One of the benefits of having out-of-town meetings is that lunch is of the local flavour. Experimenting at the local delis gives burst to a whole new set of flavours. The other point in favour of delis is that one can indulge in that occasional binge food, quite popular in the college days but lost out in the later years. Maybe this would account for the lunch order of sloppy joes with plenty of fries alongside.
Sloppy joe is basically just a loose meat sandwich, often going by fancier names like Toasted Deviled Hamburgers, Chopped Meat Sandwiches or Hamburg a la Creole. Originating somewhere around the mid-20th century, these sandwiches came into popularity as they were both filling and economical. Meat was stretched by the addition of bread crumbs, tomato paste, eggs, sweet peppers, minced onions, Worcestershire sauce, bottled horseradish, pickle relish and the like; which was then served between bread or as meatballs, meat loaves or hamburger stew. The trend of these loose meat sandwiches caught on. Alternate meat substitutes of late include canned tuna, diced chicken, ground turkey or soyabean mash.
“The origins of this dish are unknown, but recipes for the dish date back at least to the 1940s. It dates in print to 1935. There is probably no Joe after whom it is named–but its rather messy appearance and tendency to drip off plate or roll makes “sloppy” an adequate description, and “Joe” is an American name of proletarian character and unassailable genuineness. There are many individual and regional variations on the dish. In Sioux City, Iowa, a dish of this type is called a “loose meat sandwich,” created in 1934 at Ye Olde Tavern Inn by Abraham and Bertha Kaled.” Encyclopedia of American Food & Drink, John F. Mariani [Lebhar-Friedman:New York] 1999 (p.297).
Varied recipes of sloppy joe, include the pain à la viande and pain fourré gumbo (Quebec) wherein the stewed ground meat are usually served on hot dog buns. Around the Woonsocket area (Rhode Island) the addition of onions, bell peppers and sometimes celery makes it “the dynamite” sandwich. One of the distinction of sloppy joe from the traditional loose meat or tavern sandwiches is the tomato-based sauces used lavishly as the base. Similar meat sandwiches are found in the Chinese cuisine with rou jia mo ( steamed meat on a steamed bun) and the Indian Keema pav which is minced, stewed and curried meat (keema) served in the bread roll (latter known as pav).
Either these loose meat sandwiches are a good substitute for having lunch on the go, or simply a saving tip for student days. Adapting it to the later adult life, these sandwiches can have the meat and mix of choice, the only point is to keep it saucy enough for the sloppy feel. With plenty of ingredients and flavours to choose from, the creativity of the taste buds can go for a ride.
“Sloppy Joes…I remember eating these in the 1940s and suspect they may have been a way of stretching precious ground beef during World War II. Apparently not. My friend and colleague Jim Fobel tells me that in his own quest to trace the origin of the Sloppy Joe, he talked to Marilyn Brown, Director of the Consumer Test Kitchen at H.K. Heinz in Pittsburgh (the Heinz “Joe,” not surprisingly, is reddened with ketchup). Brown says their research at the Carnegie Library suggests that the Sloppy Joe began in a Sioux City, Iowa, cafe as a “loose meat sandwich” in 1930, the creation of a cook named Joe…” The American Century Cookbook: The Most Popular Recipes of the 20th Century, Jean Anderson [Clarkson Potter:New York] 1997 (p. 349)