When I was growing up, my mother used to load up a picnic hamper and put whoever was the baby at the time into the buggy, and we’d walk to the park in a caravan, the older of the 11 kids holding younger ones’ hands. My favorite sandwich, though it sounds unappetizing to me now, was meat and pickle relish, which was made with leftover hot dogs. (Don’t even ask!)
While I no longer dine on my mother’s picnic concoction, I still love sandwiches, and my kids and I often take a picnic to a local park. In addition to pasta salad and zucchini bread, fancy sandwiches are one of our favorite things to pack. They are as fun to make as they are to eat, kids love them, and they really do look like artistic masterpieces when they’re done. When made with a flower-shaped cookie cutter and a small round cutter, they become charming little snacks. But don’t stop at a floral theme. You can make these sandwiches with whatever cookie cutter shapes you like, from letters to animals to hearts and stars. They are wonderful for a party or an afternoon tea, and your child can do most of the prep on her own.
What You’ll Need
- 8 slices whole-wheat bread (for the bottom of the sandwich)
- 8 slices white bread (for contrast on top)
- 8 tablespoons softened cream cheese
- 8 tablespoons jam (raspberry, apricot, strawberry, or mix them up)
What to Do
- Have your child cut the whole-wheat bread into decorative shapes using a round cookie cutter with fluted edges. Let her cut small circles out of the white bread slices using a smaller, round cookie cutter.
- Discard the crusts, or puree them in a food processor and freeze for another use, such as a topping on macaroni or in a meatloaf.Teachable Moment #1: 3 Historical Sandwich Facts
- People have been eating bread topped with other foods for a long, long time. Before plates as we know them were developed, people used bread as plates instead. These medieval forms of tableware—flat, round hunks of bread—were known as trenchers. After a meal, trenchers were dipped in sauce and eaten, or given to the poor for free!
- It’s thought that the sandwich first got its name from the 18th-century Earl of Sandwich, a man named John Montagu.
- One of the most popular versions of the story says that the Earl of Sandwich got hungry in the middle of a card game and asked for something he could eat without having to put down his cards. What he got was some sliced meat between two pieces of bread—and the sandwich was born!
- Let your child spread 1 tablespoon of cream cheese on all the whole-wheat slices (use a plastic knife for this step), spread the jam on top of that, and then put the sandwiches together.
- Serve immediately with a big fruit salad, hummus and chips, and lemonade, or wrap and refrigerate until serving.Teachable Moment #2: 4 Everyday Sandwich Facts (and 1 That’s Out of This World!)
- Sandwiches were invented in Britain, but they caught on here, too: on average in the US, over 300 million sandwiches are eaten every day.
- In her 1837 cookbook Directions for Cookery, writer Eliza Leslie brought the sandwich craze to America. Can you guess the one she featured? A ham sandwich!
- Another popular contender: peanut butter and jelly. The average American kid eats about 1,500 peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches by the time he graduates from high school!
- The invention that gets the credit for making sandwiches so popular? Sliced bread. It wasn’t until about the end of the 1920s that a man named Gustav Papendick started to sell bread pre-sliced, making the process of sandwich assembly quick and easy!
- The first sandwich flew in space in 1965: astronaut Virgil Grissom snuck a corned beef sandwich onto Gemini 3...and NASA was not happy!
For variety, use peanut butter or almond butter instead of cream cheese, or just use jam or jelly. Try other shapes and novel toppings as well. Grated carrots make a great mane on a lion sandwich, and mini chocolate chips are awesome dinosaur eyes.
For a picnic, store your sandwiches in a hard container lined with foil or waxed paper so they won’t get squashed under other picnic essentials in your basket.