Boy oh boy … how I love a good sandwich. I know they’re the worst things for you. I know they’re full of bleached flour, processed meats, gloppy condiments, fats, salt and nitrates. I know that. What’s your point? You are what you eat so I am a big ole sandwich. When I die you can wrap me in some wax paper, bury me in one of those little deli containers and put me on that great conveyor belt to the sky.
Stephen likes them too, but he is the King of the Dagwood Sandwich. Early on in our relationship I’d asked him what ingredients would he combine to make his favorite burger. By way of example, I created mine for him: English Muffin bun, a big juicy burger seasoned with basil, slathered in Hellman’s Mayonnaise and Frank’s Red Hot Sauce … some sauteed onions and thick cut apple smoked bacon on the top. Yum.
He responded by building his for me: bottom bun, mayonnaise, avocado and onions, honey mustard, all beef patty, cheddar cheese, ranch dressing, Doritos, sauteed lettuce and cabbage with garlic, 2nd all beef patty, Swiss cheese, ketchup, more mayonnaise, slice of lettuce and top bun.
Of course I’ve watch him eat things that make the above look tame. I’ve learned not to ask what he’s jamming between two overtaxed slices of bread. If it crunches I just assume it’s the Doritos. Or pretzel sticks. Or peanuts. Or saltines. Or granola. Or sunflower seeds. Or wasbi peas. One time it was trail mix.
A few years ago I caught a great documentary on PBS called Sandwiches That You Will Like (which is a little like calling your clothing line Dresses That You Will Wear). It does a great job of traveling across America and showing how the definition of a sandwich changes with the landscape. I love hearing people, full of conviction, talking about their city’s sandwich and why it’s the best, not like any other Blah and Blah Sandwiches from any other place in the whole US of A! It reminded me of the time my friend’s cousin came back from Italy praising the corner markets and the plethora of prosciutto and provolone sandwiches. “It’s so common … like getting a ham and cheese in America”. We laughed our butts off at that. Um, maybe because prosciutto and provolone IS ham and cheese.
Anyway, I love this show — I’ve seen it twice and I’m thinking of buying the DVD (or accepting it as a Christmas present). What makes the show so special is not that it’s a program about food … though that’s part of it. No, what makes it great is that it’s a program about people and their relationship to food; it’s about tradition, habits, customs, comfort. It’s about folks reveling in the fact that in their little corner of the world, this is how it’s done:
This is the kind of program that makes you want to grab your map, get in the car, and just drive across America seeking these places out. Luckily, I actually have been to a few of these fine establishments and when time allows, I intend to visit a few more. For now, here are the 3 I sampled:
Living in New York you can’t escape the siren song of a good Pastrami Sandwich. And what better place to get one than at Katz’s Delicatessen … a New York tradition for over a hundred years. Stephen and I just went there recently and almost died (happily) of a meat overdose. He got the Corned Beef Sandwich and I got the pastrami … between the 2 of us I think we were able to eat 2/5th … we had to take the rest home. And we both kept on eating corned beef, pastrami and rye bread for another two days! I repeat … You are what you eat!
I’ve also been lucky enough to sample authentic Philly Cheese Steak Sandwiches when a friend of mine took me back to her home town. It was really cold the weekend we were there, and we spent a long time shivering on line waiting to order our sandwiches, staring across the street at the OTHER long line of people waiting to get THEIR sandwiches. The first day we went to Geno’s, the second day to Pat’s. I liked one better than the other but can’t remember which … so I guess when I go back I’ll have to do another taste test. I’ll have to go again with a local, because even though there were big signs everywhere explaining how to order, I still made my friend order for me because I was too intimidated. Yes … I. Was. Too. Intimidated. Huh.
When another friend and I were kicking around in New Orleans, I was thrilled when we stumbled upon Central Grocery …
… which I knew all about from the program. We immediately went in and purchased the most wonderful Muffuletta Sandwich I’d every had. (Truth be told, I’d only had one once before at some wannabe New Orleans bar in Manhattan where the drinks are watered down, the food is tasteless and badly fried and the Muffuletta Sandwich is lousy). But here was the real thing! We couldn’t wait to dig in! We shared one … it was that big … and even had leftovers for later. Next to the drinking-all-day-and-night-in-the-street thing and the super hot jazz and the man who tried to take my friend and me home with him to “let nature take its course” (an offer we refused, but a story we gleefully repeated), this Muffuletta Sandwich was the best part of our trip.
So, hopefully, Stephen and I will get around to Kentucky one day in order to sample a Hot Brown Sandwich … and then maybe we’ll take another trip to Maine and get a Lobster Roll from Red’s Eats. Heck, I’d even try and get to Domilise‘s for a fried oyster Po’Boy. (Hey, did you even WATCH the clip up there?) But I can tell you right now … as far as the Fried Brain Sandwich goes … I’ll let Stephen tackle that one alone.