Hundred-year-old Tips for Packing Sandwiches

Until I saw directions for packing sandwiches in a hundred-year-old cookbook, I never thought about how people packed sandwiches to take to school or work back then:

Keep sandwiches wrapped in a cheese cloth which has been thoroughly dampened with cold water, and pack in a closed box until ready to use.

Lowney’s Cook Book (Revised, 1921 Edition)

Sounds like a good way to get a soggy sandwich – but apparently if the cheese cloth is merely “dampened” and not “wet,” this is not a problem.

The tip was supposed to provide cooks with guidance so they could confidently pack sandwiches. But I’m left with more questions: Was the cheese cloth reused for multiple days, or was it discarded after one use?Why didn’t the cook book suggest using waxed paper to wrap sandwiches? I’ve seen hundred-year-old recipes that call for using waxed paper to line pans, so I know it was available back then.

Packing sandwiches sure was more complicated in the days before Ziploc bags!

18 thoughts on “Hundred-year-old Tips for Packing Sandwiches

  1. It remains a basic catering tick to dampen cheesecloth or paper towels and cover plates full of sandwiches to keep them fresh until the event, I’ve used this trick often and it works great, no sogginess. the trick is barely damp not wet. The cheesecloth is washed between uses. Frugal times. Even waxed paper wasn’t wasted if a reusable alternative presented itself.

  2. Interesting tip with the dampened cheese cloth. I’ve packed food for the trail or many hours into the day with dampened paper towels and it works, I’m thinking, the same as the cheese cloth. I would guess they did re-use the cheese cloth, because we always re-use the paper towel after its done its dampening job. Many people have an aversion to using plastic on food, so dampened cloth or paper towels in wax paper is a good alternative. Your PBJ sandwich looks delicious, Sheryl.

  3. Was it the same thing we refer to as cheese cloth? Wondering if it was a culinary type cloth. It is interesting and also a reminder to be thankful for our zippered bags and plastic containers!

    1. There are two types of cheese cloth, first being for staining like we are used to….the second was more of a flour sack style – think farm style summer sausage they some in sacks. That fabric was used as well. So could be either…

  4. Plastic containers that I was for sandwiches are much easier to clean and store than that plastic bags that was used when I was growing up. I hated washing those little bags.😂 Never used cheesecloth, that was a new thought. Lovely sandwich!

  5. I remember my nan packing my grandad’s sandwiches in a dampened cloth come lunchtime it was dry but the sandwich he used to share with me was perfect 🙂

  6. Interesting item that I also have never thought of!

    I’d have guessed paper, like some submarine sandwich shops still do today, but then as noted, this is something that’s never occurred to me.

  7. I’ve used wax paper when out of baggies, works just fine. I still use baggies as they are far more convenient, I have to admit.

  8. The cheese cloth does not hold water well, so it really doesn’t get soggy. 100 years ago, most bread was most likely homemade and did not have all the preservatives that make today’s bread spongy. A little dampness probably kept it together well while providing something to wipe fingers on. I would definitely get multiple uses out of it. I rarely use ziploc bags and much prefer wax paper for sandwiches.

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