A Little History and a Lot of Flavor

A Tea Party by Louis Charles Moeller, 1905

I was in my grandmother’s kitchen one Sunday morning thinking to myself, why did I agree to do this? I was hunched over the counter, attempting to slice both bread and a cucumber while also mixing this strange concoction of mayonnaise and salad dressing as a spread…for cucumber sandwiches? What are we, British dignitaries? Well, no, but grandma wanted to impress her friends and have a “high tea” themed book club to go along with their discussion of Pride and Prejudice. So of course, for grandma, I obliged and mixed and sliced away.

Little did I know at the time, but high tea and cucumber sandwiches actually have a very interesting history. With summer in high gear and the temperatures rising, I thought this would be a good time to shed some light on the refreshing little treat.

I’m just going to start by establishing that I wasn’t too thrilled to be working so painstakingly on these miniature sandwiches, but before I left grandma’s all I could say is, way to go England! I was surprisingly pleased with the way my cucumber sandwiches turned out and excited to find out more.

After I put so much effort into the intricate details of making these sandwiches, I wanted to learn more about them and I found out that they can actually be traced all the way back to 1870! British settlers in India were trying to find a way to cope with the heat and apparently cucumbers helped. Then, in the Victorian Era (1837-1901), cucumber sandwiches became a staple of afternoon tea.

Now I will say, the British never put any spreads on their cucumber sandwiches, but it’s definitely the way to go. The spread was a wholly American addition and is called Benedictine. It can be made in several different ways and if you go searching for a recipe you’ll find tons of different variations, but it usually consists of cream cheese and some assortment of spices or herbs. Here is a cucumber sandwich recipe that calls for dry Italian salad dressing to add flavor.

Get a taste of British royalty and impress your friends with cucumber sandwiches and afternoon tea. Cheers!

Check here for more information on the history of the cucumber sandwich from the Telegraph.

Image: A Tea Party by Louis Charles Moeller, 1905


Caitlin Hutchinson

Association for Dressings & Sauces