Monday, February 16, 2009

Picnic with Albertine (V): Sandwiches with Cheshire Cheese and Lettuce

The girls all preferred sandwiches and exclaimed at seeing me eat only a chocolate cake, with its Gothic architecture of icing, or an apricot tart. But sandwiches of Cheshire cheese and lettuce, untried and unknowing fare, had nothing to say for themselves. Whereas cakes were privy to much, and tarts were talkative. In cakes, there was a cloying creaminess, and in tarts, a refreshing fruitiness, which were aware of many things about Combray and about Gilberte, and not just the Gilberte of Combray days, but the Gilberte of Paris too, for I had renewed my acquaintance with them at her afternoon teas

—In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower 482-3

Cheshire cheese sandwiches are more silent probably because they are new to the narrator who can hardly navigate through his own memory to match his impression to such a simple food. It is simple probably because, compared with cakes and tarts, it does not carry much flavor except the supple milkiness from the cheese. With only one dimension of flavor from the cheese, Cheshire cheese sandwiches are truly “boring.” Boring as it may seem, the sandwich itself is certainly not silent. At the first bite, one could taste the sharp cheese flavor. According to Food Lover’s Companion, red Cheshires are “young cheeses, having an average age of eight weeks, with a semi firm texture and a mild, tangy cheddar like flavor” (141). The sharp cheesiness, however, doesn’t last long. The sharpness drops quickly and is replaced by smoothness from the cheese. However, the smoothness is definitely not the creaminess that cheese should carry. It is pleasant on the tongue but, as soon as it is eaten, the flavor is completely absent, gone. What are left might be the slight butter taste from the white bread and the moistness from a piece of crunchy romaine lettuce. The whole sandwich, as narrator seems to indicate, is without much character; it becomes bland after the first sharp taste from the cheese.

Perhaps, the cheese sandwich reflects the sense of boredom that the narrator experiences during girls’ conversations which don’t trigger any of his interest at all. Compared with the refreshing fruitiness from the apricot tart and the cloying creaminess from the chocolate cake, the Cheshire cheese sandwich can hardly trigger any memory or experience from the narrator’s past. The sandwich, therefore, along with its flavor, plummets to the unknown, about which the narrator has no idea how to deal. Indeed, with such a meager taste, I don’t find this sandwich worth much illustration, except that it might reflect the sense of meaninglessness among the girls’ gossip and mindless game.

Cheshire Cheese and Lettuce Sandwiches

5 thinly sliced Cheshire cheese
½ cup mayonnaise
5 romaine lettuce leaves
10 slices white bread

Spread 5 of the bread slices with mayonnaise, then top the mayonnaise with a piece of romaine and a slice of Cheshire cheese on each. Spread the remaining mayonnaise over the remaining bread and top the sandwiches. Cut each sandwich in half and serve.


  1. Thanks a lot for your recipes and for your thoughts about Proust.

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  4. Earl, as a fellow Proustian, thank you for inviting me to your table!
    If you ever visit New York, you must let me treat you to a cup of tea.
    So grateful,
    PS I needed to delete the previous posts, as I didn't wish to offend Françoise.