Can the memory of a sandwich live up to the reality?
Summertime meals are different than winter ones. More outdoor cooking. More foods for hot days, including lots of salads. Who really wants a pot roast after a day on the beach? And, of course the occasional dinner sandwich.
In my house that summertime dinner sandwich was one that was made famous not by some one hundred year old deli or secret family recipe. It was made famous by a department store. Marshall Fields and Company to be more accurate.
The sandwich that I’m speaking of is of course the one and only Field’s Special Sandwich. A mountain of a meal that is equally perfect for the middle of July as it is for the day after Thanksgiving. Mine was usually served mid-summer.
I don’t really have early childhood memories of the Field’s flagship store on State Street in Chicago (I do have adult memories). A trip to see the windows at holiday time or lunch in the Walnut Room wasn’t something we did on any kind of regular basis.
My memories of Marshall Fields are rooted in the south suburban Chicago locations. They start when I was around ten years old. Every few weeks, no matter what time of year, a few of us from the neighborhood would jump on a bus in Homewood Illinois, transfer in Chicago Heights and end up forty five minutes later in Park Forest.
Field’s had a big store there. Big to a ten year old anyway. After pooling our money and buying a small box of Frango Mints, we would ride the escalators from floor to floor carefully avoiding clerks who would rather see us taking in a movie at the nearby Holiday Theater rather than terrorizing the Men’s department.
On many of those trips we would end up in the Field’s cafeteria. Diners would be sitting at neat square tables enjoying a variety dishes including the Field’s Special Sandwich which when served at the store, took up an entire plate. With no money for a real lunch, we would grab a cold drink, make a few more trips on the escalator and then head home.
My Mom was a devoted lover of the Field’s Special. And as such, had perfected it’s construction down to the smallest detail. This included replicating the homemade Thousand Island Dressing which held everything together. Now remember, this was back at a time when a restaurant recipe was generally unavailable in a cookbook. And, of course, no Google. Getting it right was a major achievement.
Every now and then on a warm summer evening my taste buds are calling for one. Now, it’s easy. A quick trip to the laptop or iPad and most any recipe ever created (maybe minus the 11 herbs and spices) can be conjured up. My search took all of about ten seconds.
Rather than reprint the recipe here. I’ll save some space and give you a link to the version posted by Deborah Loeser Small for Lake Magazine. You can get that here.
What I WILL do for you is give you a look at the finished product. Amazing, right?
Just look at that monster! Absolutely delicious. I think I was almost caught licking the plate. The recipe was right on, down to the dressing.
Here’s a bonus. With the leftover rye, dressing and turkey you can make a great Turkey Reuben (minus kraut) the next day for lunch!
You can now get a Marshall Field’s Cookbook. It has all of the recipes you loved from the department store.