I've amassed quite a collection of old cookbooks that once belonged to my grandmother, Muriel. An avid cook, and in her salad days, a swanky entertainer, she gathered magazine clippings, regional food publications, and anything that had any advice on how to properly assemble a Baked Alaska or how to arrange flowers so guests could have easy conversations whilst sitting across the dinner table from each other. She was the perfect the hostess and domestic goddess I, to this day, try to emulate.
One of my favorites from her bookshelves is a 1957 La Jolla High binder (Muriel lived there, across the street from the beach for a few years...and a little piece of family history: my mom was born there and the big blue sea inspired her, and later my own, colorful telenovela name). The binder is now tattered, torn, but carefully wrapped in Saran. Inside are sepia-toned and musty-smelling magazines that must have at some time lay neatly piled on a mid-century modern coffee table set over chic shag carpet: McCall's Practically Cookless Cookbook, Good Housekeeping's Sandwich Manual, and The Golden Treasury Cookie Cookbook.
The cast of characters and products within these pages are quirky and charming, with ads for baked beans that taste "keen," perfectly coiffed dads in button-down cardigans slicing pineapple-and-cherry garlanded hams while flashing million dollar Don Draper smiles, ideas for a "Curious Christmas Ball" starring and odd white monkey doll in a baby blue satin frock, and recipes for flaming desserts.
The most curious, however, is Susan. Susan was apparently a recurring character in Good Housekeeping and starred in every imaginable kitchen production. Susan showed readers how to make fabulous Technicolored refrigerator cakes, man-sized meals, and, the subject of this post: sandwich loaves.
The sandwich loaf is basically a cake, except it's made with a whole bread loaf and savory fillings. A whole loaf (I used Pullman) is sliced lengthwise, then spread with different ingredients. Susan's loaf is frosted with cream cheese, but I thought that was a wee bit much—oh, Susan!—so I've nixed that part deciding the following spreads were sufficiently satisfying: egg salad with cured black olives, butter and crisp, peppery radishes, smoked salmon with crème fraîche, capers, and dill.
Once the loaf assembled, it is cut crosswise into one inch-thick slices. Hold the slice as you would toast and enjoy the flavor combinations. It's like three sandwiches in one.
About the author: María del Mar Sacasa is a recipe developer, food stylist, and author of the food blogs High Heels & Frijoles and Cookin' and Shootin'.
Behind her girly façade lurks a truck driver's appetite. Read about her cravings and suffer through her rants on Twitter @HHandFrijoles and see her constant stream of food images on Instagram: mdmsacasa