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Carson Gulley’s Sandwich Suggestions

We sample a half dozen tea sandwiches from the recipe collection of a legendary UW chef.

Ingredients and Directions

  • Cream cheese, pimiento cheese, and olive.
  • Cottage cheese and cucumber — add seasoning and lemon juice.
  • Braunschweiger and bacon — cut bacon into small pieces; fry crisp; add to smoked liver sausage, mayonnaise, and cream cheese.
  • Peanut butter and bacon — dice and fry bacon until crisp. Use a little cream cheese.
  • Cucumber and almond — chop cucumbers and almonds; spread with cream cheese; add lemon juice.
  • Shredded carrot spread — shred carrots; mix spread with cream cheese, lemon juice, and seasoning.

This culinary blast from the past comes to us courtesy of Badger Insider reader Robert K. ’64, MD’67, who wrote in about the cheapest item on the Wisconsin Union menu in his day: a black olive and cream cheese sandwich. Considering most people only have to think about this sandwich for a few seconds to know how it tastes, I took the liberty of testing out a selection of more exotic spreads and combos as well. 

All six sandwich recipes listed above come from Carson Gulley, head chef at the UW from 1921 to 1954 and Madison’s first celebrity chef. Gulley spilled the beans about campus cuisine in his 1956 cookbook Seasoning Secrets and Favorite Recipes of Carson Gulley. There you’ll find the classic fudge-bottom pie. But that’s not why we’re here. Instead, I’ll direct you to Gulley’s section on snacks and canapes for some not-so-classic sandwich combinations. He lists three dozen suggestions for sandwiches to impress your guests while entertaining (or to easily feed hungry and broke college students). 

From Gulley’s list, I chose the recipe that most closely resembled the black olive and cream cheese sandwich, along with five other options that involve a questionable marriage of ingredients. I made tiny finger sandwiches for two reasons: 1) to look fancy; and 2) to avoid tossing six regular-sized sandwiches that I would surely not enjoy. Below, I’ve named each sandwich and ranked them from worst to best, with a few recommendations on which ’wich is worth trying for yourself.

#6: C3PO — cream cheese, pimiento cheese, and olive

This list is, of course, entirely subjective. Of all the ingredients that I put on my grocery list for this project, olives are my least favorite. Thus, “C3PO” fell to the very bottom.

#5: The Triple C — cottage cheese and cucumber

I left this one to assemble last, but the cottage cheese still turned it into a soggy mess during my informal photo shoot. In the future, if any foodies want to post a Triple C on Instagram, they’ll want to safeguard the bread with a smear of butter or cream cheese.

#4: The Grateful Spread — shredded carrot spread

In my opinion, grated carrots and cream cheese go better together when they’re both heavily sweetened, such as in cake form. The carrot was completely overwhelmed by the dairy and the acidity of the lemon juice, so it was really just a chunky cream cheese sandwich. 

#3: PB&B — peanut butter and bacon

It’s hard to go wrong adding bacon to something. It may not enhance some dishes, but it will rarely make a dish taste worse. In this case, it gives a regular peanut butter sandwich extra crunch and makes it taste slightly saltier and more savory — all good things in my book.

#2: B2 — braunschweiger and bacon

The above bacon law holds true even with braunschweiger. The bacon mainly adds an extra meaty crunch to this iron-rich sandwich. Again, my list is subjective. I can feel the confusion from those of you who would gladly take olives over a liver paste sandwich. Please feel free to make your own list if my rankings are too controversial for you.

#1: The Cuke & A — cucumber and almond

I’ll admit that this combo was a bit of a dark horse for me. I didn’t think it would be terrible, just maybe a little confusing. But the ingredients all worked quite well together, resulting in a sweet, crunchy, and zesty bite. Of all the sandwiches on my list, this is the one I’d go out of my way to make again. 

Are any of these sandwiches reminiscent of your dining hall days at the UW? Let us know, and please keep sharing old-school recipes you’d like us to try. 

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