As a general rule, the one-word Daily Prompts that WordPress has been furnishing in recent months are way too cryptic for someone as devoid of imagination as yours truly.
Today, though the word is ‘Sandwich’ and even I can rise to that bait.
Who among us has never had a sandwich or – even more bizzarely – tried one and decided they didn’t like it (and by it, I mean the concept rather than the specific filling)?
I’ll have a sandwich almost every day, usually for lunch. The baguettes and pain ordinaire at our local superette are so good it would be frankly rude not to; insert some of their jambon fines herbes and our home-grown tomatoes and lettuce and away you go. What’s not to like?
For this challenge, though, I got to thinking about some of the more memorable sandwiches that I’ve eaten around the world on my travels, as well as some staples from closer to home. So here, in no particular order, are six sandwiches that shook my world:
Hot pastrami on rye with melted Swiss cheese
This is all down to Kojak. In the TV series, Telly Savalas seemed to live off these; in almost every episode he would despatch one of his minions (Saperstein?) to the nearest deli to bring him sustenance for his unblinking war against New York low life.
Back in Blighty, unless you were in East London none of the three key ingredients were to be found easily, but they always looked so damn’ good on the telly (see what I did there?) As, indeed, did their heroic proportions.
I distinctly remember my first encounter with this particular marriage made in heaven. San Francisco: the bar of a hotel in Union Square; mid-afternoon. Me just off a flight from London, jetlagged and ready to crawl into bed, but also wanting a bite to eat. No better opportunity. It didn’t disappoint: and I hadn’t even known about the transcedental twists provided by the mustard and the dill pickle.
Bacon and egg roll
A staple, to be sure, but certain rules need to be observed if it’s to deliver its full potential:
The bread must be white and circular in form – either a roll (ideally of the Scottish morning variety) or an English muffin. Bacon to be unsmoked back, neither too flabby nor too crispy. The egg must be fried and still runny. Brown sauce optional – but only in the same way as it could be said that breathing is a lifestyle choice.
No cheese. Cheese is wrong.
Of course, I’ve had these times without number, but somehow the muffin that I was served in a cafe down by Circular Quay in Sydney perfectly encapsulated the whole unctuous greasy spoon experience in an unforgettable way.
Is a fajita a sandwich, strictly speaking? It bloody is in my world.
You know the drill. Seared marinated chicken, onions and peppers, wrapped in a soft tortilla with refried beans, guacamole, sour cream and salsa. Unputdownable – quite literally. Probably not something to choose for a first date because it can get a bit messy if you don’t wrap it properly.
First experienced at Cafe Pacifico, in London’s fashionable Covent Garden district, as the tourist guides are wont to put it. A friend and colleague from work who’d spent some time in Mexico and knew how these things worked took me through the procedure. That first bite…..Washed down with a pitcher of frozen Margaritas. Each.
The fajita’s distant Middle Eastern relative. Street food.
And cheap as the chips (fries, if you must) that go inside the soft, thin Arabic flatbread, together with the chunks of…er, meat carved ‘fresh’ off that revolving thingy, the glorious garlic sauce (toom) and the pickled vegetables that any right-thinking person would pick out and discard before the first bite.
Even better, though, the shawarma’s big brother, the shish tawouk roll. Same principle but with chunks of chicken of rather more reassuring and identifiable provenance.
To be picked up on a Thursday (local equivalent of a Friday) night from the Al Safadi Lebanese restaurant round the corner from our apartment in Abu Dhabi. Feet up and American Idol (I know, I know, but we must all have our guilty pleasures).
Since we’re on the subject of chips wrapped in bread, how could I possibly leave this one out? I come from outside the Home Counties, after all. Again, though, it has to be done properly.
So, it must be buttered white, processed bread – you know, the sort that’s now thoroughly discredited and should probably never be eaten at all except in these very special circumstances.
Proper chips: none of these pathetic apologies like ‘matchstick’ or ‘string’. Hand-cut and triple-cooked, ideally in beef dripping. These must be served hot, because it is crucial that the butter melts. Cover one slice of bread with the chips (be generous), add salt and vinegar – Scotland’s ‘salt and sauce’ variation is permissible, and possibly compulsory anywhere north of Berwick-on-Tweed.
Then the key element: press down the other slice of bread firmly, so that it moulds itself to the shape of the chips beneath. This is why it has to be processed bread: the proper stuff would spring back, fatally spoiling the overall effect.. Make sure that the melted butter runs down your chin during mastication. Repeat.
Marmite and salad cream
Whoa. Bet you didn’t see this one coming. It’s not something I’d have myself; I’m not a fan of Marmite for a start. However, Madame swears by it, and has since she was a young child and was presented with the serendipitous combination by her grandmother. Best eaten sitting in a tree, I’m told. To be honest, it doesn’t shake my world.
But Madame does.