The Ultimate Butterbrot

In life, at times one happens upon unlikely combinations of things which either seem banal when regarded individually or do not appear to be too great a match at first sight. The culinary world is teeming with such wondrous creations as the BLT (bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich, whose latest save-the-world variants are the TLT (tofu, lettuce & tomato) or the ELT (eggplant, lettuce & tomato)), Pommes Bahnschranke, and another very special treat, as simple as it is intriguing…

I have long wanted to write about my favourite sandwich of all times but wasn’t sure if anyone was interested. And then a second-series episode of The Big Bang Theory the other day threw me a mention by hopeless Howard of pumpernickel as his favourite sandwich component. So I thought – I’m not alone: there is at least one other (albeit fictional) geek who likes this stuff.

My Ultimate Butterbrot, as mentioned previously in Very special bread!, to me is simply the best sandwich (or Stulle, as my late Brandenburg-born grandmother would call it) in the whole Abendbrot-making world – and yet, inconceivably, it has no name.

Regarding its preparation, I have a mental picture of my grandparents’ housekeeper sitting in their kitchen after a hard morning’s work, cutting a white bread roll in half, spreading butter on both sides, putting a slice of Holländer, as we in the Rhineland region say and by which we mean Gouda cheese (and, yes, people, contrary to US American usage, it’s pronounced /ˈɡaʊdə/, not /ˈɡuːdə/!), plus (and this is the magic ingredient) a slice of buttered Schwarzbrot on each half. Ta-dah!

I know. You’re disappointed now. It sounds mundane…but it’s divine! Don’t ditch it ‘til you try it! It’s like coriander or Breaking Bad: you either love it or you hate it. There’s no middle ground.

Now, Schwarzbrot is a tricky matter. My English husband has not one nice word to say about Schwarzbrot. In his opinion, it’s ‘the devil’s food’, whose texture and taste strongly invoke cork (or worse). Well, Dä eene säät esu, dä andere säät esu, as the Rhineland woman would say, whereby she means ‘each to her own’.

As this Ultimate Butterbrot, unlike the Halve Hahn (similarly a bread roll involving Gouda cheese), cannot be found on food menus but is a phenomenon from the realm of handed-down home cooking, its origins and prevalence are somewhat hard to research.

My father says that, in his childhood, any belegte Brötchen (not just the cheese ones) served as halves were covered with a slice of Schwarzbrot for practical reasons. (It makes them easier to transport, as they do not stick to one another.)

A friend from the Münster region reports that the Ultimate Butterbrot can be found there, too, but having pumpernickel (hello, Howard Wolowitz!) in it, a special, very dark and sweet kind of Schwarzbrot. Therefore, she believes that this type of culinary compilation is a version of the French classic camembert with cranberries, i.e. pairing savoury with sweet.

A different type of sandwich beloved in the British latitudes is the so-called chip butty, i.e. a bread roll (of the ‘bappy’ English kind) with butter and – wait for it – Pommes! It’s something that sounds like you’d be eager to gobble it after downing copious amounts of alcohol. Alternatively, of course a crisp butty (featuring Kartoffelchips instead of Pommes) will also do the trick.

When I first heard about those things, I was ecstatic to learn that there is a country where this is considered a perfectly normal part of people’s diet instead of a guilty nightly go-to you would only tell your BFF about, as it would likely be viewed in Germany.

Whatever floats your tramezzini boat – don’t let us judgmental Germans spoil the fun. Own it and indulge!

The Pommes Buddha says: One woman’s Schwarzbrot is another woman’s bap.

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