Perhaps it is safer to make your own sandwiches

Three Britons died recently of food poisoning eating pre-packaged sandwiches. According to the UK heath authorities, they died of listeriosis, a rare bacterial infection especially dangerous for people with weak immune systems or pregnant women.

The listeria bacteria develop primarily in dairy products and chilled ready-to-eat food.

The deceased were among six seriously ill patients admitted to hospital, reported Britain’s National Health Service last Saturday.

Reading about this shocking news online and the risk of contracting listeriosis from pre-packed sandwiches brings back memories of my visit to Cardiff, capital of Wales. I was there in the summer of 2005 for a journalism course conducted by the Thomson Foundation.

For the first few weeks, before we decided to pre-cook our school lunches, many of my course mates and I ate pre-packed sandwiches for lunch. It was compulsory for us to be present in class daily during the weekdays from 9am to 5pm. We had to rush to nearby shops to buy our food during our short lunch break or risk being hungry.

I cannot remember the fillings of the sandwiches I bought probably because I was not and is still not a sandwich fan. Or was it because the sandwiches tasted very ordinary?

I remember that I bought them from shops operated by Indian traders and from pharmacies. Yes, they sell pre-packed sandwiches in pharmacies there.

First time I was directed to a place selling pre-packed sandwiches I didn’t know it was a pharmacy and that the lunch meals the kind lady at the Thomson Foundation centre had told me about were actually pre-packed sandwiches kept cold in the fridge! That was indeed a culture shock for me!

The death of the three Britons who ate pre-packed sandwiches is perhaps a timely reminder to all of us to make our own sandwiches.

When we make our own sandwiches, we know what the fillings and the ingredients are. Sandwiches are perishable items. Many cannot last more than a day because of the fresh fillings used like cucumber and eggs.

Mention sandwiches to me and three types immediately come to my mind — plain sandwiches made with a thick layer of butter and a generous sprinkling of sugar, egg sandwiches and tuna sandwiches.

Butter and sugar sandwiches are among my favourite comfort food. When I was in primary school, my father helped a bakery to deliver bread to many shops in Sibu. A van loaded with all kinds of bread would arrive every morning to pick him up and off he would go.

Because of the nature of his job, naturally we were able to enjoy thick slices of bread liberally slapped with butter that had been sprinkled with sugar!

So much water has flowed under the bridge and my old man has long been gone from this Earth. But whenever I eat a butter and sugar sandwich, I think of my father and I am transported back to those years when I was a child and life was simple.

Egg sandwiches are easy to make. The essential ingredients are eggs, mayonnaise, yellow mustard, chopped green onion, salt and pepper to taste.

The eggs are first boiled, then chopped and mixed with mayonnaise, mustard and green onion and seasoned with salt and pepper. The egg salad filling is then spread between two slices of bread.

I learnt to make egg sandwiches during a Domestic Science (cookery) class when I was a Form Two student at St Elizabeth’s Convent School (now renamed SMK St Elizabeth) in Sibu.

It has been ages since I last made my own egg sandwiches even though eggs abound in my kitchen. But whenever I eat an egg sandwich, I am transported back to the days when I was a 14-year-old schoolgirl in Sibu.

As for the tuna sandwiches, I was introduced to them by my younger brother who’s a cop and a grandfather of many.

When he was a young man, he seemed to live on tuna sandwiches. He would buy canned tuna and make his own simple sandwiches by placing the tuna slices between two slices of bread.

Actually, for tastier tuna sandwiches, the essential ingredients are canned tuna, mayonnaise, chopped celery, minced red onions, fresh lemon juice, salt and black pepper.

In a medium bowl, you stir tuna, eggs, celery and mayonnaise together. Then season the mixture with salt and pepper to taste before placing it on slices of bread.

Recently, I was surprised to learn that my daughter-in-law also loved tuna sandwiches but with generous servings of cucumber slices.

I went shopping with her one day at the night vegetable market in the car park of the MBKS Stutong Market. When I asked her why she was buying a lot of cucumbers, she replied, “For making tuna sandwiches to bring to the office. They are for my lunch.”

If you live near a supermarket or a bakery, like I do, you can be spoilt for choice when it comes to selecting your bread for sandwiches.

On Youtube recently, I was greatly surprised to learn that Japanese Fruit Sandwiches were trendy these days.

A Fruit Sandwich is literally a sandwich with an assortment of fruits. Fresh fruits and whipped cream are placed between thinly sliced Japanese soft white bread. It is not an everyday Japanese food, but people like to eat it from time to time.

The Japanese Fruit Sandwiches will certainly make your lunchbox colourful and your friends who look at them hungry.

In this digital age, recipes for all kinds of sandwiches are just a click away. Instead of buying pre-packed sandwiches, how about making your own sandwiches for breakfast, lunch or dinner, my friends?

It is not only safer to make your own sandwiches but also healthier and perhaps cheaper.