Those who have been following my blog know that I have a book coming out about Angelica Balabanoff by McFarland Publishers in September, The Strange Comrade Balabanoff: The Life of a Communist Rebel. To celebrate the book launch, for the time being I will dedicate my blog to Angelica, her friends, her leisure time and her ‘recipes.’ In point of fact, Angelica did not cook. For the majority of her life she was a vegetarian. She was not even interested in food. Nonetheless, food played an important role in her existence. She used food to fight bourgeois traditions, which was the main battle of her life. So sandwiches, mainly cheese ones, were the principle staple of her diet for nearly 70 years, from the time she began to live independently in 1897 to her last days in 1965. They were vegetarian, simple to make, and at the end of the XIXtth beinning – of the 20th century, considered ‘revolutionary food.’
A cheese sandwich requires only a few ingredients but leaves a lot of room for improvisation depending on how you want to make it. So there are dozens of various recipes. In Angelica’s time, sandwiches were mainly meant to be food for travelers or a way to serve a simplified lunchenon. They were made from slices of bread, elegantly cut into oblong pieces and without crust. The main ingredients were butter, mustard, cheese and —to add more flavor— lettuce and tomato. The XIX century cook book suggested the following recipe: “cut bread into thin slices, pare off the crust, and spread a little butter on them; then cut nicely into oblong pieces, put between each bits of cheese, nicely trimmed, add a little mustard and salt. Serve them for luncheon, garnished with curled parsley.” * the text further states “… whatever is used must be carefully trimmed … and nothing introduced but what you are absolutely certain will be acceptable for the mouth.” Simple and avant-garde but chic and formal just as Angelica would have liked (see the photo).
The first grilled sandwich appeared at the beginning of the 20th century but for the first 20 years remained a rarity, so from Angelica’s point of view it was a rare and inaccessible for her food.
Have another recipe? Would love to hear from you!
To learn more about Angelica and the book, please consult the page About Angelica.
*extract from the Cook’s Own Book,1832, p. 181-182.