The Silent Life in 1922: Sandwiches that Time Forgot

I think it is safe to say that American tastebuds have changed since the silent era. Items that we commonly enjoy today (yogurt, chocolate chip cookies, hummus, sushi) were either exotic items or not yet invented. Good luck finding that quinoa! And some common foods of decades past (aspic, anyone?) have fallen out of favor with most mainstream eaters.

Here is my mission: Take some sandwich recipes from The New Home Cookbook (1922) and see if they can please the palates of modern American eaters. I selected three recipes that seemed the most odd by modern standards. (I have lived in California all my life so it is possible that these sandwiches still dwell in other parts of the country, I’ve just never seen them in my neck of the woods.)

A note on ingredients: I used good-quality commercial white bread with some heft to it. The butter is just plain supermarket butter. I made some effort toward accuracy but I did not go out of my way to track down oddball ingredients.

I also enlisted the help of a panel of tasters. And by “panel of tasters” I mean the friends and family I roped into doing this.

Sandwich #1: The New Sandwich

This one is by far the weirdest. Peanut butter. Water. Ketchup. Yum?

I used Laura Scudder’s natural peanut butter (the only ingredients are peanuts and salt, no added stabilizing fats or sugars) and classic Heinz.

My ingredients
My ingredients

Of all the sandwiches, this is the one that made everyone say, “Ewwww!” But in practice, it actually was not too bad. The proportion of ketchup to peanut butter was such that it really did not taste too tomatoey. In fact, I really don’t know that anyone would have known it was ketchup if I hadn’t told them.

Not too promising...
Not too promising…

My tasters all greeted this one with a resounding so-so.

The sandwich
The sandwich

As you can see, the result of this sandwich was an orange-ish peanut butter. It’s mildly sweet.

I wouldn’t make it for fun but it’s not nearly as scary as you might think.

Taste Score: 6/10

Sandwich #2: The Picnic Sandwich

This one sounded like the most agreeable to modern tastes. Olive spreads are sold at major supermarkets so the concept of spreading chopped olives over bread is pretty appealing. My main concern was that this would turn into a salt lick.

The ham was not this neon, the lighting in my kitchen is bad.
The ham was not this neon, the lighting in my kitchen is bad.

I was in a hurry so I didn’t mince the ingredients as finely as I should have. Also, I was pretty generous with the butter, which I think muted the saltiness of the olives and the ham. The tasters were pretty happy with this one and the sandwiches got scarfed up pretty quickly.

Not-so-fine chop
Not-so-fine chop

I actually think this sandwich would work nicely as a spread and I almost think I could do without the ham. All in all, this is a pretty decent sandwich.

Pretty darn good.
Pretty darn good.

Taste Score: 8/10

Sandwich #3: The Indian Sandwich


The cookbook does not specify whether it means “came from India” or “based on the recipes of Native Americans” so I cannot enlighten you. Neither culture is known for sardines, right? Let me know if you have the answer to this riddle.

In the beginning...
In the beginning…

The recipe calls for cooked salad dressing. The only dressing flavor in the book that I recognized was Thousand Island so that’s what I used.

Sardines are a divisive food. You either love them or hate them. I am in the “love” camp so this sandwich was not as nasty a concept to me as it was to my panel of tasters.

In fact, the concept proved to be so nasty that my entire panel jumped ship. Uh oh,

It tastes exactly how it looks...
It tastes exactly how it looks…

I wish I had joined them. This sandwich is vile. The egg and sardine fight and the salad dressing gives everything a weird, slimy texture. If they served this in prison, it would be considered cruel and unusual punishment.


Taste Score: 0/10


Are these sandwiches familiar in your neck of the woods? Be sure to leave a comment and let me know the details.


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  1. geelw

    Nice experiment. For the last sandwich, I’d have made a few alterations. Boneless sardines packed in water (drained, of course), omit the egg white (just use the yolk), use light cream cheese (oddly called neufchatel here in the US – it’s not true neufchatel) instead of that dressing and add salt/pepper to taste (or some Old Bay plus a bit of dried basil). Optional: If they sell Gold’s Horeseradish out thataway, yep, add about a teaspoon or so to the bowl you’re mixing this in.

    Basically, you’re making a tuna salad but with some alterations. The cream cheese is my little secret, as it makes for a smooth and non-oily taste that keeps people guessing. You could also add a bit of curry powder to add a bit of zing (and a nice yellow hue to the final product)

    The “Indians” would be chasing you around the chuck wagon for more, I’ll bet.

    1. Movies, Silently

      Hi! I did use sardines in water (it’s the only kind I eat) but the cream cheese sounds like a good addition. I think I will try it next time I make salmon salad sandwiches 🙂

  2. Ann

    I can’t believe it! I just googled ” are sardine sandwiches cruel and unusual punishment?” After spending the last 24 hours cursed with the memory of the vile sandwiches my mom used to put in my school lunches. I’m glad someone agrees with me! I anm laughing and crying all at once.

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