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Susan Axelrod

Susan Axelrod's food writing career began in the kitchen; she owned a restaurant and catering business for 15 years before turning to journalism. By day, she is the social media editor for Portland Press Herald. To relax, she bakes, gardens and hikes with her husband and their two dogs, preferably followed by a cocktail or a Maine beer. Susan can be contacted at 791-6310 or saxelrod@mainetoday.com On Twitter: @susansaxelrod

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Posted: October 9, 2013

Around the world (or at least Portland) in seven sandwiches

Written by: Susan Axelrod

Who, exactly, was the first hungry genius to slap a filling between two slices of bread and call it lunch? Not, as many may think, its infamous namesake, the Earl of Sandwich, an eighteenth century English nobleman who allegedly “invented” it when he demanded a snack to eat while gambling — the bread was to keep his fingers clean. No, food historians say it was Rabbi Hillel, who in the first century B.C. came up with a novel way to eat charoset, the fruit, nut and wine relish that is a key element of the Passover seder. The rabbi found charoset was easier to eat by placing it between two matzohs; these sandwiches also symbolized the stone and mortar construction of the temple.

Fast forward a couple thousand years, and we have the reuben, the BLT and the Fluffernutter. We also have banh mi,  croque monsieur and smorbrod — nearly every food culture has its own iconic sandwiches.

We found seven of these international icons right here in Portland. Just in time for lunch.

All photos: Susan Axelrod

France: Croque Monsieur – Petite Jacqueline

Gruyere cheese, French country ham, housemade brioche, Mornay sauce, fines herbes

Mexico: Torta Ahogada – Zapoteca

Housemade roll with chipotle pulled pork, black beans, pickled red onion “drowned” in jalapeno tomato sauce

Italy: Sausage and Pepper Sub – Micucci Grocery

Sweet sausage with sauteed peppers in housemade bun

Iraq: Chicken Shawarma – Tandoor Bakery

Roasted spiced chicken, pickled okra, lettuce tomato and spicy sauce on tandoor bread

Japan: Pork Bun – Pai Men Miyake

Housemade steamed buns, pork belly, gouchujang mayo and pepper relish

Vietnam: Banh-Mi – Kim’s Cafe

Pate, head cheese, ham, cucumber, carrots, onion, cilantro (Kim’s Cafe is at 261 St. John St.)

Scandinavia: Open-faced sandwiches – Portland Hunt & Alpine Club

Top left: radish butter, Lakin’s Gorges Opus 42 cheese, sliced apple, pickled onion, blueberry honey drizzle; top right: housemade pork-liver mousse, pickled honshimeji mushrooms, tomato jam, crispy bacon; bottom left: crab and shrimp salad with avocado, pickled red onion and dill, lemon jam; bottom right: green chili grain mustard, hard boiled egg, house-cured and pickled herring, white onion

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