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Sandwich 101 (part one)

October 4, 2010

Mid-September, I turned 37 and my nephew turned 2. We celebrated with his first trip to the local zoo (ever) and my first since grade 9. Verdict? Maybe next year will be better. He didn’t get that the animals were real. That the giraffe picking leaves from a tree mere metres away was the bone fide version of the fuzzy guy he calls “Raff” and sleeps with every night. That the crunching, snuffling sounds were made by a pair of actual hippos enjoying cabbage, apples and hay, while he nibbled a ham and swiss sandwich and perched on their compound wall.

In fact, he was so intent on handling that sandwich, he pitched a tantrum when his mom tried to take the mucky, spit-soaked bun away and focus his attention toward the zoo keeper while she explained what hippos like best. I get it: sometimes, the belly has its own ideas and the plan is to eat! right! now! But…a sandwich? They’re just not my thing.

Friends have prodded and bullied, asking whether I eat grilled cheese, burgers, or french toast. All sandwiches, they argue! See, I’m wrong, I don’t hate “all sandwiches”, just some. No, they are wrong. A technicality enables me to love those three items. No one calls a grilled cheese a grilled cheese sandwich; its original name appropriately truncated. And yes, I’ve noted “hamburger sandwich” on diner menus, but that dish comes open-faced, drowned in gravy, and is not the same as a burger at all. French toast? No sandwich I’ve ever met is made from bread dipped in egg and fried in a pat of butter then chopped up with knife and fork and dipped in maple syrup.

Many switched tactics, attempting to dissect my sandwich prep method and, in exposing some fatal flaw, prove that I simply suck at making them and with proper training, I would find true sandwich love. Wrong again. I am no slouch in the kitchen, and sandwiches are no exception. I concede that sometimes, sandwiches are the most practical lunchtime option, sometimes the only viable one, and my pantry is fully prepared for such an emergency. Case in point the site-visit I went on today, with a new co-worker. “Site”, in this instance, means “superjail”, so lunch options weren’t going to be plentiful. With frightful visions of “drive-thrus” and microwaves and things spelled “cheez”, I figured I’d plan ahead and pack a lunch. And by lunch I mean sandwich.

Determined to help me through the process, during brunch yesterday K. and E. coached me before dropping me at the grocery store. As the car pulled away from the curb, E. rolled down her window and shouted, “mayo should never touch bread!” This morning, I stood at the cutting board dressed in high heels, stockings and slip, afraid I’d splash mustard on my dress and have to iron something fresh. I rubbed my hands together and commenced my sandwich, carefully slicing two even wedges from the loaf, and counting “day-old bread” against it.

I’m ok with a lot of food-things that might be considered palate-challenging. Oozing, reeking cheese. Sausage fashioned from water buffalo and plenty of lard. Fruit that smells like butt. Scotch with the stench of a rotten log. But, following today’s flawless execution, preceded by an equally flawless shopping trip for bread, fillings and transportation container, I can confidently say sandwiches are not my peeps. I am not down with the sandwich. Eager for updates, K. (in bold type) kept in touch via email as my sandwich-eating day unfolded. I tried to keep my chin up, but things did not go so well:

How is the sandwich? Did you make it? Did you remember about the separate mayonnaise packet?

There will be no mayo.

What did you choose? Tell me everything. Leave nothing out.

Already, it has three strikes against it, but since this is lunchtime and not a baseball game, I am keeping things in play. But, already stacked against it:

1. bread sucks if it’s more than one day old, and at 6:45 AM, since I clearly could not obtain bread baked fresh today and used yesterday’s loaf, I’m not confident this sandwich will taste fresh and delightful.

2. containers/ containment units/ containing wrap each present a set of pros and cons (waxed paper = cute and reminds me of grade 2, but is flimsy and leaky and slips from side to side; Tupperware is more resilient against forces such as melting icepacks and heavy, rolling apples, but then has to be lugged around all day once empty and builds up a bit of a stink and takes up space). I opted for the inner layer waxed paper/ outer layer aluminium foil method.

3. it’s a sandwich.

In its favour:

1. transportable without requiring heating, extreme cooling, special dishes, cutlery or other accessories and support systems.

2. there is mustard.

3. bringing my own means I am not reliant upon roadtrip take-out which, in the territory I’ll be heading to, probably means Subway anyhow, so why not exercise control over the nature and origins of my sandwich, if I’m going to have to eat one in the first place?

We shall see. I will keep you abreast of developments.

PS: I have cc’ed myself on this email not because I’m creepy; rather, because it seems only fair to accurately document the action as it unfolds, if this is hitting blogland.

Have faith in the sandwich little one. Couple of things to consider when bringing a sandwich on a road trip:

1. Bring napkins.

2. Bring more napkins.

3. Wrap wet sandwich fixings in their own cling film (Tomato, Pickles, Avocado, etc).

4. Don’t forget small packages of Salt and Pepper.

5. Think of the layers of your sandwich and how they go together. Slippery items such as Tomato and Avocado should never be on top of each other, they go against the bread or cheese. (Think cartoon sandwiches when they bite into it and all the fixings shoot out the back of the sandwich.

6. Individual packages of mustard and mayo are good to have around. They don’t need refrigeration so they can sit around in the desk or the purse.

7. Did I mention napkins? Bring ’em.

8. The Square Plastic Container is perfect for holding 2 slices of bread (standard sandwich bread, not fancy cut your own from the loaf bread). There is also enough room for your sliced cheese (also wrapped in its own cling film).

9. Shredded lettuce is your friend.

10. Remember, its just a sandwich, Its only as complicated as you want it to be.

PS: And in the same vein as you cc, I will reply to all.. more to be creepy, not for my blog.

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