Sunday, June 03, 2007

Sandwich person

The other day I worked from home. The Boy called mid-afternoon to see how I was doing and asked what I had for lunch.

"Guess," I said.

He sighed. "Oh. Of course. A sandwich." He thinks I'm strange.

The Boy, when he's home alone to eat, uses the stove. Maybe just pasta and a quick fresh pesto, or baked salmon and a salad, but always a meal that involves pans and heat and a variety of utensils.

Me, I slap something between two slices of bread and I'm happy. I love a good sandwich.

Of course, "sandwich" means something different to everyone. My perfect version has (unsurprisingly) an English accent--though that doesn't mean delicate, no-crust watercress triangles. Rather, it suggests an egalitarian approach to the filling: equal amounts of every ingredient, so each bite is a balanced blend of flavors.

This is almost the perfect sandwich. Really. This picture makes my mouth water. I can imagine biting through the soft, slightly nutty bread; the crunch of the cucumber and the moist sweetness of the tomato meeting the creamy cheese and salty ham.

(Why is it not actually perfect? Because that's processed cheese. If it were year-old cheddar, I'd be licking my monitor.)

Of course, now I'm thinking about the most truly British and perfectest sarnie (as My People say) of all: the cheese and pickle toastie. It's really just a straightforward cheese sandwich, with the addition of an even, generous schmear of
Branston Pickle, an addictive sweet-and-sour chutney-esque condiment that is to the English pantry as ketchup is to the American.

Dropped into the toaster (or, if you will, George Foreman grill) until the bread is slightly crunchy and the filling has warmed and fused together in a joyous embrace, it's a thing of beauty.

(Mouth is watering again.)

I've never been able to appreciate the
traditional American sandwich (okay, that's an extreme example) quite as much. The filling ovewhelms the bread like too many packs on a weary donkey. A sandwich should be a careful creation, a harmonious song of taste and texture--not a portable, edible container for a half-pound of meat.

The Boy, of course, disagrees with me entirely. If I may question the witness:

Me (just now): Honey, do you think a sandwich should be a portable, edible container for a half-pound of meat?

Him (without hesitation): Yes.

We do agree on some things, though--the worst sandwich we ever had was on a British Midlands flight from London to Teesside. They served a breakfast travesty of rubbery bacon (probably nuked, possibly--gasp--steamed) still sporting a fatty, gristly rind. Not what you need at 8am after a seven-hour transatlantic flight.

(Ironically, one of the best was the warm, fragrant, buttery sausage panini served on the same flight two years later.)

And we like the medianoche at La ViƱa, the bakery/cafe/neighborhood hangout around the corner from my in-laws'; the pork is roasted in-house before being sliced and added to ham, swiss cheese, pickles and mustard between slices of a sweet egg bread and pressed. Perfect with a tiny cup of potent, bitter espresso.

I'm curious about
the Stubbs, the famous calorie-laden egg/bacon/sausage/cheese concoction served (on doorstop slices of Texas toast) at the Coppell Deli and a favorite snack for members of the Dallas Cowboys (here Nate Newton learns how they're made).

And even though I know it's a ridiculous promotional item, I'd still love to order (and, at around $200, have someone else pay for) the
world's most expensive sandwich: Iberico ham, white truffles and quail eggs on ... oh, it's on sourdough bread?

Well then, never mind. I don't do sourdough. I might love a good sandwich, but there are limits.

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