How to Make a Dagwood

The Dagwood is a multi-layered sandwich with varying, self-chosen ingredients, usually a towering edifice of cold cuts, veggies, and condiments. It’s sometimes called the “Skyscraper.” The name of course comes from Dagwood Bumstead, who is the silly, bumbling husband in the comic strip, “Blondie,” penned by Murat “Chic” Young.

The Bondie comic strip debuted on September 8, 1930 in the New York American and several other newspapers across North America. Blondie focused on the adventures of Blondie Boopadoop—a girl who spent her days in dance halls with her boyfriend Dagwood Bumstead, heir to an industrial fortune (Bumstead Railroads). Blondie was a flapper, a young “liberated” woman of the 1920’s with short hair who hung out in jazz clubs, smoke cigarettes in long holders, snort cocaine, and sleep around. The name “Boopadoop” derives from the scat singing lyric that was popularized by Helen Kane’s 1928 song, “I Wanna Be Loved by You,” famously sung by Marilyn Monroe in the film Some Like it Hot.

On February 17, 1933, after much fanfare and build-up, Blondie and Dagwood were married. After a month-and-a-half-long hunger strike by Dagwood to get his parents’ blessing, as they strongly disapproved of his marrying beneath his class, they disinherited him. Left only with a check to pay for their honeymoon, the Bumsteads were forced to become a middle-class suburban family. The marriage was a significant media event, given the comic strip’s popularity. After her marriage, Blondie gradually assumed her position as the sensible head of the Bumstead household, and Dagwood took over as the comic strip’s clown. Blondie became the widest read comic strip of its time, appeared in comic books from 1937 until 1976, and Columbia pictures made a string of Blondie films between 1938 and 1950.

Blondie’s Big Moment, 1947

The original comic strip, however, showed Dagwood raiding the refrigerator to make a colossal sandwich with whatever he could find, which included such things as sardines, tongue, baked beans, onions, mustard, and horseradish. As the strip went on, his sandwich got bigger and more ridiculous. By 1944, they wouldn’t hold together, so he used an electric drill to make a hole in which he could insert a frankfurter to use as a sort of dowel, sort of like a big meat toothpick. Dagwood’s sandwiches might remind younger audiences of those Scooby-Doo and Shaggy made from those well-stocked refrigerators they always seemed to find in some haunted place or the other.

A Dagwood sandwich, by rights, should be made from whatever you find rummaging around in your refrigerator, but leave it to Alton Brown to nail down an “official” version, which takes (by his watch) 5 minutes to pitch together.

Lay three slices of rye bread out on a cutting board. Smear two of them with a tablespoon each of yellow mustard. Smear the last one with mayonnaise. Top one of the mustard smeared slices of rye bread with 4 slices deli ham, 2 slices American cheese, 2 leaves of iceberg lettuce, and four slices bologna. Top the second mustard-smeared slice of rye with 4 slices salami, a half dozen pickle chips, 3 tomato slices, 4 slices turkey, 2 slices Swiss cheese, and the third slice of rye bread, mayonnaise side down. Stack this unit on top of the first mustard smeared slice. Secure the sandwich with toothpicks skewered through pimento-stuffed green olives. Slice the sandwich in half, if you like. Open wide.

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