Think, Read, Cook

Because no single way of eating works for everybody.

Don’t Bother with the Bread


I love sandwiches.

Not being able to eat wheat, I’ve been substituting spelt bread and kamut bread for years in my sandwich-making. The disadvantage I found to this was the way the flavour of the bread interfered with the taste of the filling. And looking back, I realize that I find the flavour of any kind of bread interferes with the taste of the filling.

Not too long ago, I was in a situation where I’d need to eat sandwiches during a weekend event – and I realized I’d neglected to bring any of my own “weird” bread. I went into a grocery store, hoping there might be some kind of non-wheat bread available. Instead, I chanced to pass through the produce section, and I saw a container of pre-washed romaine lettuce leaves.

“Crispy Wraps”, the label said.

The dim bulb over my head glowed brightly. I bought them.

Once I was at the event, and it was lunch time, I picked out some cold cuts, mayo, cucumber, arugula and dill pickle slices, and wrapped them up in one of these handy leaves. I thought it would be, well, okay. And at least I’d be able to eat it. I tucked the curly end up a little, folded the sides, and began to chomp at the end that would have been closest to the root when the leaf was still attached.

I was unprepared for the magnificence of the taste.

It was like the sandwich fixings, deprived of their bread buffer, had been given leave to explode their flavours into my mouth. For the first time, I really tasted a sandwich. And man, was it good.

I felt like eating bread-encased sandwiches had deprived me of flavour all those years. And, I realized, this also gets not only fewer grains, but more vegetables, into my diet.

All this, and it tastes better, too.

Since then I’ve been experimenting with sandwich fillings. Cream cheese and cucumbers. Bacon and tomato. Even hot dogs and hamburgers. They’re wonderful this way – amazingly fresh and vivid and real, lacking the heavy, muting effect of bread.

I really recommend that you give this a try. The pre-washed leaves are convenient, but I’ve also bought a head of romaine and made my own. Either way – make yourself one of these sandwiches. You may never bother with the bread again.


20 comments on “Don’t Bother with the Bread

  1. thedaisychainrevolution
    April 22, 2013

    As someone who has missed bread and eating sandwiches for a while now, this is definitely something I’ll try! I’ve seen the lettuce sandwich concept before but had completely forgotten about it- what a great idea πŸ™‚

    • thinkreadcook
      April 22, 2013

      Cool! I definitely find it an improvement in the overall sandwichness of things. πŸ™‚ Going to try chicken salad next.

  2. Ani Danelz
    April 22, 2013

    I love lettuce wraps in all forms! Asian flavors are my favorite. Sandwich chains like Subway and Jimmy John’s even have “unwiches” in which they take all your filling and put them in a lettuce wrap instead of bread!

    • thinkreadcook
      April 22, 2013

      I’m also finding I can use these wraps to put hot foods in, instead of having them on top of rice. Makes for that much more vegetable consumption, and less starch – and wonderful flavour! πŸ™‚

  3. judy
    April 22, 2013

    Ok. I love love love lettuce. Explain how you wrap yr goodies in them. I’ve been trying to do them for yrs but they always fall to pieces. Describe romaine lettuce for me. Story. My grandparents came from the ukraine to england with all their family in 1912. I don’t know if they spoke russian i only heard them speak yiddish and yiddish-english! Words all mixed up etc. A family story is my dad’s cousin’s mum sent her to buy a lettuce. She presumed her mum had mispronounced the word and asked for a lettyuce. That’s what it’s been called ever since.

    • thinkreadcook
      April 22, 2013

      I like it! πŸ™‚ Romaine lettuce is the long-leaf kind of lettuce they make Caesar salads with. Don’t know if you have those where you are, but the leaf shape is long and narrow-ish, with a more dense rib down the centre – perfect shape for wrapping a sandwich or a sausage.

      • Marielle Armstrong
        April 22, 2013

        The British name for Romaine is Cos.

      • thinkreadcook
        April 22, 2013

        Oh, thanks, Marielle! πŸ™‚

  4. theflashcook
    April 22, 2013

    Not sure i’m ready to give up on bread entirely but I now just use one slice and then the filling. it’s messier but I agree, the bread kind of takes over.

  5. judy
    April 23, 2013

    Now i know what lettuce i’m dealing with could you explain to a clumsy person how to wrap the leaves tightly please?

    • thinkreadcook
      April 23, 2013

      I’m clumsy too! πŸ™‚ Just use them like a hot-dog bun, and curl the leaf around the filling. Fold the large end over, and tuck the sides up, and start eating from the end that would have been closest to the root, when the leaf was attached to the rest of the lettuce.

  6. judy
    April 23, 2013

    I think the washed romaine lettuce we have is nowhere as near as big as yrs. I tried today with mayo, some mashed avocado and a little sliced cucumber. Tasty but messy. I suppose i could buy a whole one and wash the leaves but a like the middle ones.

    • thinkreadcook
      April 23, 2013

      Or maybe try with another kind of lettuce? Boston lettuce and butter lettuce, if you have access to them, don’t break as easily as iceberg lettuce (head lettuce).

      • Jannie
        April 27, 2013

        Judy- size doesn’t really matter. It’s more an issue of ratio, the amount of filling versus leaf size. Experiment with that ratio until you find what works best for you.

        SF Chronicle had a good set of photo instructions a few years ago,but alas, I am don’t have it on my computer. This video might help.

        Good luck!

      • thinkreadcook
        April 27, 2013

        Thanks, Jannie! πŸ™‚

  7. judy
    April 23, 2013

    We only have romaine/cos/arabic or iceberg. Such a shame we don’t get all you get in usa or uk or sa.

  8. Sam Han
    April 24, 2013

    what a great idea and i’m sure i can double the helpings now, lol…

    • thinkreadcook
      April 24, 2013

      Why not? Two pieces of bread gives you about 200 calories. A leaf of romaine lettuce gives you practically none. πŸ™‚

  9. judy
    April 27, 2013

    Oh my. Well where lettuce leaves are concerned size really does matter.

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