INDIGNITY VOL. 3, NO. 34: Making the 1909 pimiento sandwich


INDIGNITY VOL. 3, NO. 34: Making the 1909 pimiento sandwich
Indignity Morning Podcast No. 28: The free expression of a tenured academic in the public sphere.
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Antiquity on rye

THE SECOND OF the two pimiento sandwiches we published from the Women's Club of San Mateo's 1909 cookbook was, I noticed on looking it over, basically an egg salad sandwich:

1 can chopped pimentos
4 or 5 hard-cooked eggs
Sweet or sour pickles chopped fine

How big was a can of pimientos in 1909? I put a 4 oz. jar of Cento sliced sweet pimientos into the grocery delivery order. For pickles, I went with a tub of half-sours, since I like half-sours.

The groceries arrived in time for Sunday lunch, and I didn't have any better ideas than egg salad for that lunch, so I put eight eggs in the steamer for 12 minutes, then dunked them in a bowl of ice water. Rather than risking everyone's lunch on the archival egg salad, I decided to make two batches of egg salad, one the way I normally would and one as dictated by the Women's Club of San Mateo.

I considered doing a half-batch of the pimiento version, only sacrificing two eggs, but we settled on dividing the eggs evenly, four and four. I'd fumbled the steamer basket a little when I put it in, and some of the eggs had slightly cracked and swelled out of their shells, so I assigned those to the pimiento version. I peeled them and chopped them up and put them in the first bowl, then peeled and chopped the nicer ones into the second.

I got a salad fork and fished the pimientos out of the jar onto the cutting board. They looked attractive and had a sharp little roasted-pepper smell to them. I chopped them finely, imagining them spreading their vibrant red color throughout an egg salad. I blotted up the little puddle of pimiento-water they were sitting in and tossed them into the bowl.

Now: the pickle. How much pickle would it take? The women of San Mateo hadn't specified. I got out one of the half-sours, a medium-small pickle, cut it in half, and set one half aside, planning to snack on it, while I put the other pickle on the cutting board. I got out a second pickle and ate it. It wasn't ideally crisp, but the flavor was decent.

I set about chopping the half-pickle. It was noticeably juicy. The pile of pale chopped pickle I was making looked pretty scant, compared to the generous red pile of pimiento in the bowl, so I added my reserved half-pickle and chopped that too. Now the results looked a bit excessive. I scooped most of the chopped pickle into the bowl, leaving a small handful on the cutting board. Then I ate that handful, out of my hand.

I mixed up the chopped ingredients with a fork, dropped in a big spoonful of mayonnaise, and stirred everything together. By now I had some seedless rye bread toasting. The ladies of San Mateo hadn't specified the bread, but egg salad goes great with rye.

I turned my attention to the second bowl. For this one, I got out a couple of forkfuls of Patak's Hot Lime Pickle, chopped them up, and added them to the eggs. Another big dollop of mayonnaise, a squirt of squirt-bottle mustard, that was that. A moment of fork-work whipped it up to a fluffy texture and a rich orange-yellow color.


Back in the first bowl, the Women's Club of San Mateo bowl, things didn't look so good. The whole thing had gone runny, settling into a pinkish soupiness. I scooped some out from the higher ground, spread it on one slice of toasted rye, and put another slice on top to complete the sandwich. It looked reasonable.

When I bit into it, the texture was not too sloppy. The flavor, though, was missing. Whatever gentle piquancy the pimientos had carried with them out of the jar had been lost in the bowl; the half-sour pickle was a not-sour softened cucumber. It all just tasted of wet egg.

My wife's half-sandwich worth of the pimiento mix, constructed less cautiously or more trustingly than my full sandwich, spattered runny pink all over her plate. The kids went straight for the regular, fluffy egg salad. That bowl was empty at lunch's end, scraped clean. Plenty of the pimiento-egg filing of 1909 remained.


New York City, March 12, 2023

★★★ The cat went bounding across the living room to look out the front windows, shoving her face into the fresh air where one was raised a crack. A backlit starling fluttered down toward the trees out back, short-tailed and with pointy wings aglow. The blue of the sky gradually attenuated to white and then full gray. The afternoon sun was a white spot, through clouds high enough that the clear dark shapes of airplanes passed below them. Three hawks made silhouettes of their own, circling above where a fourth sat fluffy and pale-bellied high in a tree—so puffed up beyond normal hawk dimensions that people climbed uphill from the path to get a better look, trying to figure out if it could be the eagle-owl. Whitish daffodils were out on a bank sloping down to the Pool. A few notes of operatic singing carried from somewhere in the park. A big rat, looking as clean and healthily brown as a muskrat, crouched nibbling something in the brush by the water. Two Manhattan park rangers stood by with an animal crate and a net on a long aluminum pole, deciding whether a duck with a bad foot needed to be captured and rescued, or whether it could be captured at all. The light and the coats were wintry, but the activity in the park had the mood of spring. A dog with ears and tail tinted purple came down the hill, leading a woman in a matching purple jacket. Back home, the sound of children laughing and shrieking and chattering came from somewhere in the courtyard or on the balconies.


Re: Pimento Sandwich Recipe
What is a breakfast cheese?
- Hugh B. Gordon

Indignity responds: We accept the below description from itself, and theorize the breakfast cheeses circa 1909 to be small portions, much like the modern-day Babybel snack cheeses:

Breakfast cheese (renamed as Petite Breakfast) is a cheese from Marin French Cheese Co. located in California, United States. Jefferson A. Thompson founded the company in 1865 to support the food needs of returning Gold Rush miners. He developed a soft-ripened, fresh cheese that could be sold three days after production. He named this cheese as ‘Breakfast cheese’ and sold it in saloons where it was served on the bar as an alternative for pickled eggs.

WE PRESENT INSTRUCTIONS for the assembly of select sandwiches from RECIPES (Margaret Etter Crèche Cook Book), compiled by Anna K. Sackett and Fannie F. Mills, published in 1901, found in the public domain and available at for the delectation of all.


Waukesha cream cheese beaten to a cream. 1 bottle of olives chopped fine, 1 tablespoon of brandy, 1/2 teaspoon of Worcestershire Sauce.

Take potted tongue or ham and mix to a smooth paste, with plenty of thick cream. Makes good sandwiches.

Chop sardines, ham and pickles quite fine. Mix mustard, salt, paprica and vinegar, spread between buttered bread.

To keep lettuce crisp place the roots of the heads in water, but do not allow the leaves to rest in it. When ready to serve, wash it leaf by leaf in a pan of water, and drop it in a pan of ice water. Shake the water from the leaves before serving.

Bermuda onions sliced, boil up and drain, place in cold water until crisp, pour over 1 cup vinegar sweetened and serve.

For Sandwiches.

Any kind of soft cream cheese mixed with fine chopped nuts and seasoned with paprica and salt. Spread between brown or white bread.

Nebuchadnezzar Sandwiches.

Lettuce leaves or sprigs of water-cress, or any bit of green between white or brown bread make dainty sandwiches

If you decide to prepare and enjoy a sandwich inspired by these offerings, kindly send a picture to us at

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