Somewhere in the cocktail circuit or the lavish wedding reception, there came to be a snuffcan sandwich (charming title) which was constructed by making any kind of fancy sandwich, crusts and all, from which little divots were extracted by means of a little silver can in which some unnamed ancestor had purchased her snuff.
Of course, the removal of the layers from the can was quite dicey, as the other end was smooth and resisted all attacks from a can opener, leaving the ingenious cook two choices: whack the can forcefully onto the cutting board several times, making the party-prep kitchen sound like an invasion of woodpeckers, or poke holes in the can with an icepick, which was then used to push the little stacks out onto the doily-covered plate. Somebody had TOO much time on her social-conscious hands.
This painstaking construction of one-bite wonders is accomplished today with little plastic doohickeys of all shapes and sizes, with dainty plungers which whisk the contents gently from their mold---I have a set somewhere, a hostess gift at one time or another, in shapes of the four card suits, but since I don't play bridge, we use just the heart shape, and that on VERY odd occasions. And maybe the diamonds, cause they're cute.
But back to the buttering...it was customary to butter what would be the BOTTOM bread only, with a little slick of mayo on the top slice, since mayonnaise is an integral part of every food Southern, from casseroles to sandwiches to Jello molds (including one recipe for a congealed salad which requires greasing the mold WITH mayonnaise, for proper release). The butter-film kept the juices from flowing downward and soaking the bread, but the mayonnaised top layer ensured the authentic taste combination.
And REALLY fancy hostesses had their cooks mince a plate of parsley, take up each round sandwich and hold it like a little wheel between thumb and forefinger, rotate it in a little dish of mayo, then one turn through the parsley, making a lovely green-wreathed dainty that Queen Victoria would have admired (but probably would not have eaten).
Miss Paula goes so far as to do a little fingerdot in the center of each sandwich, then attaches a wee leaf of the green by the mayo glue. But she also advocates a slice of sweet onion on her teaparty tomato sandwiches, or at least a scrape of the knife across the cut onion, with the juice stirred into the mayo. That is swooningly delicious, and may be fine for home consumption, but a party of behatted WMU or Eastern Star ladies would not be caught DEAD breathing onion onto the visiting Exalted Grand Matron. Not on your Shalimar.
And then there was the best-thing-since-sliced bread: ROUND Wonder. Which was also perfectly fine, except that no hostess worth her Lawry's would EVER send any sandwich to a party table with crusts on, hence round cutters to cut off the already-round crusts, and the party beat goes on.
Our Better Boys and Early Girls are about waist high, now, and dangle little green jewels from every bough. Soon will come the ripening, then the sandwich-making of goopy, drippy, soft-white-bread and Blue Plate sandwiches, to be consumed ever-which-way the eater chooses, with messy being one of the options and leaning forward an approved stance. Folks who've spent their lives picking up neat halves of structurally-sound, organized sandwiches, taking a bite and setting the whole still-intact affair back onto the plate like a closed book---they just need to try one real, purentee honest-to-gosh 'mater sandwich.
Once you pick up that salty, drippy, mushy-bread glory, there's no turning back. You take a bite, catch whatever runoff you can with fingers, napkin, tongue, and go in for another. Each mouthful is more and more flavorful and enticing and perfect, the centuries of breadbaking and garden cultivation and sauce-experimentation leading only to this perfect moment. There's just no other experience like it.
Little Round Tomato Sandwiches are another matter entirely, and require a setting of Battenburg, a nice Spring flower arrangement, doilied plates, and a flock of ladies gathered in a bubble of so-so-social conviviality. The LRTS have had a long and honored history at the Southern tea-table, and must be given the respect and gravity they are due.
But a REAL round tomato sandwich, cut from squashy-fresh Wonder Bread with a cutter the approximate size of the tomato slice, smeared with a film of Blue Plate, the thick, juicy ruby slice laid on and snowed with a sprinkling of salt, mayo-ed top laid JUST SO--that's all the daintiness necessary. The rest is up to the happy consumer, to plate and try to sit demurely munching, or to kitchen-sink the glorious concoction, consuming it all in one delicious few bites, followed by a long swig of 40-weight iced tea.
As my Mammaw said: Gooder’n snuff ‘n’ better’n taters.
moire non tomorrow: Them Lil Biskits