A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from November 03, 2014
Jawbreaker (sandwich)

A “jawbreaker” is a large Italian sandwich that’s so big and so stuffed that it could break one’s jaw to eat all of it. “Sunday night supper is an especially popular time for grinders, or jawbreakers as they are sometimes called” was cited in print in 1950. “Call it a hero, jawbreaker, grinder, submarine, wedgie, poor boy, hoagy, dagwood, zep, gondola, torpedo, gismo, or BIG SANDWICH” was cited in 1958.

The long list of the names of sandwiches served on long rolls includes blimpie, bomber, Cuban (medianoche), Dagwood, garibaldi, gondola, grinder, hero, hoagie, Italian, muffuletta, peacemaker (La Mediatrice), pilgrim, pistolette, po’ boy (poor boy), rocket, skyscraper, spiedie, spucky (spuckie, spukie), submarine (sub), torpedo, torta (Mexican po’ boy), wedge and zeppelin (zep).


Wikipedia: Submarine sandwich
A submarine sandwich, also known as a sub, grinder, hero, hoagie, Italian sandwich, po’ boy, wedge, zep, or torpedo, is a popular Italian American sandwich that consists of an oblong roll, often of Italian or French bread, split lengthwise either into two pieces or opened in a “V” on one side, and filled with various meats, cheeses, vegetables, spices, and sauces. The sandwich has no apparent generic name, and major US cities have their own names for it. The usage of the several terms varies regionally but not in any pattern, as they have been used variously by the people and enterprises who make and sell them. The terms submarine and sub are widespread and not assignable to any certain region, though many of the localized terms are clustered in the northeast United States, where the most Italian Americans live.

Google News Archive
10 June 1950, New London (CT) Evening Day, “Tales Told by The Tattler,” pg. 18, cols. 2-3:
We were sorry to learn a couple of weeks ago about the death of Benedetto Capalbo. Mr. Capalbo, a local storekeeper, claimed the distinction of having introduced the Italian sandwich to the United States, which made him the subject of a feature story in The Day two year or more ago. A mild, soft-voiced man, he was not given about to boasting about it but he had never heard of anyone concocting one of those delectable tonsil ticklers in this country before he put one together in his Shaw street store in 1926. His claim was never challenged.

Mr. Capalbo ran a cafe in Italy before coming to the United States in 1913. he dispensed Italian sandwiches in his cafe, but did not make them in his first store in this country, in the belief there would be little or no market for them here. It wasn’t until 1926 that he put together his first tentative sandwich. They caught on gradually and for a time during World War II he sold a thousand a day to the Submarine Base ship’s service. Sailors, acquiring a taste for them here, ordered them in other ports without success.  Often they persuaded Italian grocers to try their hand at them, giving them the recipe. But something was lacking, many soldiers reported to Mr. Capalbo the sandwiches just weren’t like the ones he made.

MR. CAPALBO’S recipe called for slices of salami, cheese and tomato and chopped lettuce between the halves of a loaf of Italian bread sliced lengthwise, the whole sprinkled with black pepper and sluiced with olive oil. The same recipe, apparently, is used by all the Italian sandwich makers hereabout at least, but there is no denying that each store’s product tastes a little different from another’s. Addicts have their own special stores and no other will do. Many are in the habit of buying Italian sandwiches fairly regularly for supper or for a late evening snack. Sunday night supper is an especially popular time for grinders, or jawbreakers as they are sometimes called. One of the more popular Italian sandwich places in town puts out as many as 500 sandwiches in the hour or two before suppertime on Sundays. This man, incidentally, agrees that Mr. Capalbo made the first Italian sandwich in this country.

8 May 1958, Blytheville (AR) Courier News, “Hero Sandwich Ideal for Parties” by Cecily Brownstone (Associated Press Food Editor), pg. 12. cols. 3-4:
A MAMMOTH-SIZE sandwich has been getting around under a lot of aliases. Call it a hero, jawbreaker, grinder, submarine, wedgie, poor boy, hoagy, dagwood, zep, gondola, torpedo, gismo, or BIG SANDWICH. It all depends on where you live. But one thing is certain, this sandwich is made from an individual loaf of French or Italian bread—white or whole wheat—or a long loaf of the same, cut into shorter lengths.

Its filling is something out of this world—a mountain of savory foods to dream about. Ham, salami, bologna, head cheese are some of the meats that may be piled on top of each other, layer on layer. Tuna fish, smoked salmon, anchovies might be the layers of fish. Next comes cheese. Then vegetables—green peppers (raw or roasted), pimiento, raw onion, tomato, lettuce. Olives and pickles give everything extra savor. No law says you have to include all these; that’s the best part of these structures—you can choose your favorites for the filling.

4 August 1961, Boston (MA) Traveler, ‘The Sandwich Is King In Hot Month Of August” by Marjorie Mills, pg. 8, col. 6:
The mammoth size of the giant sandwiches has been getting around under a lot of aliases. Call it a hero, a jawbreaker, grinder, submarine, wedgie, poor boy, hoagy, dagwood, or gismo.

Google Books
The Language of Cookery:
An Informal Dictionary

By Betty Wason
Cleveland, OH: World Pub. Co.
1968
Pg. 219:
The massive jawbreakers variously called Heroes, Submarines, Hoagies, or Poor Boys consist of many ingredients inside a small elongated loaf or large bun.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityFood/Drink • Monday, November 03, 2014 • Permalink