• Toast sandwich. Yes, that's bread in bread. (Nicole Eckersley)
It's toast. In a sandwich. We are not joking.
Nicole Eckersley

17 Jul 2017 - 5:45 PM  UPDATED 17 Jul 2017 - 5:58 PM

As US culinary website Eater found out the hard way, when a guy down the pub swears that mince on toast is a British classic, you can’t always take him at his word. Apparently, it’s not. Britain has vehemently distanced itself from mince on toast.

Brits very unimpressed after US website calls mince on toast 'a British classic'
US website Eater calls mince on toast a "quintessential British classic". Britain replies "that is not a thing".

Fortunately, the entire nation of New Zealand put its hand up and said, “Actually, that’s ours,” while Australia stood by, baffled that anyone would disavow any dish involving putting leftovers on toast.

Especially a nation that lists among its culinary comfort-food crown jewels a dish called the toast sandwich.

No, seriously. It’s a slice of toast, between two slices of buttered bread. We see why everyone thought mince on toast was so ludicrous.

This ‘meal’ - we use the term advisedly - gets its first recorded mention in the legendary Victorian cookbook, Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management (first published 1861), in a section dedicated to cookery for invalids. The enduring popularity of Mrs Beeton’s cookery is obvious, with the toast sandwich appearing in a chapter of recipes for invalids alongside other Great British comfort favourites like eel broth, and a beverage called toast-and-water, made by - you guessed it - soaking toast in water.

Here’s the skinny on #1877, Toast Sandwiches - the ingredients are simply  "Thin cold toast, thin slices of bread-and-butter, pepper and salt to taste." The method is as you might expect, although it allows that the sandwich "may be varied by adding a little pulled meat, or very fine slices of cold meat, to the toast". 

That’s it. Three slices of bread, salt, pepper, butter. If you’re feeling fancy, a slice of ham or cold roast beef.

Unlike toast-and-water, the toast sandwich remains in popular circulation**. Darren Crosbie, a single expat Londoner who we surveyed to speak on behalf of the entire United Kingdom, confirmed to us that the toast sandwich is indeed a real thing that people eat. It's even made it onto the menu as part of a Mad Hatter's Tea Party experience at Heston Blumenthal's Fat Duck.

So how does such a comical ‘meal’ get to stay in circulation in a country that turns up its nose at mince on toast? Well - it’s cheap. Britain's Royal Society of Chemistry in 2011 decreed the Toast Sandwich to be an austerity-ridden Britain’s cheapest meal, at 7.5p per serving, edging out packet noodles by a princely 1.5p saving.

Of course, that saving relies on finding a loaf of bread for an apparent cost of around 50p (depending on the cost of butter) - about 85c - and down here in the antipodes, outside of price wars and specials, the base price of a loaf of sproingy white sliced bread is around $1.80. 

So what does this apparent hoax-slash-austerity-chow-slash-national-icon taste like?

Toast sandwich. Yes, that's bread in bread.

Well, best beloveds, we made one - using a pretty standard loaf of bread from a chain bakery - and it was a little bit mind-blowing. A sandwich with a strange, familiar, delicious, crunchy filling. An unbeatable combination of carbs, butter, salt and pepper. This thing is weirdly good. 

We have to thank Mrs Beeton - or whatever  six-year-old genius gave her the recipe for toast sandwich - for a lot… including the recipe for #636: Mince with Toast.

** Or not. What say you, Britain? 

we're big fans of toast
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