Cream Cheese Sandwich Loaf AKA Frosted Ribbon Loaf AKA Run for your Life
In a scene from my new novel The Oakdale Dinner Club, Alice, one of the main characters, attends a wedding shower – in 1992 – of her best friend Mary Ann. Mary Ann is a traditionalist who has asked her mother, an accomplished cook, to prepare ancient-fashioned wedding shower fare, including a Cream Cheese Sandwich Loaf, which, for the uninitiated, is one name for a loaf of bread that has been sliced horizontally; stuffed with layers of things that don’t go together well, like deviled ham, shrimp salad and egg salad; ‘frosted’ with cream cheese; and decorated like some kind of bizarro savoury cake.
When I wrote the scene, the cream cheese sandwich loaf I described was based on one I had sampled, probably in the 70’s, and that looked, in my mind, something like the pic above, courtesy of Betty Crocker – click here for a defies-belief recipe.
What the sandwich loaf in the story was not meant to resemble was this monstrosity, produced in my very own kitchen, in an act of food preparation that convinced me I am not and will never be the cook Mary Ann’s mother Sarah is in The Oakdale Dinner Club.
Look at that thing! Between the squished layers of bread (I used a higher fibre white loaf from Cobs Bakery which could not stand up to my Hulk Smash slicing attempts, through no apparent fault of its own), there is a layer of tuna salad and frisée lettuce, a layer of egg salad, and a layer of cream cheese and cucumber because I started thinking about tea sandwiches but should I have used watercress? I don’t know. And those are pecans and gherkin pickles on top of the cream cheese frosting, because why not. (Also, why.)
How did it taste, you ask? Yes, I ate a slice – I wasn’t about to throw the perfectly good ingredients away. And it tasted okay, if okay means it was too bready, too cream-cheesy, and its components would have been better served up as a scoop each of tuna salad and egg salad on a bed of lettuce with maybe a slice of buttered whole wheat bread alongside.
Like Alice in the novel, I found this dish a mite too exotic. But it makes for a good punch line. Both here and as item #5 in this very funny Buzzfeed list of 21 Truly Upsetting Vintage Recipes.