My late mother-in-law, an Indian living in Bangalore, made the best cucumber sandwiches that I have ever eaten. She used fresh slices of thin white bread with crusts removed. Each slice was spread with a small amount of butter mixed with freshly mixed English-style mustard. Then, finely sliced, peeled and de-seeded cucumber was inserted as the sandwich’s filling. The result was both delicate and refreshingly delicious. Having eaten these superb snacks on numerous occasions, I formed the idea in my head that India is THE place for cucumber sandwiches. This led to an amusing incident.
Some friends of ours from England were spending a few days in Mysore, which is not far from Bangalore, where we were based. So, we decided to drive to Mysore to spend a day with them.
Our friends were staying in an old palace that had been tastefully converted into a hotel. After we had roamed around Mysore with them, they invited us to have afternoon tea in the lovely garden of the hotel. When we had sat down at a table, I said:
“This is the ideal place to eat cucumber sandwiches. The best cucumber sandwiches in the world are made in India.”
Everyone was happy to order a plate of these. When we asked the waiter for the sandwiches, he asked:
“You want vegetable sandwiches, with capsicum and all?”
“No, just cucumber sandwiches, no capsicums,” we replied.
Some minutes later, the waiter returned with A plate of sandwiches oozing with a bright red paste filling.
“What’s that?”, we asked him.
“Miner’s sauce”, came the reply.
“Miner’s sauce? What on earth is that?” asked one of our friends.
The waiter simply repeated the words “miner’s sauce”.
After a minute or two, the penny dropped, and I said:
“He means mayonnaise.”
Now, many non-English people pronounce this word as ‘my-on-nays’, which is closer to ‘miner’s sauce’ than the English pronunciation.
“We don’t want that sauce,” one of our friends protested, “Only cucumber.”
The waiter looked confused.
“What, no bread?” he asked.
“Let me show you what I mean,” said one of our friends, standing up and accompanying the waiter to the kitchen.
The waiter returned after a while with a very sub-standard collection of cucumber sandwiches.
Later my wife pointed out that just because her mother made excellent cucumber sandwiches, this was not necessarily the case all over India, as I had foolishly assumed.