The construction of a sandwich is seemingly simple: Meat or cheese or vegetables—or some type of Venn diagram configuration of the three—get bookended by bread. The crusty, crumbly, sliced loaf is the necessary handhold that keeps the whole affair together; and then, a cool swipe of mayo or mustard, something tangy and wet, for moisture. Sandwiches, it seems, we have down pat.
But what if there’s something missing? What if we’ve been denying our sandwiches the lusciousness they so desperately deserve? And what if that thing has been under our noses the whole time?
Recently, our Senior Lifestyle Editor, Hana, got back from a trip to France and, naturally, the first thing I asked her about was the food (have you seen where we work??). We talked pastries and pâté and then she started telling me about the sandwiches. They were comprised of all the usual suspects: a baguette, maybe a slice of French ham or prosciutto, a hunk of cheese, a smattering of arugula. But then she said the magic word—beurre.
I faltered. Butter? Did you just say butter? I couldn’t believe it, but Hana was resolute:
“Everyone should butter their sandwiches. You don't realize you need that luscious barrier until you have it in your sandwich! Even buttery cold cuts like ham and prosciutto are improved by a silky pat. It's flavor, it's mouthfeel, it's everything. Make your sandwich delicious. You deserve it!”
I like what she’s serving. And you know what? It’s not the first time someone on our site has asserted that cheese and bread are made better only by a friendly smear of butter.
Gabrielle Hamilton, too, in her memoir Blood, Bones and Butter espouses the benefits of a fat triumvirate—butter, oil, and lardo (the fat on prosciutto)—in sandwiches. Butter lends sandwiches heft and, when salted, can help enrich the flavors of everything else in the mix.
The question, then, is how much? Is it a thin smear or something more substantial like, say, a few pats of butter scattered across the bread? Honestly, the choice is yours.
Are you a butterer of sandwiches? Tell us your winning combination in the comments below!
Join The Sandwich Universe co-hosts (and longtime BFFs) Molly Baz and Declan Bond as they dive deep into beloved, iconic sandwiches.
Valerio is a freelance food writer, editor, researcher and cook. He grew up in his parent's Italian restaurants covered in pizza flour and drinking a Shirley Temple a day. Since, he's worked as a cheesemonger in New York City and a paella instructor in Barcelona. He now lives in Berlin, Germany where he's most likely to be found eating shawarma.