Someone I know took a peanut butter sandwich in his lunch bag every day – for seven years. Then what happened? He didn’t give up peanut butter, but when he finished school and got a job as a computer whiz, once in a while he ate a warm meal in the company cafeteria, to add a little variety.

Sandwiches are named after John Montagu, the 4th Earl of Sandwich (1718-1792), who enjoyed eating while he worked and played. To avoid dribbling meat drippings onto the work on his desk and his cribbage board, he had his valet contain the meat between two slices of bread. This Earl wasn’t the inventor of the sandwich, though he seemed adept at getting things named after him. In his position as First Lord of the Admiralty, he supported Captain Cook’s Pacific exploration and Cook subsequently named the Sandwich Islands in the Earl’s honour. Just think, we might easily have been named Sandwichtown instead of Vancouver.

Variations of the hand-held lunch exist around the world. Asian versions include nori rolls, in which the wrap is a dried sheet of seaweed and rice paper wraps, which may contain rice, veggies and peanut sauce. In Mexican cuisine, we encounter corn or wheat tortillas as wraps for tasty fillings.

If you are facing months of bag lunches for yourself or your family members, check out the sidebar for some healthy ideas to make lunchtime more interesting. This is just a start. There are plenty of flavourful veggie “meats.” Combine slices to make a ‘Hero’ and fill a fresh roll with guacamole. Spread rice cakes with a variety of nut butters, with or without jam.

Check out the vegetarian sandwich fillings at natural foods stores and mainstream supermarkets. On New Westminster’s Columbia Street, a cute little market called Karmavore (www.karmavore.ca,            604.527.4212      ) offers a fascinating range of products from veggie meats and patés to the outstanding new Daiya cheese, which tastes good, melts and is soy and wheat-free. A favourite sandwich is the raw Tapenade Roll in a collard leaf at Gorilla Food on Vancouver’s Richards Street.

An easy meal to take when flying out of YVR is a package of vegetarian nori rolls, complete with pickled ginger. You can find these at airport concessions across North America These rice rolls also work well in lunch bags for those with wheat and gluten sensitivities. Oh, and we forgot to list peanut butter in the sidebar!

Vesanto Melina is a dietitian and co-author of the very new Cooking Vegetarian (in Canada), Cooking Vegan (same book in the US) Becoming Vegetarian, Becoming Vegan, Raising Vegetarian Children, the Food Allergy Survival Guide, Becoming Raw and the Raw Food Revolution Diet. For personal consultations, phone             604-882-6782       or visit www.nutrispeak.com


Tempting sandwich fillings

Bread or Roll Spread or filling Veggies Other spreads
Whole wheat sub Veggie “ham”, “Tofurkey” deli slices, Daiya cheese slices Onions, shredded lettuce, cucumber, tomatoes, sprouts Mustard, soy mayo
Rice paper wrap Marinated tofu strips (from supermarket or homemade), rice Shredded carrots, cucumber, lettuce, sprouts, sunflower seeds, chopped peanuts Peanut sauce, plum sauce
Baguette or bagel Sunflower seed paté, other veggie paté Cucumber slices, onion, sprouts Earth Balance buttery spread
Collard leaf or lettuce leaf Avocado slices Tomato slices, alfalfa sprouts Olive tapenade, lemon tahini dressing
Sourdough roll Veggie burger (hot or cold) Lettuce, tomato, onion mustard, ketchup, relish, Nayonnaise
Rye bread Veggie “salami” or “deli slices” Pickles or sauerkraut, onions, lettuce Dijon mustard, soy mayo
Crusty roll Veggie pizza pepperoni slices Lettuce, black or green olives, tomatoes, onions, sliced green or red pepper Soy mayo, Dijon mustard
Multigrain bread Tofu “cream cheese,” Sheese. Lettuce, sprouts, tomato, cucumber Earth Balance buttery spread
Whole wheat bread Canadian veggie bacon, Daiya cheese slices Tomato and onion slices Olive oil brushed on outside of bread, sandwich browned in skillet on both sides.
Corn or wheat tortilla Refried beans, shredded Daiya cheese Roasted cashews and peanuts, sunflower sprouts, avocado slices, shredded carrots, green onions Salsa
Pita bread Hummus (home-made or from deli) Diced tomato, onions, sprouts, olives, shredded romaine lettuce

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