Sandwich Party 2: Focaccia-cha-cha

Following the global success of last year’s Sandwich Party (my entry remains one of the most popular posts on my blog, attracting hundreds of people who Google for chip butty recipes), I couldn’t resist the call to take part again this year. However, I’m breaking with tradition (if you can call something I’ve so far only done once a “tradition”) in two ways.

Firstly, I’m going to concentrate more this time on the bread than the filling. Bread can be considered in the same way as the frame around a photo or a painting; an important ingredient but not necessarily the focus of attention. It’s the filling that makes a sandwich, more than the bread (ok, I’m sure many of you will disagree, but that’s my position).

Secondly, I can’t post any photos this time, or at least, not straight away. I need to go to Italy for that, and I won’t be going until the end of the month, and so the photos won’t be posted until mid-August. Why do I need to go to Italy to take a photo of a sandwich? Surely in these days of globalisation you can procure pretty much any product pretty much anywhere? Well, no. One of the inspirations behind this entry was a growing interest in regionality and cultural specificity. In other words, sometimes in order to find the good stuff, you have to go to the source.

The source in this case is the north-western Italian region of Liguria. The bread in question is, of course, focaccia. Believe it or not, heathen that I was I didn’t even try focaccia until I first visited Genoa in 1999. There was a first class focacceria a few hundred meters from my girlfriend’s (now wife) apartment, and in fact I’ve yet to find a better one.  The crisp exterior, the oil oozing over my tongue, the coarse salt sprinkled on top, the soft, doughy middle: it was love at first bite. Now technically focaccia is found in various regions around the Mediterranean, with variations in texture, thickness, and toppings (onion, tomato, rosemary, etc.), but the Ligurian version is the only one for me. The only rival for my affections is focaccia al formaggio, a speciality of Recco, a small town further along the coast, but whereas that is a wonderfully gloopy, salty treat, the original is the kind of thing I could (and do, whenever I’m in the area) eat every day for breakfast. It needs no topping, no adornment, no distractions. Along with pesto it’s come to symbolise everything I love about Liguria. I have to have some wherever I go back, and just the thought of it transports me there instantly, evoking memories of wandering the caruggi of the old town, hiking the Cinque Terre, riding along the coast road on a Vespa at sunset, the sea breeze in our hair…

But this is a Sandwich Party, right? Not a Piece-Of-Bread Party. Well at one point my girlfriend went to Brussels for a few months for an internship (which later led to a permanent job, which led to us settling there), leaving me alone in Genoa to fend for myself. My regular lunch/comfort food during this period was a focaccina – a round, burger bun-sized lump of focaccia – filled with slices of fresh tomato and mozzarella drizzled with my father-in-law’s olive oil and sprinkled with oregano. Not complicated, but then the best Italian food usually consists of very few basic but fresh and flavourful ingredients. At least, that’s my excuse…

Come back for photos in a few weeks’ time.


12 thoughts on “Sandwich Party 2: Focaccia-cha-cha

  1. Erik R. July 25, 2008 / 10:47 am

    Great! Now my keyboard is covered in drool! See what you’ve done?

    God, I don’t know if I can wait a month for the photos.


  2. Elsa July 25, 2008 / 9:18 pm

    Simon, that sounds marvelous. I can almost feel my teeth sinking into the unctuous oily crust with its salty crunch. Oooooh. Good focaccia is an unbeatable foodstuff.

    Thanks for participating in Sandwich Party 2: Sandwich Boogaloo. And remember — Sandwich Party 2: This time, it’s personal.


  3. Norm July 27, 2008 / 6:12 pm

    Alright Simon

    Enough of this. Nothing beats a chip butty and deep in your heart of hearts you know this. I take umbrage with the fact that you use this lovely flowery language to make me dribble copious amounts of saliva into my keyboard, make me hungry with the descriptions of the ingredients and malancholy for the sense of place achieved using just one other sensory inlet. So I put it to you sir, that you just call a spade a gardening implement and do the right thing. You go to Italy, you get your fantastic sounding bread, and you make us an Italian chip butty. Go on, DARE you… Go on… I’ll allow the tomato sauce to be red pesto too if it makes you feel any better…


    P.S. Just kidding mate, sounds like an AWESOME sanger! 🙂


  4. simonlitton July 28, 2008 / 7:30 am

    Norm: one slight problem. Once I’m in Italy I won’t be able to find any decent chips to make a butty with…


  5. Norm July 30, 2008 / 9:41 am

    You do know that chips come from potatoes, don’t you… Or don’t they have spuds in Italia? 🙂


  6. simonlitton July 30, 2008 / 11:19 am

    They have potatoes, but not the know-how to make them chippy…


  7. Norm August 1, 2008 / 9:18 am

    That’s a real shame. Belgian fritjes, when made properly and in context are great, but go anywhere else and the chips are just total shit. In Greece they were all very much like your average McDonalds processed essence of potato fries and utterly woeful. Uk and Ireland do splendid chips as we know, but why has Europe not embraced the love of chips? I don’t buy into the whole “we’re too cultured for chips”, they are the ultimate convenience food! Much as we in the UK have learnt to love Italian food (it’s my favourite type of cuisine bar none), I feel it’s a small gesture, tip of the cap if you will, for the Italians withtheir passion for food, to do decent chips!!


  8. Norm August 1, 2008 / 9:23 am

    Still think the name “Sandwich Party” is a little disturbing though… Put in the context of Mars Bars and Rubiks Cubes… Sorry for lowering the tone everyone!!


  9. simon August 1, 2008 / 10:46 am

    Rubik Cube parties? You’re going to have to fill me in on the details of that one, Norm. I’ve lead a sheltered life…


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