Pre-show snackery: simple smoked-salmon sandwich

Music · Theater

It’s not gourmet. It’s a simple repast. It’s what the British call “homely.” But it is good — and it’s necessary. With apologies for the teeth marks, may I introduce you to the lowly pre-theater bar snack?

Everyone knows that the eternal question for theater-goers is … eat before or after the show? This option — a snack — skews the response to “after.” In Los Angeles terms it means you don’t have to head out for the evening at four p.m. to fit in dinner. It also removes the edge of gnawing, rapacious hunger while you drive around after a show looking for a restaurant that stays open past 9 p.m.

On a research visit to London, I was positively impressed by the ubiquity and ease with which theater-goers access simple bar food before performances. This is an audience art form. Some go savory, with tea. Others go salty, with wine. Still others chow down on a full hot meal, even at the intermission at the ballet.

Why is this so difficult to find in Los Angeles? A simple salmon-and-cream cheese sandwich, a gooey amalgam of carb/fat/protein that lines the belly so nicely. As a result, an otherwise crabby critic may be in a more receptive mood. It could be the making of great art!

Let’s take the chamber music recital I attended at the delightful, historic Wigmore Hall. There I saw the Elias Quartet, based in Manchester, superb in a beautifully balanced repertory program of Schumann, Bach, Mozart and a jaunty world premiere, “Aroha” by Robert Laidlow.

Wigmore Hall empty twenty minutes to curtain

Arriving at the delightful Wigmore just twenty minutes before curtain and starving, as usual, I noted with surprise the dearth of audience in the house. Where was everyone? I wondered. In fact, the entire audience had repaired to the basement bar, and there they tucked into not just full meals (several did), but nosherei like these tea sandwiches, olives, nuts, little cakes, and whatever the tummy required. At the blast of an uncouth foghorn five minutes to curtain, the entire lot stood and dutifully marched to the auditorium and took their seats.

This system works well. One woman’s call for a smoked salmon sandwich in L.A.!

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