I call them church-basement sandwiches. My Queensborough friend Elaine calls them funeral sandwiches. I know other people who call them party sandwiches. But there’s one thing we all call them: delicious.
And guess what? You will be able to enjoy them at what is rapidly becoming our world-famous Art in Queensborough/Queensborough in Art event this very Saturday!
(That would be Saturday, Aug. 24, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., the Orange Hall – now called the Queensborough Arts Centre – in Queensborough. If you’ve been stuck on a desert island for the past month or so and haven’t heard about it yet, you can find out everything you need to know from my posts here and here, as well as from our Facebook event here.)
I’m sure you know from the photo at the top of this post what this delicious foodstuff that I’m talking about is. It’s those small triangular sandwiches served up at rural and small-town social functions all over this part of the world.
Go to a funeral, or a wedding-anniversary open house, or a celebratory church service, or an evening function at a school, and chances are good to 100-per-cent (100-per-cent in the case of any function held in a church) that the food part of the event will include these addictive little sandwiches.
The procedure for making them is simple, and pretty standard: take a loaf of white or brown bread, butter it, and then between every two pieces spread egg salad, or salmon salad, or tuna salad, or chicken salad, or thin slices of ham with a bit of yellow French’s mustard. Cut them into triangles, and deliver them to the kitchen at whatever church or other facility is hosting the social event in question. There “the ladies” will arrange them prettily on a platter, and serve them up to what is guaranteed to be a very appreciative group of eaters.
The only variation that I know of is that in some places they cut off the crusts. Here in Queensborough, where church-basement sandwiches are a tradition of very long standing, we do not cut off the crusts. Hey, we’re not serving cucumber-and-watercress sandwiches to the Queen at afternoon tea; we’re feeding hungry people who’ve traded their work clothes – overalls, jeans and T-shirts, nurse uniforms, etc. – for a bit of dressup to say goodbye to an old friend who has died, or to celebrate 60 or 70 years of matrimony of the couple in the farmhouse down the way. We are people with hearty and appreciative appetites, and the crusts on the sandwiches are just fine, thank you very much.
As I have written before at Meanwhile, at the Manse, the most amazing thing about church-basement sandwiches is that you can eat dozens of them and still want more. Why is this, people? Is it because they’re small and don’t take up much space in your stomach? Is it because they’re so yummy that the regular “I’m-full-so-stop-eating” signals in your brain go on hiatus? Or is it just, you know, some kind of magic? I do not have the answer to this question (though I favour the “magic” option), but I know the phenomenon is real. And anyone I’ve ever spoken to about church-basement sandwiches gives a smile of knowing recognition when I mention it to them.
As longtime readers know, Queensborough has quite the reputation for feeding people well. The church suppers at St. Andrew’s United, which I’ve written about many times (notably here and here) are deservedly famous, especially when it comes to the homemade pie at the end of the meal. Our community pot-luck dinners are astounding. We’ve been known to hold spectacular pig roasts, and in fact, thanks to the generosity of a local farmer, are planning another one for next month. In the kayaking world we are legendary for the barbecued hamburgers and hot dogs (oh, and did I mention homemade pie?) that we serve up every spring when there’s high water on the Black River and the kayakers are out in droves to test themselves against it. Our pancake breakfast every May is legendary.
As you can imagine, then, when it comes to spreads of church-basement sandwiches – well, there’s no place that can top Queensborough.
When the members of the Queensborough Community Centre committee were discussing what food options we would offer to visitors to Art in Queensborough/Queensborough in Art on Saturday, the first items on the list were kind of traditional. Yes, we will have a barbecue, which will include the ever-popular option of peameal bacon on a bun. Then we got a little bit radical (by Queensborough standards) and decided to also cook up veggie burgers. This will be a first for our hamlet, which is located in the midst of serious meat-eating country, but we recognize that the time has come. (And speaking as someone who has cut down radically on the amount of meat in my own diet, I say: yay.)
But then the aforementioned Elaine had what I think was the brainwave of all brainwaves: church-basement sandwiches!
(Or, as she calls them, funeral sandwiches. As a waggish old friend of mine from high-school days – who plans to visit Art in Queensborough – commented of that name: Sandwiches to die for!)
But Elaine’s idea came with a twist: because this is food for purchase, not laid on free as part of a church celebration, we’ll sell them as full (i.e. slice-of-bread size) sandwiches. Don’t worry, though! They’ll still be cut into triangles to ensure their special magic. For a wildly reasonable price you’ll be able to buy a full sandwich tidily packaged in a Ziploc bag. Open it up, and you’l have those individual triangles of deliciousness. There will be ham, chicken salad, salmon salad and (my everlasting favourite) egg salad. These are homemade by the ladies of the Queensborough church and community, so excellence is pre-ordained. However, I warn you: you’ll probably need to buy more than one…
All proceeds from the sale of food and drinks (soft drinks, water, coffee and tea) will go toward covering the costs of mounting Art in Queensborough/Queensborough in Art. Because, as I’ve noted before, the exhibition of Queensborough-themed artwork (more than 100 works and counting) that is the central element of the day has absolutely no admission charge. We want people to come and just enjoy the artwork, the beauty of Queensborough, and the fun of watching artists at work throughout the village. Yes, it does cost our committee money to make it happen, but we are hoping to recoup at least some of those costs through food sales and also a draw to win a beautiful gouache painting of the Black River that has been generously donated for the occasion by artist Bob Hudson.
So! After the hungry work of visiting the exhibition in the Queensborough Arts Centre (24 King St.), strolling through our village and appreciating why its beauty has attracted so many artists over the years, and looking over the shoulders of the artists who will be setting up their easels and tripods to work that day – you’re going to want some great food. And people: we have got you covered.
Come for the art, stay for the food (sandwiches to die for!), and have a wonderful day. See you Saturday!