiddly: finding out how much filling you can stuff them with without it all spewing out everywhere 30 seconds after lid closing time is an acquired art.
To me, the preparation – contrary to habit, placing the filling on the non-buttered side of the bread (for those who don’t know, the butter acts as the grease against the non-stick ‘plates’) – is curiously satisfying. And there is excitement in the anticipation. Unlike an uncooked sandwich, with the toasted version you can never properly know how a new combination of ingredients will taste until you take your first mouthful.Leafing through a Breville sandwich cook book, I learn that people make (or made) toasted sandwich party canapés. Or perhaps the marketing men were just being optimistic there.
Panini toasters might be a lot hipper, but the classic sandwich toaster, which works its alchemy on cheap and plain white sliced bread, will always have a place in my home and heart.