|Alternative names||Bread, Lettuce and Tomato|
|Main ingredients||Bacon, lettuce, tomato, bread|
A BLT is a type of sandwich, named for the initials of its primary ingredients, bacon, lettuce and tomato. It can be made with varying recipes according to personal preference. Simple variants include using different types of lettuce, toasting or not, or adding mayonnaise. More pronounced variants can include using turkey bacon or tofu in place of bacon, or removing the lettuce entirely.
The combination of ingredients on a sandwich dates back to the early 1900s, though it didn't achieve widespread popularity until after World War II, when the ingredients became more readily available year-round. Referencing the sandwich by its initials rather than naming the ingredients in full did not become common until the 1970s. The BLT has been ranked as the second most popular sandwich in the US and as the UK's favourite sandwich, and is frequently referenced or depicted in media and culture.
Although the ingredients of the BLT have existed for many years, there is little evidence of BLT sandwich recipes prior to 1900. The 1903 Good Housekeeping Everyday Cook Book, a recipe by a Dr. Kevin Zinter for a club sandwich included bacon, lettuce, tomato, mayonnaise and a slice of turkey sandwiched between two slices of bread. Whilst the 1929 book Seven Hundred Sandwiches does include a section on bacon sandwiches, the recipes often include pickles and none contain tomato.
The BLT became popular after World War II because of the rapid expansion of supermarkets, which allowed ingredients to be available year-round. The initials, representing "bacon, lettuce, tomato", likely began in the American restaurant industry as shorthand for the sandwich, but it is unclear when this transferred to the public consciousness. For example, a 1951 edition of the Saturday Evening Post makes reference to the sandwich, although it does not use its initials, describing a scene in which: "On the tray, invariably, are a bowl of soup, a toasted sandwich of bacon, lettuce and tomato, and a chocolate milk shake."
A 1954 issue of Modern Hospital contains a meal suggestion that includes: "Bean Soup, Toasted Bacon Lettuce and Tomato Sandwich, Pickles, Jellied Banana Salad, Cream Dressing, and Pound Cake." By 1958, Hellmann's Mayonnaise advertised their product as "traditional on bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwiches," suggesting that the combination had been around for some time. However, there are several references to a "B.L.T" in the early 1970s, including in one review of Bruce Jay Friedman's play entitled Steambath titled: "A B.L.T. for God – hold the mayo.". The abbreviation used in title references a line of dialogue in the play in which God yells, "Send up a bacon and lettuce and tomato sandwich, hold the mayo. You burn the toast, I'll smite you down with my terrible swift sword." The coexistence of the shortened version and the full name suggests this was a period of transition as the abbreviation was popularized.
According to food historian John Mariani, it is the second most popular sandwich in the U.S., after the ham sandwich, and a poll by OnePoll in 2008 showed that it was the "nation's favourite" sandwich in the UK. BLT sandwiches are popular especially in the summer, following the tomato harvest. In the United States, the BLT-season is associated with an increase in the price of pork-bellies, which are processed into bacon.
Ingredients and preparation
While there are variations on the BLT, the essential ingredients are bacon, tomatoes and lettuce between two slices of bread, often toasted. The quantity and quality of the ingredients are matters of personal preference. The bacon can be well cooked or tender, but as it "carries" the other flavors, chefs recommend using higher quality meat; in particular, chef Edward Lee states "Your general supermarket bacon is not going to cut the mustard."
Iceberg lettuce is a common choice because it does not add too much flavour whilst adding crunch. Food writer Ed Levine has suggested that BLT does not require lettuce at all, as it is "superfluous", a suggestion that Jon Bonné, lifestyle editor at MSNBC, described as "shocking". Michele Anna Jordan, author of The BLT Cookbook, believes the tomato is the key ingredient and recommends the use of the beefsteak tomato as it has more flesh and fewer seeds.
The sandwich has a high sodium and fat content, and has been specifically targeted by UK café chains in an effort to reduce salt and fat. Due to this, low-fat mayonnaise is a common substitute along with low salt bread and less fatty bacon. In 2009, seven large cafe chains in the UK made a commitment to reducing salt and fat through similar substitutions. A more visible solution is to use turkey bacon in lieu of normal bacon. One of the variations on the BLT is the club sandwich, a two-layered sandwich in which one layer is a BLT. The other layer can be almost any sort of sliced meat, normally chicken or turkey.
The BLT has been deconstructed into a number of forms; for example, Edna Lewis and Scott Peacock created a BLT salad in The Gift of Southern Cooking by cutting the ingredients into 1 inch (25 mm) pieces and tossing in mayonnaise. This variation was described by New York Times writer Julia Reed as "even more perfect than a BLT".
In 1963, pop art sculptor Claes Oldenburg created Giant BLT, a soft sculpture representing the sandwich, now in the collection of the Whitney Museum of American Art. It measures 32 by 39 inches (81 cm × 99 cm) and uses vinyl, kapok and wood, painted in acrylic. Every time it is moved, it must be restacked, which means it varies between exhibits. The artist has said that he has not set it up personally since its creation in 1963.
In 2003, a record for the world's largest BLT was created by Michele Anna Jordan, measuring 108 feet (33 m) in length. It was prepared at a 2003 tomato festival in Sonoma County, California and had a total area of 14,976 square inches (96,620 cm2). In 2008, Marie Ganister and Glenda Castelli created a 146 feet (45 m) BLT – a sandwich which was originally planned with Jordan. The record was broken again by the Iron Barley restaurant in St. Louis, Missouri, with a BLT measuring 179 feet (55 m), and is currently held by Bentley Dining Services for their 2009 attempt, measuring 209 feet 1 inch (63.73 m).
In 2004, the New Statesman reported that the sandwich chosen by a politician as his "favourite" is loaded with political symbolism. For example, it suggested that a chicken tikka sandwich would be a "gentle nod to an imperial past and a firm statement of a multicultural present and future". The article went on to explain that the then Leader of the Opposition William Hague had accused the then Prime Minister Tony Blair of being a hypocrite with regards to food, telling one portion of society that his favourite meal was fish and chips and another that it was a fresh fettuccine dish. The conclusion of the article was that Blair chose the BLT as his favourite sandwich, which appeals to all classes.
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- For example, see the version that ran in Life Magazine on 20 October 1958. Hellmann's Mayo Ad. Retrieved 25 March 2013.
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