Devra First’s “Member of the club” (Food, June 13), a celebration of the club sandwich as perhaps “the perfect American food,” is a great example of idealizing what white society has deemed representative of our shared American culture. The club sandwich’s place in the United States should not be boiled down to privileged poolside living.
New York’s Union Club has a history of discrimination, spoiling the origins of the club sandwich. In 1852, German Jewish merchants were denied membership, and in 1863, several members left the Union Club because of its ties to known Confederacy members.
Whether the recipe is firmly held by the Union Club — tracing a recipe is something of a fruitless endeavor — the sandwich’s name denotes an exclusivity of origin, reinforced by the article’s references glorifying its place on room service and poolside menus.
The fact that something rooted in white male privilege is evocative of the American dream demonstrates the power of the patriarchal establishment in the United States. The club sandwich is a symbol of the very top of American society, a place not open to all. By claiming the club sandwich as part of our collective history, we must employ a holistic view, or we risk reinforcing an unsavory view of society.
The writer holds a master of liberal arts in gastronomy from Boston University.