"Too few people really understand a good sandwich." ~ James Beard
Well of course.
If you ask a bunch of writers what their favorite sandwiches are, they’re not going to be satisfied with simple answers like "ham and cheese" or "tomato."
No, they will pause a moment, conjure up a recent reubenesque rendezvous, then proceed to give you all the living, breathing details. Writers thrive on sensuality. It’s in the genes like genoa salami. And there are always conditions, little things that spell the difference between ho-hum and heavenly. Writers are, if nothing else, specific.
When I took "orders" for sandwiches last week, I was reminded of the restaurant scenes in "When Harry Met Sally." Reading everyone’s preferences was a delicious meal in itself — types of bread, cheeses, meats, veggies, spreads and condiments had me salivating all afternoon and craving a good dilly dally with a dagwood.
My highly scientific soup survey of 2008 revealed that most writers prefer tomato. The sandwich results were surprisingly similar; tomatoes were frequently mentioned in combination with lettuce, cheese, bacon or by itself. Overall, comfort food sandwiches received the most votes. Yes, there was mention of more sophisticated indulgences like oysters, hummus, baba ghanoush, and ciabatta rolls, but when push came to shove, grilled cheese and reuben sandwiches dominated. Those who mentioned other sandwiches as their favorites tended to mention grilled cheese as a second or third choice, as though feeling the need to include a childhood friend.
Grilled cheese by c. buras.
Cheese is dairy, consciously or subconsciously reminding us of our mothers’ milk. Can’t get any closer to the source than that. Long after we’ve grown up and become independent beings, our food choices inevitably strip us down to our essential selves. But aside from cheese, there was all kinds of tasty goodness. Read for yourself what 25 writers said when asked to name their favorite sandwich:
photo by platinum army.
THE BREAD LINE:
"Pesto, fresh mozzarella, basil and sun-dried tomatoes!" – Tricia Stohr-Hunt.
"Grilled cheese (sharp cheddar and Swiss, preferably), with extra-crispy bacon on it. Hey, I’m hungry." – Laura Purdie Salas
"My fried egg sandwich. Fry onions. Fry egg (lots of salt). Toast bread. Spread mayonnaise on hot toasted bread so it sort of melts. Put egg and onions on toast. Eat. A la Julie and Julia . . . YUM! :)"
– Becky Levine
"Debra’s out-of-this-world chicken salad sandwiches! Made with diced apples, walnuts, golden raisins, pickle relish, celery, mayo and a splash of Catalina dressing. But that’s all I can say. It’s a well-kept family secret!" – Charles Ghigna
"Pepper jack cheese, just a bit of salami, red onion, lettuce, tomato, sprouts, cucumber, avocado, and pepperoncini, on sourdough or Dutch crunch." – Sarah Stevenson
"Fakin’ bacon, lettuce and tomato with mayonnaise on flax bread (how boringly healthy, right? lol!)(but, is there anything else quite like a sliced tomato hot out of the garden? I think not!" – Julia Karr
"Family favorite: Turkey and Bacon. Plain or poppyseed kaiser roll, mayonnaise, Boarshead Ovengold turkey with pepper and salt and tasty fried bacon. Even better with a bag of chips, and heavenly the next morning when wrapped in foil in the fridge." – Allison Fraclose
"A Montreal old-fashioned smoked meat!" – Grace Lin
"Toasted sesame bagel with hummus, cucumber, and tomatoes."
– Erin Eitter Kono.
"Philly steak sandwich with lots of thinly sliced beef and fried onions. No other veggies, please, especially not peppers. Peppers totally ruin it. And the bread has to be big and soft, not crunchy."
– Shevi Arnold
"The sandwiches all sound so good! My favorite is roasted eggplant, grilled onions and peppers, sliced tomato, feta cheese on a fresh ciabatta roll." – Vivian Lee Mahoney
"OMG! I LOVE all these sandwiches! When I’m in New Orleans, I can’t resist a good Oyster Po’ Boy with fried oysters, lettuce, mayonnaise, and tomatoes, sandwiched between slices of French bread." – Edna Cabcabin Moran
"Oh, man! I have three faves! But I’ll pick one! 🙂 I like reubens minus the sauerkraut." – Kelly Maple Polark
The Reuben (writers’ top pick) by Spencer Hooks.
"If I’m picking just one sandwich, it’s probably egg salad with sliced green olives in it, preferably on toast, but Pepperidge Farm white bread will do just fine either way." – Kelly R. Fineman
"For comfort food, I like grilled cheese sandwiches on white bread, served with tomato soup, of course. When I want a fancy deli sandwich, I spread thick layers of hummus and cream cheese, then add cucumbers, lettuce, tomatoes, provolone, and avocado — on ciabatta bread, please, hold the mayo." – Melodye Shore
"Tuna Melt!" – Heidi R. Kling
"I would happily eat all of the sandwiches listed above. Some of my favorites: BLTA (bacon, lettuce, tomato, avocado), Reuben made with red cabbage, sour-cream herring and lettuce, egg salad. Then again, I’m happy with baba ganjouj on lavash bread." – Farida Dowler
"I’m not a big sandwich fan and am cutting back on bread in general. But I have fond memories of eating a kaas broodje — Gouda cheese on a thick roll in the lobby of the Rotterdam Hilton." – Barbara Etlin
"I’m a big fan of the basics. I’ll never turn down a good grilled cheese or PB&J, and it’s even better if the PB&J is on toasted bread, or grilled. Melty PB = ♥. I’ve occasionally wanted a childhood favorite of Oscar Meyer bologna with mayo. However, I’ve enjoyed some more interesting sandwiches at various delis, bagelries, etc., like turkey with provolone and cranberry sauce." – Debbie Fulmer
"Hmmmm . . . so hard to pick. A good ‘ol veggie sub with extra cheese. OR a tomato mozzarella sandwich." – Julie Danielson
"I like ham and cheese sandwiches. But the ham must be Chinese-style and the cheese must be Edam cheese. 😀 " – Tarie Sabido
"No way I can pick just one. No way. But if my life depended on it or something, I would say a Reuben. But it has to be a perfect Reuben, because that is one sandwich that can either be a culinary masterpiece or a disaster. Perfectly crispy bread and lean meat, super thinly sliced are my pet peeves. For your general interest, my other favorites: Cuban — this might actually be tied with the Reuben. Hmm . . . no . . . Reuben wins. A good club. Good, white meat Chicken Salad. BLT. PB&J or Grilled Cheese cannot be overlooked here either. Oh dear. I am so hungry now. Drooling."
– Paula Brown
"A nice tuna melt. Yumm!" – Marivee
"The Reuben. And, the good ol’ fashioned and very simple tomato sandwich on toasted bread with tons of mayo. Num!" – Laura
"My favorite when I am CARRIE WHO EATS MEAT: Turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce. My favorite when I am CARRIE WHO DOESN’T WANT TO KILL ANIMALS: Avocado, Brie, Lettuce, Tomato." – Carrie Jones
"I don’t eat a lot of sandwiches — but some I do like: Reuben, BLT, grilled cheese with tomato/tomato & bacon, fresh mozzarella with basil and tomato (with maybe a drizzle of balsamic vinegar). There was a wonderful sandwich shop in the town where I taught. They made fantastic sandwiches there. One of the sandwiches was called a Jose Jr. It was a double-layer sandwich with ham, turkey, roast beef, Swiss cheese, Russian dressing, and cole slaw." – Elaine Magliaro
PB and J come out of hiding.
So, what does all this mean? Stay tuned for Part Two: "Sandwich Personalities." Enjoy a yummy sandwich today to celebrate National Sandwich Month, and feel free to add your faves in the comments!
"It has been well said that a hungry man is more interested in four sandwiches than four freedoms." ~ Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr., American diplomat
Copyright © 2009 Jama Rattigan of jama rattigan’s alphabet soup. All rights reserved.