History of the BLT

I’m not alone in searching for the background of a particular dish; historians and food writers have been doing this for ages. Chef Farideh Sadeghin likewise enjoys digging into food history, in this case the history of the BLT sandwich. As a huge fan of BLTs myself (but only when I can get my hands on fresh garden tomatoes), this piece resonated with me.

Not only does Chef Sadeghin trace the history of sandwiches in general, she digs into the background of the components as well, tracing the origins of bacon to China in 1500 BCE, when the first recorded use of salt to cure pork belly can be found, before turning to lettuce and ultimately to what I perceived as the star of the show: tomatoes. The chef has strong opinions on what constitutes a good BLT, from what kind of bread to use, how to toast the bread, and in which order to assemble the sandwich’s components.

While I may not share all of the chef’s opinions on how to construct the sandwich, these words did ring true for me: “The allure of the BLT lies in its simplicity. Since its ingredients are so few, and since each component is as important as the next, it’s wise to ensure that you take care in choosing (and preparing) the best versions of those ingredients you can find,” Sadeghin says. I generally won’t order a BLT in a restaurant because I am afraid I will be presented with sad, pale, tasteless slices of hothouse tomatoes paired with a hunk of brown-edged iceberg lettuce and thin strips of undercooked bacon.

I prefer to savor perfect BLTs in my own kitchen, with hearty homemade bread, perfectly ripe tomatoes from my garden, and whatever tasty salad greens I might be growing that year. The bacon will ideally come from a local farmer, although there are some commercial brands that I find acceptable. What does your ideal BLT look like?

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  • bhasenstab  on  September 14, 2023

    Since I am a city dweller, I normally source the best bacon I can, from North Country Smokehouse ideally, if I can find it. Farmers market tomato, sliced about 1/4” thick. Farmers market loaf of peasant bread, toasted, and a fat jug of Hellman’s applied liberally. I tend to cook BLTs for more than just me, so most of my bacon cookery is in the oven on a sheet pan. Seventeen minutes at 425°F until just the color of a good artisanal chocolate bar.

  • Fyretigger  on  September 15, 2023

    Yesterday, a migraine left me house-bound. I was mostly lacking in lunch options. But I had bread and bacon in the freezer, and some Sikil Pak (roasted tomato, onion, roasted pumpkin seed, garlic, habanero and cilantro salsa) in the fridge. I had a highly unconventional, but satisfying B(no L)T+ sandwich for lunch.

  • Zephyrness  on  September 18, 2023

    My family has moved from lettuce to cucumber. The crunch is better than any lettuce we have tried, and nicely juicy.
    Now I want to try the Sikil Pak version!

  • Dowfood  on  September 24, 2023

    Good English muffin, toasted. Drizzle it with olive oil, then spread mayo to taste. Thick sliced tomato of choice from farmers market. Two slices thick bacon, halve to cross layer. S&P. Lettuce optional. Glass of iced tea.

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