Club Initiation

     Have I ever confided in you the deep, dark secret that I have no ambition to write a food blog?  I have occasionally considered starting a series where I could discuss some of my personal recipes (I am the originator and only known provider of Crawford Sausage, for example) but every time I think about it, it calls to mind that letter from Washington, D.C., asking that I spread my cooking advice only among those people known to be hostile to the United States.

     HOWEVER, I do wonder, as most people do, about the foods and beverages I see around me, and it occurred to me one day to worry what club invented the club sandwich and club soda.  Is there a placque somewhere?  Can I get a menu and find out whether there was also a club pie or a club meatloaf?

     For those of you who have important things to do today, I will divulge the main answer right away.  No.  Not the same club.  You can now go paint your toenails puce while the rest of us munch our way through history.

     Clubn soda was one of a series of beverages which followed Joseph Priestley’s discovery of a convenient way to carbonate water in 1803.  Priestley, like most of the nineteenth century fans of fizz, felt it had medicinal properties (he figured it as a preventative for scurvy.)  I believe, as stated hereintofore, that the mere production of burps was enough, but there are all sorts of theories about neutralizing acid in the stomach and stuff like that there.  In 1877, Cantrell and Cochrane was commissioned to produce a new type of carbonated beverage for the Kildare Street Club of Dublin, which called it their Club Soda.  The company still retains the rights to the name, and though the club was very important and exclusive (the Duke of Wellington belonged), its main contributuion to human history is club soda (no word on who first discovered its ability to remove red wine stains, but that sounds clubbish.)

     The club sandwich, however, is claimed by clubs both American and British and the correct recipe is also a matter of debate.  It SEEMS to require toast instead of bread, certainly mayonnaise and often butter, and usually at least two kinds of meat (one of which must be chicken or turkey, while the other is expected to be ham or bacon), as well as tomatoes and lettuce.  (One person who DOES write a food blog called it a chicken sandwich with a BLT hat,)  Whether it MUST be a at least three slices of toast is hotly debated, as is whether the sandwich HAS TO be cut into triangles.

     For some years, the sandwich appeared in literature as a Union Club sandwich, but the Saratoga Club also claims it, while a British source credits the Tenderloin Club.  All of these clubs are mentioned in articles at the end of the nineteenth or start of the twentieth century; the sandwich started appearing on menus and in cookbooks aroundabout 1899.  One article insists that the club sandwich must be served with good coffee to show at its best.  No mention is made of potato chips, which were invented in Saratoga Springs a generation earlier.

     To take care of side issues before they arise, Canadian Club Whiskey was originally marketed by Hiram Walker as Club Whiskey, because he figured men who drank in clubs would like it.  He moved part of his production from Michigan to Canada to keep ahead of the temperance movement in 1855.  His competitors demanded he mark the label “Canadian” so everyone would know THEIR whiskey was American, and this backfired so beautifully (customers figured Canadian whiskey must be more exotic, and bought more of it) that the word moved down the label.

     Clicquot Club ginger ale also had nothing to do with a specific club (Veuve Clicquot champagne probably inspired it).  That brand eventually perished, along with its mascot Klee-O, so you cannot order it, even at the Kildare Street Club.

     Now Crawford sausage is a fickle and delicate dish, as I can demonstrate by this scar across the knuckle of my left thumb…oop, I think one of the Men In Black is coming.  Next time, perhaps.

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