I often say that the taco is the perfect food: meat, veg, dairy, and carbs in one convenient, hand-held package; it’s really just a sandwich in a crunchy, spicy, perfect delivery system.
Sandwiches have endless variety, especially when you open your mind to things beyond the pure simplicity of childhood baloney and cheese on Wonder bread (sometimes with potato chips inside; shhhhh don’t tell my mother). Now I’m a “grown-up” I love a good vegetarian sandwich just as well as a sloppy, artery-clogging meatball sub; chicken salad, roast beef, hummus and cucumber on pita or naan are all equal to peanut butter and jelly in my heart, the latter being the only reason I survived childhood at all. It’s like having multiple children, or loving all our differing friends: we don’t love one more than the others, we love them all the same, but differently.
When I was a teenager and spent my summers destroying my skin on the beach all day, the 17th Street liquor store in Huntington Beach made the best ham sandwich I have ever had. It was just ham and Swiss cheese on grainy wheat bread, mayo and mustard, with abundant crisp lettuce, but I’ve never found it’s match in all the possibly thousands of ham sandwiches I’ve since eaten.
Every culture has a sandwich – the aforementioned taco, Italy’s pannini, Greek Gyro…. I will wager that long before the Earl of Sandwich put a hunk of meat between two slices of bread, cultures around the world had their own versions of a nutritious and easily-transported meal – the sandwich, dressed up in local attire.
A sandwich does more than feed your body; sometimes it is a love offering. Not for nothing our mothers gave us soup and sandwiches when we were sick.
My love for my husband is often professed in tuna sandwich form. Like Hobbes, Paul is kinda stupid when it comes to tuna sandwiches. Currently both of us are frayed beyond reason with the move, hotel living, our incarcerated pets, the new job. He snarked, I snarked and suddenly we got into a blazing row which we never, ever do. By morning we both saw our own culpability, made apologies for our respective assholery and all is well, but I was really glad to pack that tuna sandwich in his lunch bag this morning. I thought I needed to put icing on my apology and for Paul, a tuna sarnie is the best icing. I’m hoping it conveys, with great eloquence, “Yes, I can be a righteous bitch on occasion, but always I love you. Always I want the best for you, and I am sorry for the times my impatience and self-absorption result in me spewing forth all my worst qualities all at once. Forgive me?” Is that asking too much of a sandwich?
Paul himself is the unquestioned champion of the sloppy joe, another delicious form of the
ever versatile sandwich. When I’m sick or just exhausted he banishes me to the couch, hands me the clicker and takes over the kitchen, whipping up a batch of curative sloppy joes. Despite feeling a bit like I’ve entered a Star Trek Mirror, Mirror episode, I also feel immensely loved and cared for. Those of us who like to cook acknowledge our kitchen offerings are in fact edible love tokens, but when I get a plate of hot, spicy sloppy joes from Paul it is doubly so, because he doesn’t enjoy cooking. When he hands me a sloppy joe, it’s his version of standing solidly under my window with a boombox blasting Peter Gabriel.
Is it any coincidence we have so many sandwich shops in the US? Potbelly’s, Subway, Quizno’s, Which-Wich, Jersey Mike’s, Firehouse…. and all the local ones specific to a region. Po’boy shops in Louisiana, the sandwich Nazi in New Jersey (yes, there is a sandwich Nazi in New Jersey, where I got the best eggplant parm sub I have ever had), not to even mention the plethora of hamburger chains and independents.
And so I come to the end and yet I feel it’s only the beginning, because in writing this I’ve hit on something (I think) profound and important: sandwiches make the world go round. Without our ever realizing it, they are the glue quietly binding civilization. I suggest in our next election cycle we solicit the prospective candidate’s opinions on the noble sandwich, in all it’s forms both humble and glorious and in so doing, we shall ascertain far clearer pictures of their characters than politics will ever provide.